Archive pour août 2011

Welcomeurope accounts for ECAS in the framework of its 20th anniversary on 1st of September!

Mercredi 31 août 2011

Welcomeurope accounts for Structural funds and the non-profit sector. What is the balance sheet of social economy access to structural funds? Is
partnership strengthened? Will there be new opportunities for the non-profit sector and if so in what areas linked to Europe 2020?

20 years ago in September 1991, when ECAS was initially established as an international
non-profit organisation, its first success was a citizens’ week of conferences from which several new European civil society networks and associations sprang. Since then, ECAS has achieved 20 concrete steps in promoting civil society development, defending European citizens’ rights and advocating more citizen participation in governance.
By accentuating the citizen dimension in civil society, this event marks the next step: to create a home for a genuine and more inclusive European citizenship.
The event will build on a first dialogue with Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental rights and citizenship, held in November 2010, when the Commission published its citizenship report and action plan to eliminate obstacles to free movement in Europe. For a long time, ECAS has campaigned for a Commissioner responsible for the citizen. The creation of this post coincides with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty which makes the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding. Under article 11.4 of the Lisbon Treaty the regulation on European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs) has now been adopted and will enter into force on 1 April 2012. An ECi is an agenda-setting instrument whereby over 1 million citizens from a minimum 7 EU member states can request the Commission to propose a legislative initiative.

Fast but unequal development of e-commerce in Europe

Mercredi 31 août 2011

The number of EU consumers buying goods and services online doubled in five years. However, Eastern Europeans remain much less likely to buy online, according to a recent study.

Internet access among EU households, which is key to online shopping, has almost doubled over the past five years, reaching 70% in 2010, according to the latest Eurostat data. Access was highest in the Netherlands with 91%, while only 33% of Bulgarian households had an internet connection.

Focus remains on domestic market

Despite the increase in online shopping, most consumers still focus on their home market with an average of only 23% making purchases from a seller based in another EU country. However, this figures hides big differences, with more than 90% of Maltese shoppers buying from another member state, while at the other end of the scale less than 10% of Polish shoppers buy abroad.

Consumers mainly buy clothes and travel related goods and services online. Computers and electronic goods are the least likely to be bought online.

Are there many online sellers?

The increase in buyers has not been matched by an increase in sellers, with only around 14% of EU companies selling goods or services over the internet, little changed since 2005. However, again there is a gap between eight countries, including Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic where more than 20% of companies sell via the internet and 11, including Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Slovakia, where less than 10% of enterprises sell online.

Pros and cons

A comprehensive European legal and regulatory framework is in place but may not apply, or may be hard to enforce, in transactions with non-EU vendors, the study concludes.

It underlines some advantages of e-commerce, including low distribution costs and reduced environmental costs but says that the internet has also given consumers easier access to illegal content and made distribution easier for sellers. It suggests improvements to the law to provide consumers with better access to content at a reasonable price could discourage the use and provision of illegal content.

Self-service terminals more accessible for all thanks to an EU funded project

Mercredi 31 août 2011

The Commission contributes with 3.41 million euro to the project “APSIS4All”, which aims to make self-service terminals (distribution of public transport tickets, public information kiosks, ATMs) more accessible the Europeans who have a disability and for those aged 65 and older.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda said: “Public self-service terminals can be found everywhere, and their numbers keep increasing. Yet, many present a challenge for persons with disability or for some elderly persons, denying them the service.”

The APSIS4All project sets out to design and validate, in real-life settings, innovative, personalised interfaces that overcome existing accessibility barriers. In a first phase, the project will collect information from 3000 users who will be testing different machines in order to adapt interfaces according to their needs and preferences. Tests will be carried out at 65 ATMS of la Caixa bank in Barcelona, Spain from 1st September 2011 and at 24 ticket vending machines operated by Höft & Wessel AG at Paderborn in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany from 1st January 2012.

The goal of this project is to propose a standardised framework that could foster further take up of e-accessibility features by the ATM industry and service providers. This could ultimately help make public digital terminals (PDTs) more accessible to a wide range of users, from people who are not familiar with the technology, people with reading difficulties, tourists who do not master the local language or even people who may have forgotten their reading glasses. APSI4All will focus on multi-modal interaction and cutting edge technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC) or short range wireless communication. For example, tests could involve a programmed card that contains the user’s preferences. When the user brings the card close to the ATM, the machine instantly adapts to the user’s needs (perhaps changing the size of the font or choice of language). Other interfaces could include a mobile phone with accessibility features that enables a customer to purchase a ticket online and pay at the machine issuing the ticket using a secure code sent to their phone.

Background
There are hundreds of thousands of PDTs in the EU, including public transport ticket vending machines and at least 425,000 ATMS. A number of technological solutions exist on the market to help facilitate their use, such as keypads placed within reach of wheelchair users, Braille labels on the buttons or voice output via a speaker for visually impaired users. However, these essential functions are often simply not available or not activated because the ways of activating them are too complex. As the European Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 asserts, “accessibility is a precondition for participation in society and in the economy”.

The APSIS4All project is co-financed by the ICT part of the European Union’s Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

Eurozone special meeting: Time to pull together to defy the crisis

Mardi 30 août 2011

Two key messages emerged from Monday’s discussion with leading Eurozone figures organised by the EP’s Economics committee just a couple weeks after some of the stormiest times in the Euro’s history. Firstly, the ECB has remarkably stood up to fill the void left by Member States’ inability at tackling the current crisis. Secondly, the economic governance ’six pack’ remains the base on which to build long term economic stability.

During a special meeting hurriedly called after EU banks and bond markets took a battering throughout most of August, MEPs from the economics committee discussed the current situation and ways out with ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, Economic and Monetary affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, and ECOFIN President Jacek Rostowski.

Opening the four hour discussion the Chair of the committee, Sharon Bowles (ALDE, UK), said that it was time to begin to seriously consider ambitious ideas which had been discounted for their improbability. “When you eliminate the impossibility of the fragmentation of the Euro you are left with the improbable, no matter how unlikely that seems”, she said.

ECB to the rescue

MEPs from across the political spectrum were nearly unanimous in congratulating the ECB for stepping into the role which national politicians proved incapable of filling by taking actions which helped quiet the Summer crisis. “It is thanks to the ECB that we have not fallen victim to the big problems which have hit us recently” Werner Langen (EPP, DE) said. “Do you envisage yourself as an adviser to national politicians once you retire?” Kay Swinburne (ECR, UK) asked Mr Trichet, alluding to the inadequate response to the crisis by Member States.

Sylvie Goulard (ALDE, FR) however raised the point that it would not be possible for the ECB to constantly make up for the weaknesses of national politicians and that the real answer lay in having a “non-intergovernmental objective”. Elisa Ferreira (S&D, PT) echoed this: “We need to think wider and deeper. We need a vision”. Others signalled the general lack of effective leadership in EU capitals. For his part Mr Trichet reiterated that, “the ECB must always be cautious not to overstep its role”, adding that the true solution lay in agreeing the ’six pack’ and even “going further at a later stage”.

On the classic role for the ECB regarding interest rates, Marta Andreasen (EFD, UK) asked whether it was not opportune to cut interest rates by a full 1% to get the EU’s economies going again.

Long-term economic governance

Commissioner Olli Rehn did not mince his words. “The adoption of the ’six pack’ will be a crucial step forwards. This is the necessary foundation on which we can build further. We need to use the Community method for the future structures of Eurozone governance”, he told MEPs in his opening remarks.

Addressing fears raised by MEPs regarding competing plans for long term economic governance, Minister Rostowski declared that the conclusion of the ’six pack’ would be a Polish Presidency priority. “The Sarkozy-Merkel economic government is not a replacement to the ’six pack’”, Corien Wortmann-Kool (EPP, NL) said. Mr Juncker was on the same lines: “Let us not think even for an instant that a Eurozone government which holds two summits per year is credible.”

Left of centre groups regularly reminded of the need for a stronger growth dimension in any future model of economic governance. “Is this furious austerity still of actuality in the current context of slowing growth”, asked Socialist Liem Hoang Ngoc (FR). “We only talk about inflation and austerity, never about jobs and relaunching the economy”, Miguel Portas (GUE, PT) said. Meanwhile, Greens MEP Sven Giegold (DE) told Mr Rehn that the time for studying Eurobond feasibility was over and it was now the moment to propose them.

Mor than 7 million euro for the new ESPON call for proposals

Lundi 29 août 2011

The latest ESPON call for proposals has been published on August 24. An information session will be held on September 13.

ESPON (the European Observation Network on Territorial Development and Cohesion) has launched Calls for Proposals to further enlarge its Evidence Base on the development of the European territory. Research institutes, universities, scientists, experts and academics from 31 countries are invited to submit proposals. The new Calls are expected to generate four applied research projects, five targeted analyses, six projects within the ESPON scientific platform and proposals for transnational networking activities up until the end of 2014.

ESPON calls for researchers and experts to send submissions and to get involved in the production of ESPON data to support an evidence-based and result-oriented implementation of EU Cohesion Policy. The available budget amounts to €7.417.176,09. The deadline for submitting proposals is 20 October 2011.

90% of open free movement cases solved thanks to an action by the Commission

Jeudi 25 août 2011

The free movement of persons between EU Member States is considered by 48% of European citizens, as the most important citizens’ right. Indeed, they make 1.25 billion journeys as tourists within the EU every year.

The European Commission is strongly committed to the effective enforcement of the EU free movement rules in all Member States. This is why the Commission is taking a firm stance to tackle problems with Member States’ transposition of the EU’s Free Movement Directive of 2004 (2004/38/EC) so that European citizens fully benefit from their rights. Several events last year had highlighted important problems with the respect of procedural and substantive guarantees under the EU’s Free Movement Directive (see MEMO/10/384; SPEECH/10/428; IP/10/1207; MEMO/10/502). The Commission therefore took action to ensure that all 27 Member States fully comply with the EU’s free movement rights.

One year on, thanks to continued political pressure, the Commission has achieved concrete results: 16 Member States have either fully addressed the Commission’s concerns or have drafted amending legislation to ensure full compliance with the Directive. For the remaining Member States, the Commission has started or is considering infringement proceedings under the EU Treaties.

“The right to free movement is one of the most cherished rights of EU citizens,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “I want to ensure that all EU citizens can effectively enjoy their free movement rights. Last summer’s events were a wake-up call for Europe. The Commission will not hesitate to speak out if Member States do not properly apply this fundamental right, notably the procedural safeguards that protect EU citizens from facing arbitrary or disproportionate expulsion. I am now satisfied that a majority of Member States have fully implemented the EU free movement rules. I expect the remaining countries to do so quickly. The European Commission will remain very vigilant until all Member States fully address the Commission’s legal concerns.”

Since summer 2010, a total of 786 issues were identified by the Commission and raised in bilateral meetings with Member States. The Commission made clear that if problems were not resolved, Treaty infringement proceedings would be inevitable. As a result, 711 issues (around 90%) were solved through dialogue and/or presentation by Member States of draft amended laws. Only 75 issues currently remain outstanding and are now the subject of infringement proceedings. In the French case, the government adopted the legislative amendments required by the Commission to ensure compliance with the Free Movement Directive on 16 June, including the safeguards that protect EU citizens against arbitrary expulsions or discriminatory treatment. The Commission continues to work with the remaining countries to tackle outstanding issues, such as entry and residence for family members, residence cards for third-country nationals and safeguards against expulsions.

In times of economic difficulty, some Member States may feel tempted to take discriminatory measures affecting EU citizens or their family members. However, the EU’s Free Movement Directive provides sufficient safeguards to ensure that citizens’ exercise of their right to free movement does not disproportionately burden a Member State’s budget. There is thus no scope for unilateral national action in this respect.

The Commission is committed to removing the remaining hurdles that EU citizens face when exercising their rights, as set out in the first-ever EU Citizenship Report published in October 2010. Businesses and citizens have reaped huge rewards as the EU has steadily broken down internal barriers to goods, services and people. Between 2004 and 2007, the boost to labour mobility from new countries joining the EU increased the EU’s gross domestic product by around €40 billion. The EU must build on these achievements so that everyone – from tourists and students to workers and small business owners – can truly benefit from a European area of freedom, security and justice.

Background
On 25 August 2010, Vice-President Reding said of the situation of the free movement rights of EU citizens: “It is clear that those who break the law need to face the consequences. It is equally clear that nobody should face expulsion just for being Roma.” (see MEMO/10/384).

State of transposition of the EU’s Free Movement Directive
By the end of 2010, Portugal and Finland had addressed the Commission’s concerns through bilateral dialogue, providing sufficient clarifications on issues raised or adopting legislation ensuring conformity with the Directive. 14 Member States (Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) have since submitted draft amending legislation including precise calendars for its swift adoption and entry into force to ensure full compliance with the Free Movement Directive. The Commission is looking into these as well as into the details of planned or recently adopted measures in Denmark and the Netherlands to ensure full compliance with EU law. Regarding unresolved problems with the remaining Member States, infringement proceedings were launched over the period from March to June 2011 against Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Malta, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Kingdom. The free movement situation in Belgium is under analysis by the Commission.

Key problems of incomplete or incorrect transposition and implementation concern three main issues: the entry and residence of family members, including partners; issuance of visas and residence cards for third-country national family members, and safeguards against expulsions.

Next steps
The Commission will follow closely how the Member States which announced the adoption of draft legislation are delivering on their commitments. During 2012, the Commission will evaluate the transposition and application of the Directive’s provisions in all Member States. This will provide information for a report in 2013 on the application of the Free Movement Directive, which will be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council.

State of play of Roma integration
On 5 April 2011, the Commission proposed an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/400, MEMO/11/216). The Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support integration efforts. It focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals that reflect each of their population sizes and the current status of their integration policies. EU funding and a strong legal framework to combat discrimination are available to support national efforts. Upon adoption of the EU Framework, Vice-President Reding said: “Most important to me is that Member States help ensure that all Roma children complete at least primary school.”

Over the past year, the Commission has continued to work closely together with Member States to facilitate the use of structural funds – in particular the European Social Fund in support of Roma inclusion. Bilateral seminars have taken place in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania that have allowed the exchange of good practices and expertise about successful ESF projects.

On 24 June 2011, the European Council endorsed the European Commission’s EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/789). All 27 national governments now have until the end of 2011 to submit their national Roma integration strategies to the Commission. The Commission, assisted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, will then assess these plans and report back next spring.

This summer, the ‘Colorful but Colorblind’ project – a European Union co-funded project aimed at countering Roma stereotypes through film – won an award from the US-based Society of Professional Journalists (see IP/11/978).

European Parliament put Simone Veil and Solidarnosc in the spotlight

Jeudi 25 août 2011

Plazas and European Parliament buildings are named after famous European politicians. Thus, on 30 August, Brussels plaza will be called “Solidarity 1980″ and the circular space in front of the entrance will be called “Agora Simone Veil.”

The ceremony begins at 1200 CET in front of the EP’s main building in Brussels and is open to the public. Read on to find out more about Simone Veil and Solidarność, which is known as Solidarity in English.

Simone Veil: witness, fighter for women’s rights, convinced European

Ms Veil was born in 1927 to a Jewish family in Nice, France. With her family, she was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, then Bobrek and finally Bergen-Belsen. Her parents and brother died in the concentration camps.

She became France’s Minister of Health in 1974 and is most famous for leading the legalisation of abortion in 1975. Between1979-1982 she presided over the first directly-elected European Parliament and remained an MEP until 1993, when she returned to French politics.

Ms Veil was elected to the “Académie Française” in 2008 and remains enormously popular in France.

Solidarność, a milestone in Europe’s recent history

Solidarność transformed Poland after its creation in 1980 in the Gdańsk shipyards, leading to the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. It still operates in Poland as a trade union and remains an inspiration to people fighting for democracy.

It was formed after workers came together to demand rights including independent trade unions, the right to strike, freedom of speech and the release of political prisoners. The authorities agreed to the demands and the accords were signed in August 1980. Membership of the movement reached 9.5 million in September 1981, accounting for a third of the working population.

However, amid fears about Solidarność’s growing influence in other communist bloc countries, the Soviet regime introduced martial law in Poland on 13 December, 1981, banning Solidarność and arresting its leaders. The movement went “underground”, surviving the regime and going on to play a crucial role in the transformation negotiations. It took part in the first free elections in 1989 and Mr Walesa become the first democratically-elected president of Poland in 1990.

Programme
1235: unveiling of plaques
1245-1310: video clips, folk dance, songs
2000: rock concert by Polish band Myslovitz
1200: European Anthem
1205-1235: speeches (Jerzy Buzek, Polish PM Donald Tusk, Lech Wałęsa, former Dutch PM Wim Kok, former EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering, French minister Jean Leonetti, Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Belgian PM Yves Leterme)

A digital media award for a project on Roma supported by the EU !

Mercredi 24 août 2011

The movie, cofunded by the EU, deals with the life of Roma communities and won an prestigious award from the US-based Society of Professional Journalists.

The ‘Colorful but Colorblind’ project brought together Roma and non-Roma journalists to produce a series of 25 short films telling the stories of Roma communities living in central and Eastern Europe. The aim was to encourage a more nuanced coverage of Roma issues and a greater participation of Roma journalists in mainstream media operations. The project equally sought to strengthen inter-cultural dialogue and journalists’ mutual understanding of one another. The project was chosen for the Sigma Delta Chi Award for excellence in journalism in the digital media presentation (independent) category.

“I am proud to see an EU-funded project countering age-old prejudices against Roma receiving acknowledgement across the Atlantic. This proves that the European Union’s unprecedented efforts and commitment to promote the social and economic integration of Roma are paying off,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. “Roma people contribute to social and cultural life all over Europe and I am happy to see that their contribution is acknowledged by the ‘Colorful but Colorblind’ project.”

Most Roma in Europe face persistent poverty, social exclusion and discrimination and in the wake of the financial and economic crisis their situation is getting even worse. These problems can be exacerbated by stereotypes about their communities, which can in turn be fed by less-than-balanced media reporting. The Colorful but Colorblind project aimed to help remedy anti-Roma stereotyping through the creative use of multimedia in reporting minority issues. It brought together 50 Roma and non-Roma journalists and trained them with the help of specialists in multimedia storytelling.

The project focused on Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia – all countries with significant Roma populations. It was co-funded – with EUR 303,040 – by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.

Background

Europe’s 10-12 million Roma face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go to waste. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion.

Many of the areas for improving Roma integration – such as education, employment, health and housing – are primarily national or regional responsibilities. However, the EU has an important role to play in coordinating action by Member States. On 5 April 2011, the Commission proposed an EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP11/400, MEMO/11/216). It focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States have been asked to set individual national Roma integration goals that reflect each of their population sizes and the current status of their integration policies. The Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support integration efforts.

On 24 June 2011, European leaders endorsed the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies (IP/11/789). Member States will have to submit national Roma strategies by the end of 2011. They will have to specify how they will contribute to achieving the overall EU level goals for Roma integration. The Commission will then assess the national strategies and report back to the European Parliament and the Council in spring 2012. This exercise will be repeated on an annual basis, thus launching a regular review of progress made at national level within the EU framework.

Sixteen European groupings of territorial cooperation have been created !

Mercredi 24 août 2011

In 2006 the European Commission proposed to the Member States, regional/local authorities, associations and public bodies a new instrument to overcome obstacles linked to cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation: the European groupings of territorial cooperation (EGTC)

In a recent report, the European Commission has taken stock of this new tool: 16 EGTCs have been set up in Europe, and 21 are in preparation. For example, the first cross-border hospital, which will open its doors in 2012 at Puigcerd in Catalonia on the Franco-Spanish border, is the result of one such EGTC.

The EGTC makes it possible to simplify procedures and to remove institutional, legal and financial barriers which to date have managed to block cross-border development projects. It allows partners to form a single legal entity founded on a single set of rules to carry out common initiatives in several Member States.

European support of €110 million for tunisian economic recovery

Mardi 23 août 2011

Today the European Union (EU) approved two new financial assistance programmes for Tunisia, for a total of €110 million. These two programmes are part of the additional aid being provided by the EU to Tunisia following the January 2011 revolution, aimed at supporting the political and economic transition by improving economic and social conditions and developing new sources of employment.

The first programme, which has a budget of €90 million, supports the economic recovery measures recently adopted by the Tunisian government and is aimed at hitherto particularly disadvantaged social groups - the inland regions, unemployed graduates, the poorest families – better governance and job creation. These measures will also be supported by loans from the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the French Development Agency.

The second programme is aimed at increasing the dynamism and competitiveness of the Tunisian economy through a budget of €20 million for national modernisation policies in the services sector.

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated: “The economic recovery support programme demonstrates the European Commission’s support for the recovery measures taken by the Tunisian government and its confidence in the future potential of the Tunisian economy. The Commission is determined to support the efforts of the authorities rapidly to restore stronger growth in order to promote job creation, improve social conditions for the most disadvantaged Tunisians and reduce disparities between regions. ”

This approach is based on a closer partnership with Tunisia, which was reinforced by the adoption of the Joint Communications of the European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean” and “A new response to a changing neighbourhood”.

Since the start of the Tunisian revolution the European Commission has already released further assistance for Tunisia to support the electoral process, civil society organisations, the reinforcement of fundamental freedoms and local development. The Commission is currently drawing up a new Support Programme for less‑favoured areas. A decision will be taken on this programme in the near future.

The economic recovery support programme, which has a budget of €90 million, will support the economic reforms formulated by the government to reinforce the process of economic and political transition. The measures taken will contribute to a rapid return to economic growth through ambitious measures to support economic activity; the reduction of inequalities, thanks to the readjustment of public intervention in support of hitherto particularly disadvantaged regions and social groups (inland regions, unemployed graduates and the poorest families); and better governance, guaranteeing greater transparency around the activities of the public administration.

The Programme also provides for actions in the area of public contracts, to make them more efficient and transparent; the area of micro-finance, to make its development throughout the territory more widespread and sustainable; the financial sector, to improve bank governance; and public administration, to guarantee access to administrative documents for all citizens. These wide-ranging measures contribute to reinforcing the economic and political transition, but also lay the groundwork for new management methods that are more transparent and more in line with the needs of Tunisians.

The main aims of the service competitiveness support programme, which has a budget of €20 million, are to strengthen the institutional capacities of the intermediary organisations, strengthen the capacity of Tunisian businesses to develop exports that can compete internationally and improve the sector’s business environment by better defining of its needs. The European programme will thus make it possible to reinforce the Tunisian liberalisation and integration policy, which has not achieved the expected results, particularly in terms of growth and productivity rates in the services sector, which have not yet reached their true potential.