Archive pour septembre 2010

The European Commission sues 27 Member States for not implementing EU legislation.

Jeudi 30 septembre 2010

The European Commission, through its monthly package of infringement decisions, sues 27 member states for failing to comply properly with their obligations under EU law.
These decisions which affect many areas aim to make Member states abide by EU law in an adequate manner to the benefit of citizens and business.

The Commission has taken today 524 decisions, including 12 complaints taking Member States before the EU’s Court of Justice, and 1 decision related to failure to respect a previous Court ruling.

Formal complaints before the Court of Justice (Art 258)

In accordance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission has decided today to take several Member States to Court for failing to comply with their legal obligations under EU law. Before referring a Member State to the Court, the Commission first requests information from the Member State concerned and then, if necessary, formally requests the Member State to comply with EU law. Around 95% of infringement cases are resolved before they reach the Court.

Payment services (Poland): In order to ensure that EU citizens and businesses fully benefit from the Internal Market, the Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to implement the Payment Services Directive (PSD) into its national law. See IP/10/1249.

Public procurement (Germany): The Commission has decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU over the direct award of a public contract for renovation services in the municipality of Niedernhausen. The Commission is concerned that Germany has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules. These rules are there to ensure fair competition for public contracts, thereby creating more business opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1245.

Public procurement (Hungary): The European Commission has today acted to ensure fair access to public contracts by deciding to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU in two separate cases. In the first case, the Commission considers that the Hungarian Government central purchasing body breached EU public procurement rules during the award procedure of a framework agreement concerning office supplies. In the second case, the Commission takes the view that Hungary has wrongly implemented EU public procurement rules in its national legislation, in this way restricting access for business to public contracts. EU public procurement rules exist to ensure fair competition for public contracts, thereby creating more business opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1240.

Public procurement (Greece): The European Commission has decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU over the direct award of public service contracts for cadastral mapping and planning services by the municipalities of Vasilika, Kassandra, Egnatia and Arethousa. The Commission considers that Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU public procurement rules. The aim of these rules is to ensure fair and transparent competition for public contracts in Europe, thereby creating opportunities for European companies while ensuring best value for public money. See IP/10/1242

Environment (Austria / Sweden): The European Commission is referring Austria and Sweden to the European Court of Justice for failing to bring EU environmental legislation into force. The two Member States have not yet adopted legislation on spatial data infrastructure at national level despite earlier action by the Commission. See IP/10/1241.

Home (Austria): The European Commission has decided to initiate procedures against Austria for failing to correctly transpose EU rules on conditions of admission of third-country students, in particular with regards to provisions allowing students to work with remuneration. See IP/10/1230

Education (Austria): The Commission to bring Austria before Court of Justice for not extending to EU students the reduced fares for public transport that are granted to Austrian students. See IP/10/1227

Energie (Poland): The Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to comply with European rules on the granting of authorisations with regard to hydrocarbon resources. The rules in question are intended to contribute towards better integration of the internal energy market, reduce costs and strengthen economic competitiveness. See IP/10/1216

Digital Agenda (United Kingdom): The European Commission has decided to refer the United Kingdom to the EU’s Court of Justice for not fully implementing EU rules on the confidentiality of electronic communications such as e-mail or internet browsing. Specifically, the Commission considers that UK law does not comply with EU rules on consent to interception and on enforcement by supervisory authorities. See IP10/1215

Agriculture (Czech Republic): The European Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice for failure to amend its dairy product legislation. The Commission considers that the Czech dairy product’s sales designation “Pomazánkové máslo” (EN butter spread) has to be changed since the product’s milk-fat content does not meet the requirements set out in EU legislation to be called butter (“máslo” in Czech).See IP/10/1224

Enforcing Court rulings

When, despite a first ruling by the Court, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission warns the Member State in writing. In case of continued lack of appropriate action by the Member State, the Commission may take the Member State back to Court, and can request the Court to impose a lump sum penalty and/or a daily penalty payment on the Member State concerned. This procedure is based on Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

State aid (Spain) : The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice for failure to implement a previous Court ruling, which confirmed a Commission decision finding that aid granted to the Magefesa group was illegal and had to be recovered. Although over eight years have elapsed since the 2002 Court judgement, Spain has yet to complete the recovery procedure as regards Magefesa’s Indosa subsidiary and the latter’s own subsidiary CMD. Given that this is a referral to Court for failure to respect a previous Court ruling, the Commission has decided to ask the Court to impose a daily penalty payment and a lump sum. These payments would act as an incentive to ensure that the illegal aid were recovered rapidly from Magefesa’s subsidiaries. See IP/10/1214

Background on legal process

Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.

The infringement procedure begins with a request for information (a “Letter of Formal Notice”) to the Member State concerned, which must be answered within a specified period, usually two months.

If the Commission is not satisfied with the information and concludes that the Member State in question is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission may then send a formal request to comply with EU law (a “Reasoned Opinion”), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice. However, in over 90% of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court. If the Court rules against a Member State, the Member State must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.

If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU, with only one written warning before referring the Member State back to Court. If the Commission does refer a Member State back to Court, it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity of the infringement and the size of the Member State (both a lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling and a daily penalty payment for each day after a second Court ruling until the infringement ends).

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

Creation of a European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps: Commissioner Georgieva has taken the first step.

Jeudi 30 septembre 2010

The European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, launched a stakeholders consultation for the creation of the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps (EVHAC). Foreseen in the treaty of Lisbon, this initiative will give the possibility to European volunteers to contribute to the humanitarian aid operations of the Union.

At the beginning of the stakeholders conference to launch the consultation, Commissioner Georgieva said that all trends showed that volunteering in general was on the rise in the EU, including in the area of humanitarian aid, where more and more citizens wanted to be involved in EU efforts. The volunteers would have to be well prepared, and able to integrate seamlessly demand-driven teams.

This first phase of the process should lead to a Commission Communication before the end of the year, which is meant as a stocktaking exercise that will review existing voluntary schemes in order to identify trends, gaps and possible options. That will be followed by a pilot project, next year, and a legislative proposal the year after. The stakeholders conference will bring together representatives of the humanitarian aid, civil protection and volunteering communities to inform them about the state of play and invite them to participate in the public on-line consultation which will be organised afterwards.

The path to the EVHAC will be paved by discussions on the increased professionalism in humanitarian aid, the focus on local volunteering and capacity building, the complex political and security contexts in which humanitarian workers are employed, and the need to take into account existing voluntary schemes and avoid duplications.

Cooperation between EU and Russia is reinforced by cultural projects

Jeudi 30 septembre 2010

Eight joint cultural projects were awarded under the call for proposals “Supporting cultural collaborations European Union - Russia”, itself registered under the Instrument of Neighbourhood and Partnership. These projects cover a wide range of topics.

A kick-off conference on the new projects, which will be implemented between 2010 and 2012, will be held on 30 of September in Moscow. The event discussion will focus on different aspects of cultural cooperation between Russia and Europe and partnership between cultural organisations from the EU and the Russian Federation.

The new projects cover various aspects of culture – visual arts and contemporary music, wooden architecture, documentary cinema, modern culture management, innovative museum practices – and are planned to be implemented in different regions of Russia, including Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, Moscow, Nakhodka, Perm, Pskov, and Tula.

All projects include capacity-building components (master-classes, training modules, seminars, art residencies, internships, etc.) and public cultural events (festivals, exhibitions, co-productions).

The total budget of the projects is €2 million and most of them will start at the beginning of 2011 with a maximum duration of 18 months.

The press release said culture was becoming increasingly important in the EU-Russia relationship: the EU and Russia have agreed to promote a structured approach to cultural cooperation between the enlarged EU and Russia, to foster creativity and mobility of artists, public access to culture, the dissemination of art and culture, inter-cultural dialogue and knowledge of the history and cultural heritage of other peoples of Europe.

Since 2007, the Delegation of the European Union to Russia has been launching annual thematic calls for proposals specifically focused on culture with the purpose to support the EU-Russia cultural initiatives implemented through partnerships between non-governmental organizations, local and regional authorities, artistic universities, museums and other cultural institutions from the EU and Russia.

Twenty-five joint cultural projects for a total grant amount of €6 million, involving approximately 100 cultural institutions from Russia and 18 EU member states were supported between 2007 and 2010

Storm Xynthia: European assistance of 35.6 million euros to cover damage

Mercredi 29 septembre 2010

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, presented September 29, 2010, the European Commission proposal to allocate 35.6 million euros to France to face the consequences of the storm Xynthia February 2010 . The proposal must still be approved by Parliament and by Member States.

Commenting on the decision, Johannes Hahn said he had seen with his own eyes the destruction wrought by Xynthia in Charente and Vendée and had realised the extent of the need. He added he was happy with this decision taken, as it demonstrated once again that solidarity between the Member States is not an empty phrase but a reality.

In February 2010, Storm Xynthia devastated large areas of France and, in particular, its Atlantic coastline, with the départements of Charente-Maritime and Vendée worst hit. It killed 53 people and injured a further 80. Many residential areas were laid waste, as were dams, sea defences, public and private infrastructure, railways and roads, farmland and businesses. On 7 May, the French authorities submitted a request for assistance from the European Union’s Solidarity Fund, following which the Commission examined whether the criteria defining extraordinary regional disasters at European level had indeed been met.

The Solidarity Fund cannot intervene until a certain threshold has been reached: for France, 3.4 billion euros in damage. The direct damage caused by Xynthia throughout the country was valued by France at 2.4 billion euros. However, the French authorities decided to restrict their request to the two worst affected départements, where the damage is estimated at 1.4 billion euros (or 41% of the threshold). In view of these figures, the Commission applied a clause which allows funds to be mobilised exceptionally for extraordinary regional disasters. This decision takes into account the serious, long-lasting impact of this disaster on the life of the local population and the economy of the affected area. By way of example, 1050 producers of oysters and mussels were affected, many of whom have been forced out of business. The need to repair the sea defences along 200 kilometres of coastline will call for extensive work over several years.

In order to provide assistance to France from the Solidarity Fund, the Commission will be calling on the European Parliament and the Council – the two bodies constituting the Union’s budgetary authority – to adopt what is known as an amending budget. The Commission and France will then sign an implementation agreement (see MEMO/10/59).

Other sources of aid available
The French authorities can also transfer funds awarded to them under other EU-funded programmes so as to concentrate assistance on the reconstruction of the devastated areas. Initial reallocations mean that 5 million euros from the Poitou-Charentes programme funded by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) will be specifically earmarked for building new sea defences and risk prevention measures to tackle the problems caused by the storm.

Additional information
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after parts of central Europe were devastated by flooding in the summer of 2002. It awards financial aid to Member States and accession countries that have suffered major natural disasters. Its annual budget is 1 billion euros.

In absolute terms, the damage caused by Xynthia made it the second worst regional natural disaster since the EUSF’s foundation (second only to the earthquake that hit the Italian regions of Molise and Puglia in 2002).

Today, the Commission also announced release of Solidarity Fund aid following severe floods in Madeira (IP/10/1205).

The winners of the 22nd European Contest for young scientists

Mercredi 29 septembre 2010

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Contest awarding the best projects realised by young European scientists

Young scientists from Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland each received first prize in the 2010 EU Contest for Young Scientists, Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Selected by an international jury, winning projects, devoted to physics, biology and social sciences, were elected from among 85 projects from 37 countries.

Second prizes, third prizes and the International prize were awarded to 7 other projects, from Poland, Germany, Portugal, Latvia, Italy and Brazil. The 16 winning contestants, aged from 14 to 21, shared a total of € 51.500 in prizes for their top-quality innovative scientific projects. Information on the winners and on all of the projects presented is available at http://ec.europa.eu/research/youngscientists/index_en.cfm.

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said that the EU Contest for Young Scientists was a showcase for the best student scientific achievements across Europe. She warmly congratulated the winners and everyone who had taken part, saying that they were fantastic ambassadors for their schools and universities, for their countries and regions and for today’s youth. She added that it was through investing in youthful talent with fresh ideas and giving them the right scientific career opportunities that the EU would make Europe a world-class science performer and build a true Innovation Union. She saied that young people like these would help shaping the future – and that she thought they were in good hands. She concludedtelling that it was especially encouraging to see that the three first prizes had all gone to students from the new Member States.

Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner responsible for education, echoed this, saying that science was a litmus test for the societies we lived in, and that it impacted on all our lives, providing us with safer and plentiful foods, better health, greener transport, access to information, music on the move, SMS, high-definition television - and that the list was endless. She assessed that Science made a difference and thatit was why the European Commission backed the EU Contest for Young Scientists and invested millions of euro for science through the Framework Programme for Research, the Marie Curie fund, Erasmus and other schemes. She professed that the EU had to continue to invest in the best.

The Museum of Electricity in Lisbon (Portugal) has over the last few days hosted 125 contestants from 37 countries across Europe and beyond, including Canada, the USA, China, and Brazil. From 24-29 September, the students presented 85 projects to an International Jury chaired by Prof Hagit Messer-Yaron. These projects had already won first prize in their national contests. The topics covered a broad spectrum of scientific areas: biology, chemistry, computing, social sciences, environment, mathematics, materials, engineering and medicine. The standard of entries is consistently high, and several past participants have achieved major scientific breakthroughs, or set up businesses to market the ideas developed for the Contest.

Background:
The European Union Contest for Young Scientists was set up by the European Commission to facilitate co-operation and interchange between young scientists with similar abilities and interests and to give them an opportunity to be guided by some of the most prominent scientists in Europe.

The Contest aims to encourage young people who have an interest in science to embark on scientific careers.

It is part of the Science and Society programme under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7).

This year, the EU prizes were presented by Ms Anneli Pauli, Deputy-Director General at the Research DG of the European Commission, together with Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, President of the Jury.

The contest started in 1989 with the participation of 15 countries. This year, 37 countries and one of the European Schools are taking part in the 22 edition of the contest.

A total of 2074 participants (627 girls - 1447 boys) have competed since the start of this International event. More than 500 prizes have been distributed!

€780 million boost for European strategic ICT research

Mardi 28 septembre 2010

Today, one of the biggest calls ever for information and communications technology (ICT) research proposals under the EU’s research framework programme (FP7) was published by the European Commission

The European Commission has today announced one of the biggest calls ever for information and communications technology (ICT) research proposals under the EU’s research framework programmes. The announcement was made at Europe’s largest event for ICT research and innovation, ICT 2010-Digitally Driven. It will result in project funding of € 780 million in 2011. This funding will advance research on the future internet, robotics, smart and embedded systems, photonics, ICT for energy efficiency, health and well-being in an ageing society, and more. Under the Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission has committed to maintaining the pace of a 20% yearly increase of the annual ICT R&D budget at least until 2013.

The €780 million call for proposals (ICT Call 7) is part of the biggest ever annual Work Programme under the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. Almost €1.2 billion has been budgeted for 2011. €220 million were made available already in July 2010 for public private partnerships focusing on ICT for smart cars, green buildings, sustainable factories and the future internet.

In this call, €120 million will be available to fund research and technological developments in networking, digital media and service infrastructure for the future internet. This is crucial if Europe is to stay ahead of the challenges that its increasingly digital society will face in the next decade. Nearly €100 million have already been earmarked for the ‘Future Internet’ Partnership (IP/09/1596) to take advantage of the increasing demand for innovative internet applications that make infrastructures like health systems, energy grids or traffic management systems ’smarter’.

To strengthen Europe’s position as a leading supplier of electronic systems and photonic components, more than €200 million are available for research in this field. This supports the competitiveness of the automotive, telecoms, industrial automation, lighting technologies and medical industrial strongholds in Europe. Their success depends on integrating innovative components and systems into products and services across all sectors. Advances in laser technology for instance are crucial to boost growth in optical communications and getting ultra fast internet connections to all Europeans.

This latest call also foresees close to €200 million for research in ICT for health and ageing. The European population aged 60 plus is increasing by about 2 million every year. ICTs are essential to creating sustainable solutions and to maximising market opportunities that help reduce related social and health care costs.

In addition, €135 million are available for ICT research that improves energy efficiency in buildings, in transport and logistics. This complements the €220 million made available in July 2010 for public private partnerships for an economy based on low carbon cars, buildings and factories (see above).

Universities, research centres, SMEs, large companies and other organisations in Europe and beyond are eligible to apply for project funding under ICT Call 7. Proposals can be submitted until 18 January 2011, after which they will be evaluated by independent panels of experts for selection on the basis of their quality.

Background

ICT 2010-Digitally Driven gathers researchers, business people, investors and policy makers in the field of ICT and digital innovation in Brussels Expo from 27 to 29 September. The major themes of the conference are research for sustainable growth in a low-carbon economy, ICTs’ constructive impact on everyday life and the importance of public funding and support in ICT research and innovation. In addition, more than 100 exhibits of the latest digital advances funded by the EU will be showcased. The event is organised every two years by the European Commission and this year is hosted by the Belgian Presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers.

FP7, the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme runs from 2007 until 2013, with more than €9 billion allocated to ICT research and development. The yearly funding increase for ICT research is in line with the Digital Agenda for Europe, the EU’s flagship policy programme, which calls for doubling of annual public spending on ICT R&D by 2020 and to leverage an equivalent increase in private spending to achieve the goals of Europe’s 2020 strategy for jobs and growth.

EU-funded ICT research projects support more than 15000 researchers every year, stimulate Europe’s capacity to innovate and the industry’s economic growth. It also provides major opportunities for innovative SMEs who are very present in these strategic areas for growth.

2009 Financial report on EU budget

Mardi 28 septembre 2010

The financial report evaluate EU expenditures in 2009.

The 2009 financial report presented by the Commission today shows that 97% of appropriations were spent, a similar percentage as in 2008 (98%). Overall expenditure amounted to over €112 billion. The bulk of this sum went to measures to boost economic growth, employment and research and development, as well as on agriculture.

€44 billion invested in growth and competitiveness

In 2009, the EU spent €6.3 billion within the 7th framework programme for research and technology.

EU funds supported over 1,000 research cooperation projects such as the ‘Fuel-Path’ project on efficient biofuel production; the aim of this project is to find ways to improve biofuel production and help ensure at least 14% of bio-energy in EU’s energy mix by 2020.

Under the Competitiveness and innovation Programme over 34,000 small and medium enterprises benefited from EU funds. These funds helped them leverage €2.9 billion in loans for an EU financing of €295 million. It is estimated that the EU funding helped create or save over 200,000 jobs between 2007 and 2008. Furthermore, the Erasmus programme financed over 300,000 mobility grants involving 4,000 universities.

The share of cohesion policy in the budget remained high. Payments under the 2007-2013 framework amounted to €25.5 billion, more than twice as much as in 2008 (€11.5 billion). In the 2000-2006 period, cohesion policy funding created around 1 million jobs, helped build or improve 4,000km of railways and brought water supply to 14 million more people. Among the numerous projects funded in 2009, the “Baltic Master II” project focuses on improving the response capacity in the Baltic Sea area to oil spills and on enhancing the prevention of pollution from maritime transport.

Over 30% of the 2009 budget was dedicated to economic recovery and growth, says EU Commissioner for budget Janusz Lewandowski. Every euro we invest in our regions can generate twice or three times as much through the “leverage effect”. This is where the EU budget makes a real difference on the ground.

Over €40 billion towards rural areas, over 100,000 young people involved in projects and exchanges

After years of increasing income, EU farmers have seen their revenue fall because of changing market conditions. The EU budget supports them with over €40 billion in direct aids and market interventions, accounting for almost half of farmers’ income.

Developing and protecting EU citizens’ rights and opportunities is an increasing focus of the EU budget. In 2009 110,000 young people participated in projects and exchanges. The EU also came to the aid of five Member States in need of fire fighting equipment, and provided antiviral drugs to Bulgaria. The Solidarity Fund provided €623 million to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, in particular in the wake of the earthquake in Southern Italy.

More than €10 billion spent on external actions

In 2009, the EU was the second largest provider of development aid in the world, with commitments amounting to €12 billion and reaching around 140 developing countries. Specific instruments were set up to help the world’s poorest to face the triple economic food and environmental crisis.

EU humanitarian aid and food assistance helped over 150 million people in 70 countries in 2009. Moreover, in the framework of the Common foreign and security policy, the EU managed 10 missions in hotspots across the world, such as Kosovo, Southern Caucasus, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa. Specific funding is dedicated to preparing candidate and potential candidate countries meet the EU membership conditions.

One of the biggest recipients of external aid is Sudan (115 million). 3.6 million people benefited from food assistance in Darfur and 436 000 in South Sudan, whereas more than 5 million people benefited from health care and 1.3 million beneficiaries were reached by water, sanitation and hygiene promotion.

More and more the EU is asked to intervene beyond its borders, whether in times of conflicts or natural disasters, says Janusz Lewandowski. We have had to adjust the financial framework four times in recent years compared to never over the previous twenty years or so, which shows the need for more flexibility for tomorrow’s EU budget.

€ 7.4 billion on administration

Administrations costs for all institutions represented €7.4 billion, 6.5% of total expenditure, a similar percentage to 2008 (6.2%). In 2009, as in 2010, the Commission stuck to its promise not to request any new posts in future years except in case of accession of new Members, states Commissioner Lewandowski.

EU budget financed mainly through Member State GNI contributions

Nearly 70% of the EU budget is financed from the Member States’ budgets according to their relative Gross national income (GNI). Financing from VAT continues to fall over the years, representing less than 11% in 2009, with traditional own resources (mainly customs duties) representing just over 12%. The surplus from the previous year and other revenue represent 7.5%.

Focus on EU budget adoption

Mardi 28 septembre 2010

A financial framework is adopted for a multi-annual period (2007-2013), which matches with European funds programming period. Within this framework, the EU annual budget is voted.

Seven of One

In its simplest form, the EU budget can be seen as a whole subdivided into seven parts, one for each year of the current 2007-2013 financial framework, in a system that allows longer term planning and year by year flexibility and accountability. The multiannual framework sets the limits and general targets for EU action. The annual budget covers every single item of expenditure, from pencils for administrators, to subsidies for EU farmers and help for its economically less-developed regions. More importantly, it is not a luxury for Europe: it is and has been for decades, an integral part of the European economy, a true force multiplier that increases the whole Union’s wealth and effectiveness.

When the “financial framework” is set, it includes the maximum amount to be spent by the EU, as well as how this is broken down year by year and subject by subject, although the exact amount for the annual budget is the subject of annual negotiations. In all, every year the EU spends on behalf of the citizens almost exactly 1% of the EU Gross National Income (GNI) or about €130 billion. This translates into about €235 from each EU citizen per year.

The current financial framework is about to undergo a mid-term review. The European Commission will be presenting its proposals on 19 October, but on 22 September Parliament called for far greater flexibility in handling the funds, in order to better match capabilities and needs, as well as for greater financial margins to be built into the budget to allow for future contingencies

The EP is also preparing for the next multi-year framework and has set up a special Policy Challenges Committee to debate and present concrete proposals: the funds needed post-2013, where they will come from, what they should be spent on and how long the next long-term budget should last; a 10-year period, reviewed after five years has already been proposed to replace the current seven year framework.

Whatever the final decision, one thing is certain: like every budget, it is and will be divided into revenue and expenditure, with all money effectively flowing from the member states to the EU and then flowing back from the EU to member states and citizens.

Earning…

The revenue - money flowing into the budget - comes from “own resources”, which are generally collected by the member states and then transferred to the EU budget. They are:

“Traditional own resources” from customs duties and sugar levies - money collected when goods are imported from outside the EU and when sugar is exported from the EU to other countries. This accounts for about 12% of revenue. The “VAT resource” is a proportion of VAT revenue collected by the Member States, representing 11% of the EU budget revenue. The “GNI resource” is an annual direct contribution by each member state according to its wealth, as measured by its GNI. It accounts for 75% of all EU revenue and there are various fine tuning mechanisms, such as the UK rebate, which returns to the UK a percentage of what it has contributed to the budget.

A review of these revenues is being discussed, though not yet formally negotiated. One proposal is to replace some or all of these resources by an EU-wide tax that would ensure adequate financing for the budget without any additional cost to the taxpayer.

One major difference between the EU budget and national budgets is that revenue and expenditure must match. The EU cannot borrow to cover its expenditure. There is therefore no public budgetary deficit (or surplus) at EU level.

… and spending…

There are two big areas of expenditure: (i) financial support for the Union’s rural regions and the farmers that bring them to life and (ii) support for the less developed regions to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. The 2007-2013 framework includes six main “headings” for spending, subdivided into innumerable budget “items”, each covering specific expenditure authorised by specific legislation, and into “commitments” and the slightly lower “payments”, the money actually disbursed. These headings are retained in the annual budgets, which also include the exact amount of funds each will receive during the year.

EU expenditure adds up to about €925 billion for the seven years or almost exactly 1% of EU GNI. The level of actual expenditure on the ground is very often boosted by substantial additional national funding, especially for “cohesion” and “structural” programs (e.g. infrastructure projects, bridges, roads, railways), where projects are agreed with national and local authorities and co-funded.

… following tough negotiations

After the multiannual framework is set, the exact amounts to be spent every year by the EU are decided in, often, tough negotiations between Parliament and Council, a process set out in detail by the EU Treaties and an inter-institutional agreement between Parliament, Council and Commission. The Lisbon Treaty has streamlined the process and improved democratic scrutiny by substantially enhancing the role of the European Parliament in the process, extending its powers to agriculture and foreign relations.

After a first round of talks between institutions early in the year to agree on the main priorities, the European Commission presents its proposal, or draft budget, at the and of April or beginning of May. Council presents its own version of the draft budget before the end of the summer.

Council’s version of the budget is examined by the Parliament’s Budgets Committee. After a process of consultation with other committees specialising in various policy areas, in early October the Budgets Committee adopts amendments to the Council’s figures based on Parliament’s priorities. The revised version of the draft budget is put to Parliament as a whole for adoption during its October sitting.

If the two institutions’ versions do not agree, it is necessary to find an agreement. That is the job of a “Conciliation Committee” in which 27 MEPs and 27 Council representatives meet. This Committee undertakes a final 21-day negotiation, at the end of which it should submit an agreed version of the annual budget to the two institutions. Parliament’s adoption of the final budget, in its November sitting marks the end of the process.

If there is no agreement, the EU operates using the previous year’s budget subdivided into “12ths”, one for each month, until an agreement is reached and the new budget can enter into force.

Let’s celebrate 20 years of European Territorial Cooperation !

Lundi 27 septembre 2010

From September 30th to October 1st, a conference is organised in Brussels to celebrate the 20th anniversary of European territorial cooperation programmes, known as INTERREG.

Since the creation of the INTERREG programme in 1990, European Territorial Co-operation has taken on added importance, to the point of becoming a specific objective of Cohesion Policy. From 30 September to 1 October, representatives of the 27 Member States are meeting together in Tournai (Belgium) in the presence of Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Rudy Demotte, Minister-President of the Walloon Government, to examine this co-operation and discuss its future.

Several successful cross-border, transnational and interregional projects will be showcased, including the project FLAPP, bringing together 15 Member States to manage floods in at-risk areas. An exhibition is also open to the general public.

The UE celebrates today the European Tourism Day

Lundi 27 septembre 2010

Today, the European Union celebrates the European Tourism Day. One objective : To promote cultural routes in the EU

The European Commission, the European Parliament, Member States and the Council of Europe are ready to cooperate further on the promotion of the “Cultural Routes”. This is the message the main European key players in the tourism sector have made clear today in Brussels, where the Commission is celebrating the European Tourism Day on the occasion of the World Tourism Day. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the European Union has the new role to promote the competitiveness of its tourism sector, its sustainable and quality-based development and the visibility of Europe as an outstanding tourist destination.

European cultural routes represent a truly authentic pan-European touristic product. Cultural itineraries, the theme of this year’s European Tourism Day brings can be further developed into a comprehensive package, benefitting the industry and Europeans alike. They could also reduce the concentration of tourists concentration in few sites, overcome seasonality by proposing a new model of tourism and strengthening EU citizenship through the discovery of our common heritage, Examples of such routes include the Iron Curtain Trail, the Phoenician Route, the route of the Olive tree, the Via Francigena and others. (See Memo/10/446 for a full overview on all routes discussed today).

Today’s conference brings together numerous Members of the European Parliament, the Belgian Presidency, Ministers in charge of Tourism in several Member States, representatives of different EU regional authorities and the European Commission, – all demonstrating their willingness to contribute to the further development and promotion of the Cultural Routes.

The European Union can contribute to the diversification of supply and encouraging intra-European flows, by developing thematic tourism products on a European scale.

In the margins of the conference, Vice-President Tajani mediated among some of the EU Member States which signed the following two Memoranda of Understanding for jointly take on board some initiatives in the tourism filed:

Italy and France, which could soon be joined by UK and Switzerland, signed a memorandum that engages them to develop a common long-term strategy for the protection and promotion of cultural routes, starting with the “Via Francigena”, an ancient pilgrimage going from Canterbury to Rome.
Spain, Italy and France also agreed on a “European Passion” logo for the joint marketing of their tourism offer in the BRIC markets.