Archive pour mai 2010

New strategy for European research and innovation

Lundi 31 mai 2010

At the conference on European Technology Platforms (ETP), Ms Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for research, innovation and science, has announced the broad outlines of the new European research and innovation strategy.

Texte only available in French.

The future of the CAP after 2013

Lundi 31 mai 2010

The post-2013 future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be debated at the Informal Meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers in Mérida chaired by Elena Espinosa, the Spanish Minister for the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs.

This meeting will focus on economic growth, employment, food safety and green growth, and analyse the relationship between agriculture, the Common Agriculture Policy and the economic challenges addressed in the EU-2020 Strategy.

The European delegations headed by the agriculture ministers of the twenty-seven Member States arrived in Mérida on Sunday afternoon and will visit agriculture-sector companies and farms this Monday. On Tuesday, 1 June, the agriculture ministers will hold a work meeting, after which a press conference will be held.

The Spanish Presidency of the EU holds that it is essential to maintain a strong CAP and improve coordination and governance by means of additional national and community policies and initiatives, in order to establish the foundations for a food and agriculture sector which is well established at regional level, competitive, and which will hold a leadership position in a globalised economy, while harnessing the potential for intelligent, comprehensive and sustainable growth.

The working paper to be debated in Mérida proposes that the agriculture-related challenges be dealt with in conjunction with those posed by the general economy, while using the policy options and pathways for growth set forth in the EU-2020 Strategy as guidelines for action.

In this context, the Spanish Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Water, Josep Puxeu, underscored the opportunities and possibilities provided by this Strategy in terms of ensuring growth, improving competitiveness and increasing employment in the agriculture sector.

In his address to the Spanish Joint Committee of members of the lower and upper chambers of the Spanish Parliament on the EU 2014-2020 budgetary framework and its impact on CAP reforms, Puxeu indicated last Tuesday that the incorporation of the CAP and the agriculture sector into the Strategy will benefit agriculture, in addition to reinforcing community policy in the future.

Josep Puxeu underscored that the CAP’s cost is reasonable both in relative and absolute terms, and that it must be adequately funded if its objectives are to be achieved, according to a communication by the Spanish Ministry for the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs.

He stressed that the next CAP reform should be consistent with European efforts to recover from the economic crisis and with the priorities sought in the context of the 2020 Strategy.

To this effect, he asserted that the CAP must be based on a direct aid scheme, on crisis and market management instruments, and on rural development.

Pushing forward Digital Agenda for Europe

Lundi 31 mai 2010

The meeting of the Council of Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Ministers will focus on pushing forward the Digital Agenda and studying measures to guarantee the supply of natural gas.

The Council meeting will be divided into two very different sections: during the morning session, chaired by the Spanish Minister for Industry, Tourism and Trade, Miguel Sebastián, ministers will tackle issues relating to the development of telecommunications, and in the afternoon focus will shift to the debate on problems related to the supply of energy, chaired by the Spanish Secretary of State for Energy, Pedro Marín.

With regard to telecoms, discussions will revolve around implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe, a project to which the EU committed itself in April with the signing of a joint declaration in Granada, which envisages the Agenda being adopted before the end of the Spanish Presidency.

The Digital Agenda for Europe identifies the seven most significant obstacles to telecommunications development and proposes seven specific actions to overcome them.

The strategy aims to overcome the digital divide and achieve 100% broadband coverage for all citizens by 2013. It also encompasses adopting high-speed communications by 2020 and rolling out efficient, new-generation networks, as well as implementing a predictable regulatory framework. The strategy also involves the development of data protection measures.

Furthermore, the strategy includes the drafting and dissemination of the Digital Rights Charter, the creation of a single market for content and e-commerce, the development of interoperable digital public services and innovation in ICTs in areas in which Europe has greatest market potential.

The session on energy issues will focus on analysing the progress achieved by the Presidency on a new agreement to introduce a new regulation on measures guaranteeing the supply of natural gas.

This initiative to review the current EU directive aims to boost the internal market for natural gas and the distribution system in order to ensure continued supply in the event of supply problems.

The ministers will also examine progress with a view to establishing new parameters for energy-saving and efficiency in each country, especially in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the use of renewable energies.

EU - Russia Summit EU27 deficit in trade in goods with Russia of 50 bn euro in 2009 Russia third trading partner of EU27

Samedi 29 mai 2010

STAT/10/76 28 May 2010 EU - Russia Summit EU27 deficit in trade in goods with Russia of 50 bn euro in 2009 Russia third trading partner of EU27 EU27 trade in goods with Russia had increased steadily until 2008, before dropping sharply in 2009….

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Second half of 2009 compared with second half of 2008 Household electricity prices in the EU27 fell by 1.5% and gas prices by 16.0%

Samedi 29 mai 2010

STAT/10/75 28 May 2010 Second half of 2009 compared with second half of 2008 Household electricity prices in the EU27 fell by 1.5% and gas prices by 16.0% I n the EU27, h ousehold electricity prices 1 fell by 1….

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Europe has a new visa code

Vendredi 28 mai 2010

The EU Visa Code has become applicable since the 5th of April. The main aim of this new EU regulation is to increase transparency, simplify and accelerate the procedures concerning Schengen visas.

The EU Visa Code is compulsory for all the Schengen states (EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland / except for the UK and Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus).

The Visa Code concerns: airport transit visas(A), transit visas(B), short stays visas(C), national long stay visas(D+C), and long stay visa (D).

What will change regarding the types of visas?

- Transit visa (B) and short stay visa (C) are merged. This means that, from now on there will be no longer a distinction between a stay of less than 5 days (transit visa), and a stay of less than 3 months (short stay visa). In other words, in any case any artist entering under the short stay visa in the Schengen area can stay there up to 3 months.
BUT be careful: the validity of the visa will be matched with the purpose of the stay.

- Airport transit visas (A): Nationals from some third countries (such as Iraq, Sri Lanki, Bangladesh, …) must hold an airport transit visa in order to be allowed to transit through the international zone of a Schengen airport without entering the Schengen territory, for reasons of security. The list of these third countries (12 in total) is now given by the Visa Code (Annex IV).

- Abolishment of the National long stay visa (D+C): If a national from a third country wants to stay more than 3 months in a Schengen state, he has to hold a long-stay visa(D). The characteristics of this long-stay visa(D) (e.g. duration of the allowed stay, conditions of delivery, …) are defined differently by each state. Until now, the visa D allowed the holder to stay only in the state that had delivered it.

If the holder also wanted to travel to other countries within the Schengen area, he had to obtain another visa : the so-called national long-stay visa(D+C). With this D+C visa he could move freely in the Schengen area during a period of 3 months.

Benefits for touring in Europe

What has changed here? The extra demand for being able to travel in the Schengen zone when holding a long stay visa, thus the national long-stay visa(D+C), is now abolished. In other words, it will be now enough to simply apply for and hold a long-stay visa(D) in order to be able to travel in the Schengen zone. This is a change which will help and improve the touring with third-country national artists in the Schengen zone.

BUT difficulties may appear when working with artists for longer than three months involved in touring. If a third country artist holds a long-stay visa(D), which allows him to stay longer than 3 months in the Schengen state that gave him the visa, he can only travel freely in the territory of Schengen area for a period up to 3 months within a 6 months period.

What will change from now on to facilitate the application procedures?

Duration of the visa application
Member States must ensure an appointment for the applicant within a period of two weeks maximum and are obliged to take a final decision on the application within 15 days maximum (Only under exceptional circumstances and in individual cases this deadline can be exceeded).

The general fee is 60€ (children from 6-12 years: 35€). BUT Representatives of non-profit organisations, aged 25 years or less, participating in seminars, conference, sports, cultural or educational events organised by non-profit organisations are exempted from paying the visa fee.

In case of refusal of visa
From now on, the refusal of a visa has to be motivated by one of the standard grounds set out in the Visa Code (e.g. presenting a false travel document). If an application for a visa is rejected by the Consular, the applicant has now a right to appeal of this negative decision, and so to question the Consular on its reasons for refusing the visa.

Application form
The application form has been simplified, with approximately 10 questions less, including the part concerning the spouse’s situation.

The European Forum for the outermost regions

Vendredi 28 mai 2010

The European Commission is organising, since yesterday, the first Forum for Outermost Europe in partnership with the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. The event will is meant to provide a better understanding among the European institutions and the Member States of the situation in the nine outermost regions (OR).

The Forum will also provide an opportunity to strengthen dialogue with these regions and exchange experience. Another aim is to send a strong political message: the EU will continue to take account of the specific characteristics of these regions and support them with a view to transforming their potential into real growth opportunities. This means, for example, strengthening their capabilities in the fields of research and renewable energy sources, or using their unique position to measure the effects of climate change.

This event brings together the Presidents of the outermost regions, the 27 EU Member States, representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, NGOs, universities and socio-professional circles and other experts.

The European Union’s future strategy for the outermost regions from 2013 will be the focus of discussions in the Forum. 2010 is a pivotal year for these regions, given the ongoing discussions on the EU budget, the future cohesion policy after 2013 and the new economic strategy for Europe for 2020. The ORs and their Member States also recently presented a memorandum to the European Commission summarising their joint ideas for the future (IP/10/547).

Discussions will follow four main themes:

The cultural and natural heritage of the ORs

This heritage can drive development if properly exploited. For example, the very wide variety of plants in these regions may be useful in developing biomedical research and the Pharmacopoeia. In addition, internationally-renowned jazz and blues festivals, such as those in Saint Lucia or Marie-Galante, may stimulate economic development.

Dynamic partnerships and active European borders

Given their location within three oceans, these regions play an important role in the Union’s external action and in its neighbourhood policy. For example, Guyana cooperates with Suriname and the Brazilian states of Amapá, Pará and Amazonas in developing cross-border economic activities and bringing the populations together.

Prospects for agriculture and fisheries

These form the backbone of the ORs’ economy. Where agriculture is concerned, they export a number of products (bananas, sugar cane, fruit, flowers, etc.). They also benefit from impressive know-how in the agro-environmental and agri-food industries. Their fisheries resources are rich and relatively well-preserved in comparison with continental Europe.

Sectors with development potential in these regions

The many examples of projects carried out by the ORs in the field of research and innovation illustrate their ability to overcome the constraints of their isolation and geomorphological characteristics. They particularly excel in the fields of medical research, oceanography, aeronautics, agri-food and the development of renewable energy sources.

The European Commission’s objective is to continue to support the modernisation of traditional sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism, while developing new areas of activity with higher added value, such as information technology and green technologies.

The European Union is making specific financial efforts for these regions, and a number of actions are under way. In the period 2007-2013, the outermost regions will benefit from Community investment totalling €7.8 billion under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF), European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and the Programme of Options Specifically Relating to Remoteness and Insularity (POSEI). Specific public aid schemes and special tax regimes are being granted in order to take account of their situation.

Nota bene…

The European Union has nine outermost regions: the four French overseas departments (DOM) (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique), two French overseas collectivities (Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin), the autonomous regions of Portugal (the Azores and Madeira) and the Spanish Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands. Since 1999 they have had a specific status recognised in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Diego López Garrido, Spain’s Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs, Marie-Luce Penchard, France’s Minister with responsibility for Overseas Territories, and Pedro Lourtie, Portugal’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, are taking part in the Forum.

In its 2008 communication, ‘The outermost regions: an asset for Europe’, the Commission undertook to organise a forum for ‘outermost Europe’ every two years, together with the Member States and the OR.

Inconsistent application of EU rules regarding telecoms

Vendredi 28 mai 2010

When it comes to telecoms in Europe, most Member States’ markets have become more competitive, but remain national in dimension. According to the European Commission’s annual report on the Single European Electronic Communications Market Consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive EU-wide telecoms market because of inconsistent application of EU telecoms rules. Moreover, the level of competitiveness varies strongly between Member States.

Although Europe’s telecoms sector weathered the financial storm in 2009 (0% growth compared to a 4.2% EU-wide economic decline), consistent enforcement of existing rules and investment in innovative services hold the key to future growth. In its Digital Agenda for Europe, a flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission urges the telecoms industry and EU governments to join forces to bring high-speed internet access and interactive communications services for all citizens and businesses.

Telecoms markets withstand economic crisis

Europe’s telecoms market experienced zero growth in 2009 but fared well compared to the overall economy’s 4.2% decline. Focusing on fast-growing innovative services such as mobile data services could boost the sector’s future development. But inconsistent implementation of existing EU rules fragments telecoms markets along national borders, denying businesses access to a genuine Single Market.

Inconsistent regulation hinders Single Market

Major price differences still exist between Member States both at retail and wholesale level. Retail mobile prices in the most expensive Member States are four times higher than in the cheapest, e.g. 4 €-cents per minute in Latvia compared with 24 €-cents in Malta.

This situation is partly due to different regulatory approaches across the EU. Consumers and business still face 27 fragmented national markets. National telecoms regulators often delay, sometimes by years, the enforcement of EU rules. For example, in wholesale broadband markets, some national regulators control the fibre networks of the incumbent operators, while others limit regulation to the old copper-based technology. Regulation of wholesale broadband markets shapes the competitive landscape and so determines the price and quality of broadband products available to consumers and businesses.

Consistent application of telecoms rules is needed to foster the roll-out of investment-intensive infrastructure such as Next Generation Access (NGA) networks. As outlined in the Digital Agenda, the Commission will adopt a Recommendation on NGA networks later this year.

The newly established Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) will assist the Commission with its work to tackle the remaining divergences and to ensure that Member States implement the EU rules consistently.

Use of high-speed internet is growing

Average EU take up of fixed broadband per capita reached 24.8% as of January 2010 - more than 123 million lines. Denmark and The Netherlands are world leaders in broadband, with nearly 40% of the population enjoying broadband internet access. EU mobile broadband take-up almost doubled to 5.2% from January 2009 to January 2010. Finland, Portugal and Austria had penetration rates of over 15%.

Growing demand for mobile broadband internet will put even greater pressure on limited radio spectrum. Higher capacity will be needed to meet the requirements of increased data traffic.

The Digital Agenda contains specific measures to bring 100% broadband coverage for all Europeans by 2013. It foresees a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, which will ensure that radio frequencies freed by the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting (the ‘digital dividend’) are available for new services, including mobile broadband.

Consumer prices falling

Prices for internet connections declined in 2009 thanks to flat rate offers and faster broadband speeds. For mobile voice calls, EU consumers paid 7% less than in 2008, withthe average price per minute falling to 13 €-cents from 14 €-cents. Consumers could switch their operator while keeping the phone number faster than before. On average, it took 4.1 days to do so for mobile and 6.5 days for fixed numbers in 2009 compared with 8.5 and 7.5 days respectively in 2008. Despite progress, more efforts are needed to reach the goal of one-day outlined in the 2009 EU telecoms rules.

Commission to look into moving to a higher percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions cut

Vendredi 28 mai 2010

The European Commission is looking into going from a 20% to 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emission. This is why it presented this week an analysis of the costs, benefits and options for moving beyond the EU’s reduction target for 2020 once the conditions are met. At present these conditions have not been met. This communication follows the Commission’s Communication on how to reinvigorate international climate negotiations and the Council’s request to present an assessment on the impacts of a conditional move to a 30% emissions cut.

The measures taken to support energy-intensive industries against the risk of carbon leakage are also examined as required under the ETS (Emissions Trading System) Directive. The Communication shows that the reduction in EU emissions as a consequence of the economic crisis, together with a drop in carbon prices, has changed the estimations two years ago when the revised ETS was presented. Therefore in light of the new data, an analysis of the implications of the different levels of ambition as a motor for modernising the EU economy and creating new jobs by promoting innovation in low-carbon technologies is provided. This analysis encompasses the efforts required in the main different sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 20%, up to 30%, looking also at the impacts of these efforts and the potential policy options to achieve them. The current context of constrained public finances and economic contraction is also fully taken into account when assessing possible alternatives.

Cost of meeting targets

Since 2008 the absolute costs of meeting the 20% target have decreased from €70 billion to €48 billion (0.32% of GDP) per year by 2020. This is due to several factors: lower economic growth has reduced emissions; higher energy prices have spurred energy efficiency and reduced energy demand; and the carbon price has fell below the level projected in 2008 as EU ETS allowances not used in the recession are carried forward. However, at the same time, this reduction in absolute costs comes in the context of a crisis which has left businesses with much less capacity to find the investment needed to modernise in the short run.

Since 20071 the EU is committed to move to a 30% emissions cut by 2020 if other major economies take on their fair share of the effort under a global climate change agreement. The cost of reaching the 30% target is now estimated at €81 billion per year by 2020, €11 billion higher that the price tag for the 20% target two years ago. The 30% target would cost €33 billion (0.2% of GDP) more than the 20% target is estimated to cost today.

Low-carbon growth

Countries worldwide are recognising the potential of green, low-carbon growth to create new sustainable jobs and strengthen energy security. Europe’s lead in this revolution cannot be taken for granted as global competition becomes fiercer. The 20% target was seen as a critical driver for modernising the EU economy, but now, with carbon prices lower than expected, its potential as an incentive for change and innovation has decreased. Moreover Europe has also to prepare its long term objectives, as part of the developed countries group, of achieving 80-95% reduction by 2050 at an optimal cost

Options for moving to 30%

The Communication sets out options for meeting the 30% target within the EU ETS and in the other sectors. These include: reducing the number of auctioned allowances under the EU ETS; regulation to promote greater energy efficiency; smart use of fiscal instruments; directing EU cohesion policy funding towards green investments; and improving the environmental integrity of the international carbon credits recognised in the EU ETS.

A measure that is attractive even ahead of a possible move to 30% would be to use some unallocated free EU ETS industry allowances to accelerate innovation in low-carbon technologies, in a similar way to the existing demonstration programme for innovative renewable energy and carbon capture and storage technologies funded with 300 million allowances.

Carbon leakage

The Commission has examined the situation of energy-intensive industries with regard to the risk of carbon leakage (relocation of production from the EU to countries with laxer carbon constraints).

The key conclusion is that the existing measures to prevent carbon leakage from these industries - free allowances and access to international credits - remain justified. The analysis also shows that raising the target to 30% while other countries implement their reduction pledges under the Copenhagen Accord would have a limited impact in terms of carbon leakage, provided the existing measures stay in place.

The Commission will continue closely to monitor the risk of carbon leakage, particularly in relation to third countries which have not yet taken action to limit emissions. Among the potential measures that merit continued examination is the inclusion of imports in the EU ETS.

Next steps

The Communication is addressed to the EU institutions for consideration.

Market surveillance in europe, a necessity

Jeudi 27 mai 2010

In order to protect both consumers and businesses from unsafe products, Europe needs a real surveillance system to ensure that all economic actors stick to the rules. That is why the recent entry into force of improved rules on market surveillance is welcome news.

The free movement of goods, is a cornerstone of the EU’s single market. But with freedom comes responsibility. In order to ensure that the products in the market place, including imports from third countries, are safe and comply with all the necessary EU regulations, an efficient market surveillance system needs to be in place.

Although the single market is EU-wide, market surveillance, which constitutes the final step of market control, is a national task, and each Member State is responsible for monitoring the products within its territory – and taking relevant action in the cases of non-compliance.

Despite the widespread harmonisation of safety standards and other requirements for products (e.g. environmental) across the Union, experience has revealed that fairly significant gaps still exist between Member States as regards how these requirements are enforced. This has led to a situation where quite a number of non-conforming products can find their way on to the market, thus resulting, among other things, in the distortion of competition.

A step closer to full harmony
To address these shortcomings, the so-called New Legislative Framework contains measures to strengthen market surveillance and seeks to ensure that consumers across the EU enjoy a similarly high level of protection. A specific 2008 EU Regulation sets out the general conditions for market surveillance across Europe. It became applicable in January 2010. This Regulation is complemented by a Decision on a common framework on the marketing of products, which contains another set of measures aiming to ensure that only safe and compliant products make it on to the market.

Both instruments seek to reinforce national market surveillance instruments, ensure a more coherent level of intervention and controls throughout the single market, guarantee the equal treatment of non-compliant products across Europe, protect fair economic operators from unfair ‘black sheep’ competition, and boost confidence in the CE marking (see box).

The Regulation outlines the tasks of Member States vis-à-vis market surveillance: national surveillance authorities monitor and inspect the goods placed on their market regularly and take action to ensure the compliance or removal of non-compliant products. In addition, they can impose sanctions on offenders that are proportionate to the severity of the infringement. Over and above this, Member States must implement and periodically update their market surveillance programmes and review and assess the functioning of their surveillance activities at least every four years.

In addition, the Regulation obliges Member States to carry out checks on goods imported from outside the EU because not all of them meet the standards of the single market and, so, it is most effective to filter out non-compliant imports at the border before they enter the Union.

The Decision lays down the obligations for business. Every actor in the distribution chain has to play its role in making sure that only safe products are sold. Furthermore, the Decision ensures that each product can be traced back from every distributor to its manufacturer or importer into the EU. This information is crucial for authorities to stop further deliveries of unsafe products quickly.

Co-operation and rapid alert
That said, no Member State is an island, figuratively speaking, and successful market surveillance requires effective cross-border co-operation between market surveillance authorities, given the fact that goods can move quite freely in the single market.

The new Regulation enhances the effectiveness of this co-operation, which involves the exchange of information and know-how, as well as the pooling of resources: the co-operation mechanism now enters into play whenever national authorities find a dangerous product.

Accordingly, the EU has built upon an important tool through which all Member States share information on non-compliant products: RAPEX, the EU’s rapid alert system that already covered consumer products, has been extended to goods for professional users. It ensures that information about dangerous products withdrawn from the EU market and/or recalled from consumers is quickly circulated between Member States and the European Commission, with the aim of preventing or restricting the sale of these products on the market.