Archive pour septembre 2011

The Eastern Partnership cannot be a success without the regional and local actors

Vendredi 30 septembre 2011

According to what Mercedes Bresso, the president of the Committee of the Regions, said in Warsaw, the Eastern Partnership cannot succeed without the help of regional and local authorities.

President Bresso presented the recommendations from a recently launched dialogue with mayors and regional presidents from the neighbouring countries.

The European Union’s ‘Eastern Partnership’ was launched in 2008 and aims at forging closer ties with the six neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Under these plans, new free trade agreements, gradual visa liberalisation and financial aid should help to promote democracy and human rights in the EU’s neighbourhood. The heads of state and government from the EU and the partner countries met in the Polish capital today with representatives of EU institutions to take stock of the Partnership’s progress.

Speaking at the summit, President Mercedes Bresso underlined: “Regional and local authorities are an important link between the central administrations and the citizen. They represent local communities and know their problems and specificities. We at the CoR are sure that the objectives of the Eastern Partnership cannot be achieved without the active support of local and regional authorities.”

To help fill this gap in the EU’s relations with the Eastern neighbours, the Committee of the Regions has launched the Conference of regional and local authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP). Its inaugural meeting took place on 8 September in the Polish city of Poznan and brought together 36 mayors and regional politicians from the EU and its Eastern neighbours.

CoR President Bresso presented the CORLEAP recommendations to national leaders today, requesting that the future bilateral agreements between the EU and the partner countries contain specific sections on strengthening local and regional self-government and urging more funding for projects which strengthen local democracy, human rights at local and regional level and citizens’ participation.

In their official summit declaration, the heads of state and government welcomed “the launch of a yearly Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of the Eastern Partnership held under the auspices of the Committee of the Regions”, and called upon “the Committee of the Regions to work with the local and regional authorities from Eastern partners to establish a permanent institutional framework of cooperation.”

CORLEAP will continue as a yearly event, supported by a regular exchange of project proposals, best practices and know-how, as it intends to become the hub for direct cooperation between regions and cities from the EU and the Eastern partner countries.

European Development days will focus on democracy and dévelopment this year

Vendredi 30 septembre 2011

15 and Dec. 16, Development Days will stand in Warsaw.

The annual European Development days (EDDs) – have been launched today by the Polish Presidency, Under-Secretary of State, Krzysztof Stanowski and EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. This year, the EDDs will focus on democracy and development in the wake of the recent Arab Spring events and the proposals of the European Commission for a new EU development policy.

Speaking on a visit to Warsaw, Commissioner Piebalgs confirmed that the conference would take place in Warsaw from the 15th – 16th December. Now in their sixth year, the EDDs have become a key event on the international development calendar and a major political discussion forum which bring together current and former Heads of State and Government from Europe and many other parts of the world, especially from Africa, as well as academics, media and civil society.

Speaking at the launch Commissioner Piebalgs said that the he events across North Africa this year have confirmed that economic and social development has to go hand in hand with democratic development. The European Development Days will be a key opportunity to bring together leading voices on development from across the world to feed the EU development agenda and improve our impact. This year Warsaw will host the event and the commissioner is looking forward to discuss Polish experiences in transition from authoritarian regime to democratic, free-market society. These lessons can be very fruitful elsewhere in the world.

Minister Stanowski added that Poland is delighted to be hosting the European Development Days in Poland, the birth place of the Solidarity movement which kick-started the transformation process in Central and Eastern Europe over 22 years ago. The first edition of the EDDs in this part of Europe gives us the opportunity to encourage new actors to engage in discussion on the future of international development co-operation. Through this open forum it will be possible to debate many challenges facing the developing world and the whole international community these days.

Polish President, Bronisław Komorowski, and Commission President, Jose-Manuel Barroso, will deliver a keynote speech at the opening of the two-day conference. They are expected to be joined by Radosław Sikorski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland, and Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament. More high-profile speakers will be announced ahead of the event.

Background:

The European Development Days were launched in 2006 as an opportunity for key partners to come together to talk about how to make aid more effective and how to build on European development cooperation. The five previous editions have featured 36 Heads of State, 60 Heads of Government or ministers and 7 Nobel Prize winners. The last edition in 2010 in Brussels attracted a total of 5000 participants.

October 6 will be a decisive date for the future of cohesion policy

Vendredi 30 septembre 2011

The long-awaited proposals from the European Commission for regional policy after 2013 will be presented Oct. 6.

The news

The Commission will present its proposals for regulations which will provide the basis for cohesion policy 2014-2020. These regulations will lay down the principles and detailed operating rules of the Cohesion Fund, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs).

In the multiannual financial framework presented in June, the Commission proposed allocating € 376 billion to cohesion policy instruments (including the Connecting Europe Facility), representing more than a third of the European budget.

The background

These regulations will have to be adopted definitively by the end of 2012 (following approval by the Council and the European Parliament), to allow the new programming of cohesion policy to get under way.

The new approach proposed by the Commission is based on the following principles in particular:

- a more effective policy focusing resources on a certain number of priorities which will be geared more closely to Europe’s objectives of growth and employment;

- the introduction of conditions before European aid is granted and of incentive measures for those programmes which make the greatest contribution to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy;

- more simplification, particularly by defining a core set of rules in common with the rural development policy and the common fisheries policy, which will help to reduce the administrative burden, especially on small firms.

The event

Press conference by Commissioners Hahn and Andor at 11:15 in the Berlaymont Press Room, Brussels

Technical briefing off the record at 12:30 in the Berlaymont press room, Brussels.

EU Inflation up slightly

Vendredi 30 septembre 2011

According to Eurostat, inflation in the euro area in September is estimated at 3.0% against 2.5% the previous month.

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 3.0% in September 2011 according to a flash estimate issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It was 2.5% in August.

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 (20 times exactly anticipating the inflation rate and 4 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.

A European plan for Road Safety

Vendredi 30 septembre 2011

The European Parliament has this week backed the European Commission’s goal for halving the number of road deaths by 2020. This goal is part of the Commission’s policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020.

Road safety is a major societal issue. In 2009, more than 35,000 people died on the roads of the European Union, i.e. the equivalent of a medium town, and no fewer than 1,500,000 persons were injured. The cost for society is huge, representing approximately 130 billion Euro in 2009.

In its Communication “Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, the Commission has underlined the importance for Europe of social cohesion, a greener economy, education and innovation. These objectives should be reflected in the various aspects of European transport policy which should aim at ensuring sustainable mobility for all citizens, “decarbonising” transport and make full use of technological progress. Road safety plays an important role in the White Paper on transport policy 2010 – 2020, as lowering the number of road users’ casualties is key to improving the overall performance of the transport system and to meet citizens’ and companies’ needs and expectations.

A coherent holistic and integrated approach is therefore needed, taking into account synergies with other policy goals. Road safety policies at local, national, European or international level should integrate relevant objectives of other public policies and vice versa.

The proposed policy orientations takes fully account of the results obtained during the 3rd road safety action programme 2001-2010, showing that in spite of important progress made on road safety, efforts needed to be continued and further strengthened.

The European road safety policy orientations up to 2020 aims to provide a general governance framework and challenging objectives which should guide national or local strategies. In line with the principle of subsidiarity, actions described should be implemented at the most appropriate level and through the most appropriate means.

In the framework of these policy orientations, the Commission considers that the three following actions should be undertaken as a priority:

the establishment of a structured and coherent cooperation framework which draws on best practices across the Member States, as a necessary condition to implement in an effective manner the road safety policy orientations 2011-2020,
a strategy for injuries and first aid to address the urgent and growing need to reduce the number of road injuries,
the improvement of the safety of vulnerable road users, in particular motorcyclists for whom accidents statistics are particularly worrying.

Trade EU-Brazil is in full swing

Jeudi 29 septembre 2011

On the occasion of the upcoming EU-Brazil (October 4), we invite you to discover the barometer of trade relations between Brazilians and Europeans. The EU27 external trade with Brazil reached a peak in the first half of 2011.

After increasing steadily between 2003 and 2008, EU27 exports of goods to Brazil dropped to 21.6 billion euro in 2009, then recovered to reach a peak of 31.3 bn in 2010. After growing between 2002 and 2008, imports rose from 25.7 bn in 2009 to 32.4 bn in 2010, but remained below the level of 35.9 bn recorded in 2008. After peaking at 11.3 bn in 2007, the EU27 deficit in trade in goods with Brazil fell steadily to 1.1 bn in 2010.

The first half of 2011 showed a continued growth in EU27 trade with Brazil. Exports rose from 14.8 bn in the first six month of 2010 to 16.9 bn in the first half of 2011, and imports from 14.9 bn to 18.5 bn. As a result, the EU27 deficit in trade of goods with Brazil increased from 0.1 bn in the first half of 2010 to 1.6 bn in the same period of 2011. Brazil accounted for just over 2% of the EU27’s external trade in goods, and was the EU27’s ninth most important trading partner in the first six months of 2011.

On the occasion of the fifth European Union - Brazil summit, which will take place on 4 October 2011 in Brussels, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues data on trade and investments between Brazil and the EU.

Germany, one third of EU27 exports to Brazil and one fifth of imports

Among the EU27 Member States, Germany (5.4 bn euro or 32% of EU exports of goods) was by far the largest exporter to Brazil in the first half of 2011, followed by Italy (2.3 bn or 14%), France (1.9 bn or 11%) and Spain
(1.4 bn or 8%). The Netherlands1 (4.5 bn or 24% of EU imports) was the largest importer, followed by Germany (3.6 bn or 19%), Italy (2.1 bn or 11%), Spain and France (both 1.7 bn or 9%).

The largest surpluses in trade with Brazil in the first half of 2011 were observed in Germany (+1.9 bn euro), followed by Sweden (+0.4 bn) and Austria (+0.3 bn), and the largest deficits in the Netherlands1 (-3.6 bn euro), Portugal (-0.4 bn) and Spain (-0.3 bn).

Around 90% of EU27 exports to Brazil in the first half of 2011 were manufactured goods, while for imports raw materials2 accounted for a just over a third of the total and food & drink for just below a third. At the detailed level, the main EU27 exports to Brazil were motor vehicles & parts, medicine and aircraft & parts, while the main imports were iron ore, coffee, oilcake, soya beans, wood pulp and crude oil.

Heads of State and Governments want a stronger Eastern Partnership

Jeudi 29 septembre 2011

Heads of State and Government will meet today and tomorrow to discuss the future of the Eastern Partnership.

The purpose of the summitis to provide a strong political signal on the increasing integration of the EU’s Eastern neighbours into Europe. At the same time, summit participants will evaluate the achievements of the Partnership to date which have contributed to the convergence of the partner countries towards European norms, standards and values ​​and facilitated their political association with, and economic integration into, the EU.

The summit will be attended by representatives from 33 countries which include 27 EU Member States and six Eastern European countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and possibly Belarus. Almost all these countries will be represented by heads of state or government. European Union institutions will be represented by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, who will also be chairing the summit meetings, Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, JoséManuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Catherine Ashton, Head of the European External Action Service. The meeting will be hosted by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Donald Tusk, representing the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Eastern Partnership Summit is held every two years, and the meeting in Warsaw is the second such meeting after the summit in Prague in 2009, which inaugurated this form of co-operation.
The summit will begin on Thursday with a gala dinner for the heads of delegations at the Copernicus Science Centre during which a debate will take place on the future of EU relations with the countries of Eastern Europe. Friday’s plenary session will take place in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister where discussions will focus on the political and economic aspects of cooperation, visa issues, priority programmes, parliamentary and non-governmental cooperation, as well as funding for the Eastern Partnership and cooperation with European financial institutions. The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, located next to the Chancellery, will be transformed into a press centre for these two days serving over 500 journalists who will be reporting on the summit.

The presence of leading European politicians in Warsaw will also be an opportunity for a number of bilateral meetings.

A host of accompanying events will be taking place alongside the summit. On Thursday the Eastern Partnership Conference will be held in Warsaw: Towards a European Community of Democracy, Prosperity and a Stronger Civil Society - which will be attended by many NGOs and academics. Sopot, in turn, will host the Eastern Partnership Business Forum, which will be attended by representatives of governments, business, the European Commission and economic experts. Also taking part in the forum will be Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, as well as President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek.

The Commission sees a bigger picture for Innovation Union

Jeudi 29 septembre 2011

Commissioner for Research and Innovation would like to add 7 billion euros in research funding for innovation in the EU.

As the biggest ever European Commission funding package, it is hoped that this money will go some way to creating around 174,000 jobs in the short term, as well as 450,000 jobs and nearly EUR 80 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) growth within the next 15 years.

The funding boost, part of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), is the latest phase of the Innovation Union rollout, one of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy launched in October 2010. The Innovation Union strategy is to ensure Europe is well equipped to take on fierce global competition from emerging markets by tackling its ‘innovation deficit’. Challenges like climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population can be better managed if public sector intervention is used effectively to stimulate the private sector and remove bottlenecks stopping the best and brightest ideas from reaching the market, due to problems such as a lack of finance or fragmentation in research.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn emphasised how important this cross-portfolio initiative was for helping the EU recover from the financial crisis: ‘If we do not transform Europe into an Innovation Union, our economies will wither on the vine while ideas and talent go to waste. Innovation is the key to building sustainable growth and fairer and greener societies. A sea change in Europe’s innovation performance is the only way to create lasting and well-paid jobs that withstand the pressures of globalisation.’

This new funding will take the form of grants awarded to 16,000 recipients comprising actors and organisations across a plethora of European universities, research organisations and industry specialists; there will be a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Commissioner also announced the launch of a new EU Prize for Women Innovators whose work has been funded under FP7 or earlier EU research funding programmes. She added that the European Research Council (ERC) will award close to EUR 1.6 billion to the best senior and young researchers working in Europe.

To support researchers’ mobility and careers, around EUR 900 million will be provided through Marie Curie Actions for around 10,000 highly qualified researchers. This will include EUR 20 million for a pilot project funding European Industrial Doctorates, to stimulate entrepreneurship and cooperation between universities, research institutions and companies, highlighting the Commission’s awareness of the importance of maintaining strong links across all actors in the research field.

‘Europe is again showing its commitment to putting research and innovation at the top of the political agenda for growth and jobs. EU-wide competition for these funds will bring Europe’s best researchers and innovators together to tackle the biggest issues of our time, such as energy, food security, climate change and our ageing population, commented Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn. ‘I want to show taxpayers already with the calls we are announcing today, our determination to get the best value for every euro.’

A common problem is bridging the gap between research and the market, and this funding can help demonstrate the commercial potential of a new technology, for example, or that a new idea can work on a sufficiently large scale to be industrially viable.

This market-focused approach is also central to the European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) set up under the Innovation Union action plan. Each EIP, including the pilot on Active and Healthy Ageing, will be supported by FP7 projects. All in all, EUR 220 million (from funding allocated to health research funding) and EUR 240 million (from funding for information and communication technology (ICT)) will go towards tackling the challenge of providing for an ageing population.

The remaining ICT funding will be channeled into key developments in network and service infrastructures, nanosystems and microsystems, photonics and robotics, digital content and language technologies, and for applications such as ICT for health and for energy-efficiency.

The EUR 265 million reserved for environment research will help address major challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss or resource efficiency; research and innovation for cleaner, safer and more efficient transport and mobility will get EUR 313 million. The Commission has also set aside EUR 40 million for its Smart Cities initiative to find more efficient ways to use energy and provide urban transport. The EUR 488 million for nanotechnologies will focus on areas such as factories of the future, green cars and energy-efficient buildings.

In response to the increasing demand for safer, healthier food and sustainable bio-resources, the European Commission will invest over EUR 307 million in building a strong bio-economy that will improve production methods, create new industries and provide jobs.

The Commission wants to promote access to education for foreigners

Jeudi 29 septembre 2011

A Commission report shows that it is still difficult for students, pupils, trainees and volunteers from outside Europe to train in Europe.

The first report on how Member States have implemented EU rules on the entry and residence of students, pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers from third countries suggests that the use of these forms of temporary migration could be further improved. In particular, the level of harmonisation achieved by the Directive and the rights it grants could be increased and strengthened.

Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs said that student mobility benefits global economic development by promoting the circulation of knowledge and ideas. The Commission will continue its efforts to create an effective legislative framework allowing third-country nationals to acquire skills and knowledge through training in Europe.

In 2009, more than 200 000 third-country nationals entered the EU for the purposes of studies, pupils exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.1 T The highest number of third-country nationals arrive for the purpose of education and studies. In 2009, the countries which received the highest number of students were France (53 563), Italy (32 634), Germany (31 345), Spain (22 068) and Sweden (13 968).

Today’s report evaluates the state of transposition of the Directive and identifies problematic issues which are impeding the full potential of this EU instrument.

The report reveals a crucial need for amendments to the Directive, especially regarding: the reinforcement of procedural guarantees (specific deadlines for handling applications, obligation on Member States to give reasons for refusals); the strengthening of mobility clauses (which concern students admitted in a first Member State who apply to continue their studies in a second Member State); the stimulation of synergies with EU programmes that facilitate third-country nationals’ mobility into the EU; or the improvement of the level of harmonisation as regards volunteers, unremunerated trainees and school pupils (this could help developing an overall EU legal framework in the area of education, training and cultural exchanges with third countries).

Therefore, the Commission has the intention to propose amendments to the Directive during 2012.

The Commission will continue to ensure that the Directive is correctly transposed and implemented across the EU, including by launching further infringement proceedings where necessary. The Commission will also continue working at the technical level with the Member States and intends to better inform and assist both Member States and third-country nationals, making the best use of the internet, in particular the future EU Immigration Portal.

Moreover, without impinging on the power of Member States to determine the volumes of migrants, the issue of access to work for third-country national students at the end of their studies could be specifically addressed in the future.

Background

Directive 2004/114/EC 2 establishes common rules of admission for non EU nationals to an EU Member State for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.

The overall objective of the Directive is to promote Europe as a world centre of excellence for studies. As part of this effort, the Directive aims to set up a common legal framework, making it easier for third-country nationals to enter and stay in the EU for the purpose of studying. Having a coordinated and transparent legislative framework makes the EU more visible, accessible and attractive to third-country students as a place of higher education.

The Directive also lays down a set of basic rules on the conditions under which school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers may enter and stay in the EU. As opposed to the rules on students, Member States may choose whether to apply the Directive to these three groups of migrants.

By promoting these forms of migration, the Directive aims to encourage ‘mutual enrichment’ between different actors and ‘better familiarity among cultures’. The early years of education have a fundamental influence on young people’s values, attitudes, aspirations and knowledge. Work placements and vocational training allow them to acquire important skills which may help them and their employers in future work situations. Involvement in voluntary activities can be a valuable source of cultural exchange for volunteers who are also able to acquire new skills and experience.

The report meets the Commission’s reporting obligation under Article 21 of the Directive. It is based on a study carried out for the Commission and on other sources, including ad-hoc enquiries made through the European Migration Network, complaints, questions and petitions sent by private individuals and discussions with Member States on practical issues arising from the application of the Directive.

Economic governance still divides EU policies

Mercredi 28 septembre 2011

The Member States of the EU agree on a stronger economic governance in the euro area, while the different parliamentary groups remain divided.

Reining in spend-thrift governments and making sure macroeconomic imbalances do not undermine economic growth are the two main goals of the economic governance package on which the Parliament and the Council tentatively agreed 20 September and due to be voted in plenary Wednesday. We talked to parliament’s lead negotiator Dutch Christian Democrat Corien Wortmann-Kool who said the package does not focus only on reducing debt but also provides incentives for growth-friendly reforms and policies.

What has the Parliament achieved in negotiations?

The EP achieved a much stronger surveillance procedure in the stability and growth pack in order to ensure sustainable public finance in the member states and prevent us from having another Greek debt crisis. One of the last stumbling blocks was the EP’s request to introduce reverse qualified majority voting (eurozone governments would have to come up with a qualified majority to reject the Commission recommendation or it would be automatically adopted) to trigger sanctions for governments that haven’t taken the necessary steps to cut public debt. The EP got agreement on that for all decisions in the framework of the Stability and Growth pact.

The economic governance package is an important pillar to boost EU competitiveness, because its aim is not only to limit the unsustainable debt burden but also to provide strong incentives for the reforms and policies needed (to boost growth).

Why push austerity, if public debt wasn’t the cause, but the consequence of the crisis?

Those member states with the most prudent fiscal policies and growth strategies are now performing best. This is proof that fiscal stability leads to growth and employment.

We should put in place the necessary safeguards on our financial markets by further strengthening the European financial supervisors, ensuring more transparency on our financial markets and by establishing a European crisis mechanism for the banking sector. In addition, a number of further measures such as a financial transaction tax and Eurobonds are being studied.

Economists warn that macroeconomic imbalances arise from excessive surpluses as well as excessive deficits, but it seems that deficit countries like Greece and Spain are getting all the flak, while surplus countries are let off the hook

The EP managed to secure a balanced approach with regard to “intelligent symmetry” pointing at both deficit and surplus countries. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that the need for policy action is particularly pressing in member states showing persistently large current-account deficits and competitiveness losses.