Archive pour décembre 2011

The European Union calls for a reduction in youth unemployment

Mardi 20 décembre 2011

21% of young Europeans are unemployed, Europe demands an immediate response of the States.

The new ‘Youth Opportunities Initiative’, adopted by the Commission today, calls on Member State to work on preventing early school leaving; helping youngsters develop skills relevant to the labour market; ensuring work experience and on-the-job training and helping young people find a first good job. The Commission is also urging Member States to make better use of the European Social Fund which still has €30billion of funding uncommitted to projects. In addition, the Commission has put forward a set of concrete actions to be financed directly by EU funds.

The Commission will also make funds available for technical assistance to help Member States make greater use of available EU funding - especially the European Social Fund (ESF) of which €30bn remains uncommitted to projects.

More details
The main actions financed directly by the Commission in the new ‘Youth Opportunities initiative’ are:

- using €4m to help Member States set up ‘youth guarantee’ schemes to ensure young people are either in employment, education or training within four months of leaving school.
- dedicating € 1.3 million to support the setting up of apprenticeships through the European Social Fund. An increase of 10% by the end of 2013 would add a total of 370,000 new apprenticeships.
- using €3m of the European Social Fund Technical Assistance to support Member States in the setting up of support schemes for young business starters and social entrepreneurs;
- gearing funds as much as possible towards placements in enterprises and targeting at least 130,000 placements in 2012 under ERASMUS and Leonardo da Vinci;
- providing financial assistance in 2012-2013 to 5,000 young people to find a job in another Member State through the ‘Your first EURES job’ initiative
- reinforcing the budget allocation for the European Voluntary Service in order to provide at least 10,000 volunteering opportunities in 2012;
presenting in 2012 a framework for high quality traineeships in the EU;
- ensuring around 600 further exchanges under Erasmus for entrepreneurs in 2012.
The actions proposed by the Commission will pave the way for Member States to develop further youth-related measures under the next generation of European Social Fund programmes and as part of the EU budget 2014-2020.

Background
There are 5 million unemployed young people in the EU today and 7.5 million young people between 15 and 24 are currently neither in employment nor in education or training. This concerns not only low-skilled young people having left school too early, but more and more university graduates who cannot find a first job.

The Commission wants to mobilise all actors concerned as well as available EU funding to take immediate measures that will enable smoother transitions between education and work as well as ease access to work for young unemployed across Europe. The aim is to help youngsters that are neither in education nor work to find a job, or return to training and to help those with a third level education find a first job.

The Commission will strongly support Member States in this endeavour by giving them policy guidance as well as concrete assistance. In the context of the Europe 2020 strategy, Member States are expected to address youth employment in their 2012 National Reform Programmes and youth policies and measures will systematically be addressed in the draft Country Specific Recommendations for 2012. The Commission will continue to assess and analyse measures taken by Member States to fight youth unemployment and will report on this to the informal Council of Employment and Social Ministers in April 2012.

European Commission simplifies regulation of services of general economic interest (SGEI).

Mardi 20 décembre 2011

The Commission adopted a new package of rules to introduce a diversified and proportionate approach about state aid.

Member States are largely free to define which services are of general interest. But, the Commission must ensure that public funding granted for the provision of such services does not unduly distort competition in the Internal Market.

The new rules, which replace the so-called “Monti-Kroes” Package of July 2005, clarify basic notions such as ‘economic activity’ to facilitate the application of the rules by national but also regional or local governments.

All social services become exempted from the obligation of notification to the Commission, regardless of the amount of the compensation received. The services concerned must meet “social needs as regards health and long term care, childcare, access to and reintegration in the labour market, social housing and the care and social inclusion of vulnerable groups”. Previously only hospitals and social housing were exempted. Other SGEIs are exempted provided the compensation amount is less than €15 million a year.

The Commission also proposes to set a minimum compensation amount for all other services below which the measure is deemed free of aid. The SGEI de minimis amount would be set at €500,000 over three years. This will reduce red tape for small SGEIs. A final decision will be taken in the spring.

On the other hand, in future there will be a greater scrutiny of other SGEIs involving compensation amounts of more than €15 million a year and where the potential for distortions of competition within the single market is higher. Whenever possible, the SGEI should be entrusted through an open and transparent public tender to ensure the best quality at the cheapest cost for taxpayers who pay for the services.

More information
The new package consists of four instruments that will apply to all authorities (national, regional, local) that grant compensation for the provision of SGEI:

A new Communication, clarifying basic concepts of State aid, which are relevant for SGEI, such as the notions of aid, SGEI, economic activity, convergence between public procurement procedures and absence of aid, etc.

A revised Decision, exempts Member States from the obligation to notify public service compensation for certain SGEI-categories to the Commission. The exemption is extended from hospitals and social housing to a much wider range of social services and a lower compensation threshold applies for triggering notifications for other SGEI activities. The notification threshold was lowered from €30 million to €15 million, taking account of stakeholders’ concerns that the previous ceiling withdrew very sizeable contracts in important areas of the Internal Market from the Commission’s scrutiny.

A revised Framework for assessing large compensation amounts granted to operators outside the social services field. Those cases have to be notified to the Commission and may be declared compatible if they meet certain criteria. The new rules introduce, in particular, a more precise methodology to determine the amount of compensation, a requirement for Member States to introduce efficiency incentives in compensation mechanisms, the requirement to comply with EU public procurement rules and equal treatment of providers of the same service for determining compensation. Moreover, the Commission may require Member States to adopt measures to reduce the anticompetitive effects of certain compensations that present a particularly strong potential for distorting competition in the Internal Market.

A new proposal for a de minimis Regulation, providing that compensation below a certain threshold does not fall under state aid scrutiny, is expected to be adopted in the spring of 2012, after a final round of consultation.

Background
In 2003, the European Court of Justice ruled on the assessment of public service compensations in the context of EU state aid rules (case C-280/00 Altmark Trans). To take account of this ruling, the Commission adopted the first SGEI package (also known as the “Monti-Kroes-Package”, see IP/05/937). The package entered into force in July 2005 and specified the conditions under which state aid in the form of public service compensation is compatible with the EC Treaty (now the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU).

In March 2011, the Commission launched a broad debate on the review of the package, which is due to expire at the end of 2011 (see IP/11/347). In September 2011, the Commission consulted stakeholders on the proposals for new rules (see http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2011_sgei/index_en.html). The Commission received valuable contributions from Member States, European institutions and stakeholders. Subsequently, the drafts were revised to take into account stakeholders’ comments.

Denmark launches the website of his presidency which starts in January 2012

Lundi 19 décembre 2011

The Danish Minister for European Affairs launched the website of the presidency which starts January, 1st 2012 for six months.

From 1 January and for six months onwards, Denmark will lead the work of the EU Member States in the Council. Denmark will lead weekly council meetings in Brussels and Luxembourg, thousands of meetings of European officials and a number of conferences and seminars in Denmark. In addition eight informal ministerial meetings will be held in Denmark.

The webpage is a central tool for the Presidency for disseminating information. Here you can find all you wanted to know about the work of the Presidency, its activities and results in various policy areas.

Eu2012.dk has news and information on the Presidency, on the EU and on Denmark. An extensive calendar gives an overview over meetings, events and cultural activities. Accreditation for meetings is through the website, where you can also find all relevant information and documents related to the meetings.

News and photos give an overview of the newest events and users can subscribe to a newsletter on the Presidency, create their own RSS-newsfeed and follow the Presidency on both twitter and on the mobile website. You will also find an extensive list of the Presidency’s spokespersons and an overview of the Danish Government.

The European Union is funding two new projects for the study of greenhouse gas emissions

Lundi 19 décembre 2011

Both projects AMITRAN and INGOS are designed to study concretely the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the projects, titled AMITRAN (’Assessment methodologies for ICT in multimodal transport from user behaviour to CO2 reduction’) aims to scientifically underpin carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions estimations by developing a methodology to assess the impact of ICT (information and communication technologies) and ITS (intelligent transport systems) on transport sector CO2 emissions.

Bringing together partners from Belgium, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Romania, AMITRAN received EUR 1 900 000 of funding as part of the ‘ICT’ Theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

ICT measures can help transport become less carbon intensive and more efficient as well as increase safety, manage transport demand, ensure transit reliability and improve traffic flow. ICT use in the transport sector includes its application in navigation and travel information systems, route advice to supporting drivers in adopting eco-driving behaviour, logistics and fleet management systems and optimised traffic light phasing at junctions, reserving parking spaces and paying road tolls.

The final result of the project will be a publicly available checklist and handbook that can be used for future projects. They will serve as a reference in assessing the ITS benefits in terms of CO2 emission reductions for passenger transport and road, rail, and ship freight transport.

But while CO2 attracts the most media attention, the harmful effects of other greenhouse gases must also be dealt with as a matter of urgency. That is why another new EU-funded initiative is working towards finding accurate measurements of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.

INGOS (’Integrated non-CO2 greenhouse gas observation system’) is funded in part by almost EUR 8 million under FP7’s ‘Infrastructures’ Theme and brings together partner institutions from 14 participating countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

So far, the figures for these greenhouse gases have to a large extent been calculated based on estimations. INGOS aims to provide actual measurements of emissions in the participating countries.

Measurements from towers, peaks, masts and other relevant points around Europe are going to be carried out, and the network will also work with computer models to provide an accurate picture of where and how much is being emitted.

The launch of these two new projects shows that whether on or off Europe’s transport thoroughfares, accurate measurements of all greenhouse gases are essential for meeting the EU’s climate action targets. Both AMITRAN and INGOS aim to move forward research into one of the most important and pressing challenges the EU faces today.

The European Commission has proposed the ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by 60% for the period from 1990 to 2050. But with present transport emissions levels currently 27% above 1990 levels, there remains a lot of work to be done.

The European Commission presents its new anti-fraud programmes.

Lundi 19 décembre 2011

The European Commission today adopted two proposals for programs Hercules III and Pericles 2020. With a budget of € 117.7 million, these programs will take place over the next programming phase.

Hercule III
The Hercule III programme is dedicated to fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities affecting the financial interests of the EU. It focuses in particular on cooperation between the Commission, via the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), competent authorities in the Member States, and other European institutions and bodies.

The programme aims at ensuring equivalent protection in the Member States and in all EU institutions, bodies and agencies. Actions provided under the Hercule III programme include: technical and operational support for law enforcement authorities in the Member States in their fight against illegal cross-border activities, and professional training activities.

The previous Hercule programme produced important results such as 70 technical assistance projects that financed the purchase of sophisticated technical equipment for law enforcement agencies combating fraud, as well as anti-fraud training for over 5 300 law enforcement staff.

Pericles 2020
The Pericles 2020 programme is an exchange, assistance and training programme to strengthen the protection of euro banknotes and coins in Europe and worldwide.

Projects financed under the Pericles programme include, among others, a seminar on the “Community Strategy for the protection of the euro in the Mediterranean area”, a training course on money counterfeiting in Latin America and a number of staff exchanges between authorities within and outside the EU.

Next steps
The draft Regulations will be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption by the end of 2012, so that the new programme can start on 1 January 2014.

The European Commission promotes the mobility of European highly skilled people

Lundi 19 décembre 2011

The working age population declines in Europe and demand for qualified professionals should increase to 16 million people in 2020.

If Europe is to meet this demand, gaps in labour shortages need to be filled – for example through mobile and well qualified professionals from other EU Member States. They can be a key source of growth, but only if they can easily go to where jobs are and this requires their qualifications in the EU to be recognised in a fast, simple and reliable way. That is why the Commission has today adopted a proposal for modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC).

Today’s proposal aims at simplifying rules for the mobility of professionals within the EU by offering a European Professional Card to all interested professions which would allow easier and faster recognition of qualifications. It also clarifies the framework for consumers, by inviting Member States to review the scope of their regulated professions and by addressing public concerns about language skills and the lack of effective alerts about professional malpractice, notably in the health sector.

Key elements of the proposal:
1. The introduction of a European professional card will offer to interested professionals the possibility to benefit from easier and quicker recognition of their qualifications. It should also facilitate temporary mobility. The card will be made available according to the needs expressed by the professions (for example, nurses and mountain guides expressed a strong interest in using such a card). The card is associated to an optimised recognition procedure carried out within the existing Internal Market Information System (IMI) and will take the form of an electronic certificate, allowing the professional to provide services or become established in another Member State.

2. Better access to information on the recognition of professional qualifications: all citizens seeking the recognition of their professional qualifications should be able to go to a one-stop shop rather than being passed around between different government bodies. This one-stop shop should be the Points of Single Contact (PSCs), created under the Services Directive, which will allow citizens to obtain information in one place about the documents required to have their qualifications recognised and where they can also complete all online recognition procedures.

3. Updating minimum training requirements for doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons and architects: the minimum training requirements for these professions were harmonised 20 or 30 years ago. They have been updated to reflect the evolution of these professions and of education in these fields. For example, the entry level for nursing and midwifery training has been upgraded from 10 years to 12 years of general education.

4. The introduction of an alert mechanism for health professionals benefiting from automatic recognition: competent authorities of a Member State will be obliged to alert competent authorities of all other Member States about a health professional who has been prohibited from exercising his professional activity by a public authority or a court. This is particularly important because there have been examples of doctors banned from practising in their home Member State, moving abroad to work, and other Member States were not aware of it.

5. The introduction of common training frameworks and common training tests, replacing common platforms, should offer the possibility to extend the mechanism of automatic recognition to new professions. Interested professions could benefit from automatic recognition on the basis of a common set of knowledge, skills and competences or on a common test assessing the ability of professionals to pursue a profession.

6. Mutual evaluation exercise on regulated professions: a new mechanism is introduced in the Directive to ensure greater transparency and justification of the professions they regulate through a specific qualification requirement. Member States will have to provide a list of their regulated professions and justify the need for regulation. This should be followed up by a mutual evaluation exercise facilitated by the European Commission.

Background:
The Professional Qualifications Directive is essential to enabling professionals to start a new business or to find a job in another Member State requiring a specific qualification for a specific professional activity. The modernisation is one of the twelve levers for growth set out in the Single Market Act (IP/11/469).

The Council of the European Union wants to promote rail transport.

Vendredi 16 décembre 2011

The Ministers of Transport of the European Union met this week to make the train a mode of transport more efficient and competitive.

The new directive on a single European railway area aims to clarify and modernise the regulatory framework for Europe’s railway sector so as to enhance investment, improve market supervision and increase competition. It amalgamates, updates and simplifies three legal acts - the “first railway package” adopted in 2001 - which set in motion the gradual liberalisation of the railway sector at European level.

The changes introduced by the new text include:

- more transparent conditions for access to the rail market
- provisions to guarantee non-discriminatory market access
- strengthening the independence of national regulatory bodies and their powers, for instance to impose sanctions or audits
- enhanced cooperation between regulators on cross-border issues
- new rules to improve the financing of the rail infrastructure.

This boost to the railways should help to increase their share of the transport market, thus promoting a means of transport which is more environmentally-friendly.

The European Commission promotes advanced green energy

Vendredi 16 décembre 2011

The Commission is launching a pilot program of independent Environmental Technology Verification (ETV).

This will help manufacturers prove the reliability of performance claims, and help technology purchasers identify innovations that suit their needs.

The ETV pilot programme, which is entirely voluntary, will initially cover three areas: water treatment and monitoring; materials, waste and resources; and energy technologies. The aim is to reduce the risks and increase confidence of the first purchasers or investors in a new technology by providing reliable, science-based information on its performance. This will take the form of a Statement of Verification for use in business-to-business relations. ETV services are intended in particular for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, which may find it more difficult to prove the performance of new technologies than larger manufacturers. ETV should reduce the need to multiply demonstration sites or to repeat test campaigns for different markets. It could also facilitate exports to non-EU markets such as North America and Asia, where the ETV approach is progressively recognised.

Next steps
The programme will begin by accrediting the Verification Bodies (VBs) that will verify the technologies. Interested organisations are invited to contact the accreditation agency of the Member State where they are established, the list of which is available on the website of the European co-operation for Accreditation (see below). In the coming months, a call for proposals will be published under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) to support accredited VBs in implementing the pilot programme. This includes helping manufacturers to undertake verifications under ETV.

After two to three years of operation, the European Commission will evaluate the ETV pilot programme, its functioning and impacts on the marketing of new technologies, and will draw conclusions on the way forward for Environmental Technology Verification in Europe. Stakeholders will be asked about the implementation and evaluation of the ETV pilot programme through a Stakeholder forum to be established in 2012.

Background
The ETV pilot programme has been prepared in co-operation with 7 Member States and many stakeholders active in the field of technology development and assessment. It is one of the actions announced in the new Eco-Innovation Action Plan that has also just been adopted (see IP/11/1547).

The European Commission supports the Arab Spring with Erasmus Mundus

Vendredi 16 décembre 2011

Under Erasmus Mundus, the Commission has doubled the grant to the Maghreb and the Middle East countries.

Funding for a further 559 scholarships, on top of the 525 that were already planned for 2011-2012, are being allocated to Southern Mediterranean countries through ‘Erasmus Mundus’, the international version of the European Commission’s Erasmus student and staff exchange scheme. The recipients will be able to spend part of their studies, research or a teaching period in the European Union. The Commission is increasing its grant funding to encourage learning and training opportunities for individuals who are viewed as key to strengthening democracy in the region. The move is part of the EU’s strategic response to the Arab Spring.

Erasmus Mundus is open to applicants from all over the world, including the European Union. Since the launch of the scheme in 2004, more than 12 000 students, 300 doctoral candidates and 2 000 professors have received scholarships for joint Master’s degree courses or doctorate programmes.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, around 6 000 students and researchers from 150 countries have already received scholarships worth a total of €210 million. The Commission has provided an additional €10 million to fund the extra 559 scholarships for countries in the Southern Mediterranean. These countries are expected to benefit from further increases in funding for Erasmus Mundus scholarships and grants in 2012-13.

Over three-quarters of the grants offered through Erasmus Mundus since 2004 have been awarded to people in non-EU countries, including more than 3 000 from North Africa and the Middle East. The size of the scholarship depends on the length of study or training period, the educational level of the candidate and the country of origin. Non-Europeans studying in the European Union receive at least €1000 per month towards their living costs while European students studying outside Europe receive at least €500 per month.

Background

There are three broad target groups for Erasmus Mundus funding: students undertaking joint Master’s courses and doctorates, partnerships between universities; and projects aimed at promoting the European higher education sector.

Joint Master’s courses and doctorates

A consortium of at least three higher education institutions in Europe or beyond can apply for EU funding to offer scholarships to students enrolling on a joint Master’s degree course or doctorate. The programmes must demonstrate outstanding academic quality and include obligatory study and research periods in at least two universities. A ‘joint degree’ is an integrated study programme offered by at least two higher education institutions resulting in a single degree certificate. Students are awarded scholarships based on criteria set by the universities concerned.

More than 160 higher education institutions currently participate in joint programmes, including 25 institutions in non-EU countries. 131 joint Master’s degree courses and 34 joint doctorate programmes will be open for scholarship applications in 2012-2013, covering a wide range of subjects, from chemistry to computing and from criminology to choreography.

Erasmus Mundus partnerships

Grants are also provided through Erasmus Mundus partnerships. These enable students, researchers and staff to visit partner institutions abroad to study or teach for a period of between three months and three years. In July 2011, 46 new partnerships were selected for funding, with 369 EU and 450 non-EU universities involved. Consortia must include a minimum of five higher education institutions from at least three European countries and higher education institutions from non-EU countries. Special attention is given to disadvantaged groups and people in a vulnerable situation.

Promotion of European higher education

Support is also provided for projects that advance cooperation or promote the attractiveness of the European higher education sector. In 2011 seven such projects were selected, involving more than 100 non-EU partners, covering themes such as climate change, architecture and cultural tourism, and/or a strong regional focus.

Erasmus for All

Erasmus Mundus will be integrated into the Commission’s proposed new programme for education, training, youth and sport – Erasmus for All – which is due to be launched in 2014 (see IP/11/1398).

Parliament proposes a single European transport space for 2020

Vendredi 16 décembre 2011

Parliament is proposing a single legislation for safety and environment for road transport.

The “roadmap to a single European transport area” with figures, as approved by Parliament, supplements the long-run view of a Commission white paper on the future of EU transport policy.

Reducing road deaths and the carbon footprint

The resolution invites the Commission to propose an action plan to halve road deaths and serious injuries (2010-2020) and calls for measures to cut CO2 emissions from road transport by 20%, maritime transport by 30% and aviation by 30% from 1990 levels. The noise and energy consumption of trains should also be reduced by 20% from 1990 levels. Overall, transport emissions should drop by 20 % over the period 2009-2020.

Polluter pays principle to apply to all modes of transport

Faced with a proliferation of national approaches, MEPs ask the Commission to draw up a “standardised EU methodology to calculate the carbon footprint of transport and logistics operations”.

MEPs also ask the Commission to table a proposal by 2014 for the “internalisation of external costs” for all modes of transport, with a view to including pollution, noise and congestion costs in the price paid by the user. Member States should use the revenue that this generates to fund sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure costs, says the resolution.

Targeted investments to link road, rail and navigation

Parliament asks the Commission to table, by 2013, a quantitative analysis of transport infrastructure, the density of the transport network and the quality of transport services in all EU Member States, with a view to determining future priorities. Meanwhile, it asks that the EU concentrate more resources on modernising the networks of new Member States, so that by 2025, their transport infrastructure reaches the level of the rest of the EU.

To increase the number of multimodal connecting platforms along navigable waterways and railways by 20% between 2010 and 2020 they should be allocated at least 15% of funding devoted to trans-European (TEN-T) networks, says the resolution.

A majority of MEPs believe that Member States wishing to authorise the use of longer, heavier lorries on certain predetermined routes should be able to do so, provided that this does not compromise safety or damage road infrastructure.

Environment-friendly mobility and combined transport in towns

The EU should create incentives to develop safe transport infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in towns, so as to double the number of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers and promote the introduction of integrated electronic ticket systems for multimodal journeys, says the resolution. MEPs also ask that EuroVelo, the European long-distance cycle route network, be included in the TEN-T network.

Ensuring high-quality jobs and services

To ensure that opening up transport markets does not result in social dumping, MEPs stress the need to harmonise transport sector training and working conditions. In particular, they call for haulage drivers’ working hours and rest periods to be better enforced throughout the EU.

The resolution was passed with 523 votes in favour, 64 against and 37 abstentions.

Background

Transport services employ about 10 million people in the EU and generate about 5% of GDP. On average, transport accounts for 13.2% of household expenditure.

Freight will grow by 40%, and passenger numbers by 34%, between 2005 and 2030, say Commission forecasts.