Archive pour décembre 2010

Hungary take the rotating presidency of the EU on 1st January

Vendredi 31 décembre 2010

From 1 January 2011 and for six months, Hungary will chair the Council of the European Union. Budapest has already set four priorities for its work: growth and employment for safeguarding the European social model, a stronger Europe, a Union citizen-friendly; enlargement and neighborhood policy.

From 1st January 2011, it is going to be task of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to shape the issues on the agenda of the European Union in line with the interests of the 27 Member States. In order to maintain the course amidst its many obligations, the Hungarian Presidency has defined the topics that it considers to be of outstanding significance. The Hungarian Presidency wishes to work along four priorities during the first half of 2011. Beside this, it intends to keep in the focus point the human factor, as the basis for intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth when dealing with all other issues ranging from the economy, through common policies to the issue of enlargement.

Growth and employment for preserving the European social model

The entire Union is defined by a period of economic rearrangement. The Hungarian Presidency will continue the process of consolidation. It is convinced that the key to success is in the future oriented growth strategy of the EU and in the reinforcement of economic policy coordination.

The Europe 2020 strategy wishes to improve or to preserve the living conditions of European citizens, therefore it has to have the creation of jobs and sustainable competitiveness in the focus. Thus the Hungarian Presidency wishes to improve the situation of small and medium enterprises, which are the drivers for job creation and also wishes to call the attention of Member States to the impact that demography and family policy can have on employment and economic growth. In the framework of the initiative to decrease poverty, the Presidency wishes to pay increased attention to the struggle against child poverty and will strive for tangible, European-level measures in the field of the integration of the Roma-people.

Stronger Europe

The internal policies of the EU are structured around three basic elements: food, energy and water. Therefore the Hungarian Presidency attaches great importance to strengthen policies in these fields, thereby also reinforcing Europe. The review of the Common Agriculture Policy, the definition of a common energy policy and a new area, the drafting of a European water policy all serve this purpose. Parallel to the debate on preserving water resources, the European strategy on the development of the Danube-region will also be adopted during the Hungarian Presidency.

Hungary wishes to conduct a real and tangible debate on the afore-mentioned issues. This is indispensable in order to make sure that these policies that strength cohesion and solidarity between Member States provide a solid foundation for the next multi-annual financial framework of the Union.

Citizen friendly Union

The EU also has to deal with issues that have a direct relevance on the everyday lives of citizens. Thus Hungary intends to further the implementation of the Stockholm Program, to move forward the enlargement of the Schengen area to include Bulgaria and Romania in order to provide a free movement of people and to protect fundamental rights. Beside all these, it is the objective of the Hungarian Presidency to direct the attention of Member States to cultural diversity as a European value that needs to be protected. Cultural diversity will be a defining theme of cultural events during the Presidency.

Enlargement and neighbourhood policy

Hungary wishes to pay particular attention to taking the enlargement process further and to providing an integration perspective for the Western Balkans region. The Hungarian Presidency will do everything it can to conclude the accession talks with Croatia during the first half of 2011. It is also a priority objective to strengthen the Eastern dimension of the neighbourhood policy, in the framework of which, Hungary will host the second Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2011.

Economic and social integration of Roma

Jeudi 30 décembre 2010

The Roma Task Force to the Commission, in charge of the evaluation of Member States’ use of EU funding with regard to the social and economic integration of Roma, published on December 21st, its initial findings. Thus, it is clear from this report that the potential offered by European funds to strengthen the integration of Roma is not sufficiently exploited by the Member States and that the Task Force needs to continue its efforts to identify concrete ways to improve the funds’ uses. In spring 2011, the Commission will present the results that will be incorporated in a Community framework for national strategies for Roma integration in the Member States. According to a study published on December 21st by the Commission, the best ways to improve the situation of Roma in Europe would consist of developing integrated policies and projects involving multiple causes of social exclusion. This study analyzed national measures for Roma integration in 18 EU Member States.

First findings of the Roma Task Force

The Roma Task Force was established following a proposal by Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner; László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs (IP/10/1097). The Task Force sent questionnaires to the 27 Member States regarding their use of EU funds to address the Roma situation.

The preliminary findings indicate that Member States do not yet properly use EU money for the purpose of an effective social and economic integration of Roma. Weaknesses exist in the development of appropriate strategies and specific measures to address problems faced by Roma. Implementation at national level is problematic because of a lack of know-how and administrative capacity to absorb EU funds. The report also identifies problems in providing national co-financing as well as a lack of involvement by civil society and Roma communities themselves.

The management of the bulk of EU funding that may benefit Roma integration is shared with Member States, notably through the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and to a lesser extent the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). In May 2010, the EU allowed the use of European regional funding to improve housing for marginalised communities in rural areas (IP/10/589). As is always the case with EU funds, it is up to Member States and managing authorities to come up with viable projects. It is not the European Commission’s role to propose projects (see also MEMO/10/383).

Next steps

The Commission’s Roma Task Force will now identify concrete ways to improve the effectiveness of EU funds in the Member States. These approaches will feed into an EU-level framework for national Roma inclusion strategies, which the Commission plans to adopt in spring 2011.

New Study on Member States’ Projects on Roma Inclusion

Today’s study – carried out on behalf of the Commission – finds that integrated policy approaches designed to tackle the multiple causes of social exclusion affecting Roma are the most successful. Strong political will is also required. Seven of the 18 countries studied have adopted integrated national strategies for Roma inclusion, although these are not always consistently implemented.

Success factors include:

* effective coordination of policies within national governments and between the national, regional and local levels – such as the national coordination mechanisms set up by Spain and the national Roma strategy in Hungary;

* sustainable programmes with reliable, multi-annual budgets to ensure continuity of results – such as the ACCEDER training programme that began as a temporary project but has since helped 25,000 people find work over a 9-year period in 48 locations across Spain;

* effective participation and consultation of Roma in inclusion efforts – Austria and Ireland have set up national advisory bodies to consult Roma and Traveller communities on government initiatives, while Romania’s Parliament includes a member to represent Roma communities and all Slovene municipalities with Roma populations include at least one Roma councillor;

* reliable data and evaluation of results – such as initiatives in Slovakia to survey the living conditions and health needs of Roma and Traveller communities.

Background

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Roma Education Fund (REF) prepared the comparative study, which looks at measures addressing the situation of Roma living in 18 EU Member States with sizeable Romani populations: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The study analyses successful activities that seek to improve the situation of Roma in non-discrimination and equality policies, education, employment and training, health care services, housing and gender equality.

A large proportion of the Roma community in the EU is disproportionately affected by unemployment, extreme poverty, poor housing, low health standards and difficult access to education. The EU – since 2007 – has confirmed that while the social and economic integration of disadvantaged Roma people is primarily a responsibility for each country, there is also a role for the EU. A series of Council conclusions have endorsed the Commission’s assessment (in Communications in 2008 and 2010, see IP/10/407 and MEMO/10/121) that more needs to be done to apply the EU framework of legislative, financial and policy coordination tools to the promote Roma inclusion.

Today’s Roma Task Force findings on the use of EU funds and the comparative study on national Roma Inclusion Measures will be used by the Commission in its further work with Member States on the successful integration of the 10-12 million Roma living in the EU.

Entry of Estonia into the euro area

Jeudi 30 décembre 2010

The entry of Estonia into the euro area is planned for 1 January 2011, bringing to 17 the number of member countries of the area. Europeans will then be 330 million to use the same currency.

The euro was created in 1999 when 11 countries irrevocably locked the bilateral exchange rates of their currencies and equipped themselves with a single monetary and exchange rate policy managed by the European Central Bank. Greece joined them in 2001 and in 2002 euro banknotes and coins were introduced thus making the euro a tangible reality in everyday life. Slovenia was the first of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 to adopt the common currency (on 1 January 2007), followed by Cyprus and Malta on 1 January 2008 and by Slovakia on 1 January 2009.

Jürgen Ligi, Minister of Finance of Estonia and Pille Vaher, Head of Media Section of the European Commission in Estonia

Just as the other Member States that introduced the euro after 2002 (but unlike the ‘first wave’ euro area members), Estonia decided to put euro banknotes and coins into circulation on the same day as the euro becomes the country’s official currency. This is known as the ‘big-bang’ scenario.

There will however be a dual circulation period of two weeks, starting on 1 January 2011, during which the two currencies will circulate alongside each other in order to allow for a gradual withdrawal of Estonian kroons. The irrevocable exchange rate between the two currencies is 1 EUR= 15.6466 EEK. In order to make it easier for consumers to get used to the new scale of monetary values, prices must be displayed both in kroons and euro as from 1 July 2010 until 30 June 2011.

Some 194 million euro coins (with the Estonian national side) and some 45 million banknotes are needed in order to introduce the euro in cash.

100 million euro will be allocated in 2011 in support to Palestinian people

Mercredi 29 décembre 2010

On December 22nd, the European Commission has decided that a first financial package worth 100 million euro will be allocated to the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2011.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton stated that this decision was a sign of the strong political and financial commitment of the European Union to the Palestinian Authority and to Prime Minister Fayyad’s leadership in building a democratic and viable Palestinian state. Palestinian statehood is critical for any peaceful, workable and lasting solution to the conflict.

In announcing the package Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy Štefan Füle said that by this decision the Commission wanted to give a signal to the Palestinian people that they could count on EU continued support in 2011 as in the past. He added that EU support would be channelled through PEGASE. The Union trusts that Member States and other donors will continue supporting the Palestinian people through this mechanism.

The decision adopted on December 22nd, by which the EU fulfils by far the pledges made at the Paris Donors’ Conference in December 2007, will help the Palestinian Authority to continue providing essential public services across all the occupied Palestinian territory. Of today’s announced package, €60 million will be channelled through the EU’s assistance mechanism for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, PEGASE1, which was launched in February 2008. These funds will help the PA to cover wages and pensions for essential civilian workers (particularly medical and teaching staff).

So far the Commission has already provided €696 million in direct financial support to the Palestinian Authority through this mechanism, with EU Member States contributing a further €265 million.

The remaining €40 million will be allocated to the core budget of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNWRA provides basic health, education and social safety net services for a refugee population of 4.7 million people since 1949. The EU and its Member States are the biggest donors to UNRWA.

Background

Aid to the Palestinian Authority is provided to support the implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP), presented by the PA at the donor conference in December 2007, held in Paris. Moreover, in August 2009, PM Fayyad presented the PA’s “Programme of the Thirteenth Government”. Based on the PRDP, the plan aims at building strong governmental institutions which will serve as the basis for a future independent Palestinian State within a two-year time-frame. The EU has expressed its political and financial support for PM Fayyad’s plan. Further to this support and to some partial and insufficient easing of restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank, the reform agenda of Prime Minister Fayyad has translated into economic and social progress. The situation in Gaza remains however unsustainable. This first tranche of financing for 2011 responds to the priorities of the PA in supporting recurrent expenditure, including social allowances in Gaza and the needs of UNRWA to support Palestine refugees.

Winners of European Journalism Award in the field of health 2010 are announced

Mercredi 29 décembre 2010

Paola Testori Coggi, Commissioner in charge of DG Health and Consumer, announced the winners of the second edition of the EU Health Prize for Journalists in Brussels, on November 30th.

Out of the 27 finalist articles from all EU countries, the first prize was awarded to the Italian nominees Gianluca Ferraris and Ilaria Molinari. Their article “Stealing hope” deals with obscure “Healing clinics” that promise unproven therapies for several diseases. Lucie Hášová Truhelková from the Czech Republic came in second place with her article “Love Dwells in the Kidney” on organ donation and transplantation. The third place was awarded to the Danish journalist team Kasper Krogh, Morten Crone, Line Holm Nielsen and Jesper Woldenhof for their article “The great failure” on patient safety.

The EU Health Prize for Journalists 2010, launched in March 2010, rewards high quality journalism on health issues and especially on topics related to the Europe for Patients campaign. This year, over 400 journalists from all 27 EU countries submitted almost 750 eligible articles. National juries selected the finalists and an EU jury chose the EU winner and the two runners-up.

Citizenship: European pupils have a strong knowledge in civic education

Mardi 28 décembre 2010

Civic education, which includes an understanding of citizenship and democracy at national and European level, is part of compulsory education in EU Member States. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) has conducted its largest study in the field of international civic education. The results of this study showed that European students have better results in civic knowledge than the international average. In addition, students have a strong sense of European identity and democratic values such as equality and freedom of movement within the EU, although they are more interested in domestic issues than European political or international.

The International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS2009), organised by the IEA and co-financed by the European Commission, tested over 140,000 lower secondary pupils from 5,300 schools in 38 countries in 2008-2009, measuring knowledge about the European Union and attitudes toward EU-related policies and values such as citizenship, European identity and freedom of movement. It also collected data from over 62,000 teachers, as well as from school principals and national research coordinators.

Key results of the study

The study found large differences in pupils’ levels of civic knowledge, both between and within countries.

• Pupils in European countries scored higher, on average, in civic knowledge than the international average. They also scored highly in knowledge of basic facts about the European Union, but there was greater variation in their in-depth knowledge about EU laws and policies. Pupils from Finland and Denmark were among those showing the strongest results overall in the civic education tests.

• Most pupils endorsed democratic values, gender equality, and equal rights for ethnic or racial groups and immigrants, as well as freedom of movement of citizens within Europe. Large majorities of pupils in Europe had a strong sense of European identity. Most pupils also expressed pride in the fact that their country was an EU member.

• In general, pupils were more interested in domestic political and social issues than in European or international politics.

• 75% of pupils in the EU reported that they could understand or communicate well in languages spoken in other European countries. Most also said that their schools provided opportunities to learn about other European countries, though few had participated in activities or groups directly related to European integration.

The EU’s Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action programmes support citizens in developing their civic knowledge. Actions such as Youth for Europe are dedicated to enhancing young people’s active citizenship.

Twenty-two EU Member States, as well as Norway and Liechtenstein, participated in the study. (The Member States which did not were Germany, France, Romania, Hungary and Portugal). The European Commission is co-financing the IEA study from 2007-2010, with a grant of € 1.6 million from the Lifelong Learning Programme.

Life +: more than 4300 actions implemented during the European Week for Waste Reduction

Mardi 28 décembre 2010

The European Week for Waste Reduction is a 3 year project supported by the LIFE+ Programme of the European Commission until 2011. The 2010 EWWR confirms the success of this Week since more than 4300 awareness raising actions about waste prevention have been implemented across the EU.

A host of different EWWR activities were carried out, on 20-28 November 2010, in 23 EU countries – from simple emails listing waste prevention tips, to exhibitions, artwork and other competitions (see the list of actions on the EWWR website). The aim was to draw people’s attention (on the street, at school, work or in the supermarket etc), and make them think about waste prevention and alter their behaviour.

Commenting on the success of the initiative, project beneficiary, ADME (the French environment and energy management agency) said that this result confirmed the success of the European Week for Waste Reduction and demonstrated that the event is following the same path as other famous thematic ‘European Weeks’.

The most interesting actions (2010) will be selected for the EWWR Awards to be held in the evening of 28 March 2011.

Meanwhile, one of the more original actions to be organised this year was the Portuguese-led Europe-wide ‘BatucaMob’ percussion event – involving the coordination of groups of people in different countries coming together at the same time (at 11 am on Saturday, 20 November) to drum empty waste bins, trash cans and other containers.

Next year’s EWWR will be held on 19- 27 November 2011. A call for the appointment of the official oganisers will be launched at the beginning of 2011. For more information, see the website (link above) or contact the secretariat: contact@ewwr.eu.

Agreement on the distribution of maximum fishing opportunities for 2011

Lundi 27 décembre 2010

On December 15th, EU member States reached an agreement on the maximum quantities of fish than can be caught by EU vessels in the waters of the Atlantic and the North Sea and in international waters, and their distribution between national fleets. This type of decision is taken each year by the Council of the European Union.

The amount of each species of fish that can be taken in a given area is defined in what are known as total allowable catches (TACs) and the allocation to individual member states is fixed in quotas.

The aim is to achieve sustainable exploitation of marine resources. Many stocks have been overfished, and management of the fishing effort must ensure that EU fisheries are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable, and that resources remain within biologically safe limits.

Some stocks have shown improvement, such as herring, sole and hake in some fishing zones, whereas others remain vulnerable. The establishment of fishing opportunities is based on scientific advice and a precautionary approach. It must establish a balance between the interests of the European fishing industry that should both be sustainable and profitable, and the protection and preservation of dwindling fish populations.

Election Observation Mission in Sudan

Lundi 27 décembre 2010

A Southern Sudan Referendum is scheduled to take place between 9 and 15 January 2011. On this occasion, the EU has deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) on December 20th.

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission said that the forthcoming Referendum was an important step in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which would put an end to the long civil war in Sudan. Given the importance of all aspects of the CPA to the peaceful future of Sudan, the EU has consistently provided its support for the Referendum and has employed an observation mission to neutrally observe the process.

Led by Véronique de Keyser, a Member of the European Parliament, the 110 observers will assess the Referendum process all over Sudan, including polling, counting and tabulation of the results, as well as the post-referendum period.

Catherine Ashton said the EU EOM role is to observe that electoral processes are in accordance with international standards for democratic elections and a country’s own domestic legislation. The EOM will operate in a challenging electoral, security and logistical context. She is convinced that with the lead of Véronique de Keyser and with good cooperation with the Sudanese authorities, this EOM will successfully carry out its mandate.

The first wave of experts and Long-Term observers arrived in Sudan in November to observe the Voter Registration exercise – the first time the EU has assessed this part of the process. They have now been joined by more analysts and Long-Term Observers. A group of Short-Term observers will deploy nearer the polling period. In addition, the mission will be reinforced by a delegation of Members of the European Parliament.

The mission will present a preliminary report including comprehensive recommendations, based on exhaustive facts and information, shortly after polling, and then a Final Report once the entire process is over. The mission will stay in the country for several weeks after polling takes place.

The EU also contributed €6m to referendum-related issues. Following the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, an amount of €665m was provided by the EU in development aid in addition to €779m in humanitarian aid since 2003.

Consultations to strengthen the rule of law in Guinea-Bissau

Lundi 27 décembre 2010

On the basis of Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and 76 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the Commission proposed on December 20th to the Member States consultations with Guinea Bissau. Indeed, the Commission is concerned about the situation in Guinea-Bissau in terms of respect for democratic principles and the rule of law and wishes to implement a strategy for ending the crisis. The proposal for consultations will first be examined by the 27 Member States of the European Union prior to implementation.

European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said she had proposed this initiative to the EU Member States because of concerns about the situation with regard to democratic principles and respect for the rule of law. The Commission hopes that consultations will help resolve the situation and so lay solid foundations for strengthened relations between the EU and Guinea-Bissau.

The mutiny on 1 April 2010 and the actions that followed were condemned by the international community, including by the EU through its High Representative/Vice‑President Catherine Ashton, who said that the situation called for a review of the overall engagement of the EU in Guinea-Bissau.

As far as the EU is concerned, the measures that need to be taken in Guinea-Bissau include, in particular, bringing an end to illegal detention and impunity, strengthening civil authority, accepting a possible international stabilisation mission and restarting reforms in the security sector.

If the consultations do not lead to an acceptable solution, appropriate measures may be taken. This could include partial or total suspension of development cooperation, with the exception of humanitarian assistance and direct support to the population. Pending the outcome of consultations, the Commission will take precautionary measures.

In the context of the European Development Fund and the EU budget, EUR 120 million has been allocated to Guinea-Bissau up to 2013. These funds are intended to support the country in strengthening the rule of law and democracy (reform of the administration, the justice system, the security forces, etc.), as well as facilitating the population’s access to basic services, such as water and energy. A third pillar is direct budgetary aid, focusing on macroeconomic stabilisation.

Background

A mutiny by part of the army on 1 April 2010 led to illegal detentions. In addition, individuals linked to the rebellion or suspected of being involved in illegal activities were appointed to high-ranking positions in the armed forces. The mutiny also halted the process of reform in the security sector (police, army, justice system, etc.), which is essential for peace, security and sustainable development in Guinea-Bissau, as well as for the fight against drug smuggling and organised crime.

Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement

Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement states inter alia that, if a Party considers that the other Party has failed to fulfil an obligation stemming from respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, the situation should be examined thoroughly with a view to seeking a solution acceptable to the Parties. To this end, it invites the other Party to hold consultations so that together they can carry out a thorough and constructive examination of the situation, enabling the Party concerned to take measures to remedy the situation.