Archive pour septembre 2011

Commission unveils its tax on the contribution of financial transactions

Mercredi 28 septembre 2011

Today, a proposed tax on financial transactions in the 27 EU Member States presented by the Commission. Find out the specifics of this move towards a more equitable contribution.

Today the Commission has presented a proposal for a financial transaction tax in the 27 Member States of the European Union. The tax would be levied on all transactions on financial instruments between financial institutions when at least one party to the transaction is located in the EU. The exchange of shares and bonds would be taxed at a rate of 0.1% and derivative contracts, at a rate of 0.01%. This could approximately raise €57 billion every year. The Commission has proposed that the tax should come into effect from 1st January 2014.

The Commission has decided to propose a new tax on financial transactions for two reasons.

- First, to ensure that the financial sector makes a fair contribution at a time of fiscal consolidation in the Member States. The financial sector played a role in the origins of the economic crisis. Governments and European citizens at large have borne the cost of massive taxpayer-funded bailouts to support the financial sector. Furthermore, the sector is currently under-taxed by comparison to other sectors. The proposal would generate significant additional tax revenue from the financial sector to contribute to public finances.

- Second, a coordinated framework at EU level would help to strengthen the EU single market. Today, 10 Member States have a form of a financial transaction tax in place. The proposal would introduce new minimum tax rates and harmonise different existing taxes on financial transactions in the EU.. This will help to reduce competitive distortions in the single market, discourage risky trading activities and complement regulatory measures aimed at avoiding future crises. The financial transaction tax at EU level would strengthen the EU’s position to promote common rules for the introduction of such a tax at global level, notably through the G20.

The revenues of the tax would be shared between the EU and the Member States. Part of the tax would be used as an EU own resource which would partly reduce national contributions. Member States might decide to increase the part of the revenues by taxing financial transactions at a higher rate.

Background

As a result of the crisis, public debt in all 27 EU Member States jumped from below 60% of GDP in 2007 to 80% for the years to come. The financial sector has received substantial financial support from governments. EU Member States have committed € 4.6 trillion to bail out the financial sector during the crisis. In addition, the financial sector has benefited from low taxes in recent years. The financial sector enjoys a tax advantage of approximately €18 billion per year because of VAT exemption on financial services. A new tax on the financial sector would ensure that financial institutions contribute to the cost of economic recovery and discourage risky and unproductive trading.

The financial transaction tax aims at taxing the 85% of financial transactions that take place between financial institutions. Citizens and businesses would not be taxed. House mortgages, bank loans, insurance contracts and other normal financial activities carried out by individuals or small businesses fall outside the scope of the proposal.

The Commission has explored the idea of taxing the financial sector at EU level for several months now. On 29 June 2011, the Commission announced in the context of the multiannual financial framework that it would propose to set up a financial transaction tax as an own resource for the EU budget.

The decision followed an analysis of different tax instruments to make the financial sector contribute to the recovery of the EU economy.

In parallel, the Commission has explored ways to introduce a financial transaction tax at global level since 2009 with its international partners in the G20 (Pittsburgh, Toronto).

A new modelling linking natural resources and conflicts is developped by the EU

Mercredi 28 septembre 2011

Research and development of the EU has developed a new tool for statistical modeling. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the EU combines the analysis of the risk of occurrence of conflicts in developing countries to the presence of natural resources by satellite data.

The EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed a statistical modelling tool which allows the risk of conflict occurrence in developing countries to be analysed. Combining online news reports with geographical satellite data, the tool establishes a link between natural resources and the risk of conflict. A key advance is the very detailed scale of the data (most being gathered to the square kilometre) and the fact that the modelling is based on the seriousness of the conflicts. When tested, the model successfully identified the correlation between resource-rich areas of land and occurrence of conflict. This approach has potential use in the European Commission’s development aid planning and crisis prevention.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said that this new tool developed by European researchers at the JRC can make a decisive contribution to resource management and conflict prevention in developing countries. A better understanding of the factors and conditions that lead to tension and insecurity will mean better decisions on aid and crisis prevention mechanisms.

The model makes it possible to perform statistical comparisons between conflict events and geo-referenced datasets, such as those on natural resources (including mineral resources), land cover, distribution of population and economic activity, electrification rates, terrain and other geographical data.

First results show that there is a link between conflict events and the proximity of mineral resource mines and grassland, and greater chance of conflict in areas where there have been conflicts in the past. The data collected by the JRC also show that many conflict events reported by the media are related to food issues: cattle raiding, conflicts between herders and cultivators, pillaging and conflict over access to water.

The model was developed in the context of the project ‘Global Atlas and Information Centre for Conflicts and Natural Resources’, which focused on 18 countries from four regions: African Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa, Western Africa and Central Asia, analysing reports of over 1,500 conflict events.

Background

The “Global Atlas and Information Centre for Conflicts and Natural Resources” project is financed by the European Union’s Instrument for Stability. The JRC used comprehensive, geo-referenced datasets. Some of these datasets were entirely created by the JRC, in particular the JRC Conflict Event Dataset. This was built up by analysing tens of thousands of online news articles to assess conflict occurrence, using an advanced information mining system, the JRC’s European Media Monitor System (EMM). Information collated included the geographic location, severity, estimated number of victims and duration of each conflict event.

Other factors related to conflict, such as economic, demographic and developmental conditions, were gathered from existing databases. Using statistical modelling, the main factors that can explain or predict the intensity and location of armed conflict were identified and described in the study report.

First meeting of EU/Tunisia Task Force to support transition to democracy and economic recovery

Mercredi 28 septembre 2011

The first meeting of the Working Group EU-Tunisia to support the transition to democracy and economic recovery of Tunisia will be held tomorrow in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, and Beji Caid Essebsi, the Tunisian Prime Minister will chair this working group.

The EU-Tunisia Task Force is the first task force in the Southern Mediterranean since the Arab Spring began. In Tunis, HR/VP Ashton and Commissioner Füle will reiterate the full support of both the European Union and the international Community to Tunisia’s transition towards an open and democratic society, less than a month before the elections scheduled for 23 October. The Task Force will follow up the implementation of its decisions and will meet again in 2012 to continue work on medium and long term projects.

It will put a strong focus on support to the economic recovery in Tunisia. Concrete actions will aim in particular to assist the recovery of frozen assets, and to boost Foreign Direct Investment and job creation. A number of EU grants, which are part of a 1 billion € multi-donor programme, will be signed during or in the margins of the event.

Market access, mobility of persons, education and research and support to civil society will also be high on the agenda – including in a session with civil society representatives – and the EU will offer enhanced cooperation and new partnerships in these areas.

Ahead of the meeting, Catherine Ashton said that Tunisia is making history. In less than a month, the first fully democratic elections will be taking place since the Arab Spring began. A new Tunisia is emerging: open, dynamic, prosperous, and democratic. The EU is committed to doing all it can to help.

Background

The European Union acted swiftly to support Tunisia in the wake of the revolution. EU political solidarity to the Tunisian transition was demonstrated by a series of high-level visits, the first by High Representative Catherine Ashton on 14 February 2011.

Considerable humanitarian aid amounting to more than €150 million has also been made available, in particular to help Tunisia to cope with the influx of refugees fleeing war in Libya.

Following the request by the Tunisian authorities, the EU is also carrying out an election observation mission and assistance to civil society and to the three commissions looking into political reform, and corruption and abuses of power under the previous regime.

EU response to the Arab Spring: new package of support for North Africa and Middle East

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

Democracy, growth, job creation, microfinance and higher education in North Africa and the Middle East will be supported by the European Commission after the adoption of four new decisions.

“The European Union was the first to offer a serious response to the Arab Spring. This new set of decisions is the result of the new and ambitious European Neighbourhood Policy launched in May and it confirms that the EU has made it one of its main priorities to support ‘deep’ and sustainable democracy, but also economic recovery, in North Africa and the Middle East,” said Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission.

Štefan Füle Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy added: “These decisions prove our strong commitment to our neighbouring partners. Through job creation, improved living conditions, university partnerships and promoting a stronger voice for civil society, this support demonstrates Europe’s full engagement in ensuring the desired transition to democracy in the region.”

Today, the SPRING programme (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth) was adopted. Under this flagship initiative, the Commission will provide support for the Southern Neighbourhood countries for democratic transformation, institution building and economic growth in the wake of the Arab Spring. Support provided through SPRING will be tailored to the needs of each country. The total value of this initiative is €350 million to cover the years 2011 and 2012.

The second decision concerns a Special Measure designed to support poorer areas in Tunisia in the aftermath of the events of the Arab Spring. €20 million has also been allocated in order to foster employment and job creation in the country and to improve living conditions for inhabitants of urban areas in the most impoverished regions, as well as to improve access to microfinance.

The third of these decisions, adopted on 23 September 2011, is the Erasmus Mundus programme. This will go towards achieving better understanding and mutual enrichment between the EU and neighbouring countries by creating possibilities for student and academic staff mobility (for example, the opportunity to study in universities in EU Member States) and exchange of knowledge and skills. The overall budget for this programme is €66 million.

The fourth decision, adopted on 20 September 2011, is the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility, designed to strengthen the capacity of civil society to promote reform and increase public accountability in their countries. With a total budget of €22 million, the programme will also support regional and country projects led by non-state actors. Similar amounts are envisaged for 2012 and 2013.

The four decisions come in response to actions outlined in the Commission’s recent Communication entitled “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”.

The EU adopts further sanctions against Syria

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

The EU shows that it maintains its position against the regime of Bashar al-Assad by prohibiting investments in key sectors of the Syrian oil industry.

The sanctions are the EU’s response to the widespread violations of human rights and the crackdown on the Syrian people by the Syrian regime. The measures target those responsible for the acts and those who support them.

“The EU continues to aim at putting an end to the repression and assisting the Syrian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations”, High Representative Catherine Ashton declared on 23 September. “The EU restrictive measures are designed to have maximum impact on the Syrian regime, while minimizing any potential negative impacts on the Syrian population. This is done by carefully targeting those individuals and entities which benefit from or support the regime. The EU will consider further measures in the light of developments.”

The latest ban targets investments in Syrian enterprises engaged in exploration for and production and refining of crude oil, both in their own country and abroad. EU-based operators are no longer allowed to acquire shares in such companies or create joint ventures with them. The ban also covers the provision of related financing. It is intended to hit the regime’s revenues severely, as Syria exports more than 90% of its oil to EU countries.

The Council also banned the delivery to the Syrian Central Bank of bank notes and coins produced in the EU. Furthermore, it added two more persons to the list of those targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban and adopted sanctions against a further six economic entities linked to the violent repression against the country’s population.

The latest package represents the seventh round of sanctions adopted by the Council since the brutal crackdown by the Syrian government on its own citizens began six months ago. The measures in force on 26 September covered:

- An embargo on arms and material that can be used for internal repression;
- An asset freeze and visa bans on 56 individuals;
- An asset freeze on 18 entities;
- A ban on import and transport of crude oil and other petroleum products from Syria and on investments in the Syrian oil industry.

The first EU restrictive measures against the Syrian leadership were adopted on 10 May, when the Council took a decision to ban exports of arms to the country and imposed a visa ban and asset freeze on 13 persons responsible for the brutal repression. On 24 May, it added President al-Assad and nine other senior members of the government to the list.

Another step towards the protection of EU citizens

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

At the meeting of the Council of the European Union “Justice and Home Affairs”, the political negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposal for a directive on the European protection are successful.

Through these negotiations, there are only voting in the plenary session of the European Parliament and the legal and linguistic corrections to the text to be formally arrested.

The justice minister, Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, is enthusiastic. He considers this a great success. Negotiations on this project lasted two years. He believes that the Polish presidency has managed to bring the negotiations.

The works on a draft directive concerning European Protection Orders had been initiated by Poland and Spain. Protection orders are mainly intended to help victims of domestic violence. Statistics leave no doubt that the problem is urgent: over 134 thousand cases of domestic violence were reported last year in Poland alone (according to Blue Card procedures).

Frequently, a victim of domestic violence wants to change her place of residence to escape her traumatic experiences. Thanks to a protection order she will be able to relocate to another Member State without fear that the perpetrator will follow and continue to torment her, taking advantage of possible differences in the legal systems of the two countries.

The order will be issued at the request of the victim and will be transferred between the competent authorities of the Member States. In particular, the directive will also make it possible to transfer the application of such measures as restraining orders or, in really serious cases, the eviction of perpetrators.

During today’s Council session, the ministers also considered a draft directive concerning the right to an attorney and the right to notify a third person of one’s detention.

Kwiatkowski noted that the draft provides for the introduction of uniform, minimum norms in penal proceedings regarding the rights of suspects and defendants to attorneys and to notify third persons about their detention.

On civil matters, the ministers had the first opportunity to exchange views on a draft regulation introducing a European account preservation order to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters. The draft envisages the introduction of a European account preservation order that would be directly implemented in another Member State.

EU tourists mostly stayed in their home country in 2010

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

Enjoy the European Day of Tourism to discover the travel patterns of the EU in 2010. Nearly one in four tourist trip was made abroad while half of holiday trips were trips to the country of residence.

In 2010, EU27 residents made 1.0 billion holiday trips, of which more than three-quarters were domestic trips, within the country of residence, and around one quarter were outbound trips outside the country of residence. Considering the duration of these trips, as would be expected domestic holiday trips are mainly of short duration, lasting 1 to 3 nights, and outbound trips are more often long trips of 4 nights and more.

In total, half of all holiday trips made by EU27 residents in 2010 were short domestic trips, while long domestic trips accounted for around one quarter. Almost one fifth of all holiday trips were long trips abroad, and 5% short trips abroad.

On the occasion of the European Tourism Day1 on 27 September 2011, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues information on domestic and outbound holiday trips2 made by EU residents in 2010.

Highest share of long domestic holiday trips in Greece and France

The highest shares of domestic trips in 2010 were found in Romania (94% of all holiday trips), Spain (92%), Bulgaria and Greece (both 91%). In all Member States there was a higher share of short domestic trips than long trips, except for Greece.

The highest proportions of short domestic trips were made by residents of Latvia (73%), Finland (70%), Denmark (67%), Spain (65%), Bulgaria and Portugal (both 64%), while the highest shares of long domestic trips were recorded in Greece (47%), France (39%), Italy and Poland (both 35%) and Romania (34%).

Share of long outbound holiday trips ranged from 5% in Romania to 62% in Luxembourg

In only five Member States were half or more of all holiday trips in 2010 outbound trips: Luxembourg (nearly 100% of all holiday trips), Belgium (76%), Slovenia (56%), the Netherlands (53%) and Austria (50%). In all Member States there was a higher share of long outbound trips than short trips, except for Finland.

The highest proportions of short outbound trips in 2010 were recorded in Luxembourg (38%), Slovenia (26%) and Belgium (22%), and of long outbound trips in Luxembourg (62%), Belgium (54%), the Netherlands (43%) and Cyprus (42%).

The Enterprise Europe Network opens to new horizons

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

Recently, Enterprise Europe Network extends to Asia and North Africa.

The European Commission is extending the outreach of the Enterprise Europe Network – the business and innovation support network for SMEs - by opening new contact points in Japan and doubling its presence in China. The aim is to see more European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) profit from the fast growing markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. .

The Commission is also extending the Network in southern Mediterranean countries, with eight contact points in place in Tunisia, a longstanding partner in Egypt and Moroccan branches to be set up soon. The Network helps firms to find potential partners in European and world markets and to turn research and innovation into profits.

On the occasion of the Network’s fourth Annual Conference in Warsaw on 26th September, five winning SMEs received the special ‘Network Stars’ awards. These awards recognise companies and researchers who have used the Network to find opportunities abroad or to develop their businesses and research.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “In order to compete, Europe’s enterprises must focus on innovation and internationalisation. The Enterprise Europe Network is a key tool for achieving these goals and these new centres in Japan, China and North Africa will create even more opportunities for companies. It is more important than ever for those involved in the Network to discuss how to build an even stronger business partnership.”

Business schools play a major role in the Gender Balance in firms in the EU

Mardi 27 septembre 2011

A meeting between the heads of major business schools in the EU and Viviane Reding, the European Commission for Justice, led to an interesting debate on the increasing importance of women in business.

Despite around 60% of university graduates being female, women still represent only 12% of board members in Europe’s biggest listed companies and only 3% of board presidents. Business schools play a crucial role in equipping young women for a career in business and helping them to reach the top. They are helping women to prepare for professional careers through seminars, training programmes and providing networking opportunities. Their initiatives follow Vice-President Reding’s call to companies to pledge to voluntarily increase the number of women on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

Today’s meeting brings together deans of European business schools and female business leaders to discuss the role of women in European corporate governance. It is organised by EDHEC business school, the Global Telecom Women’s Network (GTWN) and McKinsey & Company.

Background

As Europe’s population ages, women are crucial to meeting the Europe 2020 employment target of 75%. Joint efforts by governments, social partners and businesses are needed to improve the status quo.

Only 12% of members of the supervisory boards at Europe’s largest companies are women and in 97% of cases the board is chaired by a man. Progress over the past years has been very slow: the share of female board members in the EU has increased by just over half a percentage point per year over the last seven years. At this rate, unless action is taken, it will take another 50 years before there is a reasonable gender balance (at least 40% of each sex) on supervisory boards. In the meantime, publicly-listed firms in the EU keep losing out on female talent.

On 1 March, EU Justice Commissioner Reding met chief executives and chairs of boards of publicly listed companies to discuss the under-representation of women on corporate boards. She challenged all publicly listed companies in Europe to sign up to the “Women on the Board Pledge for Europe” and commit voluntarily to increasing women’s participation on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

The “Women Boardroom Pledge” is available on Vice-President Reding’s website. It will help monitor how companies are working towards getting more women in top jobs. Every publicly listed company can sign the pledge and lead with a good example. In March 2012, the European Commission will re-assess the situation to see whether there has been significant progress and whether credible self-regulatory initiatives were developed to enhance women’s participation in decision-making. Based on the results, the Commission will then decide on the next steps to be taken.

The network of business support and innovation for SMEs, Enterprise Europe, stretches more and more

Lundi 26 septembre 2011

The Enterprise Europe Network strengthens its presence in Asia by opening new contact points in Japan and China.

The aim is to see more European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) profit from the fast growing markets in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

The Commission is also extending the Network in southern Mediterranean countries, with eight contact points in place in Tunisia, a longstanding partner in Egypt and Moroccan branches to be set up soon. The Network helps firms to find potential partners in European and world markets and to turn research and innovation into profits.

On the occasion of the Network’s fourth Annual Conference in Warsaw on 26th September, five winning SMEs received the special ‘Network Stars’ awards. These awards recognise companies and researchers who have used the Network to find opportunities abroad or to develop their businesses and research.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship said that, in order to compete, Europe’s enterprises must focus on innovation and internationalisation. The Enterprise Europe Network is a key tool for achieving these goals and these new centres in Japan, China and North Africa will create even more opportunities for companies. It is more important than ever for those involved in the Network to discuss how to build an even stronger business partnership.

The Business network becomes international

The Japanese Network operates via two centres in Tokyo, based in the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Some 13 branches have been added to the Network in China. It is now present in 14 cities, including Tianjin, Fuzhou and Chengdu, and is expected to expand further.

Other new countries to have recently joined the Network include Ukraine, Moldova and Mexico.

The new focus on Africa is conceived to be of mutual benefit for SMEs in the EU and in Mediterranean neighbour countries, where a favourable environment for SMEs and further economic development is essential for political stability.

Further EU support for SMEs to go international will be the subject of a communication which the European Commission will table before the end of 2011.

Star SMEs win prizes

The ‘Network Stars’ awards given at the Network’s Annual Conference in Warsaw recognise companies and researchers who have used the Network to find opportunities abroad or to develop their businesses and research. The winners are:

- Danish wind firm APRO and British company Cosalt. They linked up through the Network and their joint venture has already created 30 new jobs.

- French scientist Dr Frederique Magdinier (LBMC Institute) and British researcher Dr Mark Maconochie (University of Sussex). The Network facilitated a technology transfer that has aided research into finding a potential cure for deafness.

- Icarus Sailing Media, run by two Greek former sailing champions in their 20s, won a special ‘Rising Star’ award. The Network guided them in identifying and protecting their intellectual property, helping them to create an innovative business broadcasting sailing tournaments.

Background and results

The Network spans 49 countries and is made up of close to 600 partner organisations employing 3,000 experts. The organisations include chambers of commerce, enterprise agencies, regional development organisations, research institutes, universities, technology centres and innovation centres.

The Network was launched in February 2008 by the European Commission and is a key part of the EU’s Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, which aims to encourage competitiveness in European businesses. In the past three years, it has:

- served 2.5 million European small- and medium-sized businesses

- held more than 19 000 local events for more than 750 000 SMEs

- answered close to 375 000 questions on EU topics

- attracted around 66 000 businesses to brokerage events and company missions

helped companies create 4 500 joint ventures and 1 490 firms to apply for funding from the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research (FP7).