Archive pour novembre 2011

The European Commission presents its new Horizon 2020 programme

Mercredi 30 novembre 2011

The Commission today presented a financial instrument of 80 billion euros for research and innovation

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has announced Horizon 2020, an €80 billion1 programme for investment in research and innovation. Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has put forward a Strategic Innovation Agenda for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which will receive €2.8 billion of funding under Horizon 2020. In parallel, Vice-President Antonio Tajani has announced a complementary new programme to boost competitiveness and innovation in SMEs, with an additional budget of €2.5 billion. The funding programmes run from 2014 to 2020.

For the first time, Horizon 2020 brings together all EU research and innovation funding under a single programme. It focuses more than ever on turning scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and change people’s lives for the better. At the same time it drastically cuts red tape, with simplification of rules and procedures to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative businesses.

Horizon 2020 will focus funds on three key objectives. It will support the EU’s position as a world leader in science with a dedicated budget of €24.6 billion, including an increase in funding of 77% for the very successful European Research Council (ERC). It will help secure industrial leadership in innovation with a budget of €17.9 billion. This includes a major investment of €13.7 billion in key technologies, as well as greater access to capital and support for SMEs. Finally, €31.7 billion will go towards addressing major concerns shared by all Europeans, across six key themes: Health, demographic change and well-being; Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy; Secure, clean and efficient energy; Smart, green and integrated transport; Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials; and Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.

Horizon 2020 is a key pillar of Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at enhancing Europe’s global competitiveness. The European Union is a global leader in many technologies, but it faces increasing competition from traditional powers and emerging economies alike. The Commission proposal will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.

Funding provided by Horizon 2020 will be easier to access thanks to this simpler programme architecture, a single set of rules and less red tape. Horizon 2020 will mean: drastically simplified reimbursement by introducing a single flat rate for indirect costs and only two funding rates - for research and for close to market activities respectively; a single point of access for participants; less paperwork in preparing proposals; and no unnecessary controls and audits. One key goal is to reduce the time until funding is received following a grant application by 100 days on average, meaning projects can start more quickly.

The Commission will make major efforts to open up the programme to more participants from across Europe by exploring synergies with funds under the EU’s Cohesion policy. Horizon 2020 will identify potential centres of excellence in underperforming regions and offer them policy advice and support, while EU Structural Funds can be used to upgrade infrastructure and equipment.

€3.5 billion will be devoted to a scaled up and expanded use of financial instruments that leverage lending from private sector financial institutions. These have been shown to be extremely effective at stimulating private investment in innovation that leads directly to growth and jobs. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from around €8.6 billion, recognising their critical role in innovation.

Horizon 2020 will invest nearly €6 billion in developing European industrial capabilities in Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). These include: Photonics and micro- and nanoelectronics, nanotechnologies, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing and processing, and biotechnology. Development of these technologies requires a multi-disciplinary, knowledge- and capital-intensive approach.

Under the Commission proposal, €5.75 billion (+21%) will be allocated to the Marie Curie Actions, which has supported the training, mobility and skills development of more than 50 000 researchers since its launch in 1996.

As an integral part of Horizon 2020, the EIT will play an important role by bringing together excellent higher education institutions, research centres and businesses to create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and to ensure that the European ‘knowledge triangle’ is a match for the world’s best. The Commission has decided to significantly step up its support for the EIT by proposing a budget of €2.8 billion for 2014-2020 (up from €309 million since its launch in 2008). The EIT is based on a pioneering concept of cross-border public-private-partnership hubs known as Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). Its three existing KICs, focused on sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy), climate change (Climate KIC) and information and communication society (EIT ICT Labs), will be expanded with six new ones in 2014-2020 (see IP/11/1479 and MEMO/11/851).

Funding for the European Research Council (ERC) will increase by 77% to €13.2 billion. The ERC supports the most talented and creative scientists to carry out frontier research of the highest quality in Europe, in a programme that is internationally recognised and respected.

International cooperation will also be further promoted in Horizon 2020, in order to strengthen the EU’s excellence and attractiveness in research, to tackle global challenges jointly and to support EU external policies.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the in-house science service of the European Commission, will continue providing scientific and technical support to EU policy making on everything from environment, agriculture and fisheries through to nanotechnology and nuclear safety.

Horizon 2020 will be complemented by further measures to complete the European Research Area, a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation by 2014.

European Commission launches its program for Earth observation

Mercredi 30 novembre 2011

The Commission has proposed a budget outside the financial framework of the EU of 5.8 billion euros for GMES

The Commission proposes to set up a specific GMES fund similar to the model chosen for the European Development Fund, with financial contributions from all 27 EU Member States based on their gross national income (GNI). This will require an intergovernmental agreement between the EU Member States meeting within the Council. The programme will be coordinated by the Commission and its financial management could be delegated to the Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA).

GMES – The European tool to contribute to security, fight against climate change and to boost competitiveness

With its “Sentinel” satellites GMES provides information which allows a better understanding of how and in what way our planet may be changing while monitoring the state of the environment on land, at sea and in the atmosphere. Mitigating climate change, responding to emergencies, insuring a better border control, improving the security and alerting citizens if air quality gets bad are activities that depend on precise and timely information on our Earth. GMES is delivering the necessary data, including maps for emergency operations, monitoring of climate change parameters, of ocean and sea temperature or chemical composition of the atmosphere. GMES is also relevant for improving security for citizens, such as border surveillance and fight against piracy and organised crime.

According to a cost benefit analysis, GMES is expected to deliver benefits worth at least twice the costs of investments for the period up to 2020 and four times the costs up to 2030. It represents a huge potential for economic growth and job creation with the development of innovative services and commercial applications in the downstream sector.

The European dimension of GMES leads to economies of scale, facilitates common investment in large infrastructures, fosters coordination of efforts and observation networks, enables harmonisation and inter-calibration of data, and provides the necessary impetus for the emergence of world-class centres of excellence in Europe.

Harmonisation and standardisation of the geospatial information at EU level is a major challenge for the implementation of a wide range of Union policies. Many areas of environmental concern – such as climate change mitigation and adaptation policies – require thinking globally and acting locally. With GMES, the EU is ensuring its autonomous access to reliable, traceable and sustainable information on environment and security, contributes through the GEOSS international initiative (Global Earth Observation System of Systems) to build global observational datasets and information and increases its influence in international negotiations and treaties such as the three Rio Conventions, the post-Kyoto Treaty, and other bilateral or multilateral agreements. GMES is recognised as the European contribution to building the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, developed within the framework of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

The Commission indicated that given the limits of the EU budget, it was proposed to fund GMES over 2014-2020 outside the multi-annual financial framework. Nevertheless, the Commission is still committed to ensuring the success of GMES, and in this context, today’s communication will launch the debate with the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions on the future of the GMES programme.

The European Commission presents its new program to support SMEs

Mercredi 30 novembre 2011

With a budget of 2.5 billion euros for the period 2014-2020, the program for the competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs (COSME) will be the successor to the current program for the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP)

The new programme targets in particular: 1) entrepreneurs, in particular SMEs, which will benefit from easier access to funding for their business, 2) citizens who want to become self-employed and face difficulties in setting up or developing their own business, 3) Member States’ authorities, which will be better assisted in their efforts to elaborate and implement effective policy reform.

The Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs, COSME will focus on financial instruments and support to the internationalisation of enterprises and it will be simplified – to make it easier for small businesses to benefit from it. The Programme has the following general objectives:

- Improve access to finance for SMEs in the form of equity and debt: First, an equity facility for growth-phase investment will provide SMEs with commercially-oriented reimbursable equity financing primarily in the form of venture capital through financial intermediaries. Second, a loan facility will provide SMEs with direct or other risk-sharing arrangements with financial intermediaries to cover loans.
- Improve access to markets inside the Union and globally: Growth-oriented business support services will be provided via the Enterprise Europe Network to facilitate business expansion in the Single Market. This programme will also provide SME business support outside the EU. There will also be support for international industrial cooperation, particularly to reduce differences in regulatory and business environments between the EU and its main trading partners.
- Promote entrepreneurship: activities will include developing entrepreneurial skills and attitudes, especially among new entrepreneurs, young people and women.

The Programme is expected to assist yearly 39 000 firms, helping them create or save 29 500 jobs and launch 900 new business products, services or processes, yearly. Access to credit will be easier for entrepreneurs, particularly those willing to launch cross-border activities, with an anticipated €3.5 billion in additional loans and investment for European businesses. The financial envelope for implementing the Programme shall be EUR 2.5 billion, of which EUR 1.4 billion shall be allocated to financial instruments. The remainder will be spent for financing the Enterprise Europe Network, international industry cooperation and entrepreneurship education.

The European Union is testing a new system of electricity distribution

Mercredi 30 novembre 2011

With a boost of funding to the tune of EUR 12.7 million under the ‘Energy’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the EcoGrid (A Prototype for European Smart Grids) project brings together 16 european project partners.

As producing 20% of our energy from renewables and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% are key priorities of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy, projects like these help to make these flagship political objectives a reality.

The EcoGrid project will run a pilot real-time market place for distributed energy resources on the Danish island of Bornholm by asking 2,000 electricity customers to reduce their power consumption when the wind is either too weak or too strong for the wind turbines on the island to work. In return they will be able to reduce their electricity bill with the help of an intelligent power system known as a ‘Smart Grid’.

The participants will be equipped with residential demand-response devices that present real-time information to consumers and allow them to pre-programme their automatic demand-response preferences.

At the moment on the island, 50% of electricity comes from wind power.

Senior researcher Ove Grande from the coordinating institution SINTEF Energy Research in Norway comments: ‘When a country develops a high capacity to produce solar and wind power, the usual assumption is that system operators will need backup sources that can quickly be switched on when the wind does not obey the weather forecast or when clouds unexpectedly shade solar cells. And back-up sources of supply to meet acute power-matching needs are expensive.’

Normally these problems are solved by using gas turbines or importing power from other regions or countries. Ove Grande hopes that their project results will show that another approach to this problem is possible.

‘In the system to be demonstrated on Bornholm it is the consumers who will solve the problem, by cutting back some of their electricity consumption for short periods. This is far cheaper than giving them reserve power, and is also more environmentally friendly. And because it is cheaper, it will raise the limits of how much solar and wind power an electricity grid can actually rely on.’

A Smart Grid works in an automated manner and disconnects an agreed proportion of each customer’s consumption when electricity prices are high. The same system allows customers to raise their consumption when prices are low.

The project participants will have new electricity meters installed in their homes that differ from current meters by breaking down when electricity is being used as well as total power consumption. The project will develop a computer system that automatically calculates the price of electricity for customers on the basis of the situation in the generation and distribution system. This price should always reflect what it would cost to generate reserve power in the same periods.

The system will continuously communicate these prices to a little smart box that will be installed in the customers’ homes along with the meters. When necessary, the box will switch electrical appliances on or off, depending on the customer’s prior assessment of what is an acceptable electricity price for different types of consumption.

After the project the researchers will be able to assess how the participants found the system using their feedback.

The European Commission wants to reform the audit market

Mercredi 30 novembre 2011

The financial crisis has revealed a failure in the European system audit

Audits of some large financial institutions just before, during and since the crisis resulted in ‘clean’ audit reports despite the serious intrinsic weaknesses in the financial health of the institutions concerned. Recent inspection reports by national supervisors have also criticised the quality of audits.

Under the proposals adopted today by the European Commission, this situation is to change by clarifying the role of the auditors and introducing more stringent rules for the audit sector aimed in particular at strengthening the independence of auditors as well as greater diversity into the current highly-concentrated audit market. Furthermore, the Commission is also proposing to create a Single Market for statutory audit services allowing auditors to exercise their profession freely and easily across Europe, once licensed in one Member State. There are also proposals for a strengthened and more coordinated approach to the supervision of auditors in the EU. Taken together, all the measures should enhance the quality of statutory audits in the EU and restore confidence in audited financial statements, in particular those of banks, insurers and large listed companies.

Auditors are entrusted by law to give an opinion on the truth and fairness of the financial statements of the companies they audit. The financial crisis highlighted weaknesses in the statutory audit especially with regards to banks and financial institutions. Concerns around conflicts of interest have been expressed as well as the potential for an accumulation of systemic risk as the market is effectively dominated by four companies (”the Big Four”), namely Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Key elements of the proposal:
The proposals regarding the statutory audit of public-interest entities, such as banks, insurance companies and listed companies, envisage measures to enhance auditor independence and to make the statutory audit market more dynamic. The key measures in this respect are:

Mandatory rotation of audit firms: Audit firms will be required to rotate after a maximum engagement period of 6 years (with some exceptions). A cooling off period of 4 years is applicable before the audit firm can be engaged again by the same client. The period before which rotation is obligatory can be extended to 9 years if joint audits are performed, i.e. if the entity being audited appoints more than one audit firm to carry out its audit, thus potentially improving the quality of the audit performed by applying the “four-eyes principle”. Joint audits are not made obligatory but are thus encouraged.

Mandatory tendering: Public-interest entities will be obliged to have an open and transparent tender procedure when selecting a new auditor. The audit committee (of the audited entity) should be closely involved in the selection procedure.

Non-audit services: Audit firms will be prohibited from providing non-audit services to their audit clients. In addition, large audit firms will be obliged to separate audit activities from non-audit activities in order to avoid all risks of conflict of interest.

European supervision of the audit sector: In addition, given the global context of audit, it is important that coordination of and cooperation on the oversight of audit networks is ensured both at EU level as well as internationally. Therefore, the Commission proposes that the coordination of the auditor supervision activities is ensured within the framework of the European Markets and Securities Authority (ESMA).

Enabling auditors to exercise their profession across Europe: The Commission proposes the creation of a Single Market for statutory audits by introducing a European passport for the audit profession. To this end, the Commission proposals will allow audit firms to provide services across the EU and to require all statutory auditors and audit firms to comply with international auditing standards when carrying out statutory audits.

Cutting red tape for smaller auditors: The proposal also allows for a proportionate application of the standards in the case of small and medium-sized companies.

Parliament proposes the creation of a European register of lobbyists

Mardi 29 novembre 2011

In the interests of transparency, the European Commission proposed to create a professional register of lobbyists and the Parliament is today publishing its proposals.

This article is only available in french

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Mardi 29 novembre 2011

It was at this same date in 1947, the Assembly of the UN decided the partition of Palestine

Since 2000, the European Commission has provided almost €600 million in humanitarian aid to help meet the basic needs of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Particular attention is paid to those refugees who do not receive aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near-East (UNRWA) and other organizations, especially those living in the 42 unofficial ‘gatherings’ in Lebanon, lacking the legal status to benefit from UNRWA’s aid programme.

In 2011, the Commission’s assistance supported:

- getting food assistance to 1,130,000 people;
- provided healthcare and psychosocial support for 471,000 vulnerable Palestinians;
- made clean water available to 413,000 people in Gaza, West Bank and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon;
- provided shelter for 655 Palestinians in Lebanon and contributed to the protection and care of children and adult Palestinian refugees.

The Commission proposes measures to disputes between consumers and businesses

Mardi 29 novembre 2011

In 2010, one consumer in five had problems related to a purchase

If a seller refuses to repair your laptop which broke down when under guarantee or if you cannot come to agreement with a travel agent over a refund for a ruined holiday, there are ways to sort it out without going to court. But, unfortunately, at this stage, out-of-court dispute resolution in the EU is possible only for some business sectors or in some areas. To tackle this issue, the European Commission unveiled today a package of legislative proposals to ensure that all EU consumers can solve their problems without going to court, regardless of the kind of product or service that the contractual dispute is about and regardless of where they bought it in the European single market (that is, at home or abroad). For consumers shopping online from another EU country, the Commission wants to create an EU-wide single online platform, which will allow to solve contractual disputes entirely online within 30 days.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for consumers is faster, cheaper and easier to use than court proceedings. It is estimated that universal access to quality ADR across the EU will save consumers around €22.5 billion/year. It will also help businesses manage their customer relations and boost their corporate image. The Commission wants the new package of laws to help increase consumers’ confidence in the EU-wide single market, which means for them wider choice and better prices, thus contributing to the growth of EU economy.

What has been adopted today?
The Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) will ensure that quality out-of-court entities exist to deal with any contractual dispute between a consumer and a business. Under the proposal:
- ADR entities will have to meet certain quality criteria, i.e. be well-qualified impartial, transparent, effective and fair
- businesses will inform customers about the ADR entity which can deal with a potential contractual dispute with them
- ADR entities will resolve the disputes within 90 days.
The Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution will create a EU-wide online platform (‘ODR platform’) providing consumers and businesses with a single point of entry for resolving on-line the disputes concerning purchases made on-line in another EU-country. This single European point of entry will:
- automatically send the consumer’s complaint to the competent national ADR entity
- facilitate the resolution of the dispute within 30 days.
What is in it for consumers and businesses?
Consumers will have access to an effective and inexpensive way of solving their disputes with traders, regardless of the goods or services that they buy, however they buy (online or offline) and wherever they buy in the EU (in their country or abroad).
Consumers buying on-line from other EU countries will be able to solve their contractual disputes with EU traders entirely online.
Consumer savings are estimated at about 0.2% of the EU’s GDP (€22.5 billion).
For businesses, access to alternative dispute resolution will be key to managing customer relations and enhancing corporate image, and also to save the costs of litigation.
Consumers and traders across Europe will have the assurance that all European out-of-court entities called to resolve their disputes will meet the same criteria. They will be transparent, well-qualified, impartial, effective and fair.
Ultimately, increased confidence will encourage consumers to behave more actively in searching for good offers and best prices across the EU single market, thus driving competition and economic growth.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) relies on a neutral party (such as an arbitrator, mediator or an ombudsman). It is cheaper, quicker and simpler than going to court.

Today, there are more than 750 ADR entities in the EU. However, in some EU countries they are available only in some regions or only in some sectors (e.g. financial service or telecommunications to name some). Consumer and business awareness of ADR remains low. Online dispute resolution systems for cross-border online shoppers are not yet developed.

The cost of unresolved consumer disputes is estimated at 0.4% of the EU’s GDP. This includes the money lost by European consumers due to problems when shopping from other EU countries, which is estimated between €500 million and €1 billion.

Next steps
The European Parliament and the EU Council have committed to adopting the package by the end of 2012 as a priority action in the Single Market Act (see IP/11/469). The package also completes one of the actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe. After the adoption, EU Member States will have 18 months to implement the ADR Directive. This means that quality out-of-court ADRs should be available everywhere in the EU in the second half of 2014.The single EU-wide platform for online dispute resolution will become fully operational six months after that deadline (i.e. in early 2015), as its operation requires the setting up and upgrading of out-of-court entities where needed.

The European Commission is working on improving the food supply chain

Mardi 29 novembre 2011

One year after the creation of a forum on the subject, an interim report provides findings.

The Forum welcomed in particular the Principles of Good Practice agreed by eleven organisations of the sector. These principles represent a significant step forward taken by the food supply chain in the fight against unfair practices in business-to-business relationships. Effective implementation and enforcement tools now need to be designed to bring actual improvements on the market. In the spirit of better regulation, the Commission invited the food supply chain representatives to put forward credible implementation options to the Forum by June 2012.

The Forum also highlighted other positive developments, such as the work on corporate responsibility and sustainability agenda in the context of competitiveness.

The aim of the High Level Forum is to assist the Commission with the development of its policies concerning the agro-food sector and to ensure the responsible competitiveness of the whole food supply chain.

The European Commission established the Forum in 20101 (IP/10/1510) to continue and extend the work of the former High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry. The aim of the Forum is to assist the Commission in supporting sustainable competitiveness and growth in the European agro-food supply chain. It also provides advice to the Commission in the implementation of its Communication ‘A better functioning food supply chain in Europe’ (COM(2009)591).

The Forum comprises 45 members representing a number of Member States, European companies dealing with food production, processing or distribution, professional associations and non-governmental organisations representing citizens’ interests.

The Forum is chaired by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani together with his fellow Commissioners Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services), Dacian Cioloş (Agriculture and Rural Development) and John Dalli (Health and Consumer Policy).

European Commission launches a campaign for the safety of toys

Mardi 29 novembre 2011

The European Commission launched today an information campaign to ensure the safety of Christmas shopping

Safe and fun is the perfect combination, but it is actually not so obvious! What makes a toy safe to use will depend not only on the toy itself, but also on how it is used and the age of the child. What should you look for as a parent, to know if a toy is safe or not for your child? To offer some good advice, European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani is launching the European Toy Safety Campaign, intended to show how to get the safest toys, and how to use them safely. A video clip to be aired on TV stations around Europe explains the issues, reinforced by a card with safety tips to be handed out to consumers all over the EU when they are buying toys.

More information related to new EU rules to strengthen toy safety: IP/11/908

Tips to keep in mind while toy shopping:
Never buy toys that do not have the CE marking

The CE marking is a commitment from the toy maker that the toy complies with all applicable EU safety rules, amongst the strictest world wide.

Do not buy toys with small detachable parts for children under 3 years of age

Choking is a particular risk for children under 3 years old, because they tend to put everything in their mouths! Toys bearing this symbol are not suitable for children under 3.

Read all warning and instructions
Be aware of age and safety recommendations and take them seriously! Make sure the toy is appropriate for a child’s age - consider he’s temperament, habits, and behaviour whenever you buy a new toy.

Keep an eye on children as they play
Make sure that all toys are played with as intended and are suitable for the age and abilities of the child. Supervising children while they play ensures safety while having fun.

Always buy toys from trustworthy shops and online outlets
They take care about the toys they sell and will usually accept returns. Carefully check toys bought second-hand and toys given away by friends. As they are older, they may not meet current safety standards.

Always report a safety problem with a toy to the manufacturer or the retailer where you bought it.
Postcards handed out in shops
Many toy shops in Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Greece, Romania, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Austria will distribute in their shops the cards with the toy safety tips. Toy shops interested in joining the campaign, may contact the European Commission