Archive pour février 2011

The Commission wants to fight against stress issues at work

Jeudi 24 février 2011

To fight against stress at work, workers’ representatives signed an agreement in 2004 with minimum protection. The European Commission publishes an assessment of the impact of this agreement by studying the effects of efforts made by employers and workers.

Presenting the new report, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said he could see how a European agreement followed up by employers and workers at national level could concretely improve working conditions in Europe. He added that he knew stress could be a structural problem related to work organisation rather than to individuals, which is why the social partners are often best placed to take action in this area. He called on employers and workers to continue their positive work and address shortcomings, particularly in those countries where joint action has been limited so far.

The 2004 social partner agreement – concluded by all cross-industry European social partners (Business Europe, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC) – aims to raise awareness of work-related stress and provide a framework for action. The role of employers is to identify risk factors for stress and to try to match responsibility better with skills; consult workers on restructuring and new technologies; and to provide support to individuals and teams.

The Commission’s evaluation of the agreement concludes that the 2004 agreement has successfully triggered social dialogue and policy developments in the field of occupational stress in most Member States. The rules on work-related stress have been enshrined in different ways through collective or general social partner agreements, guidelines or legislation. In many countries, the social partners complemented action with effective awareness-raising campaigns and practical instruments, such as stress assessment tools and training.

At the same time, the agreement has not been implemented evenly throughout Europe. Social partners in Malta, Cyprus, Poland and Slovenia have not reported on the follow-up to their commitments and results in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Estonia have fallen short of expectations. The report emphasises how improvements must be made across the board.

According to social partners, while individuals are ‘well adapted to cope with short-term exposure to pressure’, prolonged exposure to stressful situations can do significant damage. The most important stress factors are work demands, room for manoeuvre, social relations, emotional demands, value and ethical conflicts and employment insecurity. Over time, these factors have increased. For instance, the share of workers reporting that they work to tight deadlines or at high working speed at least a quarter of their time rose from 50% in 1991 to over 60% in 2005 and has remained stable since then.

Background

In 2002, during a social partner consultation, the Commission highlighted the need for a minimum level of protection of workers against work-related stress building on the general provisions of the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive (Directive 89/391/EEC). The European social partners chose to deal with this through a European autonomous framework agreement, as provided for by Article 155 of the Lisbon Treaty. These agreements can be implemented either through EU legislation or via the action of national affiliates of EU social partners, in line with traditions and practices specific to each Member State.

At EU level, there are four agreements implemented by workers’ and employers’ representatives covering telework, stress at work, violence and harassment and inclusive labour markets. The agreement on stress at work is the second agreement of this kind..

Continue to reduce the wealth gap between regions in Europe after 2013

Jeudi 24 février 2011

On 21 February 2011 the General Affairs Council has issued guidelines for the development of future policy after 2013. Cohesion policy is a major factor of growth and competitiveness within the EU, the guidelines are positioning themselves for the greater prosperity throughout the Union.

Concerning the the ministers’ debate, János Martonyi, Hungarian Foreign Minister and President of the General Affairs Council, declared that there is a consensus that EU definitely needs a cohesion policy also in the future. It must be efficient. It must be cost-effective. It must be differentiated. At the same time it must be very well concentrated and focussed. It must be aligned very closely with Europe 2020.

The ministers’ conclusions, based on the Commission’s fifth cohesion report, stressed the need to continue reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions.

Under its cohesion policy, the EU co-finances infrastructure projects, develops the information society and helps citizens acquire new skills, to name just a few examples. Its aims are to help poorer regions to catch up with the more affluent ones, to improve people’s employment prospects and to advance sustainable economic development all over the Union.

The current rules for cohesion policy will expire in 2013. On the basis of guidance from the Council, the Commission is hoping to present legislative proposals before the summer.

Dialogue between EU and Israel on the peace process in the Middle East

Jeudi 24 février 2011

On February 22th, 2011, a dialogue session between the European Union and Israel was held as part of the EU-Israel Association Council’s session. Martonyi Janos, Hungarian Foreign Minister and Chairman of the meeting, said on this occasion that the peace process in the Middle East was more urgent than ever.

The Association Council’s session was attended by Commissioner, Štefan Füle, and on Israel’s behalf, Avigdor Liberman, Deputy Prime Minister, and Foreign Minister. The EU and Israeli delegations gathered for a business breakfast, and a plenary session, to discuss bilateral relations and the Middle East situation.

János Martonyi gave his remarks at the follow-up press conference, saying the exchange of views was useful and productive. He called the relations between the EU and Israel a solid and vibrant partnership. Mr Martonyi confirmed the EU was committed to move forwardin implementing the EU-Israeli Association Action Plan.,

Regarding the dramatic political and social changes in the Middle East, Mr Martonyi said the peace process was “crucial”. Mr Martonyi claimed that Europe is convinced that progress on the peace process is more imperative and more urgent then ever before.

In response to a journalist’s question, Mr Martonyi declared that the EU-Israeli relationship also has critical elements, which are included in the EU’s declaration made for the Association Council’s session. The declaration primarily mentions the respect of the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, as suggested by Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fule, at the press conference.

Mr Fule called the EU-Israeli relationship strong, mature and close and also qualified the cooperation within the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy solid and vibrant partnership.

Mr Liberman found the atmosphere of the negotiations very friendly. He praised the EU as Israel’s largest commercial partner. The Israeli Foreign Minister said, the current instabilityin the Middle East is mainly caused by poverty and misery, but by no means by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr Liberman especially mentioned the need to reinforce the economy in the region’s countries, and that “Israel is the only strategic partner for the EU” within the region. Israel does not interfere in the internal affairs of Middle East countries, and hopes that the Arabic countries will respect their previous agreements with Israel, he added.

The EU-Israeli Association Council is a central body, regulating the relations between the EU and the Jewish state, regularly examining the state of bilateral relations, and making proposals for the reinforcement of cooperation.

A new partnership with countries of the Southern Mediterranean?

Jeudi 24 février 2011

On February 21st 2011, ministers of the twenty-seven Member States of the EU met at the Foreign Affairs Council. Expressing their support for people of the South Mediterranean, they discussed the possibility of establishing a new partnership and on how to deal with the events currently affecting the region.

The Council condemned the ongoing repression against demonstrators in Libya and encouraged all sides to start a “national Libyan-led dialogue”, which would bring a constructive future for the country and for the people.

The ministers welcomed the decision of Bahrain’s authorities to “open a national dialogue” and urged the Yemeni authorities to do the same.

They confirmed their solidarity with the Tunisian people and the EU’s commitment to contributing to the country’s socio-economic development and institution-building.

The Council encouraged the transitional authorities of Egypt to set a clear timetable and steps for constitutional reform, that being a necessary precondition for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections. Catherine Ashton declared that however, the future of the state lied firmly in the hands of the Egyptian people and Europe is not going to dictate the outcomes or impose any solutions.

Support measures

High Representative Ashton underlined that this is our neighbourhood. Europe needs to be ambitious, it needs to be effective and to be integrated.

She has already launched a task force both within the EU’s External Action Service and the Commission to adapt the EU’s existing tools to help the region’s countries.

Catherine Ashton declared that her aim was a package of measures which would be comprehensive across all the fields of European engagement. And tailored to the specific needs of each country.

After the meeting, High Representative Ashton left for Egypt, where she will meet representatives of the transitional authorities, the opposition and civil society to discuss how the EU can best assist the country.

Housing conditions in the EU27 in 2009 One person in six lives in an overcrowded dwelling

Jeudi 24 février 2011

STAT/11/27 23 February 2011 In the EU27, housing conditions differ considerably between Member States. These differences can be seen both in the type of housing in which people live and in the housing problems they encounter….

Lire l’article complet

December 2010 compared with November 2010 Industrial new orders up by 2.1% in euro area Up by 2.5% in EU27

Jeudi 24 février 2011

STAT/11/26 23 February 2011 In December 2010 compared with November 2010, the euro area1 (EA16) industrial new orders index2 rose by 2.1%. In November3 the index grew by 2.2%. In the EU271, new orders increased by 2….

Lire l’article complet

State aid: Commission requires Italy to recover around €18 million incompatible state aid from metal producers Portovesme, ILA and Eurallumina

Mercredi 23 février 2011

Operating aid granted by Italy to the Portovesme, ALI and Eurallumina firms, in the form of subsidized electricity rates has been found incompatible with EU rules on state aid by the Commission. It considered that these rates improved their competitive position without serving any public interest objective and that therefore it was necessary to recover the money.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy explained that, Together with the EU, governments must strive to achieve a truly single market for energy that will increase Europe’s energy efficiency and independence as well as lower prices for companies and consumers. This is the way to go, not subsidies to lower prices artificially for a few companies.

Following in-depth investigations (see IP/06/541) the European Commission has concluded that two preferential electricity tariff schemes introduced in the Italian Region of Sardinia in favor of three energy-intensive companies constituted incompatible operating aid. The companies are Portovesme, a zinc and lead producer, Eurallumina, which produces aluminum, and ILA, a manufacturer of processed aluminum products.

Italy argued that it had to subsidize the energy-intensive companies because electricity is more expensive in Sardinia. The scheme was financed by all electricity users in Italy, both companies and end consumers.

To compensate a company for higher energy or other costs distorts competition in the marketplace and would ultimately start a subsidy race in the European Union that would not be in the common interest.

The first scheme was implemented by Italy in 2004 without prior notification to the Commission. Following competitors’ complaints, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation on both measures. As a consequence, Italy discontinued the scheme that year. However, the following year Italy notified virtually identical subsidies in favor of the same three beneficiaries, plus Syndial, a chlorine producer also based in Sardinia. The Commission opened an in-depth investigation in April 2006 (IP/06/541). Italy has not implemented this second scheme.

The amount of aid paid in 2004 is estimated by Italy at around €12 million for Portovesme, €5 million for Eurallumina and € 300,000 for ILA.

This decision is in line with the Commission’s practice regarding energy price subsidies in favor of selected companies. In November 2009, the Commission found an identical tariff enjoyed by Alcoa to be incompatible with EU state aid rules and ordered the recovery of the aid (see IP/09/1750). The same line was taken in 2007 in the similar “Terni” case (see IP/07/1727).

Europe acts to strengthen the competitiveness of SMEs

Mercredi 23 février 2011

Europe 2020 and the European economy are helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to exploit their full potential. The Small Business Act strengthens SMEs to grow and create jobs.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship said that SMEs represented more than 99% of all businesses and employed more than 90 million in Europe. They are the engine behind our economy and must be kept strong, competitive and innovative. Member States must act quickly to ensure that the Small Business Act is fully implemented.

Successful SBA Initiatives since 2008

The Small Business Act is the first comprehensive SME policy framework for the EU and its Member States. Since its adoption in June 2008, considerable progress has been made through actions to strengthen SMEs in a number of areas:

*100 000 SMEs have benefited from the financial instruments of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, creating more than 100 000 jobs.

*Through the late payment directive public authorities are now required to pay their suppliers within 30 days, improving the cash flow of businesses.

*In most EU Member States the time and cost of setting up a company has been considerably reduced, lowering the EU average for a private limited company from 12 days and €485 in 2007 to 7 days and €399 in 2010.

*Streamlined online procedures and opportunities for joint bidding have made participation in public procurement easier for SMEs.

*The new EU SME Centre in China helps SMEs accessing the Chinese markets.

Although all Member States have acknowledged the importance of a rapid implementation of the SBA, the approach taken and the results achieved vary considerably between Member States. The review underlines that Member States have to step up their efforts to promote entrepreneurship and SMEs to support entrepreneurship in today’s difficult economic climate.

Giving fresh impetus to the SBA

The Commission is determined to continue to give priority to SMEs. To reflect the latest economic developments, align the SBA with the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy and continuously improve the business environment for SMEs, the review proposes further action in a number of priority areas:

Improved access to finance to invest and grow

*Access to loan guarantees for SMEs through strengthened loan guarantee schemes;

* Action plan for improving SMEs’ access to finance, including access to venture capital markets, as well as targeted measures aimed at making investors more aware of the opportunities offered by SMEs;

*Allow all banks, independent of size, to easily implement EIB loans and EU instruments.

Smart regulation to enable SMEs to concentrate on core business

*Improved EU legislation through an SME Test for the Commission’s legislative proposals paying specific attention to the differences between micro, small and medium enterprises;

*Development of “points of single contact” in Member States to facilitate administrative procedures;

*Quantified targets for reduced “gold plating”, the practice of national bodies to exceed the terms of EU directives when translating them into national law.

*

Proposal for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base;
*

Measures to facilitate cross-border debt recovery
*Revision of the European standardisation system making standards more SME-friendly and easily accessible;

* Guidance to SMEs making use of labelling of origin rules.

Helping SMEs face the challenges of globalisation and climate change

* Proposals to support SMEs in markets outside the EU;

*New strategy for globally competitive clusters and networks;

*Specific action on regional knowledge transfer between environmental and energy experts within the Enterprise Europe Network.


Digital Agenda: more EU citizens benefitting from online public services

Mercredi 23 février 2011

On the 21st of february, Europe’s 9th e-Government Benchmark Report was released. It showed that an increasing number of people accross Europe have access to public services online. Although great improvement has been made, there is still disparity between countries, especially on two essential public services: ‘finding a job’ and ’starting a company’. The EU objective on this subject is that one out of two citizens and four out of five businesses use eGovernment services by 2015. In this framework, the Report gives feedback on the objectives of the eGovernment Action Plan launched by the Commission in December 2010.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said she was pleased that increasing numbers of EU citizens can now use online public services for major things like looking for a job, filing tax declarations or registering new companies. Member States who make basic public services fully available online can make life easier for their citizens and businesses, while reducing their own costs.

Over 80% of basic public services available online

The online availability of a basket of 20 basic public services, such as car registration, tax declaration or registration of a new company, across Europe reached 82% in 2010, substantially higher than in 2009 when it stood at 69%. The best performers are Austria, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Sweden where the entire list of those basic services is fully online. Bulgaria, Italy and Latvia showed a big improvement during the last year in making services available online. The report shows that services for businesses are more advanced than those for citizens.

Quality of services

This year’s report focuses on the needs of both unemployed citizens and would-be entrepreneurs. It looks at the way public administrations cut red tape and make the entire range of public services needed to start up a company or to get back to work available in a streamlined way. This can take place through an online portal or automatically, for instance when registering for a tax identification number a business start-up will also automatically receive a VAT number as well. The report finds that 55% of services required to start up a company are provided either through a dedicated portal or automatically in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Sweden and the UK. But only 46% of useful services for the unemployed are currently delivered through a dedicated portal.

eProcurement

Although 70% of public authorities have started working with eProcurement, its overall low take-up (best estimates place it at 5% of total procurement) does not yet allow for major benefits. If eProcurement were fully available, and more widely used, it could produce cost savings on public purchases as high as 30%.

Smaller municipalities, fewer online services

For the first time the report also looks at the regional and local dimension of eGovernment and highlights substantial disparities within countries. For services provided mainly at the local level, smaller municipalities display only half as much online availability as their larger counterparts. For instance, while the websites of smaller towns or cities may give information on how to request a copy of a birth certificate, large cities’ websites also include downloadable forms. The reason for this could be that smaller local administrations and their citizens prefer face-to-face contact or other more traditional channels, or that small administrations display a weaker capacity (strategy, funding, capability) to embrace online services.

The European Commission will continue to monitor the development of online public services across Europe and, through the eGovernment Action Plan, will work with Member States’ public authorities to expand and improve the services they offer via the internet.

Background

The Commission’s Benchmark report on the progress of eGovernment across the EU has been running since 2001. The objective of the survey is to benchmark the different European countries to compare progress and share best practices. The analysis covers more than 10 000 websites within the 27 Member States of the EU, plus Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

The benchmark analyses 12 basic online services for citizens: Income Taxes, Job Search, Social Security Benefits, Personal Documents, Car Registration, Application for Building Permission, Declaration to the Police, Public Libraries, Birth and Marriage Certificates, Enrolment in Higher Education, Announcement of Moving, Health-related Service and 8 online public services for businesses: Social Contribution for Employees, Corporate Tax, VAT, Registration of a New Company, Submission of Data to the Statistical Office, Custom Declaration, Environment-related Permits, Public Procurement.

EIB: Record loans to support climate action in 2010

Mercredi 23 février 2011

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Recommendations to develop a strategy to implement the Kyoto protocol in the EU

The European Investment Bank increasingly supports sustainable growth. Indeed, with a volume of 19 billion euros in loans in 2010 for projects contributing to the fight against climate change (as against 16 billion Euro in 2009), the Bank spends 30% of its funding in the EU reductions in carbon emissions.

This article is only available in french