Archive pour janvier 2011

How to fight against the early school leaving in Europe?.

Lundi 31 janvier 2011

Answers to most frequently asked questions in terms of early school leaving in Europe.

What is meant by ‘early school leaving’?

The European Union defines early school leavers as people aged 18-24 who have only lower secondary education or less and are no longer in education or training.1

Early school leavers are therefore those who have only achieved pre-primary, primary, lower secondary or a short upper secondary education of less than 2 years2.

The data on early school leavers are collected annually via the European Labour Force Survey.

Early school leaving can take several forms. It includes young people who have dropped out of school before the end of compulsory education, those who have completed compulsory schooling, but have not gained an upper secondary qualification, and those who have followed pre-vocational or vocational courses which did not lead to a qualification equivalent to upper secondary level.

Who is not considered to be an early school leaver?

The definition of early school leavers excludes anyone who participated in some form of education or training in the four weeks prior to the date of the survey. Likewise, young people who initially drop out of school but then return to finish upper secondary education before the age of 25 are not regarded as early school leavers.

What is the EU’s objective?

The Europe 2020 strategy contains five headline targets. One is to reduce the EU average early school leaving rate to less than 10% by 2020.

The early school leaving target is strongly related to smart and inclusive growth. It impacts directly on the employability of young people and contributes to breaking the cycle of deprivation, social exclusion and poverty.

What are the economic and social costs of early school leaving?

Early school leaving creates high individual, social and economic costs. Young people with only lower secondary education or less are more often affected by unemployment, are more likely to depend on social benefits and have a higher risk of social exclusion. It affects their lifetime earnings, well-being and health. They tend to participate less in democratic processes.

Early school leaving has long-term negative effects on social development and economic growth. Innovation and growth rely on a skilled labour force: Reducing the average European rate of early school leaving by just 1 percentage point would provide the European economy each year with nearly half a million additional qualified potential young employees.

Why do young people abandon education early?

There are many reasons why some young people give up education and training prematurely. Although the situation varies in different countries, early school leaving in Europe is strongly linked to social disadvantage and low education backgrounds. Vulnerable groups are especially affected such as young people who have been in care and those with special educational needs.

Early school leaving is influenced by educational factors, individual circumstances and socio-economic conditions. It is a process which often starts in primary education with first experiences of failure and alienation from school.

When do the young people concerned typically leave education?

While over 70% of early school leavers in the EU complete lower secondary education, around 17% have completed only primary education. This latter group is especially large in Bulgaria (38%) and Portugal (40%).

What do early school leavers do?

In 2009, only 48% of early school leavers in the EU were in employment, while 52% were either unemployed or outside the labour market. The percentage of young people who had abandoned education but were in employment was highest in Malta (74%), Cyprus (74%), Portugal (71%), and the Netherlands (71%).

Especially large numbers of early school leavers were either unemployed or inactive in Slovakia (80%), in Bulgaria (73%) and in Hungary (71%)

Is there a link between migration and early school leaving?

On average across the EU, twice as many young people from the first generation of migrants abandon school early compared to their native peers (26% versus 13%).

But again, we see substantial differences between Member States: In Greece, Spain and Italy more than 40% of young migrants are early school leavers. A few countries such as Portugal, the UK and Norway show lower rates of early school leavers among migrants compared to natives.

In several Member States early school leaving is especially high among disadvantaged minorities such as the Roma population.

Where does the data come from?

Data are taken from the European Labour Force Survey (LFS), which is conducted in the 27 Member States, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

It is a large household sample survey providing quarterly results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on people who are not in employment.

The national statistical institutes are responsible for selecting the sample, preparing the questionnaires, conducting interviews among households, and providing the results to the statistical office of the European Union (Eurostat). In 2010, around 1.5 million people across the EU were part of the survey.

The third agora citizen trying to find a way to fight against poverty

Lundi 31 janvier 2011

Approximately 85 million people live in the European Union under the poverty line and this has increased with the economic crisis. An agora “in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27-28 January brought together legislators, NGOs and people over 60 living in poverty to discuss what can be done.

The Agora conference was opened by Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek and the European Commissioner for Employment László Andor. It was divided into three main working groups:

*The economic and financial crisis and new forms of poverty;

*The impact of the economic and financial crises on migration flows and integration processes;

*Access to a decent and sustainable way of life for persons in situation of precariousness.

Rising poverty - especially during the financial crisis - and the growing isolation and marginalisation of some groups in society were deemed particularly worrying and are some of the most serious problems the EU faces today according to participants.

The impact of all EU policies on the most vulnerable should be addressed as should the principle that people should be at the heart of all policies was another key finding.

Belgian Green MEP Isabelle Durant (who co-chaired the Agora) said in the press conference that “in the workshops there has been a lot of anger - not against us but in the way poverty has been dealt with - Europe has done a lot for economy but not enough to protect the most vulnerable parts of society”.

Czech MEP Libor Rouček (Socialists and Democrats) also co-chaired the Agora and said that “the core message is that while fixing our financial system we cannot forget our social model”.

Consensus Conference on the over 60’s

Alongside the Agora there was a special “Consensus Conference” which looked at ways in which one particularly vulnerable group - the over 60’s facing financial hardship - could cope.

Chaired by Belgian MEP Isabelle Durant it brought together 20 people from different European countries to talk about their experiences. They also discussed ways in which the Europe Union could help them.

One of the main recommendations of the groups was that pensions should be indexed to the standard of living and should be free from taxation. In addition they want the a change in the culture in the way elderly people are treated so they are encouraged to be full members of society rather than closed off and isolated.

The group also thought that easier and cheaper access to technology such as telephone calls and internet access could help older people both financially and in terms of making they feel included in society. Adapting tools for older people was also considered important.

Fifth Cohesion Forum: Debates on future cohesion policy

Lundi 31 janvier 2011

At the budget review of the EU and Europe 2020, various options for reform of this policy are being considered, for the next programming period starting in 2014. The fifth Cohesion Forum which opened today in Brussels will be the last opportunity for Member States and regions to make their voices heard before the Commission presents its legislative proposals on the future cohesion policy, by the Summer 2011. This two-day forum, held every three years by the institution, together about 800 participants, including leading decision makers in the 27 Member States.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, and László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion will be joined at the event’s launch by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, Donald Tusk, and Prime Minister of Poland – the countries holding the EU Presidency. Andrius Kubilius, Prime Minister of Lithuania will also take part in the forum.

Speaking ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn stated that theUnion, especially in these difficult economic times, needed good and targeted investment in these regions through cohesion policy. The Cohesion Forum provides a crucial opportunity for national, regional and local representatives, as well as other stakeholders, to exchange ideas on the future policy. The findings from the consultation and discussions during the forum will help us prepare an even more effective cohesion policy, better adapted to the economic situation of today and that will help contribute to the ambitious Europe 2020 goals.

Commissioner Andor added: “We have seen that cohesion policy can make a real difference to employment, education opportunities and inclusion. It boosts growth and competitiveness and helps social progress. But it must adapt to respond to the challenges our countries and citizens face as we emerge from the crisis. The Europe 2020 strategy is our commonly agreed recipe and cohesion policy must underpin its most important reform priorities.”

The event will look in particular at the role of cohesion policy in delivering the Europe 2020 Strategy – which sets out the sustainable economic development blueprint for the EU for the next decade. Four thematic -panels during the event, each chaired by EU Commissioners, will focus on key components of the EU 2020 Strategy: smart growth, green growth, inclusive growth, and the territorial dimension of Europe 2020.

With the publication of the fifth cohesion report in November 2010, the Commission set out its initial ideas for further simplifying and streamlining the delivery system of cohesion policy, and improving evaluation, performance and results through more effective target-setting. The report showed that cohesion policy has made a significant contribution to growth and prosperity, with figures demonstrating how it helped to create an estimated 1.4 million new jobs, supported some 34 million unemployed to get back to work, enhanced the skills of another 36 million persons, funded 4 700 km of motorway and 1 200 km of high-speed rail, and provided waste water treatment for an additional 23 million people, access to clean water for an additional 20 additional million people, skills training for 10 million people per year, with a focus on vulnerable groups.

However for the future cohesion policy, the Commission has proposed to focus future funding on the key priorities in line with the Europe 2020 goals with a view to maximise its impact. All the options set out in the report will be discussed in depth during the panels.

During the forum, President Barroso will also present the first ‘Regions of Excellence’ awards at a ceremony after the opening session. Lithuania, Wales (UK) and Brandenburg (Germany) are the winners of the top accolades and will be represented respectively by Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, First Minister Carwyn Jones, and Minister of Economy and European Affairs Ralf Christoffers. ‘Regions of Excellence’ recognises regions and countries that have successfully implemented policies, programmes and projects in line with the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The winners were selected as the best overall performers in the EU’s annual RegioStars awards since 2008.

The European Commission encourages Member States to strengthen cooperation to promote renewable energy

Lundi 31 janvier 2011

The European Commission has presented 31 January 2011 a paper outlining the objectives of the policy on renewable energy goals for 2020 noting that they are likely to be met or exceeded if the measures are complied with. According to estimates, these measures could achieve 10 billion euros of annual savings.

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that European Union has to invest much more in renewable energy and it would need smart, cost-effective financing. If Member States work together and produce renewable energy where it costs less, companies and consumers and the tax payer will benefit from this.

The EU is committed to reaching the objective of a 20% share of renewable energy by 2020. To achieve these targets, the Commission calls on the Member States to

- implement the national action plans that Member States have presented in the beginning of 2010. According to these plans, all Member States will meet their national binding targets by 2020. Latest data show however, that in 2010, the indicative targets the Member States set themselves for the electricity and transport sector were missed by most Member States and for the EU overall.

- ensure a doubling annual capital investments in renewable energy from €35bn per year to €70bn. Within the new EU legislative framework, Member States will have to commit the necessary efforts to further invest and cooperate on developing renewable energy. Further investment in renewables will require a substantial use of national support schemes. These support schemes, and other instruments used to finance renewable energy at EU or national level, ought to be as cost-effective as possible.

The Communication shows that, while different financial instruments are used in all Member States to develop renewable energy – grants, loans, feed in tariffs, certificate regimes etc., their management needs to be improved. Investors need greater coherence, clarity and certainty.

The Communication also stresses the importance of cooperation between Member States. The convergence of support schemes and market integration have to be reinforced to ensure that renewable energy sources and technologies become economically competitive as soon as possible. Commission analysis suggests that up to 10 billion Euros could be saved yearly with a more integrated approach.

Three mechanisms can already favour such cooperation:

*”Statistical transfers” whereby one Member State with a surplus of renewable energy can “sell” it statistically to another Member State, whose renewable energy sources may be more expensive;

* “Joint projects” whereby a new renewable energy project in one Member State can be co-financed by another Member State and the production shared statistically between the two;

*”Joint support schemes” whereby two or more Member States agree to harmonise all or part of their support schemes

The Commission will assess in 2014 the effective functioning of the cooperation mechanisms.

Background:

The Communication is the Commission’s response to the reporting requirements set out in the Directive for Renewable Energy 2009/28/EC which had to be transposed into national law by December 5, 2010. With the Directive, the EU benefits from a much stronger regulatory framework than in the past, with legally binding national targets for the year 2020.

The 2001 Green Electricity Directive and the 2003 Biofuels Directive had set national indicative targets for 2010, both for electricity and transport. The Communication presented today also refers to these targets.

Message of condolences by President Barroso to Germany

Lundi 31 janvier 2011

IP/11/111 Brüssel, 30.01.2011 I am very saddened by the tragic loss of life in the terrible train crash which happened Saturday evening 40 km south west of Magdeburg. On behalf of the European Commission I offer my sincere condolences and the expression …

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Quarterly Sector Accounts: third quarter of 2010 Business investment rate nearly stable at 20.5% in the euro area and 20.0% in the EU27 Business profit share up to 38.0% in both zones

Samedi 29 janvier 2011

STAT/11/15 8 January 2011 In the third quarter of 2010, in both the euro area (EA16) and the EU27, the seasonally adjusted business investment rate remained stable at low levels, while the profit share grew….

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Quarterly Sector Accounts: third quarter of 2010 Household saving rate down to 13.8% in the euro area and 11.5% in the EU27 Household real disposable income decreased by 0.1% in the euro area

Samedi 29 janvier 2011

STAT/11/14 28 January 2011 In the third quarter of 2010, in both the euro area (EA16) and the EU27, the seasonally adjusted household saving rate continued to decrease, while the household investment rate remained unchanged at a low level….

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Final compromise on the safeguards agreement of free trade EU-South Korea

Vendredi 28 janvier 2011

The free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea took another step forward on January 26, 2011 the final compromise reached to safeguard the Council in mid-December 2010.

The safeguard measures would enable the EU to suspend further reductions in customs duties or increase them to previous levels, if lower rates were to lead to an excessive increase in imports from South Korea, causing or threatening to cause “serious injury” to EU producers.

Back in September, MEPs approved Parliament’s amendments to the safeguard measures. However, they postponed the final vote on the agreement to allow more time for negotiations with Council on outstanding issues, with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement.

In the negotiations, MEPs have pushed for a simple, effective safeguard clause to tackle any surge in South Korean imports and also to make the EU-South Korean free trade agreement more attractive to European industry.

“The position of the Members of the European Parliament has always been united in the negotiations with the Council,” said Parliament’s rapporteur and chief negotiator Pablo Zalba Bidegain (EPP, ES), adding that MEPs “have added a series of elements of protection, and thanks to these elements the European industry, in particular the EU automotive industry, is now better covered.”

Main improvements introduced by Parliament

MEPs have made a number of changes to the legislation. First, the European Parliament as well as industry will now have the right to ask the Commission to launch an investigation that could lead to activation of the clause, and the Commission may now look at a wider range of factors when determining if any “injury” has been caused.

The definition of products subject to the safeguard clause has been clarified, which is of particular importance to the automotive industry.

The Commission will introduce surveillance measures, especially for the most sensitive sectors, if there is a rise in imports concentrated in one or several EU Member States.

Monitoring will be tightened up, especially of products which might be affected by the duty-drawback clause. Information on the monitoring of these products will be shared regularly with Parliament, the Council and EU industry.

Another key change by Parliament is on compensation. Any Member State applying for aid under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund may refer to the safeguard clause.

The Commission will have to report to the interested parties all decisions relating to safeguard measures as well as statistics on EU-South Korea trade.

A new online platform will be set up to make the exchange of information between Commission and interested parties easier and to save time.

Lastly, as regards the free-trade deal South Korea reached recently with the USA, the Commission has formally assured MEPs that if anything changes in this agreement, it will automatically apply to Europe as well.

Free trade agreement on the way

Following two and half years of negotiations, the EU-South Korea free trade agreement was signed at the EU-South Korea summit in Brussels on 6 October. However, it can only enter into force after both the safeguard regulation (co-decision) and the free trade agreement (consent) have been adopted by Parliament. The free-trade agreement will be put to the vote in the International Trade Committee on 7 February.

The Lisbon Treaty gives Parliament co-decision powers over common commercial policy implementing measures, such as the safeguard clause. This is the first time that Parliament has exercised these new powers. For the free trade agreement itself, only Parliament’s consent is needed.

Next steps

The whole Parliament will vote on the safeguard clauses during its plenary session in mid- February in Strasbourg. The committee will vote on the report on the EU-South Korea free trade agreement, drafted by Robert Sturdy (ECR, UK), on 7 February. This report is also expected to be put to the vote in plenary in mid-February.

Both the EU-South Korea free trade agreement and the safeguard regulation are due to come into force in July 2011.

Towards a single EU patent

Vendredi 28 janvier 2011

The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament approved on January 27th proposals for to use the enhanced cooperation procedure to create a unitary patent in the EU, as requested by 12 member states last year. If the Parliament as a whole and Council approve the project, the Commission will prepare two legislative proposals: one on the language regime and the other on the establishment of the single patent.

The Legal Affairs Committee gave its consent to the use of enhanced cooperation to create unitary patent protection in a report by Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP-ED, DE), which was approved by a large majority.

The request by 12 Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK), to start an enhanced cooperation procedure came in December 2010, after the Member States concluded that no EU-wide agreement on the issue could be found within the Council. Other Member States may join the enhanced cooperation at any time.

Next steps

The European Parliament as a whole will vote on the proposal during the February Strasbourg session and the Competitiveness Council will examine it on 10 March.

If the enhanced cooperation is authorised by both Parliament and the Council, the Commission will present two proposals: one on the language regime (consultation procedure) and the other establishing the single patent (co-decision procedure). The Legal Affairs Committee is calling on the Council to use co-decision procedure for both proposals.

Background

Member States have been trying to agree on a unitary patent system for years but all their efforts to achieve unanimity, including those based on Commission proposals in 2000, 2009 and 2010, have failed. Language issues have proven especially problematic.

Currently, national patents coexist with a European patent but the system is complicated, since patent holders must choose the countries where they want patent protection and Member States may impose additional requirements. Furthermore, European patents are only enforced by national laws. This fragmented system is complex and expensive: according to the European Commission, a European patent validated in 13 countries can cost up to €18,000, of which nearly €10,000 goes to pay translation fees alone. This makes a European patent 10 times more expensive than a comparable US patent.

The unitary patent system aims to make it cheaper and easier for inventors to seek EU-wide patent protection, ensure equal access to all inventors within the EU, help to tackle infringements, and improve conditions for innovative businesses by removing patent rights “borders” among Member States.

What is enhanced co-operation?

Under EU rules, enhanced co-operation can be used to enable some Member States to move forward on new rules when a unanimous agreement cannot be found.

The Lisbon Treaty enables a minimum of nine Member States to co-operate using the European institutional framework where a legislative initiative in an area of non-exclusive EU competence is blocked. This is the second time that enhanced cooperation would be used. The first, on the cross-border applicability of divorce laws, was approved in 2010.

Enhanced co-operation may begin after the Council authorises it on the basis of a Commission proposal and after the European Parliament has given its consent.

Debate on the future of the CAP at European Parliament

Vendredi 28 janvier 2011

On January 26th, 2011, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament held a public hearing to discuss major issues relating to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013: how to make direct payments fairer to farmers ? how to manage food price crises and improve rural development policies?

For the second time in a few months, Parliament’s plenary chamber hosted a public hearing with experts and stakeholders to help shape Parliament’s opinion on the future of the CAP after 2013, with a view to forthcoming legislative proposals on which MEPs enjoy full legislative powers.

The issues debated included overhauling the distribution system for financial support, introducing new market management tools and improving rural development policy.

Speaking at the end of the debate, Parliament’s CAP 2020 rapporteur Albert Dess (EPP, DE), said that the new policy must ensure a good objective distribution of direct payments, cut red tape and possess a great level of flexibility to take into account differences among Member States and among EU local and regional markets.

How best to reform direct payments?

Introducing the debate, Agriculture Committee chair Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT), asked MEPs and panellists to consider whether direct payments should be more equitably distributed among Member States and farmers. He also drew attention to the Commission proposal to cap these payments.

Luis Capoulas Santos (S&D, PT), wondering whether employment and environment would be included, declared to the panel that direct payments was the key question in the coming reform: (…) what should be the basis for calculating payments?. José Bové (Greens/EFA), by contrast, asked what measures would be taken to ensure that farmers are not paid below production costs.

Job creation should be included among the criteria for awarding direct payments, and training for farmers should be subsidised, said Arnd Spahn of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT), who was the first farm trade union representative to be invited to discuss the future of the CAP. Michael Dower, speaking for the ARC 2020 group of agricultural and environmental NGOs, advocated abandoning the historical criterion for distributing aid and replacing it with national purchasing power.

Replying to several questions on whether direct payments should be capped to allow a different distribution of funds, Geneviève Savigny, spokesperson of “Via Campesina”, representing small farmers, said that capping was vital to justify such a concentration of public resources. Padraig Walshe, President of COPA, an organisation representing European farmers, disagreed and said that if payments were limited, it would be impossible to achieve higher standards.

n EU commodity market?

The second session of the hearing focused on whether existing risk management tools should be replaced by new ones and by commodity derivatives markets. MEPs also debated the link between the CAP and international trade policy. All speakers agreed on the need to equip the future CAP with a system of safety nets.

Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, President of the European Landowners Organisation (ELO) said that Europe needs to create an EU commodity market to stop relying on Chicago. Ms Savigny pointed out that financial speculation can undermine the benefits of derivatives markets.

On international trade and imports, James Nicholson (ECR, UK), and Lorenzo Fontana (EFD, IT), said the EU’s rigorous animal welfare, environment, health and quality requirements should be imposed on any good imported from non-EU countries. Paolo Bruni, President of the agricultural cooperatives federation COGECA, agreed with the two MEPs that the EU should be strict in protecting European farmers’ interests when negotiating trade agreements.

On risk management tools, Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES), proposed introducing a rapid response mechanism to deal with crises such as the recent milk and livestock price fluctuations.

Protect local markets to help least favoured areas

The third and final part of the hearing dealt with rural development and in particular least favoured areas (LFAs).

Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE) said that the best thing to do for the LFAs is to support local and regional markets by creating infrastructure to enable farmers to place their products. Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D, HU) argued that rural development is especially important to new Member States, where rural unemployment rates are high. He added that the differences between Member States must be taken into consideration.

The mutual consistency of contributions from all the EU regional and development funds needs to be enhanced, so as to generate territorial synergies, said Ms Savigny, even though localised farming can be a good response to world food market challenges. Finally, Arnd Spahn said research investment should be stepped up, to help depressed areas to grow.