Archive pour juillet 2010

EU-wide stress-testing exercise

Lundi 26 juillet 2010

The Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission have just published the results of the EU-wide stress-testing exercise, which was prepared and conducted by the CEBS and national supervisory authorities, in close cooperation with the ECB.

We support, in particular, the transparency of this exercise, given the specific market circumstances under which banks currently operate. We therefore welcome the publication of banks’ individual results, particularly their respective capital positions and loss estimates under an adverse scenario, as well as detailed information on banks’ exposures to EU/EEA central and local government debt. Such disclosures ensure transparency regarding conditions in the EU banking sector.

The adverse scenarios used in the stress test are designed as “what-if” scenarios reflecting severe assumptions which are therefore not very likely to materialise in practice. Accordingly, the results of the test confirm the overall resilience of the EU banking system to negative macroeconomic and financial shocks, and are an important step forward in restoring market confidence.

Where the results of the exercise indicate that individual banks require additional capital, these banks should take the necessary steps to reinforce their capital positions through private-sector means and by resorting, if necessary, to facilities set up by Member State governments, in full compliance with EU state-aid rules.

New Regulation proposed on agricultural and forestry vehicles

Lundi 26 juillet 2010

The European Commission has proposed to strengthen safety and cut red tape on EU law on agricultural and forestry vehicles (tractors, trailers and towed equipment): 50 Directives and the related implementing legislation of 27 Member States would be replaced by just five Regulations.

The proposal also foresees increased safety for these vehicles. For braking systems the new rules would require inter alia: mandatory fitting of anti-lock braking systems on some categories (T5 fast tractors and their trailers suitable for speeds over 40 km/h); higher deceleration performance and improved compatibility between tractor and trailers/towed equipment. The proposal will now be forwarded to the EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for adoption.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said the proposal is an example how we can make EU legislation lighter while increasing the safety of agricultural vehicles. Working with 50 different Directives and the many pieces of national implementing legislation is more costly and burdensome for the industry than necessary. Today’s proposal would increase safety of tractors while reducing administrative costs and scratching unnecessary legislation.

Following the recommendation from the CARS 21 report to simplify the current whole vehicle type-approval regulatory framework, the proposal would significantly simplify the type-approval legislation by replacing 24 base Directives (and around 25 related amending Directives) in the field of agricultural and forestry vehicle technical requirements with one Council and Parliament Regulation.

All in all, more than 50 Directives would be repealed. In concrete terms the existing framework Directive 2003/37/EC and all the separate legislative acts of EU legislation laying down detailed technical requirements for the type-approval of tractors would be repealed by one single new Council and Parliament Regulation. At the same time, 27 sets of national implementing legislation in the Member States would disappear because a Regulation is directly applicable.

As a result the basic regulation would be joined by only three delegated acts containing technical details and test procedures as well as an implementing act for administrative aspects.

The proposed Regulation would lead to new requirements on one advanced safety measure, namely anti-lock braking systems, together with some further updates concerning the braking requirements, like shorter braking distances and the introduction of hydrostatic systems. New technologies like ABS (anti-lock braking systems) are now available and can be implemented in the near future, which will dramatically improve vehicle safety. Research has indicated that there would be significant benefits if such technologies were introduced as standard on new vehicles. Setting common mandatory requirements would also prevent the fragmentation of the internal market resulting from varying product standards emerging across Member States.

Tangible results on maternal and child health asked at the African Union Summit

Lundi 26 juillet 2010

The European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, is currently participating at the 15th African Union (AU) Summit in Kampala, Uganda. The core theme of the meeting gathering the 53 African Union Member States are maternal, infant and child health.

The EU Commissioner will stress the need for concrete progress in these areas. Among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), child and maternal health (MDGs 4 and 5) are those where many developing countries are most off track. This is important as both Africa and the EU are preparing for the High Level Summit on MDGs that will take place in New York on 20-22 September.

Ahead of his trip, Commissioner Piebalgs said 11 million children under the age of 5 and more than half a million pregnant woman die in the world every year. EU has set as priorities in the field: saving these children, protecting the mothers and promoting the right to health for everybody. The main aim is to reduce these shocking rates by two thirds by 2015.

Commissioner Piebalgs attends this Summit as African Union is one of the privileged partner of the EU, notably in the development policy area. In his address to the Summit, he will welcome the new momentum and stress the need to progress from shared declarations and plans to dedicated action and delivering results. He will further underline the work of the EU in improving maternal and child health. The financial contribution of the European Commission in this area is currently €310 million per year. The funds go into strengthening health systems and universal access to health care. In addition, the Commission contributes €100 million per year to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). As part of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, the EU supports research on mother and child health as well as sexual and reproductive health (€20.5 million to date).

On the eve of the AU Summit (24 July), Commissioner Piebalgs also participated in a Dialogue on Health Financing in Africa where African Health and Finance Ministers were present. Commissioner Piebalgs stressed the need to make faster progress in delivering on the 2001 commitment of the African Union Heads of State to spend 15% of annual budgets on health and to work towards replacement of out of pocket payments with other more equitable financing mechanisms.

For large parts of the African continent, the statistics are still not meeting the target. Maternal mortality rates, for example, have remained stable in most sub-Saharan countries, at a level that is 200 times higher than in Europe. In recent years, the African Union has approved a series of initiatives addressing Maternal Health and Child Mortality and also the control of HIV/AIDS (MDG 6), Malaria and other major diseases.1 In May, African Health Ministers met in Geneva where, among other things, they reaffirmed their determination to increase health expenditure to 15% of national budgets and to earmark an amount for maternal, newborn and child health. At UN level, the slow progress with MDGs 4 and 5 has led to renewed commitments on maternal and child health through the G8 Muskoka initiative and the Joint Action Plan proposed by the UN Secretary General to be adopted at the MDG High Level Meeting in September.

Background

The African Union is composed of 53 countries. In 2007, the EU and the African Union adopted a Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). The Strategy reflects the will of 80 Heads of State and Government from Europe (27) and Africa (53) to redefine the relations between the two continents in the framework of a Strategic Partnership to tackle together global challenges, such as Climate Change, governance, peace and security, migration, research and technology, etc.

ICT research: EU-funded technology helps disaster workers save lives

Vendredi 23 juillet 2010

WORKPAD, an EU-funded ICT research project, has developed software applications that allow emergency teams responding to natural disasters to coordinate and communicate with each other quickly and efficiently, helping to save more lives. Coordination and communication is especially important when emergency teams from many different agencies, civil authorities and NGOs are on the ground at the same time. €1.85 million of EU funding helped the researchers to explore how dozens of databases from different organisations can be linked via peer-to-peer technology to improve response time and avoid duplication of efforts. One central dispatch point that receives and sends out information to all emergency teams can help save more lives in a quick and efficient way. The technology has already been tried successfully in Southern Italy and is available to be used anywhere in the world.

According to Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, when an earthquake, forest fire or flood hits, we need to deploy all our available resources to save as many lives as possible and to provide urgent rescue services. EU research funds have helped to develop a great ICT tool that makes emergency response even better and faster. This is how research and innovation can help to build the Digital Agenda for Europe.

After an earthquake people trapped in collapsed buildings need to be reached as quickly as possible to increase their chance of survival. How do different emergency teams coordinate their efforts and avoid sending too many relief helpers to one place and too few to another? The key to optimise disaster response is to link the different back-office systems and databases used by emergency systems to ensure that all organisations have the full picture.

The WORKPAD research project – funded by the EU - developed a network that can link those different back-office systems. Then, via a central coordination and dispatch point, front line helpers can communicate with each other through their handheld devices (mostly personal digital assistants - PDAs). For instance, through geo-tagging, team leaders can keep track of the location of all their team members so they know where relief workers are at all times and the tasks they are carrying out. The information exchanged over this network via peer-to-peer (P2P) technology can also include details such as the names of people living in a collapsed apartment building, school class lists, telephone records, maps and other relevant information. WORKPAD has also developed software that can define tasks, assign roles, and provide step-by-step instructions to rescue workers. It can be updated in real time, so if a more urgent need arises, workers can be called to a new task.

The research results of WORKPAD have been successfully tested in Southern Italy, a region which suffers every year from forest fires, and sometimes earthquakes, that require emergency responses. The technology developed by WORKPAD is ready for use. The Czech Republic and the Italian region of Calabria are considering deploying it.

Background

Youth on the Move: more support for young people’s education and mobility will improve access to the job market

Vendredi 23 juillet 2010

In September, the Commission will adopt ‘Youth on the Move’, an initiative that aims to promote the mobility of students and trainees and to improve the employment situation of young people.

Youth on the Move will encourage EU countries to work together to give young people in Europe better opportunities to make the best of their skills. This can be achieved by improving the performance and international attractiveness of Europe’s universities and by raising the overall quality of all levels of education and training in the EU.

The Commission’s upcoming proposal is a contribution to Europe 2020, the EU’s reform strategy for the coming decade. The Europe 2020 goal is to develop, over the next ten years, an economy that is based on knowledge and innovation. Young people have an important role to play in this but they need more support in order to unleash their full potential. ‘Youth on the Move’ provides this support by contributing to better education, training and access to labour market.

Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou will hold a press conference dedicated to ‘Youth on the Move’ on September 15.

She is also keen to have an open dialogue about these important matters with the main people concerned. Their interest, opinions, experiences and participation is of course key to the success of the initiative and to achieving the Europe 2020 goals. She will therefore host a webstreamed debate with European youth on September 17. During this debate, the Commissioner will answer questions from a live audience, as well as from remote participants who choose to send in questions, either beforehand or in real time. More details about this event will soon be available on Commissioner Vassiliou’s website.

Commission to provide €250 million for more than 200 new LIFE+ projects

Vendredi 23 juillet 2010

The European Commission has approved funding for 210 new projects under the third call for the LIFE+ programme (2007-2013), the European fund for the environment. The projects are from across the EU and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, environmental policy, and information and communication. Overall, they represent a total investment of €515 million, of which the EU will provide €249.8 million.

According to the environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the LIFE+ programme continues to fund high quality, innovative projects with a high level of added value for the EU. I believe that these new projects will not only make a significant contribution to nature conservation and to improving the environment, they will also help raise awareness across Europe of the key environmental challenges facing us, notably biodiversity loss, water scarcity and climate change.

The Commission received more than 600 applications from public or private bodies from the 27 EU Member States during the call for proposals, which closed in November 2009. Of these, 210 were selected for co-funding through the programme’s three components: LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity, LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance and LIFE+ Information and Communication.

LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity projects improve the conservation status of endangered species and habitats. Of the 194 proposals received, the Commission selected for funding 84 projects from partnerships of conservation bodies, government authorities and other parties. Situated in 24 Member States, they represent a total investment of €224 million, of which the EU will provide some €124 million. The majority (74) are Nature projects, contributing to the implementation of the Birds and/or Habitats directives and the Natura 2000 network. The other 10 are Biodiversity projects, a LIFE+ project category for pilot schemes that tackle wider biodiversity issues. The Commission is pleased to note the steady increase in the number of Biodiversity projects funded since 2007 (four (4) projects) when the category was introduced.

LIFE+ Environment Policy & Governance projects are pilot projects that contribute to the development of innovative policy ideas, technologies, methods and instruments. Of the 308 proposals received, the Commission selected for funding 116 projects from a wide range of public and private sector organisations. The winning projects, situated in 17 Member States, represent a total investment of €278 million of which the EU will provide some €120 million. Projects targeting innovation account for the largest share of EU funding (some €20.9 million for 17 projects). The most targeted area in terms of number of projects is waste and natural resources (20 projects supported by €19.3 million), followed by water and innovation (17 projects each). The remaining 63 projects cover various topics including air, chemicals, climate change, energy, environment and health, forests, noise, soil protection, strategic approaches, and the urban environment.

LIFE+ Information and Communication projects disseminate information and raise the profile of environmental issues, and provide training and awareness-raising for the prevention of forest fires. Of the 113 proposals received, the Commission selected for funding 10 projects from a range of public and private sector nature and/or environment organisations, tackling topics such as biodiversity, climate change, waste and water. The projects are situated in seven (7) Member States and represent a total investment of €12.9 million of which the EU will provide some €6.3 million.

The LIFE+ programme

LIFE+ is the European financial instrument for the environment and has a total budget of €2.143 billion (two billion one hundred and forty three million euros) for the period 2007-2013. During this period, the Commission will launch one call for LIFE+ project proposals per year.

Youth Work Convention places the emphasis on cooperation and knowledge sharing

Jeudi 22 juillet 2010

The official declaration of the first youth work convention underlines the great importance of cooperation and knowledge sharing for the youth work sector. More than 400 youth workers and youth policy makers reflected on and debated the future of youth work at the convention. On 10 July 2010, the convention set out its conclusions in an official declaration.

In the new framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018), youth work is included in an official EU document for the first time. The aim of the convention was to take the first step towards a future agenda and action plan.

The convention’s official declaration is addressed to the European Commission, national ministers with jurisdiction in the youth field, the Council of Europe, and youth workers and policy makers in general. The principle conclusions of the convention are as follows:

- Cooperation between youth workers and policy makers: the declaration emphasises that cooperation between youth workers and policy makers is essential for better mutual understanding.
- Cooperation with other sectors: those taking part in the convention believe that cooperation with other sectors, such as healthcare, employment and justice, can lead to more effective results.
- Knowledge sharing: according to those taking part, more knowledge must be shared between youth workers so that experience and good practices can be better disseminated.
- Diversity: the resolution emphasises the fact that diversity and a low entry threshold are very important for youth work. Consequently, youth workers must also receive better training so that they can meet these requirements.
- Mobility and networking: those taking part in the convention felt it was extremely important that there should be the opportunity for greater international and intercultural exchanges to ensure more effective knowledge sharing.
- Sustainable support: the declaration emphasises the importance of a statutory framework for sustainable support for youth work.

The Simplification of Framework - Programmes for research

Jeudi 22 juillet 2010

The framework programme of the European Community for research activities, technological development and demonstration, forms an essential tool for supporting in stimulating research and in so doing, consolidating the European Research Area (ERA).

Participation in the framework programme is however regarded as complex and particularly cumbersome in terms of administration, for both candidates and beneficiaries. Added to this is the complexity of the European research system, within which numerous specific instruments and programmes coexist, as well as different types of activities, implemented according to a variety of rules.

While simplification measures have already been introduced within the framework of the 7th RDFP (2007-2013), aiming to render them more efficient and accessible, the process of simplifying the administrative and financial procedures must be pursued further in order to safeguard the attractiveness of the framework programmes vis-à-vis the best researchers, industry and, in particular, SMEs. The primary challenge consists of finding a balance between trust and control, the latter proving to be unavoidable once public funding is involved.

The purpose of the seminar organised by the Belgian Presidency on 14 July 2010 was to gather experts from a range of fields in order to discuss this topic and to answer four questions around which the afternoon debate was structured.

Here are the chief conclusions from the seminar on Simplification of 14 July:

A new balance must be found between the need for the sound management of public funds and the trust to which researchers may legitimately lay claim. It is necessary to take into consideration the notion of risk and uncertainty inherent to any research. That is why a potential shift from a cost-based approach to a results-based approach would require a good definition of what is meant by the concept of results when it comes to research. An overly narrow vision of the concept of results could effectively lead to favouring less risky projects, to the detriment of cutting-edge research and innovation. On the other hand, criteria for scientific excellence must be formulated and must remain central in the evaluation of results.

The simplification must take place with an eye towards the legibility, coherence and stability of the rules.

Based on the proposals of the European Commission, a fairly broad consensus was found among the participants at the seminar on a series of measures that could be taken in the short term, without needing to modify the existing rules. For example:

1. reduce the time it takes to evaluate, negotiate and contractualise projects, as well as the time it takes to issue payment
2. a uniform interpretation of the rules by all of the European authorities
3. improving the traceability of projects
4. reducing the number of guidance documents and clarifying them
5. Simplify, uniformise, and rationalise the information technology tools (portal for participants, reporting tools, etc.)
6. do away with the obligation to have a specific bank account per project, generating interest
7. Ensure the adaptability of the size of the consortiums in relation to the objectives of the projects.

It was also emphasised that a 2nd series of measures could also be taken under the current 7th Framework-Programme, within the context of the system based on costs:

* The question of acceptable risk of error. It is a matter of defining a new point of equilibrium between the rate of error inherent to the project and the extent of the controls. The tolerable risk of error must thus be situated between 2 and 5%, as proposed by the Commission. The rate of 3.5% appears to be a good compromise.
* Take into account the customary national accounting practices

The question of certificates of methodology and average cost of personnel was debated but no consensus was achieved.

With regard to the next framework programme, the seminar revealed the importance of a broad consultation on the precise definition of financing based on results (‘output-based funding’) and how these results should be measured. This will require a solid, consensual methodology. Another concept, science-based funding, was proposed. This concerns an approach based on the science that takes into account the efforts made by the researchers (in which case the absence of a result is considered as a result in itself).

Another measure for the next Framework-Programme could be the introduction of lump sums for financing research projects. According to the participants in the seminar, the simple shift to a system of lump sums does not appear generally applicable. It may offer an option, on a voluntary basis, as long as the lump sums match as closely as possible the real costs and are in compliance with the method of calculation used nationally. Furthermore, it will be necessary to differentiate the approach in function of the type of beneficiary (university, research centre, small or large business, etc.).

The proposals of Paris and Berlin to avoid new crisis Greek

Jeudi 22 juillet 2010

More coordination and monitoring of fiscal policies and economic inputs. More sanctions and faster downstream, that is to say in case of slippage in public finances.

This article is only available in French.

Road Safety: Commission outlines measures to halve road deaths by 2020

Mercredi 21 juillet 2010

The European Commission has today adopted challenging plans to reduce the number of road deaths on Europe’s roads by half in the next 10 years. Initiatives proposed today in a set of European Road Safety Policy Orientations 2011-2020 range from setting higher standards for vehicle safety, to improving the training of road users, and increasing the enforcement of road rules. The Commission will work closely with Member States to implement this programme.

According to the European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport, a hundred people die everyday on Europe’s roads. We have made good progress since 2001 and we have succeeded in saving nearly 80,000 lives. But the number of fatalities and injuries on our roads is still unacceptable. We are looking at what kind of cars motorists drive, where they drive and how they drive and we want to cut road deaths in half by 2020.

Road safety action programme 2011-2020:

The Commission has today set out a mix of initiatives focussing on making improvements to vehicles, infrastructure and road users’ behaviour.

There are seven strategic objectives:

*Improved safety measures for trucks and cars
*Building safer roads
*Developing intelligent vehicles
*Strengthening licensing and training
*Better enforcement
*Targeting injuries
*A new focus on motorcyclists.