Archive pour juin 2010

Simplified management for funds to help regions tackle the crisis

Mercredi 30 juin 2010

The EU has on 24 June 2010 adopted new measures aimed at simplifying management rules for the structural and cohesion funds. The changes should help to facilitate access to the funds and accelerate flows of investment at a time when public budgets are under pressure. As part of the measures to counter the economic crisis, additional advance payments totalling €775 million will be paid out to some member countries to tackle immediate cash flow problems.

Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy stated that the crisis has dented business confidence, increased the number of people out of work, and is putting a massive strain on public finances. These measures should help tackle liquidity problems, as well as make it easier to access funds. Speeding up project implementation on the ground will give a helping hand to national and regional economies in these times of crisis.

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, responsible for the European Social Fund (ESF), added that the crisis has proven the relevance and value of the ESF. Training and up skilling offered to people looking for work beared fruit and simplification will mean Member States can help those hit hardest by the downturn even more effectively.

Through cohesion policy’s three funds - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund – the 455 cohesion policy programmes are investing a total of € 347 billion between 2007 and 2013 in all EU regions.

One major impact of the crisis is that Member States and regions are finding it difficult to provide the additional funding required ‘to match’ European investments. In response, the changes announced are intended to overcome this challenge to accelerate implementation of the programmes and simplify day-to-day management.

Key new measures include:

* Introducing a single ceiling of € 50 million across the board for all types of major projects that require the Commission’s approval: the new uniform threshold will allow smaller-scale environmental projects to be approved by Member States alone, which will help them to start up more quickly.
* Allowing major projects to be financed by more than one programme: e.g. the construction of a major motorway section which cuts across different regions can now be co-financed by several regional programmes. Under previous rules, this could not be accommodated.
* Simpler procedure for revision of programmes to adapt more quickly to the current challenges
* Enhancing the use of financial engineering: possibility of setting up loan schemes to boost spending on energy efficiency and renewable energies in housing
* Easing the obligation to maintain investments: these rules will now only apply to projects where appropriate such as infrastructure and productive investment sectors. They will not apply to undertakings which go unintentionally bankrupt. For ESF-type operations this is also aligned with state aid rules.
* Simplifying the rules on ‘revenue-generating’ projects (e.g. toll motorways or projects involving the leasing or sale of land): in order to reduce the administrative burden on Member States, revenues will now only be monitored until the closure of the related programme.
* Targeting additional advances of € 775 million (4% from the ESF and 2% from the Cohesion Fund) for Member States which received a loan under the IMF balance of payment scheme, or saw a GDP decrease of more than 10%: by applying these two criteria, this concerns Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania.
* Postponing ‘N+2 decommitment’ rules: under N+2 if the funding allocated in 2007 has not been spent by the end of 2009 it would be automatically returned to the EU budget. The changes will allow the commitments for 2007 to be spent over a longer period. This will avoid the loss of around € 220 million (€ 125 million for Spain, € 56 million for Italy, € 9 million for the UK, € 6 million for Germany, € 4 million for the Netherlands and € 20 million for cooperation projects between several countries)

Reinforced macro-economic, budgetary and structural surveillance in the EU

Mercredi 30 juin 2010

The European Commission today adopted a Communication outlining a set of tools to strengthen the economic governance of the EU and the euro area. Its cornerstone is the implementation of enhanced surveillance of fiscal policies, macroeconomic policies and structural reforms. Enhanced surveillance will be based on a “European semester” and comes with an array of sanctions to prevent or correct the excesses that could jeopardize the financial stability of the EU and the euro area. The Stability and Growth Pact will be reinforced with particular attention given to the evolution of debt as well as public deficits (more details in the MEMO/10/288).

The European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said EU needs to strengthen its economic governance. Although it disposes of several instruments for the coordination of economic policy, the crisis has put in evidence that these have not been fully used and that there are certain gaps in the current european system of governance. The Commission has thus decided to put forward ambitious proposals which will bring concrete progress. The European Semester is going to give coherence to the European monitoring. This is logical and necessary.

European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, stressed the need for greater coherence, greater coordination and foresight in the preparation of national budgets and national reform plans to ensure Europe’s financial stability and achieve better growth while creating employment, in line with the objectives of the strategy set out in Europe 2020. EU needs more coordination, but also a more rigorous implementation of the rules including dissuasive sanctions to prevent slippage and regain confidence.

The proposals of this toolkit are based on three main blocks of reform. Firstly, they call for a synchronization of the European Union surveillance with the national budget procedures in a single framework, the “European semester.” Member states must submit their Stability and Convergence Programmes and their National Reform Programmes simultaneously. This will facilitate a better integrated and more effective ex-ante policy co-ordination at the European level. In the second part of the year, this review should guide the drafting of domestic budgets for the following year.

The Stability and Growth Pact should be reinforced both on the preventive and corrective arms. The Commission proposes to require a faster pace of progress towards budgetary balance for countries with high level of debt or pronounced risks in terms of debt developments. The debt criteria should be applied effectively through a clear and simple numerical benchmark for defining a satisfactory pace of debt reduction.

Secondly, beyond budgetary surveillance, the Commission proposes to address the macroeconomic imbalances among member states, which weaken the cohesion of the EU and in particular the euro area. Early detection through a scoreboard of indicators together with a more constraining European framework would spur correcting increasing divergences.

Thirdly, the EU-wide surveillance of structural reforms in Member States should ensure that sufficient progress is made in line with the overall goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for a more sustainable and more environmentally friendly growth that is based on knowledge and creates jobs, as adopted at the European Council in June 2010.

The Commission invites the ECOFIN Council of 13 July to confirm the launch of the surveillance cycle under the “European semester” in January 2011 and to give its green light to the revised Code of Conduct of the Stability and Growth Pact. The Commission will present formal legislative proposals by end- September.

Tourism: keeping Europe the world’s top destination

Mercredi 30 juin 2010

Keeping Europe the world’s top tourist destination is the objective of a Communication1 tabled by the European Commission today. With 370 million international arrivals in 2008, Europe has more than 40% of the global figure - a position which needs to be retained. However the fast changing worldwide economy impacts on the tourism sector with some important changes concerning tourist behaviour and markets of origin. While flagging challenges such as seasonality and an aging population, the Commission document outlines a policy that aims at supporting this essential sector of the European economy and proposes initiatives to promote its competitiveness, its sustainable and quality-based development and the visibility of Europe as an outstanding tourist destination.

According to Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Entrepreneurship and Industry including the internal market for goods, the Lisbon Treaty has for the first time ever set a community framework for European tourism. This gives us the opportunity to work on a policy that exploits the variety that our tourism sector has to offer to European and non-European tourists alike. We therefore need to keep Europe’s tourism industry at the forefront of innovative solutions. In return, this will create more jobs and a more sustainable and differentiated tourism offer. It will be hard work, but it is our aim to keep Europe the world’s top tourist destination. Today’s communication lays down 21 actions that will thrust Europe’s tourism industry to the 21st century.

Tourism plays an important role in our economy. It comprises 1.8 million enterprises, many of these being small and medium-sized businesses. It also caters for 5.2% of employment and contributes to more than 5% of European GDP.

The coming years offer a number of challenges and opportunities that need a concerted approach at a European level, while respecting the different features present in Member States at all levels. European destinations face increasing competition from other global destinations. On the other hand Europe can also attract tourists from emerging markets willing to spend their vacation over here. The current demographic trend will mean that in a few years time we will have more aged tourists – our tourism products and our infrastructure has to be well-catered for that. Our tourism products also need to be more sustainable, thus taking into account commitments related to climate change and dependence on water and energy for example. The ever-developing information and communication technologies also offer new opportunities that need to be tapped.

To keep Europe the world’s top tourist destination, the Commission communication proposes 21 actions (see MEMO/10/289 for full list of actions) including:

1. Improve the competitiveness of the tourist sector in Europe.

*Innovation needs to be boosted so that the sector and its enterprises can adapt to new trends in consumer behaviour and overcome fixed patterns in the sector. In this context, the European Commission supports the idea of a joint ICT tourism platform among major tourism stakeholders (travel agencies, hotels, etc…)
*Extension of the tourism season. Facilitate a form of exchange programme for the young, elderly, families with economic difficulties and disabled people to travel during the low season. Secondly, an information exchange mechanism at European level could help to better coordinate school holidays among the Member States.
*Improving the tourism socio-economic knowledge is needed to develop better coordination of ongoing research activities in the field of tourism. A virtual European Tourism Observatory could provide, in the medium term, a network for the coordination and analysis of tourism research, which could also act as a repository of EU-wide information on developments in the tourism industry.

2. Promote the development of sustainable, responsible and quality-oriented tourism

*Facilitate best practice exchanges among the networks of regional and sustainable destinations with a view to develop sustainable management indicators.
*Develop a Quality Tourism label, to reward achievements in raising the quality of the services provided by European businesses and destinations.
*Elaborate a label on the basis of sustainable management indicators to promote tourist destinations respecting environmental, social and economic criteria.
*Propose a Charter establishing criteria for a sustainable and responsible tourism on the basis of which a European price will be awarded to tourist companies and destinations.

3. Consolidate the image and the visibility of Europe as a set of sustainable and high quality destinations

*The creation and promotion of a European brand, in close cooperation with the Member States, will help to better stand out from other international destinations.
*Improved cooperation with national organisations and the European tourist industry to promote European tourism products via the portal visiteurope.com.

4. Bolster the integration of tourism in the EU policies and financial instruments

Tourism is inevitably interlinked with other policies. For this reason, the Commission will improve integration and coordination of policies impacting on tourism, such as passengers’ rights, consumer protection and the internal market.

Sustainability and competitiveness for the Clean Vehicles Strategy

Mardi 29 juin 2010

The main aim of EU’s proposed Clean Vehicles Strategy is to enhance the sustainability and global competitiveness of the European automotive industry, while increasing the number of sustainable mobility options for European citizens and meeting their growing demand for more environmentally friendly cars.

Given that the motor car was invented in Europe, it is befitting that the EU remains the world’s largest vehicle producer. Home to 15 car-makers with international presence, the European automotive sector employs more than 12 million Europeans either directly or indirectly.

The automotive sector contributes around €140 billion of value-added to the EU economy and is a major European export earner, resulting in nearly €70 billion in trade balance annually. In addition, it represents Europe’s largest private investor in research and development (R&D).

In 2007, the EU produced around 20 million vehicles a year, representing nearly a quarter of global output, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

However, the sector is currently in crisis. In 2009, total vehicle production in Europe decreased by 17.3% compared to 2008 and by 23% compared to the pre-crisis level of 2007, reaching a total of 15.2 million.

Amid this somewhat discouraging picture, one segment of the automotive market showed healthy growth: low-emission vehicles. Demand for cars emitting less than 120g of CO2 per kilometre recorded its strongest increase ever, rising by 1.2 million to reach 3.2 million units in 2009. This segment now holds a market share of 25%.

This reflects the increasing preference among European consumers for more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient vehicles, both for ecological and economic reasons. And this is an encouraging development given that, the convenience of increased mobility notwithstanding, the cars Europeans drive generate 12% of the EU’s overall carbon footprint and, while the Union managed to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by almost 5% between 1990 and 2004, CO2 emissions from road transport rose by 26%.

A similar process is taking place across the world. With the global car fleet set to double over the next decade, to reach 1.6 billion vehicles in 2030, many of these new vehicles will need to use alternative energy sources – such as electricity, hydrogen and biofuels – and, if not, will need to be more energy efficient.

Defragmenting European efforts

Europe stands at a crossroads: it has the opportunity to capitalise on its technological advantage to position itself at the lead of growing global demand for clean and energy-efficient vehicles, but faces the challenge of developing a constant stream of new and innovative green technologies.

Many of the economic, environmental and technologic al challenges and opportunities facing Europe in the clean car sector are common ones, and hence call for a coordinated EU response. However, there are certain areas where efforts are still fragmented, such as the national focus of much of Europe’s R&D and the absence of common European standards for electric vehicles.

In addition, the Union’s single market is home to around half a billion consumers, millions of whom are very environmentally minded. This means European industry has fertile home ground on which to grow.

In recent years, the EU has pursued numerous initiatives to promote green motoring. Since 1995, it has encouraged auto-manufacturers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, such as hybrid cars. Another policy priority has been improving public transport – as well as promoting cycling and walking – in order to encourage citizens to leave their cars at home.

In March 2007, EU leaders signed up to the ambitious ‘Energy for a changing world’ package which commits Member States to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. It also sets a binding overall goal of increasing to 20% the share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix.

A clean start

In a drive to boost both the environmental performance and global competitiveness of the European automotive sector in these difficult times, the European Commission has released a proposed European strategy for clean and energy efficient vehicles, which deals with all categories of vehicles, from buses and lorries to cars, vans and motorcycles. The strategy not only paves the way to helping European car-makers exit the current crisis, but it also fits in with the EU’s new ‘Europe 2020’ strategy which seeks to promote growth that is smart, green and inclusive.

The strategy seeks, among other things, to address the EU’s fossil fuel dependency; to accelerate the development of clean automotive technologies without compromising on safety; and to promote the mass-market uptake of these technologies so as to broaden the choice for consumers and boost the competitiveness of European industry in the emerging green technologies sector.

It will achieve this through the development of a comprehensive regulatory framework for clean and more energy-efficient vehicles, by supporting research and innovation into green technologies, raising consumer awareness and promoting demand, taking action at the global level to create more open global automotive markets. It will also deal with the employment challenges posed by restructuring the auto industry and re-skilling its workforce.

The Communication is now endorsed by a European Parliament Resolution and Council conclusions. The first actions envisioned in the strategy should already be launched later this year.

Cohesion reform, more support for interregional cooperation

Mardi 29 juin 2010

Meeting in Jaén, Spain, last week, the members of the Committee of the Regions’ Commission for territorial cohesion (COTER) emphasised the positive knock-on effects of such funding for regional growth and social inclusion. Local and regional politicians from across Europe sent a strong message in favour of maintaining an ambitious EU cohesion policy after 2013, when its current design and funding expires. At the same time, they urged reforms to improve its strategic planning and evaluation and called upon the European Commission to step up its support for interregional cooperation.

Within the framework of the Spanish Presidency, the Committee of the Regions had been invited to Jaén at the initiative of Lucena Barranquero, Secretary General for External Affairs of Andalucía, to debate the future of cohesion policy after the Lisbon treaty.

Summarising today’s discussions, Marek Woźniak (PL/EPP), Marshall of the Wielkopolskie region and First Vice Chair of the COTER Commission, underlined: “For the past twenty years, EU cohesion policy has enabled regions to boost their economic growth and improve their social cohesion, whilst simultaneously strengthening their administrative capacities. We therefore emphasise the need for continuing this policy at European level, based on the values of solidarity, and ambitious in both objectives and funding.”

María del Mar Moreno, Regional Minister of the Presidency for the Andalucían government, said: “Andalucía supports the creation of a transition mechanism to consolidate the progress made over the past few years thanks to cohesion policy, especially given the negative effects of the global economic crisis on certain regions. Only such a transition system would avoid endangering the results achieved by cohesion policy in regions such as Andalucía.”

CoR members agreed on the need to improve strategic planning in cohesion policy and to introduce more effective tools for assessing its results. Any reform must also be in line with the EU’s new objective of “territorial cohesion”, seminar participants insisted. This means that the European institutions have to pay more attention to the regional impact of all EU activities from the outset. The seminar also concluded that cohesion policy should contribute to the new “Europe 2020″ strategy, while retaining its own objectives as set out in the EU treaty.

Addressing the concrete needs of regions all over Europe, the CoR called on the European Commission to step up support for European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), a new EU instrument for regions to carry out interregional cooperation. The Committee also urged the Commission to define more precisely the role of so-called macro-regions in the framework of EU cohesion policy.

CoR braces itself for cohesion policy negotiations
The current EU budget and programmes are set until 2013, but important decisions determining eligibility rules and funding levels for the future European cohesion policy are expected within the next year. Having unanimously adopted the outlook opinion prepared by Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), European affairs state secretary in Saxony-Anhalt, in April, the Committee of the Regions is the first EU body with an official position on the future of cohesion policy.

To further clarify the relationship between cohesion policy and the “Europe 2020″ strategy, the incoming Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union has asked the Committee of the Regions for an opinion on the issue. Michael Schneider is currently drafting this opinion, which is scheduled for adoption in October. Constantin Ostaficiuc (RO/EPP), President of Timiş County Council, is meanwhile preparing the Committee’s response to the European Commission’s recent strategic report on the implementation of the cohesion policy programmes 2007-2013.

FP7 2011 Calls for proposals scheduled for July 20

Mardi 29 juin 2010

The date of publication of certain 2011 FP7 calls for proposals is expected on 20-07-2010 instead of 30-07-2010 as originally planned.

Text only available in French.

Call for papers for the Regions and the Environment Conference

Mardi 29 juin 2010

As the global economy seeks to move out of a period of recession and great uncertainty, it is timely to ask some searching questions about the achievements of recent environmental policy approaches and the prospects for the new approaches.

At first glance, 2010 has not so far been an auspicious year for regional environmental policy. Global recession has put pressure on politicians to ensure economic growth. Copenhagen failed to live up to expectations, putting off hard decisions till a later date.

In the UK, public scepticism about those wishing to press for stronger environmental policies was fuelled by the adverse publicity surrounding the illegal hacking of the so-called Climategate emails. But this tells only part of the story – an altogether more positive outlook is painted by political pronouncements in the US, China, UK and elsewhere on green jobs and a Green New Deal, the promotion of environmental technologies, policies to address fuel poverty and energy savings, plus clear commitment to policies such as improved eco-standards for new housing, including the stretching targets for zero carbon housing. This political climate is guiding unprecedented levels of investment in developing new environmental technologies, products and services, bringing with it challenges of ensuring this money is used wisely and careful evaluation undertaken of the outcomes, both positive and negative.

The Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2010 on Regions and the Environment presents an opportunity to discuss and debate these issues, to establish the research requirements and to address the concerns of practitioners and policymakers. The conference organisers are keen to attract papers and sessions which address a broad active research and policy agenda, including contributions from any discipline which can offer insights at local and regional levels. Papers which are collaborative, international or multi-disciplinary are especially welcome. We plan to prompt important questions about the future of environmental policy at all geographical scales, not least the regional and local level.

Contributions are welcomed on the following themes:
* Climate change as a driver of regional policy
* The challenges of low carbon economies
* Developing and evaluating sub-national policies for adaptation and mitigation
* Post-Copenhagen challenges for taking forward international and sub-national environmental policy
* Post Climategate challenges for public engagement in regional environmental policies
* Planning, postpolitics and the limits of consensus
* Green infrastructure and the problems of town cramming
* Regional and urban planning for the environment
* Strategies for local and regional resilience
* Evaluation Urban Renaissance, Smart Growth
* Alternative approaches – transitions towns, low impact development zones, local food initiatives
* Low carbon zones
* Environmental risk and public understanding of science
* New sectoral approaches – regions and transport, environmental protection, health, education…
* Planning, postpolitics and the challenges of consensus
* Critical analysis of tools for environmental policy
* Ecological and carbon footprints – challenges for their regional and local usage
Please submit offers of papers in the form of 400 word abstracts through the Regional Studies Association on-line conference portal by 30th
June 2010. Your MS Word file should contain your name, telephone, fax and e-mail details. To submit go to www.regional-studies-assoc.ac.uk and follow the Winter Conference Call 2010 for Papers link.
Proposals will be considered by the Conference Programme Committee against the criteria of originality and interest, subject balance and geographical spread.

New multilingual website on successions to keep citizens informed on national laws

Lundi 28 juin 2010

About 9 million Europeans are taking advantage of the free movement by living outside their home countries. There are about 450,000 international successions each year in the EU, representing more than EUR 120 billion. As owners of properties –houses and bank accounts – families are confronted with different rules on jurisdiction and applicable law in the 27 EU Member States.

For example, if a British citizen with a house in southern France dies, would French or UK succession law apply to his property? To help citizens become better informed about these laws, the Council of the Notariats of the EU, with the support of the European Commission, launched a website today, www.successions-europe.eu, in 22 EU languages plus Croatian. The Commission welcomes this valuable tool for citizens.

The website provides answers to the main questions raised during a succession. For example, citizens could find out which authority would be competent and which law would apply, if it is possible to choose the applicable law and who the heirs are. For legal practitioners, there will also be detailed reports on succession law available in English, French and German.

The project’s total cost amounts to almost EUR 280,000 and the Commission contributed about EUR 158,400.

Background

On 14 October 2009, the Commission proposed a Regulation to simplify the settlement of international successions. Under the Regulation, there would be a single criterion for determining both the jurisdiction of the authorities and the law applicable to a cross-border succession: the deceased’s habitual place of residence. People living abroad will, however, be able to opt to have the law of their country of nationality apply to the entirety of their succession.

The proposal is an example of how the EU works towards creating an area of justice that will ease citizens’ daily lives, as set out by Vice-President Reding on 20 April 2010 in an action plan for 2010-2014.

EU Justice Ministers, during a meeting on 4 June 2010 in Luxembourg, underlined the importance of the proposed Regulation. Negotiations are ongoing in the Council.

New: 2010 European aid report

Lundi 28 juin 2010

Today, June, 28 the European Commission adopted its Annual Report 2010 on the implementation of EU’s 2009 development and external assistance policies. EC Programmes and projects reached around 140 developing countries.

Specific instruments were set up to help the world’s poorest to face the triple economic, food and environmental crisis and delivered results: for instance, more than 50 million people are receiving assistance to face hunger from the EU Food Facility, the budgets of 15 countries in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific were supported to help them resist to the pressure of the economic crisis, and the EU agreed a ‘fast-start’ funding of €2.4 billion annually for 2010-2012 to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change. The Commission is the second largest provider of development aid in the world, with commitments amounting to €12 billion, and plays a leading role in coordinating EU efforts to make aid more effective.

The Commission has shown the capacity to innovate and to adapt its aid instruments to maximise the impact of its support, stated Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Between 40 million and 80 million people in developing countries are estimated to have been forced into absolute poverty because of the food, economic and financial crisis in 2009. The Annual Report 2010 explains the role played by the European Commission to help the poorest countries deal with the crisis and details the evolution of its development policies and their implementation in 2009.

New instruments to respond to the crisis and climate change

The European Commission proposed and implemented a set of timely, targeted and coordinated measures in 2009:

EU Food facility: The €1 billion EU Food Facility put in place at the end of 2008 has provided a fast and efficient response in tackling food insecurity. Of the €1 billion pledged under the facility, €837 million were allocated by the end of 2009.
EU Vulnerability FLEX instrument: €236 million were committed under the so-called Vulnerability FLEX mechanism to help 11 African, 3 Caribbean and 1 Pacific countries reduce funding shortfalls in their 2009 government budgets Climate change: the EU intensified its cooperation and dialogue with developing partners. The Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) received an allocation of €35 million to support poor countries most vulnerable to climate change, in particular the least-developed countries and small island developing states. In December, the EU agreed on ‘fast-start’ funding of €2.4 billion annually for 2010-2012, to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and in moving to low-carbon strategies.
In 2009, the European Commission also started a mid-term review of its cooperation programmes and financial allocations to adapt them to evolving realities and progress to date.

Increasing the effectiveness and impact of European Commission’s aid

The Commission continued to make its aid more effective and acted as catalyst and coordinator to improve synergies among Member States. In order to implement the internationally agreed Accra Agenda for Action on aid effectiveness, the Commission focused on demonstrating concrete and measurable results in the three priority areas of: increased use of country systems as first option to channel bilateral assistance; implementation of division of labour among donors to reduce aid fragmentation; and better quality technical cooperation.

The Commission takes pains to measure the impact of its development cooperation actions. Results for 2009 show that project performance improved compared to the previous year. 94% of the projects are now rated positively.

Key figures

Share of external aid in the EU budget: external aid represents 9 % (€12 billion) of the total EU budget (€143 billion).

Geographical spread: financial commitments for European countries (Eastern European countries and pre-accession countries) amounted around to €2 billion, €618 million for the North of Africa, €3.9 billion for Sub-Saharan Africa, €669 million for the Middle East, nearly €1.4 billion for South, Central Asia and the Far East, €899 million for Latin America, €89 million for Oceania and €2.1 billion for unallocated and multilateral aid.

Sectoral breakdown: social infrastructures (education, health, population and reproductive health, government and civil society and other social infrastructures) keeps the lion’s share (34%) of European Commission’s development cooperation with commitments amounting around to €4 billion; €1.7 billion (14 %) went to the production sectors (agriculture, forestry, fishing, industry, mining, construction, trade and tourism) and €1.2 billion (11%) were targeted at economic infrastructures and services (transport, communication, energy, banking and financial services and business).

Budget support: In 2009, the Commission committed €2.4 billion of EU aid funds for external cooperation as budget support, a mechanism under which European funds are made available to governments of beneficiary countries and their national budgets, provided agreed conditions for payment are met.

MEPs say NO to torture

Lundi 28 juin 2010

The United Nations International Day Against Torture takes place every year June 26.

It was back in 2006 that EU rules restricting the trade of torture tools was introduced. However, the legislation remains unimplemented or only partly implemented in several European countries.

Speaking in the debate, the Chair of Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Committee Heidi Hautala said, torture tools are still used by police and security officers and that is not normal.

One of the main objectives of the EU human rights policy is exactly the prevention and the eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment within the EU and worldwide.

Torture and the EU

The EU Guidelines on Torture (2001)
Article 4 of Fundamental Rights Charter of the EU bans torture and ill-treatment
Article 3 of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
As Members of the Council of Europe, EU Member States have all ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture
In order to fight against the trade in goods that could be used for torture, the resolution urges EU countries to send reports about the number of (licence) applications received, the items involved and countries of destination for each application, as well as the decisions made on each of these applications, and reports of null activity if applicable.

It also calls for proper penalties if rules are broken.

Legal loopholes in existing rules

The resolution also draws attention to several legal loopholes in the regulation as the list of prohibited instruments doesn’t include spiked batons (sting sticks), thumb-cuffs, thumbscrews, wall restraints or electric shock devices.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gabriele Albertini said the human imagination sometimes is quite creative when it comes to inflicting hardship on others. Thus, it is essential to keep pace with technological developments in this sad matter.

During the debate, the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said any shortcomings in the implementation of the Regulation must - and will - be addressed. She said Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation will present their findings to a meeting with member states later this month.