Archive pour juillet 2011

Innovative network for personalised health care, the EU way

Vendredi 29 juillet 2011

Europeans continue to push the envelope when it comes to developing sophisticated technology that benefits various sectors across regions. A new project funded by the EU is continuing this effort by targeting the development of a massive network of computer programs that could revolutionise health care in Europe and beyond. Developed by the ITFOM (’IT [information technology] future of medicine’) project, which is backed under the ‘Information and communication technologies’ (ICT) Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to the tune of EUR 1.48 million, this network could help save money - and lives.

The ITFOM consortium, headed by the Max Planck Society in Germany, comprises 25 research institutes and industry groups from Europe and abroad. The team will be expanded as work progresses. The ITFOM partners will create ‘virtual patients’ (computational models of individual people) that will help specialists create personalised health systems based on patients’ genetic and physiological make-up.

This will give both doctors and patients significant support; doctors in particular will benefit from such a system because they will have instant and in-depth knowledge of their patients’ health needs and medical history. Not only will this give patients fast diagnoses of what ails them, but it will protect them from life-threatening side effects of wrongly prescribed medication. Another upshot is that less money will be spent on drugs.

The project partners say a number of ICT developments must be performed so as to ensure the success of this medicine. Getting and evaluating patient data quickly is key, as are the dynamic storage and processing of real-time patient data into relevant mathematical models. Bringing to fruition novel systems that can learn, predict and inform is also part of the plan. Doing all this will ensure that health care professionals and patients are given the support they need for good health and treatment.

Under the plan, the ICT technology - computing, storage, networking and modelling technologies - will enable doctors to use a patient’s individual genome to inform every state of disease management, including diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. The model could be adapted to meet individual patient health demands.

Commenting on how computers models will change the way health care is provided, Professor Hans Westerhoff of the United Kingdom’s University of Manchester, an ITFOM partner, says: ‘ITFOM will make general models of human pathways, tissues, diseases and ultimately of the human as a whole. These models will then be used to identify personalised prevention and therapy schedules, and the side effects of drugs. The models will be there to help diagnose a particular problem and provide solutions. Obviously this would need to be done in conjunction with a person’s general practitioner depending on the gravity of the situation. Making personalised medicine a reality will thus require fundamental advances in the computational sciences. It promises to be unique and groundbreaking because people could access their own health model. It is intended to be a large, straightforward system which can also inform treatment regimes. This is the first time that huge IT systems looking at individual care will be combined with genomics and medical needs.’

Professor Norman Paton, the head of Manchester’s School of Computer Science, says ITFOM is making it possible for outcomes in medicine to get the boost they need. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity to bring together advances from these three rapidly developing areas to bring about a paradigm shift in medical practice,’ he comments.

The other ITFOM partners are from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Commission facilitates deployment of car radar systems to boost road safety

Vendredi 29 juillet 2011

Authorisation to use the 24 GHz radio frequency band for short-range anti-collision radar in cars has been extended until 2018 by a European Commission decision. This temporary extension will ensure short range car radar systems remain available on the market until manufacturers develop technology using the 79 GHz band, which was the operating frequency designated for such systems back in 2004.

Only 0.05 % of cars in Europe are equipped with such radar systems, which currently all use the 24 GHz band, and are mainly in luxury cars. Manufacturers have encountered difficulties in developing systems using the 79 GHz band, so that technology in the 79 GHz band has not developed as fast as initially predicted by the industry. As a result, 79 GHz-technology is not mature enough for commercial deployment in cars by 2013, when the use of the 24 GHz band by these systems had been due to end.

European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said “The Commission has removed a potential barrier to fitting collision avoidance radar into cars, and the car industry now has to take up the challenge to develop new systems. Widespread fitting of short range radar systems in cars could significantly enhance road safety for all road users and pedestrians”.

Radio spectrum coordination to ensure that spectrum is used efficiently and that devices using radio spectrum operate effectively throughout the EU’s Single Market is an important part of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). The Commission proposed a Decision establishing a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) in September 2010 (see MEMO/10/425).

Background

Automotive short-range radar (SRR) systems can constantly monitor the area around a vehicle to detect obstacles, such as other vehicles, pedestrians or static obstacles. If widely deployed, such radar systems could help to reach the EU’s policy goal of halving the number of deaths on the road. SRR systems are similar to current parking assistants but with a longer range. They aim to warn drivers of potential collisions and alert them to pedestrians or obstacles in blind spots. Depending on the specific application, SRR also have the potential to automatically trigger active safety measures, such as pre-tensioning of seat belts or automated braking to avoid or mitigate collisions.

Flash estimate - July 2011 Euro area inflation estimated at 2.5%

Vendredi 29 juillet 2011

Euro area1 annual inflation2 is expected to be 2.5% in July 2011 according to a flash estimate issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It was 2.7% in June3.

Computation of flash estimates

Euro area inflation is measured by the Monetary Union Index of Consumer Prices (MUICP). To compute the MUICP flash estimates, Eurostat uses early price information relating to the reference month from Member States for which data are available4 as well as early information about energy prices.

The flash estimation procedure for the MUICP combines historical information with partial information on price developments in the most recent months to give a total index for the euro area. No detailed breakdown is available. Experience has shown the procedure to be reliable (19 times exactly anticipating the inflation rate and 5 times differing by 0.1 over the last two years). Further information can be found in Eurostat News Release 113/2001 of 5 November 2001.

PRIME beach campaign on Posidonia management

Jeudi 28 juillet 2011

Presentation of a project funded under the LIFE + programme for environment and biodiversity.

The PRIME project – ‘Posidonia Residues Integrated Management for Eco-sustainability’ (LIFE09 ENV/IT/000061) – which is aiming to develop the reuse of Neptune grass/Mediterranean tapeweed (Posidonia oceanica) residues, is organising a special summer beach campaign. It is holding awareness raising campaigns for the general public on beaches in the Region of Puglia. Visitors are invited to learn about the management of beached Neptune grass and gadgets related to the project are being handed out. For more information on the campaigns, visit the project website.

The removal of the Neptune grass, if not properly carried out, can have a negative environmental impact on coastal ecosystems as it creates a natural barrier to sand erosion. The PRIME project is developing an integrated management system that combines environmental protection with waste biomass management and the reuse of material for agriculture. The project will demonstrate the possibility of reducing the environmental impact of the removal of the beached residues while reducing disposal costs.

Tobacco Products : Commission publishes report of a consultation which generated 85 000 responses

Jeudi 28 juillet 2011

Today the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers publishes the results of the public consultation on the upcoming revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. The public consultation generated an unprecedented 85 000 responses. The vast majority of contributions came from individual citizens, illustrating the great interest in EU tobacco control policy. Other respondents represented industry, non-governmental organisations, governments and public authorities.

Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable illness in the European Union (EU) and the estimated cause of death of over 650,000 people in the EU every year. At global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco use will kill nearly six million people this year alone. This figure could reach eight million by 2030 if steps are not taken to reverse this worrying trend. The need for action at EU level is therefore quite clear. A public consultation on the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive was launched last autumn in which respondents were asked to give their input on a number of policy options such as:

*Mandatory pictorial health warnings – or graphic images - on packs of tobacco;

*Plain or generic packaging;

* Regulating harmful and attractive substances in tobacco products; and

*Restricting or banning the sale of tobacco products over the internet and from vending machines.

Contributions varied significantly. For example, those in favour of mandatory pictorial health warnings and plain packaging stressed that these measures would significantly weaken the advertising effects of the packaging and provide equal protection for European citizens. Opponents, on the other hand, raised legal concerns arguing that these measures would have little or no impact on the uptake of smoking.

Those in favour of regulating ingredients said that restricting certain additives alongside sweet, fruity, floral, and candy flavours could prevent young people from taking up smoking and would facilitate intra-EU trade by bringing into line existing national regulations on ingredients. Opponents argued that regulating ingredients and additives would do little to prevent young people from taking up smoking and could discriminate against certain varieties and brands of tobacco.

John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy said: “I would like to thank everyone who sent in their views. The results of this wide public debate will help shape our work on tackling tobacco-related harm and, crucially, prevent young people from taking up smoking.”

The report is published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. The results of this consultation will be taken into account in the ongoing impact assessment which addresses the economic, social and health impacts as well as the l feasibility of various policy options. The outcome of the impact assessment will be presented together with a legislative proposal due next year.

Substance

Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the European Union, accounting for around 650.000 premature deaths each year.

The current Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) dates from 2001. Since then, significant scientific progress and international developments have taken place. In particular, the EU and 26 of its Member States are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which entered into force in February 2005.

The review of the Tobacco Products Directive is a response to this development. Some of the current provisions of the Directive have now become outdated, resulting in a significant divergence between Member States’ laws on the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products.

The review is also a response to requests from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as well as the Commission’s own report on the Application of the Tobacco Products Directive of November 2007, which identified potential areas for improvement.

The public consultation lasted from 24 September 2010 until 17 December 2010. Stakeholders were invited to respond to possible policy options and give their input on six key areas: scope, smokeless tobacco, consumer information, reporting of ingredients, regulation of ingredients and access to tobacco products.

Procedure / What’s next?

The outcome of the public consultation serves as useful input to the ongoing process of reviewing the Tobacco Products Directive.

Many participants provided very detailed responses, some which included new sources of information. Much of this work will be taken into account in the ongoing impact assessment addressing the economic, social and health impacts as well as the legal feasibility of different policy options. The outcome of this analysis will be presented together with the legislative proposal, which is due during the course of next year.

European demography EU27 population 502.5 million at 1 January 2011 More than 5 million children born in the EU27 in 2010

Jeudi 28 juillet 2011

On 1 January 20111, the population of the EU27 was estimated at 502.5 million, compared with 501.1 million on
1 January 2010. The population of the EU27 grew by 1.4 million in 2010, an annual rate of +2.7 per 1000 inhabitants, due to a natural increase of 0.5 million (+1.0‰) and net migration of 0.9 million (+1.7‰).

The population of the euro area (EA17) was estimated at 332.0 million on 1 January 2011, compared with 330.9 million on 1 January 2010. The population of the euro area grew by 1.0 million in 2010, an annual rate of +3.1‰, due to a natural increase of 0.3 million (+1.0‰) and net migration of 0.7 million (+2.1‰).

These figures come from a report2 published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Highest natural growth rates in Ireland, Cyprus, France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom

In 2010, 5.4 million children were born in the EU27. The crude birth rate was 10.7 per 1000 inhabitants, the same as in 2009. The highest birth rates were recorded in Ireland (16.5‰), the United Kingdom (13.0‰), France (12.8‰), Cyprus (12.4‰) and Sweden (12.3‰), and the lowest rates in Germany (8.3‰), Latvia (8.6‰), Hungary (9.0‰), Italy (9.3‰), Austria (9.4‰), Portugal (9.5‰) and Malta (9.6‰).

There were 4.8 million deaths registered in the EU27 in 2010. The crude death rate was 9.7 per 1000 inhabitants, unchanged compared with 2009. The highest death rates were observed in Bulgaria (14.6‰), Latvia (13.4‰), Hungary (13.0‰), Lithuania (12.8‰) and Romania (12.1‰), and the lowest rates in Ireland (6.2‰), Cyprus (6.7‰), Malta (7.2‰) and Luxembourg (7.4‰).

Consequently, the highest natural growth of the population (the difference between live births and deaths per 1000 inhabitants) was registered in Ireland (+10.3‰), well ahead of Cyprus (+5.7‰), France (+4.4‰), Luxembourg (+4.2‰) and the United Kingdom (+3.9‰). Eight Member States had a negative natural growth, with the largest declines in Latvia (-4.8‰), Bulgaria (-4.6‰), Hungary (-4.0‰), Germany and Romania (both -2.2‰).

Highest population growth in 2010 in Luxembourg, Sweden, Malta, Belgium and the United Kingdom

In 2010, over 60% of the increase in the EU27 population came from migration. In relative terms, Luxembourg (+15.1‰), Malta (+5.4‰), Sweden (+5.3‰), Italy (+5.2‰) and Belgium (+5.1‰) had the largest net inflows, while Lithuania3 (-23.7‰) and Ireland (-7.5‰) recorded the highest net outflows.

In conclusion, the population increased in twenty Member States and decreased in seven, with considerable variations between Member States. The largest relative increases were observed in Luxembourg (+19.3‰), Sweden (+8.0‰), Malta (+7.8‰), Belgium (+7.2‰) and the United Kingdom (+6.6‰), and the largest decreases in Lithuania3 (-25.7‰), Latvia (-8.4‰) and Bulgaria (-7.8‰).

A new funding for famine and drought victims in the Horn of Africa

Mercredi 27 juillet 2011

ristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response announced new aid funding for famine and drought victims in the Horn of Africa.

The Commission is making an immediate allocation of 27.8 million euros, which comes on top of the 70 million euros already given to the region this year, in response to the worsening humanitarian situation in the region.

Kristalina Georgieva has visited the Dadaab refugee camp where she met families driven from Somalia by decades of conflict and the worst drought in 60 years. She also travelled to Doolow, Somalia on Sunday, where she met with internally displaced people and visited humanitarian aid projects. Back in Kenya, the Commissioner met with the authorities in Nairobi and visited EU-funded projects in drought response and disaster risk reduction.

The drought and the massive displacement of people in the Horn of Africa, in addition to high food prices and dwindling resources, have created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis Some 11 million vulnerable people are now affected.

“This unprecedented crisis in the Horn of Africa calls for an unprecedented response,” said the Commissioner. “This is why, on top of the new funding of €27.8 million, I have started the process to mobilise another €60 million to alleviate the suffering of so many people. This will bring our response to nearly €158 million.”

She added: “Europeans have responded generously to this crisis but the situation is getting worse, especially in Somalia. In Dadaab more than 400,000 people are living in refugee camps intended for 90,000. Every day more than 3,000 Somalis are fleeing across their country’s borders to seek food and security in Ethiopia and Kenya.

“So we must all do more to help not just those families who through no fault of their own have been forced to become refugees but also those victims who are still suffering today in Somalia.”

This new aid package will provide food and nutrition to the most vulnerable households. Assistance will also be given to safeguard animal health and protect livestock in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti.

Background

The Horn of Africa is suffering from protracted drought. Together with conflict, high food prices and dwindling resources, eleven million people are now affected by the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Horn of Africa is facing a double emergency with the drought and the displacement of people: currently 800,000 people are refugees with half of them now concentrated at Dadaab. 1.5 million people have been internally displaced.

Before today’s announcement the Commission had allocated nearly €70 million for the Horn of Africa this year. The new funding envisaged by the Commissioner will bring the total humanitarian assistance allocated by the European Commission to the region to €157.47 million. Currently, the total EU aid (Commission and Member States) stands at more than €207 million, and a number of Member States have made announcements of further funding.

Going on holiday? Support is available for EU Citizens in moments of need

Mercredi 27 juillet 2011

One in six Europeans plan to take their main holiday outside the EU this year (see Annex). Overall, Europeans take around 90 million trips outside the EU every year for business or pleasure. But what happens if you need help when abroad and your country has no embassy or consulate where you are staying? All EU citizens have certain European citizenship rights.

For instance, you can request assistance from another EU country’s embassy or consulate in case your own country is not represented. This right applies to everyday situations, like a passport being stolen, a serious accident or illness, as well as during crises – such as the recent events in Libya. To increase awareness of this right, all new passports in the EU will have information on consular protection printed along with the address of the EU’s dedicated website providing details on where you can find help during your holidays outside the EU: www.consularprotection.eu. 20 EU countries are doing this already or have confirmed that they will do so for all newly issued passports1. The rest is expected to follow suit soon.

“As EU citizens travel abroad this summer, it’s important that they know their rights,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. “They have the right to ask for assistance from any EU consulate or embassy when their Member State is not represented in a country outside the EU. They have the right to protection under the same conditions as nationals of that Member State’s embassy they are turning to. To reinforce these rights and ease citizens’ day-to-day consular protection, the European Commission will propose legislative measures on coordination and financial compensation in the coming six months. Consular protection is about European solidarity. Citizens should know where to get help when they are in need. They should not have to worry about administrative procedures.”

Only in the United States, China and Russia do all 27 EU countries have diplomatic representation. Crises in Libya, Egypt and Yemen have highlighted the importance of consular support for stranded foreign nationals. For example, there were around 6,000 EU citizens in Libya when the crisis erupted, but only eight Member States had representations there. Consular protection is important in everyday situations too, such as a lost or stolen passport, a serious accident or illness, arrest or detention.

Safer and less polluting leisure boats

Mercredi 27 juillet 2011

The European Commission today proposed new legislation that will make the use of jet skis and sailing boats less harmful for European waters.

Scientific studies show lakes and seashores can be seriously polluted by the concentration of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions resulting from some six million jet skis and motor and sailing boats cruising in the EU. The proposed revision of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) sets stricter limits for NOx, hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matters for new recreational crafts. T oday’s proposal also improves market surveillance, for example by updating the rules on CE marking1. Member States will have to ensure that adequate checks are performed both at the EU external borders and within the Union itself, also through visits at the premises of economic operators that will guarantee the immediate prohibition and confiscation of non conform recreational boats.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “The fact that recreational boats are becoming more sustainable, will not only benefit our health and the preservation of the marine environment, but also improve the quality of holiday resorts and boost job creation in the tourism industry. In addition, recreational craft enterprises will save costs and become more competitive, as they will be able to serve the world market with a single production line.”

Background

The Recreational Craft Directive (94/25/EC) covers recreational craft (motor boats, sailing boats etc), personal watercraft (jet skis), their engines and the components which are not used for commercial purposes. It lays down the safety requirements that manufacturers shall respect when designing and manufacturing craft as well as the limits for exhaust and noise emissions from marine propulsion engines. It also foresees the relevant procedures for demonstrating the conformity of products to these requirements, including the affixing of the CE marking.

Producers and importers of boats need to respect essential safety requirements for boats as well as reinforced limits for exhaust and noise emissions from marine propulsion engines, if they wish to place their products on the EU market. Under the revised text, propulsion engines will have to be designed and constructed to emit 20% less of HC+NOx emissions and 34% less of particulate matters (for more details, see MEMO/11/542).

Improved market surveillance is necessary to guarantee a level playing field. To achieve this, the obligations for manufacturers, importers and distributors are strengthened in the proposal to better guarantee compliance with the new requirements for market surveillance in force since 01 January 20102. The proposal contains stricter obligations for private importers as well, as recreational crafts are quite often imported by individuals from third countries to the EU for their own use.

Today’s proposal also clarifies some safety requirements. In particular, new habitable multihull craft should be so designed that they cannot invert or must have sufficient buoyancy to remain afloat in the inverted position.

The legislation will also be simplified and technical requirements will be aligned with the EU major trading partners. This will strengthen the competitiveness of the European industry and EU manufacturers will save costs, in particular with respect to development, manufacturing and certification, since it will not be necessary to keep two separate production lines in place anymore.

At the same time the vulnerable position of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should be taken into account as 97% of businesses of the recreational craft sector are SMEs. Producers of small quantities will therefore be given more time to respect the new emission limits.

The industry is strong both in the EU and the US: The vast majority of recreational craft manufacturers (RCD) is active on the EU market and the US market and two thirds of worldwide sales of recreational marine engines are produced at both markets. Currently US legislation regulating the exhaust emissions is stricter than the EU rules. Some EU Member States have undertaken efforts to reduce emissions from recreational craft by resorting to (national) measures for speed limits or ban of boats in specific areas. In order to protect the environment, ensure a global market for RCD and to prevent national single solutions leading to a fragmentation of the Internal Market it was regarded necessary to strengthen the exhaust emissions at EU level.

Approximately 6 millions of recreational crafts are in use in Europe. The recreational marine activities across Europe involve some 37 000 companies which represent a wide range of activities such as marinas, boat builders, engine or marine equipment manufacturers, hire charter and sailing schools, marine solicitors, insurance brokers etc. This sector which is gradually recovering from the economic crisis directly employs today some 272 000 workers.

Better protect EU citizens: the image of the United States, create a European surveillance system of financing of terrorism. A debate that is timely!

Mardi 26 juillet 2011

The Commission has proposed in a communication policy options. They are part of a package (41 actions in five steps outlined in November 2010).

This article is only available in French