Archive pour avril 2011

EU actions to support democracy

Jeudi 28 avril 2011

The actions of the European Union in favor of democracy are varied : electoral observation missions, support to the development of institutions, support to human rights activists … However, it is necessary to go beyond the inconsistencies and double standards that undermine those actions.

“Thus far the EU has failed to promote democracy”, concluding alliances with many kinds of regimes, including dictatorships like Libya, she said. Eventually “the paradigm of stability must give way to the paradigm of democracy”

Election observation missions

With elections at the core of democratic systems, the EU Election observation missions are of crucial importance. MEPs and EU officials are sent to third countries to check that the voting process respects democratic standards - that there is pluralism, no intimidation, no fraud and that everyone has access to polling stations - and authenticate the results.

There have been 110 missions since 1993. For example 120 observers from 23 countries went to Ivory Coast in November to check on 1000 of the 2000 polling stations. They found small irregularities but no fraud. In January, 104 observers from 30 countries observed the referendum for independence in Southern Sudan.

“However, observers’ reports of electoral fraud have not always generated a reaction from the EU as regards its policies towards the countries concerned,” Ms De Keyser said, recommending improvements in taking into account observers’ conclusions.

Joint assemblies

The EP supports parliaments worldwide through Joint parliamentary assemblies bringing together MEPs and MPs from third countries to discuss common challenges and jointly tackle human rights and democracy issues. However, the results of these meetings often don’t “filter through” to the respective parliaments.

The EP’s Office for the Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) helps by sharing best practices with MPs and officials from emerging democracies. It welcomes groups of MPs and officials from third countries like the delegation of high-ranking officials from the Mauritanian National Assembly who came for a four-day study visit in April.

Developing fertile ground for the emergence of democracy

Democracy isn’t just about elections and institution building. Education, respect for human rights and freedom of speech are crucial in creating a sustainable democratic culture. So the EU’s development policy is also a way to strengthen democracy, through association agreements and commercial agreements.

Respect for human rights is a prerequisite for the signature of association agreements with third countries. “A condition that is all too frequently flouted,” Ms De Keyser said. “Breaches of the human rights clause are penalised very rarely,” she added, calling for a stronger oversight role for the EP.

Supporting human rights defenders

The EP also strongly supports human rights defenders, most notably through its Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, awarded every year since 1988. It allows the EP to put pressure on non-democratic regimes by publicising the work of those opposing them.

The report is expected to be voted in the Foreign Affairs Committee on 25 May.

February 2011 compared with January 2011 Industrial new orders up by 0.9% in euro area Up by 1.2% in EU27

Jeudi 28 avril 2011

STAT/11/61 27 April 2011 In February 2011 compared with January 2011, the euro area1 (EA17) industrial new orders index2 rose by 0.9%. In January3 the index grew by 1.2%. In the EU271, new orders increased by 1….

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The Commission decision on how free allowances should be allocated from 2013

Mercredi 27 avril 2011

The European Commission adopted a Decision fixing the terms under which free emission allowances should be allocated from 2013 to industrial installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, said: “This Decision represents a milestone in the reform of the European carbon market. After extensive consultations between the Commission and the industry stakeholders, I am glad that the decision has received the support of the Member States and the European Parliament. Benchmarks give industry clear indications of what is possible in the respective sectors in terms of low carbon production, and provide an advantage to the most carbon-efficient installations.”

As stipulated in the revised EU ETS Directive, the benchmarks are in most cases based on the average emissions performance of the most efficient 10% of installations in a given sector or sub-sector in the EU. This average has been derived from verified real-life production data in recent years (2007-2008) provided by the industry sectors themselves.

The benchmarks are expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per tonne of product produced. The benchmarks will be multiplied by the historical production data for a given installation to determine how many free allowances it will receive.

More favourable treatment for vulnerable industries

A particular treatment will be given to installations in sectors or sub-sectors that are deemed to be exposed to a risk of “carbon leakage” – relocation to outside the EU – because they face competition from industries in third countries which are not subject to comparable carbon restrictions. The list of exposed sectors and sub-sectors was determined at the end of 2009. 1

Installations in these sectors will receive allowances for free up to the level of the benchmark until 2020.

Installations that are not deemed at risk of carbon leakage will receive an allowance allocation at 80% of the benchmark in 2013, falling to 30% in 2020.

The shortfall in free allowances will differ from sector to sector. In most sectors installations will receive free allowances covering on average up to 70-80% of their 2005-2008 emissions. Installations can make up the shortfall in free allowances by improving their emissions performance or by buying additional allowances, using allowances banked from the current trading period ending in 2012, or using international offset credits.

The benchmarks cover 52 of the main product groups covered by the EU ETS. For installations producing other products, the allocation of free allowances will be determined on the basis of the energy consumed.

Extensive consultation

The decision is the result of extensive consultations with industry, including all relevant EU-level sector associations directly affected by the EU ETS, as well as other stakeholders such as representatives of the Member States and non-governmental organisations. The consultations started at the beginning of 2009.

The draft Decision was approved by a qualified majority of members of the Climate Change Committee, in which all EU Member States are represented, last December. It then underwent scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council before the decision could be formally adopted by the Commission.

Next steps

The Member States will now collect the necessary activity data for each relevant installation in their territory. Based on this data, preliminary free allocation per installation will be calculated for each year until 2020. The deadline for Member State submissions is 30 September 2011. The Commission will then check the submissions before Member States calculate the final allocation per installation. This information should be ready during 2012.

As a complement to today’s decision, the Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action has developed, in close collaboration with the Member States, guidance papers which aim at ensuring harmonised implementation of the allocation rules by Member States. A data collection template has also been developed.

Provision of deficit and debt data for 2010 - first notification Euro area and EU27 government deficit at 6.0% and 6.4% of GDP respectively Government debt at 85.1% and 80.0%

Mercredi 27 avril 2011

STAT/11/60 26 April 2011 In 2010, the government deficit1 of both the euro area2 (EA17) and the EU27 decreased compared with 2009, while the government debt1 and GDP increased. In the euro area the government deficit to GDP ratio decreased from 6….

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The European Investment Bank intends investing further 75 million euros in the European Energy Efficiency Funds

Mardi 26 avril 2011

The European Investment Bank has approved an potential investment of 75 million euros in the European Energy Efficiency Fund that will be launched in partnership with the European COmmission and other investors.

The fund’s aim will be to finance sustainable energy projects developed at mainly local or regional level by public authorities, or private companies, such as utilities or Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), acting on their behalf.

The fund is part of a new European Energy Efficiency Facility (EEE-F) being launched by the European Commission using unallocated funds from the EU’s European Energy Programme for Recovery.

Reinforcement of the fight against discrimination in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mardi 26 avril 2011

In order to reduce malnutrition and implement humanitarian projects benefiting children under five, the European Commission has allocated further 9.975 million euro to the budget for the DRC.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said: “Malnutrition deserves more of our attention for the sake of the many children at risk of dying in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” She added: “By responding to immediate needs, the European Union’s humanitarian aid complements Europe’s longer-term development assistance which aims, among other objectives, to help the DRC to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing hunger and poverty and infant and maternal mortality.”

With its humanitarian funding in response to the nutritional emergency in the DRC, the Commission also intends to strengthen the coordination role of UNICEF and the capacity of the national nutrition programme (PRONANUT) as well as to improve planning of aid activities.

Background

Child mortality is very high in the DRC: out of 1,000 babies born an estimated 158 die before they turn five. Whereas some progress has been made in the country in recent years regarding malnutrition in the East, acute malnutrition remains critical with a rate of above 2% in almost all Western provinces.

In the DRC, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection department (ECHO) has offices in Kinshasa, in Bunia, Bukavu and Goma. ECHO experts closely follow developments in the humanitarian situation and monitor the use of the Commission’s relief funds.

Since 2009, the European Commission has allocated a total of more than €141 million in aid for the victims of humanitarian crises in the DRC, including today’s allocation. In addition, EU Member States provided an additional €91.57 million in the last twelve months.

Opening of the applications for the RegioStars 2012 Prize

Mardi 26 avril 2011

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Awards for innovative projects of regional development

If you are implementing an innovative project and want to showcase it as an example of its kind in Europe or if you are in charge of a project geared to innovation, sustainable development, demographic change or urban development, you can apply to win a prize for your region.

“RegioStars – The Awards for Regional Innovative Projects” were launched in 2007. Each year they single out and reward innovative projects receiving support as part of the EU’s regional policy. Applications have to be submitted by the (national or regional) managing authority in cooperation with the project partner. The official closing date for submitting applications is 15 July 2011.

The RegioStars 2011 award ceremony will be held in Brussels on 23 June next. This year, the projects of 31 finalists will be competing for the top prize.

Deal on textile labelling: fur must be mentioned

Mardi 26 avril 2011

Parliament and Council negotiators reached a compromise deal on a new EU regulation on textile labelling. Parliament ensured that any use of animal-derived materials will be stated on garment labels. The Council also agreed to ask the Commission to do an assessment report, by 2013, on a possible origin labelling scheme. This report may be accompanied by a legislative proposal.

“With this agreement we take a big step towards completing the internal market for textile products, with clear advantages for consumers, the industry and Member States. I am proud of what we achieved. I think Parliament has shown a clear vision on consumer issues”, said Parliament’s rapporteur Toine Manders (ALDE, NL), after the second-reading deal between Parliament’s negotiating team and the Council presidency. The agreement will be put to the approval of the full house during the May plenary in Strasbourg.

Although the proposal was originally purely technical, aiming to simplify existing textile labelling rules and allow faster introduction of new fibres and innovative products to the market, Parliament won important political concessions in the negotiations.

Fur and leather

Consumers will no longer risk inadvertently purchasing real fur or leather products when they would prefer not to do so. Allergy sufferers would also benefit, because fur can pose a potential health hazard to them. The Commission is also asked to carry out a study, by 30 September 2013, on whether there is a causal link between allergic reactions and chemical substances (e.g. colourings, biocides, or nanoparticles), used in textile products.

Parliament has ensured that textiles containing such products must be labelled “non-textile parts of animal origin”, to enable consumers to identify such products.

“Made in” labels

To enable consumers to check the origin of textile products manufactured outside the EU, Parliament had proposed that “made in” labels be made mandatory for them. The Council has agreed to have the Commission look further into this issue.

The Commission is asked to present a study, by 30 September 2013, on the feasibility of an origin labelling scheme to give consumers “accurate information on the country of origin and additional information ensuring the full traceability of the textile product”. This assessment report may be accompanied by a legislative proposal.

The Council also agreed to a political statement underlining the importance of providing accurate information to consumers, in particular in relation to country of origin, “so as to protect them against fraudulent, inaccurate or misleading claims”.

Exemption for self-employed tailors

The agreement also provides for an exemption from mandatory labelling requirements for customised textile products made up by self-employed tailors.

Possible new labelling requirements and new technologies

The Commission’s report should also assess the feasibility of harmonising care labelling requirements (currently voluntary), an EU-wide uniform size labelling system for clothes, social and ecological labelling, the indication of allergenic substances, and flammable clothing.

Finally, Parliament also stressed the need to assess how new technologies, such as micro-chips or radio-frequency identification (RFID), could in future be used instead of traditional labels to convey information to consumers.

Economic governance: taking action on the root causes of the crisis

Mardi 26 avril 2011

Despite an encouraging, but fragile, recovery in the past couple of months, MEPs haven’t lost sight of the continuing economic and social hardship in the European Union.

MEPs have tabled over 2000 amendments to the six legislative proposals in the European Commission’s economic governance package, the mains aims of which are: to ensure that member states quickly identify and move to correct trends that could jeopardise the economic stability of the EU as a whole and to rein in the capacity of governments to pile up debt.

Diagnosis: crisis as a consequence of economic imbalances, exploding debt

Two complementary problems are seen as at the root of Europe’s economic crisis - reckless government spending and economic imbalances and both can lead to the EU having to step in with emergency loans.

An example of the first case is Greek government spending. To finance spending on wages, investment and social services in excess of tax revenue, the government ran a deficit and borrowed money from banks. When the banks begin to fear loans might not be repaid because of high levels of public debt and recession, they cut back lending and the EU had to step in with emergency loans.

Economic imbalances arise because some countries like Germany have large trade surpluses, while others like Greece and Portugal have large trade deficits. This leads the private sector in countries with a deficit to borrow from countries with a surplus to finance for example a real estate bubble (like those seen in Ireland and Spain). When the bubble bursts, government steps in to save the banks hiking up public debt.

Remedy: curb imbalances, sanction excessive spending

Of the six economic governance proposals, four deal with deficits and debt (reinforcing the existing Stability and Growth Pact) and the other two break new ground, introducing surveillance of macroeconomic imbalances:

*strengthening the SGP through more focus on the public debt limit of 60% of gross domestic product. Until now the focus has been mainly on keeping deficits within 3% of GDP. In addition, the aim is to introduce semi-automatic sanctions for countries that fail to meet commitments on debt and deficit. Once proposed, sanctions (of between 0.2-0.5% of GDP) would only be rejected if a majority votes against them - at the moment sanctions require a majority in favour.

*curbing imbalances through surveillance of, as yet undecided, national indicators of imbalances and recommendations of action to reduce them. There would be sanctions for countries that failed to comply.

ECB looking to EP for stricter procedures

The European Central Bank is counting on the EP to back stricter procedures on debt and deficits because not all EU countries are strongly in favour of a stronger role for the Commission and automatic sanctions.

But a number of MEPs have warned that cutting deficits could prolong and deepen the reccession. They point out that the debt burden is the result of governments saving imprudent and greedy financial institutions and not necessarily because of reckless spending. Others MEPs are concerned that growth and jobs have not been included in the package

In addition, the political groups still differ, primarily on the nature of sanctions and the rate at which excessive debt should be reduced per year. They also raise other issues that need to be tackled including: eurobonds, a financial transaction tax, the European semester (a set period each year when governments publicly present national budget plans for scrutiny before they are implemented) and a common bank resolution regime (there are big differences in bankruptcy laws between EU countries).

The package comes before the Economics Committee in April and is expected to be in plenary in June.

EU draft budget 2012

Jeudi 21 avril 2011

The draft budget for 2012 adopted by the Commission represents € 132.7 bn in payments amounting to a 4.9 % increase on 2011. It has to combine austerity and growth boosting measures.

For austerity

The draft budget 2012 endeavours to be in tune with the current austerity climate at national level. The Commission has made a particular effort and opted for a freeze of its administrative expenditure for 2012 i.e. a 0.0% increase compared to the 2011 budget. This has been achieved by significantly reducing expenditure linked to buildings, information and communication technology, studies, publications, missions, conferences and meetings. Furthermore, for the third year in a row, the Commission does not request any additional new post.

Also, in drawing up next year’s draft budget, the Commission endeavoured to identify programmes or initiatives that are not performing. The Development Cooperation Instrument has been reduced by €70.7 million as a result of its performance assessment. The Industrialised Countries Instrument has seen a reduction of €14.5 million due to high level of de-commitments in 2007 and low performance and delay in adoption of the new legal base. GALILEO funding has been reduced by €24.9 million (N.B. figures in commitments appropriations). “We owe it to the European taxpayer, says Commissioner Lewandowski: savings must include looking seriously at what we are doing and asking ourselves whether everything we do brings genuine benefit to the whole of Europe!”

“Bills must be paid!”

However, the Commission must honour its legal commitments. EU funded programmes launched in 2007 are now running at full speed. This means that in 2012 we will have more bills to pay to reimburse regional authorities or SME’s that have invested in those programmes. In particular, increased payment levels for the Research Programmes (+ 13.3% to €7.6 billion) and for the structural and cohesion funds (+ 8.4 % to €45.1 billion) aim at maximising the EU budget contribution to economic growth and cohesion.

The proposed increase for next year’s budget amounts to the bare minimum required to honour the Commission’s legal commitments. Any decrease below this figure would require member states and the European Parliament to break the legal commitments that have been made on existing contracts.

“Some ask why we would increase the EU budget when Member States face severe austerity measures at home, says Janusz Lewandowski; this is a legitimate question. The main reason for the increase is that we must pay the bills coming from projects from across Europe. Such projects that benefit local communities and businesses would probably never have been launched back in 2007 without the commitment of EU funding; to stop funding them is unthinkable. Firstly we could be sued for not respecting the terms of the contracts, secondly this would harm Member States’ budget even more since they expect us to reimburse the EU share of the funding that they have already paid to beneficiaries; thirdly, stopping such projects half-way through would be detrimental to whole communities. We cannot punish our citizens, companies, local and regional authorities who have a right to get their bills paid. Think for instance of the electric interconnection between the United Kingdom and Ireland. The overall EU contribution to this project is over €100 million! Its aim is to give Irish and British citizens greater security of power supply. In 2012, the bills the EU will have to pay for this project will amount to some €24million, more than twice as much as in 2011

For sustainable economic growth

The way forward towards economic growth and cohesion in a Union of 27 Member States is through concerted efforts and investments. The Draft Budget foresees some €57.7 bn to be paid in 2012 for sustainable growth to help Member States increase their investments in these areas whereas some € 62.6 billion is dedicated to the Europe 2020 priorities, an increase of 5.1% on the previous year.

Citizens are at the centre of the European policy and their safety is a high priority for the EU. The 2012 Draft Budget foresees a 6.8 % increase in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice with actions focusing on the interests and needs of citizens. Furthermore, under the EUROPE 2020 initiatives actions for Youth amount to € 1.9 bn, which is 15.0 % more than in 2011. Also Climate change activities have an important place. An increase of 6.1% is planned in 2012 to achieve € 8.1 billion in total.

For 500 million Europeans

Only 6% of the EU budget go to the functioning of the EU institutions, therefore 94% of the annual budget goes back to Europe’s regions and towns, business, scientists and citizens, with half of it being geared towards growth and employment.

“The Draft Budget adopted today focuses on the EU and its citizens. Firstly we propose cuts in many areas of administration such as staff training, publications, travel and office expenditure in order to keep the portion on internal costs at the lowest level; secondly we have gone to great lengths to identify areas of the budget that were not performing as well as expected to shift funds towards programmes or initiatives that deliver concrete results on the ground. Thirdly we have opted for investing in areas that contribute to economic growth and development: the EU budget is an anti-crisis package! “, says Janusz Lewandowski.