The European Union backs greener traffic management

24 janvier 2012

The three-year project, titled THE ISSUE, brings together five European regions in the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Poland.

With a EUR 2.7 million boost as part of the ‘Regions of knowledge’ Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), the project partners will support scientists, engineers and development agencies from the different regions to work together and develop more effective methods of easing road congestion and improving the urban environment.

Traffic management systems use information and communication technologies (ICT) applied to both transport infrastructure and vehicles in order to improve life on the roads for everyone. This can be in terms of safety, reliability or even productivity. Increasingly, traffic management systems are also addressing the need to tackle environmental factors.

The ultimate aim is to influence future policy so that traffic management systems that benefit public health and safety are widely implemented. The main trouble areas when it comes to traffic management are how transport impacts on urban mobility, how green our transport system is, and the health, safety and security of citizens.

In THE ISSUE project diverse technologies and research applications will be used to tackle these traffic management issues. One such example is the integration of computer intelligence solutions and real-time satellite navigation data into existing operational urban traffic management systems. Two other practical approaches are space and in situ measurements to help mitigate risk to citizens’ health from traffic-induced air pollution, and technology demonstration and pre-operational real-time trials of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car operating in a city environment.

The project is being headed up by researchers from the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council in the United Kingdom.

Councillor Rory Palmer from Leicester City Council spoke about the project: ‘Making Leicester a low carbon city is one of our main priorities and this kind of research will be essential to helping tackle issues around congestion and air quality in the future. I am proud that the city council can help make this work possible.’

Project leader Professor Alan Wells from the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre said: ‘With the EU funding we have secured, we can now coordinate different research activities in the same general areas of traffic and the environment that are being carried out by partners from across Europe. These sort of outcomes have never been brought together in this way before.’

The main objective of the ‘Regions of Knowledge’ Theme of the FP7 is to promote knowledge exchange and cooperation between European regions so as to stimulate economic growth and job creation. THE ISSUE project aims to create vibrant partnerships between different regional research clusters to bring together and coordinate existing and forthcoming research and technological development (RTD) programmes relevant to traffic, health and the environment.

The idea is that by holding consultations, participating regional and local authorities can identify economic priorities specific to certain regions, and ensure that their research priorities are in line with their traffic, health and environment policies.

‘The scientific teams at the heart of the project will be working closely with the bodies responsible for managing traffic, transport and air quality in the UK and European regions to explore how this research can be of value to them,’ says Professor Alan Wells. ‘Our aim is to draw on the strengths of industry and academics working in partnership. We have to be mindful at all stages of the connection between research, policy and how what we are developing can make a difference to the quality of people’s lives.’

Charlemagne Youth Prize 2012

24 janvier 2012

The deadline for the submission of applications has been postponed to 13th February.

Role models for young Europeans

The Charlemagne Youth Prize, which is jointly organised by the European Parliament and the Foundation of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, is awarded to projects undertaken by people between 16 and 30 years old and helping to promote understanding between peoples of different European countries. The winning projects should serve as role models for young people living in Europe and offer practical examples of Europeans living together as one community. Youth exchange programmes, artistic and Internet projects with a European dimension are amongst the projects selected.

Total prize money of 10,000 Euros

The three winning projects will be awarded funding of €5,000, €3,000, and €2,000 respectively. They will also be invited to visit the European Parliament. Representatives of the best projects from each of the 27 EU Member States will be invited to Aachen, in Germany, on 15th May 2012, to participate in the award ceremony.

2011 winners

In 2011, the UK online lifestyle magazine “Europe & Me” created by young Europeans for young Europeans in 2007 was awarded the first prize in the European Charlemagne Youth Prize competition. The second and third prize went to “Balkans Beyond Borders”, a short-film project from Greece, and to the “Escena Erasmus Project” (Spain), a project addressed mainly to Erasmus students, encouraging cultural and linguistic exchanges, respectively.

Application forms, which are easily filled in, are available in 22 languages on the European Parliament’s Charlemagne Youth Prize website

The European Economic and Social Committee wishes an integration of energy policies.

24 janvier 2012

The EU advisory body has today championed the idea of setting up a European Energy Community (EEC), creating an EU-wide internal energy market and shaping a common, strategic approach to energy issues.

The idea was first mooted by Jacques Delors, a former European Commission President. The Committee is very much behind the proposal and has expanded on it in its own-initiative opinion entitled Involving civil society in the establishment of a future European Energy Community adopted at today’s plenary session.

Concerned about the dismal progress being made in completing an internal market for electricity and gas, the EESC bleakly pointed out that only 10% of electricity transited between countries, consumers were unable to choose an operator established abroad possibly offering more attractive terms, energy poverty was increasing, network planning was largely a national business, and the EU did not negotiate with supplier countries as a single bloc, putting member states and the EU at a disadvantage.

In a bid to build an integrated EU energy market, the EESC stressed the importance of a joint approach to energy production, transmission and consumption, and said Member States should act “responsibly” in this field. It vented its frustration with some countries’ unilateral decisions on energy choices, saying that “in a spirit of solidarity and efficiency” such decisions should have been taken “by common accord at EU level” instead. It also warned against prematurely ditching any low-emission energy source as that might jeopardise the EU’s energy policy objectives.

As a first step towards a European Energy Community, the EESC endorsed the idea of creating regional energy blocs within which countries and operators would coordinate their key decisions on energy mix and network development. “Not only would this generate considerable economies of scale and industrial development linked to new energy sources,” said Pierre Jean Coulon (France, Workers Group), rapporteur of the opinion. “It would also lead to a gradual integration of hitherto separate markets and cause prices to align.”

As budgets are squeezed and the development of new energy sources becomes ever more expensive, it was crucial to pool national resources and channel them towards projects that are in keeping with the EU’s objectives, said the EESC. It also favoured using bonds to finance these projects.

The EESC backed Mr Delors’ idea of creating “a European gas purchasing group” to strengthen the bargaining power of Member States and companies. It suggested establishing a common supply structure for gas and other fuels that would ensure consistency in negotiations and contribute to reducing prices. The EESC was adamant that the European Commission was best placed to negotiate energy agreements with third countries on behalf of Member States, should they have an impact on several EU countries. The Commission should also be allowed to ensure national energy deals with third countries are in line with EU internal market rules and security of supply’s objectives before they enter into force, said the Committee.

Given the all-encompassing impact of energy decisions, the public could not be left out of the debate, said the EESC. It thus proposed setting up a European civil society forum tasked with monitoring energy issues. The forum would work closely with European institutions and establish dialogue mechanisms with civil society representatives in Member States. “Energy policy is an area where winning public acceptance is of crucial importance and that can only be achieved through fair and transparent information,” said Mr Coulon.

A new look for CORDIS

23 janvier 2012

The site offers a new database for its projects.

The European Union has some of the world’s best research facilities and most accomplished researchers. Harnessing their full potential will help turn novel ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress. To facilitate this, the European Commission finances, either wholly or partially, a wide range of individual research and technology development projects. Details about many of these can be found on the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) - the primary information source for EU-funded projects.

A new Projects Service, launched on 16 January 2012, will enhance the role of CORDIS. Designed not only to be a comprehensive reference point for project participants, coordinators and stakeholders, the service will also make information and data available to wider audiences.

CORDIS has project records covering a myriad of science, technology and research-related fields and topics. Dating from before 1986 to the present, they relate to not only the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), but also previous Framework Programmes. The new service will use the breadth of the CORDIS repository as a base to bring together a wide variety of information related to individual projects, including:
- project details such as description, funding, programme;
- project results such as documents, reports, summaries;
- links;
- publications;
- multimedia;
- information and details on project participants.

The new Projects Service will unlock content, standardise the presentation of project information, and help users to find out more.

Project records are added to the database once they are made available to CORDIS by the Commission service responsible. The new service provides tools and pointers that can help filter and facilitate search queries.

Even when a project has finished, specific project information can help with result development, the planning of new initiatives, the indication of new research avenues and more.

The leaders of the European Union welcomed the outcomes of the Croatian referendum.

23 janvier 2012

A joint statement by the European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Von Rompuy welcomes Croatia.

We welcome the positive outcome of the referendum on Croatia’s accession to the European Union. With this vote, Croatia’s citizens have given their endorsement to European integration. We congratulate Croatia and its people on their choice: EU
membership will open up new opportunities for them and help secure the stability and prosperity of their nation.

With this popular mandate, the Croatian government can now complete the remaining preparations for membership. We are looking forward to a smooth ratification process by the Croatian Parliament as well as by the Parliaments of all EU Member States, so that Croatia can become the Union’s 28th member on 1 July 2013.

The upcoming accession of Croatia sends a clear signal to the whole region of South Eastern Europe. It shows that through political courage and determined reforms, EU membership is within reach. Today’s positive vote is therefore good news for Croatia, good news for the region, and good news for Europe.”

The Common Agricultural Policy celebrates its 50th anniversary.

23 janvier 2012

The Commission today launched a website dedicated to the celebration of the CAP, the cornerstone of European construction.

The year-long communication campaign includes an interactive website, an itinerant exhibition, audio-visual and printed materials, as well as a series of events in Brussels and the Member States.

“2012 is an important year not only to remember the past 50 years of history, but especially for us to look ahead towards a new reform of the Common Agricultural Policy”, says Dacian Cioloş, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “Back in 1962, Europeans were predominantly worried about having enough food on their plates. Today food security remains important, but we have also new concerns such as climate change and the sustainable use of natural resources. This campaign will help to reflect on this evolution”.

Background
Under the slogan “A partnership between Europe and Farmers”, the CAP@50 campaign has been launched today in an inter-institutional event in Brussels gathering more than 150 guests involved in the history and current reform of the CAP, from the EU institutions, but also former Commissioners of Agriculture and stakeholders. (See the campaign launching video animation).

Several national launching events are also foreseen in the six founding members of the EU : Germany (Berlin, 20 January); Italy (Verona, 2 February); France, (Paris, 27 February) and Benelux (tbc, 4 April).

Throughout 2012 a series of events will be organised at national and EU level and an itinerant exhibition will travel around Europe from spring 2012. The exhibition will be displayed in several EU Institutions and Member States.

The 50 Years of CAP website in 22 languages will present a video showing how agriculture affects your everyday life and a video statement by the Commissioner presenting the campaign. Information on different events taking place all over Europe will be continuously updated on the website. The logo “50 Years of CAP. Ready for the future” will be available for downloading on the campaign’s website.

The European Commission calls for fiscal discipline still.

23 janvier 2012

For the second consecutive year, Brussels urges Member States the utmost restraint.

Today, EU financial programming and budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski sent a letter to the heads of all EU institutions stating that numerous Member States are operating cuts in their administrative expenditure due to the current economic and financial crisis. “Therefore, adds Commissioner Lewandowski, it is of the utmost importance to continue to demonstrate that the EU institutions are acting responsibly in the current climate of austerity”.

The Commission wants to lead by example: in 2013, it intends to reduce the number of posts in its establishment plans by 1%, as the first step towards a 5% staff reduction over the next five years. This is in line with its proposal for the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) calling for a cut across all EU institutions.

In 2012, the Commission voluntarily froze its own administrative expenditure, i.e. a 0.0% nominal increase compared to the 2011 budget. This was achieved by significantly reducing expenditure linked to buildings, information and communication technology, studies, publications, missions, conferences and meetings.

Background
- During the first months of each year the European Commission establishes the draft EU budget based on estimates of expenditure sent by all EU institutions.
- Article 314 of the Lisbon Treaty states that “the Commission shall consolidate these estimates in a draft budget which may contain different estimates”.
- Last February (2011), Commissioner Lewandowski issued a similar letter to the heads of all EU institutions urging them to cut expenditures in such areas as IT, publications, travel…
Administrative expenditure (functioning costs of the EU institutions) represents about 5.8% of the total EU budget.
- In 2012, the European Commission froze its administrative expenditure due to the current economic and financial crisis.
- Within the 5.8% of administrative expenditure the Commission’s share is about 40% as compared to other EU institutions. Therefore, the overall evolution of administrative expenditure depends also on budgetary requirements from other EU institutions.

The European Parliament wants tighter controls for phytosanitary products

19 janvier 2012

The main objective is to reduce hazards on the environment and human health.

Safer sofas

The updated legislation closes a loophole so that treated products - such as furniture sprayed with fungicide or anti-bacterial kitchen worktops - will be included under the rules and labelled. Agricultural pesticides will continue to be covered by other EU legislation.

Restricting harmful substances

The most problematic substances - such as those that are carcinogenic, affect genes or hormones or are toxic to reproduction - should in principle be banned. Exceptions should only be made in Member States where strictly necessary, for example if a biocide is needed to safeguard against a specific danger to health. Approvals and renewals will be time-limited, while safer alternatives are developed.

Concerned about possible risks of nanotechnology, MEPs secured separate safety checks and labelling for products containing nano-sized materials.

Opening up the market

The new legislation further harmonises the EU market for biocidal products and sets deadlines for applications to be assessed. The recognition of approvals among Member States will be improved and the possibility to apply for authorisation at EU level will be phased in from 2013, becoming possible for most biocidal products by 2020.

Reducing animal testing

To avoid duplicating tests on animals, companies will be required to share data in exchange for fair compensation

The European Parliament tracks down the waste

19 janvier 2012

Parliament passed a resolution to halve the food wastage in Europe.

Since food is wasted at all stages - by producers, processors, retailers, caterers and consumers, MEPs call for a co-ordinated strategy, combining EU-wide and national measures, to improve the efficiency of food supply and consumption chains sector by sector and to tackle food wastage as a matter of urgency. If nothing is done, food wastage will grow 40% by 2020, says a study published by the Commission.

Better education to avoid excessive waste

To drastically reduce food wastage by 2025, new awareness campaigns should be run at both EU and national levels to inform the public how to avoid wasting food, says the resolution. Member States should introduce school and college courses explaining how to store, cook and dispose of food and also exchange best practices to this end. To promote the idea of using food sustainably, MEPs called for 2014 to be designated as “European year against food waste”.

Proper labelling and packaging

To avoid situations in which retailers offer food too close to its expiry date and thus increasing the potential for wastage, dual-date labelling could be introduced to show until when food may be sold (sell-by date) and until when it may consumed (use-by date), says the resolution.

It adds that the European Commission and Member States should nonetheless first ensure that customers understand the difference between labels currently used within the EU, such as the quality-related “best before” and safety-related “use by” dates.

To enable consumers to buy just the amounts they need, food packaging should be offered in a range of sizes and designed to conserve food better. Foods close to their expiry dates and damaged food products should be sold at discounted prices, to make them more accessible to people in need, MEPs say.

Public institutions should favour responsible caterers

Public procurement rules for catering and hospitality should be updated to ensure that where possible, contracts are awarded to catering companies that use local produce and give away or redistribute leftover food to poorer people or food banks free of charge, rather than just disposing of it.

EU-level support measures such as distributing food to least-favoured citizens or programmes encouraging consumption of fruit and milk in schools should also be retargeted with a view to preventing food waste, adds the resolution.

MEPs also welcomed existing initiatives in some Member States to recover unsold food and offer it to needy citizens and called on retailers to take part in such programmes.

Food wastage figures

Current wastage in EU27: 89 million tonnes per annum (i.e. 179 kg per capita)

Projection for 2020 (if no action is taken): 126 million tonnes (i.e. a 40% increase)

Responsibility for food waste:

- households: 42% (60% of which is avoidable)
- manufacturers: 39%
- retailers: 5%
- catering sector: 14%

The European Parliament wants better management of electronic waste

19 janvier 2012

In agreement with the Council, the European Parliament updates legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Once Council formally approves the updated directive and it enters the EU lawbooks, Member States will have 18 months to update their national legislation.

Collection and recycling

All Member States must increase their collection of e-waste, regardless of whether they already meet the current flat-rate target of 4kg per person per year.

By 2016, most will have to collect 45 tonnes of e-waste for every 100 tonnes of e-goods put on sale three years previously. By 2019, this must rise to a rate of 65%, or alternatively they can collect a comparable figure of 85% of e-waste generated. Ten countries needing to improve their facilities will have an interim target of 40% and may take until 2021 to reach the final target.

To help everyone play their part, Parliament successfully argued that consumers should be allowed to return small items (such as mobile phones) to any larger electrical goods shop, without needing to buy a new product.

Better processing will help to recover more valuable raw materials and prevent harmful substances going to landfill. Recycling rates will need to rise to 80% for some categories of goods. The best recycling techniques should be used and products should be designed to be recycled more easily.

E-waste exports

MEPs also negotiated tighter controls on illegal shipments, to prevent e-waste being processed in countries where conditions are often hazardous to workers and the environment. The burden of proof moves from customs officials to exporters, who must properly demonstrate in future that goods are being shipped for repair or reuse as appropriate.

Cutting red tape

Producers of e-goods will continue to contribute financially towards meeting processing targets. They will benefit from simplified registration and reporting requirements and will be able to appoint representatives instead of needing to establish a legal seat in each country where they operate. New measures will prevent double charging of registration fees within Member States.