Articles taggés avec ‘Employment’

EU Funding: The European Commission and the European Bank of Investment launch the JASMINE initiative

Mercredi 10 septembre 2008

The micro-finance institutions have chosen this year to take stock of the situation about the initiative launched by the European Commission in November 2007 “For the development of the microcredit in favour of the growth and the employment”

EU funding: Practical preparations for the euro: final countdown for Slovakia

Vendredi 18 juillet 2008

With only 5½ months to go before the adoption of the euro, Slovakia’s preparations are quite advanced but further efforts are necessary.

Slovakia last week received the final and formal approval for adopting the euro on 1 January 2009 and the conversion rate was set. It must now concentrate on ensuring that the population and businesses are well prepared and the changeover takes place smoothly.

The Commission today adopted the seventh regular ‘Report on the practical preparations for the enlargement of the euro area’. The report focuses on Slovakia, which will adopt the euro on 1 January 2009. The conversion rate has been set at 30.1260 Slovak crowns to the euro.

The practical preparations have been entrusted to the National Coordination Committee and the Government Plenipotentiary for the Introduction of the Euro. The Commission suggests that Slovakia reinforces the coordination structures to ensure that they work efficiently and are able to solve any problems diligently.

Preparations of the financial and banking sectors are well advanced. The euro coins - a total of 500 million pieces has been foreseen - will be minted by the national Mint at Kremnica, a town in the centre of Slovakia whose minting traditions go back many centuries. The designs of the national sides that were selected by a popular vote can be seen at:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/the_euro/coins12768_en.htm

The amounts of banknotes ordered by commercial banks so far are relatively low: only 27% of a total of 188 million estimated to be needed by the NBS, compared to 92.5% in Malta and an average of 67% for the first group of euro area countries at a similar point in time. To ensure a smooth introduction of euro cash, it is absolutely essential that banks and businesses should be supplied with banknotes and coins before €-day. Businesses themselves appear to be late in planning for the quantities of cash they will need to be able to give change in euro from day one and avoid queues at banks. Additional efforts with a view to increasing the frontloading volumes to banks and sub-frontloading to businesses should, therefore, be made.

Regarding €-day itself, the banks plan for extra opening hours in the first days of January 2009, including, in some branches, special counters for businesses. The NBS and the commercial banks also plan to distribute mainly small denomination banknotes (€10 and 20) at automated cash points and over-the-counter to ease the changeover.

In order to get familiar with their new currency, Slovak citizens will have the possibility to buy mini-kits as of December. A total of 1.2 million such kits have been ordered, but this may prove insufficient. The experience from the previous changeovers showed that each household buys approximately one mini-kit. Slovakia has some 2 million households and a total population of 5.4 million.

The Commission strongly believes businesses should be encouraged to sign the ‘Ethical Code’ of conduct devised by the Government Plenipotentiary together with the Association of Slovak Entrepreneurs, undertaking to respect the conversion rules. This is to address consumers’ fears of price increases during the changeover.

The Slovak Trade Inspection (SOI) will be in charge of controlling that the rounding rules are respected and prices correctly converted and displayed in both currencies until end 2009 as planned by the government. The SOI has the power to deliver warnings and charge penalties of up to € 60,000 in case of breaches. It is important that it has sufficient resources to carry out these tasks. However, administrative price regulation or equivalent market distortive measures would better be avoided as such practices would only delay the normal price adjustments arising from the evolution of world markets that would inevitably occur in one shot at the end of the freezing period.

The euro information campaign has intensified in recent months and is already wielding results with some 64% of Slovaks saying they feel very, or rather well, informed about the changeover, according to a Flash Eurobarometer survey carried out in May, compared to 51% in September 2007. This is important to ensure the citizens embrace their new currency with full confidence. But although they are more familiar with the euro and with Economic and Monetary Union there is still a growing demand for information.

A separate survey that explored the state of preparations among Slovak enterprises, mostly SMEs, indicates that the majority are rather well informed and feel they are advanced in the preparations.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission

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EU funding: Commission’s help in front of the global food price rise

Vendredi 18 juillet 2008
 
 

Commission proposes special financing facility worth €1 billion to help developing country farmers

The European Commission today proposed to establish a special “facility for rapid response to soaring food prices in developing countries”. The fund would be worth €1 billion and would operate for two years, 2008 and 2009. This money would be in addition to existing development funds and would be taken from unused money from the European Union’s agricultural budget. It would be provided to developing countries which are most in need, based on a set of objective criteria. The facility would give priority to supply-side measures, improving access to farm inputs such as fertilisers and seed, possibly through credit, and to safety net measures aimed at improving productive capacity in agriculture. The support would be paid via international organisations, including regional organisations. The proposal falls under the co-decision procedure and the Commission hopes that Council and Parliament can reach agreement by November in order not to lose the unused 2008 money.

Rising food prices in 2007 and 2008 have had negative effects on many developing countries and their populations. Poverty has deepened for hundreds of millions of people and recent progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been put at risk. Rising food prices have resulted in riots, unrest and instability in several countries, risking the gains of years of political, developmental and peacekeeping investments.

However, the new situation could also provide a window of opportunity to stimulate a supply response from farmers in developing countries. It offers new income-generating opportunities to bring rural communities out of poverty by providing incentives for investments and productivity improvements.

At the same time, high agricultural prices have contributed to a reduction of market expenditure in the 2008 EU budget and to lower estimates for the 2009 budget within heading 2 of the financial framework. The Commission believes this provides an exceptional opportunity to provide a temporary facility to help stimulate farming in developing countries.

The Commission expects the positive results of this assistance to include an increase in agricultural production and food security in assisted countries, reduced malnutrition rates and reduced food price inflation.

Eligible countries and the share they should receive will be selected on the basis of transparent criteria. Information provided by the UN Task Force and international organisations (mainly UN agencies like FAO, WFP, World Bank and IMF) will be used, and this may be supplemented by country-specific information obtained from EC Delegations.

While all developing countries are potentially eligible for support, assistance will be provided to those that are severely affected by the food price crisis in socio-economic and political terms, have a need for measures to be taken and which do not have the means or capacity to respond unassisted.

Indicative criteria in selecting countries include reliance on food imports, food price inflation, and social and fiscal vulnerability. Other financing available to the country from the donor community will be taken into account, as well as the country’s potential to increase agricultural production. The Facility also allows for regional-level programmes, covering all developing countries of that region. Global initiatives may also be financed when implemented through a regional or international organization.

Assistance channelled through International Organisations could for instance apply to FAO (emergency input delivery programme), IFAD (e.g. rural finance), UNICEF (child nutrition, nutritional safety nets), WFP (humanitarian food assistance, transitional safety nets), the ICRC (food assistance) and the World Bank (market-based risk management, safety nets).

The Commission hopes the co-decision procedure can be completed by November, to allow commitment of funds in 2008 and implementation in early 2009.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission

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EU funding:EU project offering bright lights for bright future

Jeudi 17 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

The EU-supported project OLLA (’Organic LEDs for ICT and lighting applications’), backed with EUR 12 million in financing, may have come to an end, but the consortium has announced an extended collaboration via the OLED100.eu project.

The partnership forged between leading European companies will tackle OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting technology. The project’s aim is to improve the efficiency, lifetime and size of the light-emitting diodes.

Coordinated by Patrick Keur, OLED100.eu kicks off on 1 September 2008 and ends in 2011. The project partners seek to secure a power efficiency of 100 lumens per watt; lengthen the lifetime by more than 100 000 hours; expand the area to one metre by one metre, and reduce production costs to or under €100 per square metre.

For nearly two decades scientists have sought ways to convert electrical energy into visible light by using means other than incandescent sources. They have also looked to offer the market highly efficient and fully customised light in form, colour and appearance. However, they have focused their energies on display applications only. Sources now say that the potential of OLED technology is great, particularly as OLEDs can provide a myriad of products which offer high efficiencies at high brightness, different appearances, as well as shape and colour combinations.

OLED100.eu’s contribution to the lighting technology will prove positive, sources say. The research team adds that OLEDs have the potential to become the number one light source choice for various applications, including liquid crystal display (LCD)-backlighting, emergency lighting, signalling and advertising.

By 2023, these specific diodes will have succeeded in replacing the currently used lights - incandescent and fluorescent - and OLLA helped kick-start this phenomenon successfully. OLLA recently presented the basic technology for a highly efficient white OLED light source based on the Novaled PIN OLEDTM technology.

The results achieved in OLLA also include the delivery of large indium tin oxide (ITO)-free OLEDs, the first large-area printed OLEDs and a number of information and communication technology (ICT) demonstrators.

The researchers say all key players involved in the OLLA and OLED100.eu projects have strengthened their cooperation and fuelled their expertise to get the innovative technology off the ground as quickly as possible, particularly for the international markets.

 
  Source:
CORDIS
 
  More information:
Hitech projects

EU funding: What future for the training of magistrates and judicial personnel in the European Union ?

Jeudi 17 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for judicial cooperation and training for legal practitioners in the field of criminal justice
 Grants for judicial cooperation projects between practitioners in civil matters

The conference organised in Bordeaux on July, 21th, 2008 will deal with the training of magistrates and judicial personnel

The aim of the conference is to take stock of existing training courses and review training needs, with a view to establishing some guidelines for the future.

The discussions will focus on issues concerning common knowledge and values and also on the specific needs of judicial personnel.

The French Presidency hopes that this conference will be an opportunity to further the discussions begun during the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council on 7th and 8th of July on the training of magistrates and judicial staff within the EU with the aim of getting the Council of Ministers to adopt a resolution on training before the end of the Presidency.

Since the Summit of Heads of State and Government in Tampere, Finland, in 1999, judgements on civil and criminal matters handed down by the magistrates of the European Union must be implemented in other Member States; this is known as the application of the mutual recognition principle. According to this principle, judges in one Member State of the Union must recognise legal decisions handed down in other Member States as though they were decisions handed down in their own country and must give them the same legal effect.

For example, a European arrest warrant issued by a Romanian judicial authority must, if necessary, be enforced in France. In these circumstances, the French judge must apply the ruling of the Romanian judge.

The implementation of this principle presupposes great mutual trust between the magistrates and judicial personnel within the EU. However, this type of mutual trust cannot be imposed from above but must be based on a sense of belonging to the same judicial culture; one of its foundations is the conviction that the magistrates and judicial personnel of other countries receive sufficient training.

To improve the application of mutual recognition, it is therefore important to develop a common judicial culture and bring the Member States’ knowledge closer together in this area.

Although considerable efforts have been made to achieve this target, gaps still remain in the area of training, particularly with regard to:

* knowledge of European Union law;
* the use of different networks and bodies created to facilitate European judicial cooperation;
* command of languages;
* knowledge of the legal and judicial systems of other Member States or exchanges between legal professionals on their working practices and the difficulties they encounter.

 
  Source:
French Presidency

EU funding: EU clampdown on ring-tone scams

Jeudi 17 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the framework of the programme of Community action in the field of consumer protection policy

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva today announced the results of an EU-wide investigation into websites offering mobile phone services such as ring-tones and wallpapers

The enquiry, which was carried out on more than 500 websites across the 27 Member States, Norway and Iceland, found that 80% of the sites checked need to be further investigated for suspected breaches of EU consumer rules. Many of the websites target children and young people. Problems found included: unclear price information where prices are incomplete did not include taxes or customers are unaware that they are signing up to a subscription. Large numbers of websites do not provide some of the required contact information about the trader. Other problems relate to misleading information where key information is hidden in very small print or hard to find on a website or the word “free” is used to mislead consumers into a long-term contracts. The breaches vary in the degree of seriousness. More than 495 million mobile phones are owned by Europeans. Ring-tones alone were estimated to make up 29% of the overall “mobile content” market in Europe in 2007 (about 10% higher than 2006). The value of European ring-tone sales in 2007 was estimated at €691 million. Seven countries Norway, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Iceland, Romania, Greece) are publishing the names of the websites which they found to have irregularities.

The Sweep

The “Sweep” is a new kind of EU investigation and enforcement action. Member States carry out simultaneous, coordinated checks of webpages for breaches in consumer law in a particular sector. They contact operators with alleged irregularities and ask them to clarify their position and/or taken corrective action.

The mobile services Sweep took place between 2-6 June. Enforcement authorities across Europe checked mobile service websites for suspected violations of EU consumer law - Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC); Distance Selling Directive (1997/7/EC), E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC).

The results

The Sweep focused on 3 types of practices in the mobile services sector which compromise consumer rights (unclear information about the offer’s price, trader information, misleading advertising).

* 80% of websites checked are being further investigated. The total number of websites checked was 558, the total number of websites that need further investigation is 466. The number of cases potentially requiring cross border co-operation between different national authorities, CPC cases (Consumer Protection Co-operation Network) is 76.
* 50% of websites checked targeted children (279 websites out of 558). These websites used children’s cartoon characters, well known TV characters or required parental consent. The same high level of irregularities (80%) also applied to these sites.
* Many websites indicated multiple irregularities. The figures are as follows
* Almost 50% of all the sites checked had some irregularity related to the information about the offer’s price (268 websites out of 558). On many websites prices and related charges and fees are not clearly indicated or not referred to at all - until the consumer is invoiced via their phone bill. Prices did not include all taxes, in the case of a subscription, the word subscription is not clearly mentioned or the period of a subscription is not clear.
* Over 70% of all the websites checked lacked some of the information required to contact the trader - the trader name, geographic address or the contact details were incomplete (399 websites out of 558). This is against EU law -the eCommerce Directive 2000/31/EC requires details of the service provider, including an email address, to be displayed.
* Over 60% of websites checked presented the information in a misleading way (344 out of 558). Information on the contract is available on the site but hidden in small print or hard to find. Goods and services advertised as “free”, but the customer is misled and later finds that there are charges or that they are tied into a contract.

What happens next?

Companies will be contacted by the national authorities and asked to clarify or correct problems identified. Failure to do so can result in legal action leading to fines or closure of their websites. For cross border cases, national authorities will work with colleagues from other EU authorities. Authorities are asked to report back on their progress in the first half of 2009.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission

EU funding: Climate package: are we sharing the cuts in emissions?

Jeudi 17 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for strengthening Community environment policy and legislation, with a view to promoting sustainable development in the EU

Last year EU leaders agreed to cut CO2 emissions by a fifth by 2020 in a bid to tackle climate change.

Emerging global agreements could up that figure to a 30% cut. Earlier this year the European Commission unveiled legislation that would allow these steps to be taken. The EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme is at the heart of these efforts although keys areas like transport and buildings are not covered. Deals based on solidarity between States will be how CO2 cuts are agreed for these areas.
Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi is vice-chair of the Environment Committee and parliament’s rapporteur for the “Effort Sharing Decision” to reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. “Effort Sharing” covers areas not covered by the EU’s emission trading scheme such as transport, buildings, services, agriculture and waste. Between 2013 and 2020 they will make up about half of all emissions.

Ms Hassi wants emissions in these sectors capped - and that includes transport by ship which is not covered by the Kyoto agreement. At their last plenary session in Strasbourg MEPs voted to include aircraft in the trading scheme in 2012.

“Falls short of what is needed”

Ms Hassi believes that the proposals put forward by the Commission are not ambitious enough. She told us they: “fall short of what is needed in order to keep global warming below the 2°C limit. Reductions of 30% compared with 1990 level would be in the range given by the UN’s climate change panel. But the Commission proposes 30% reduction only as a part of an international agreement, and doing part of this via offsetting.”

She would like industrialised countries to aim for targets of 80% reductions by the middle of the century. This is higher than the 25%-40% cuts scientists believe are necessary to contain temperature rises at 2°C.

There is already discord among EU states as to the level that they should be starting at. At present 2005 is given as the reference year so countries would have to make cuts appropriate to their emissions based on 2005. However, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia all believe it does not reflect their efforts to restructure post-Communist economies based on heavy industries. They have put forward a target of an 18% cut in emissions.

How can we reduce emissions?

The “offsetting” of emissions by reducing them outside the EU is one way proposed by the European Commission. It wants 3% of emissions not covered by the trading scheme to be offset. Ms Hassi opposes the use of credits as it would not achieve the 24-40% cuts she believes are necessary.

For countries outside the EU she believes that separate emissions reductions target should be agreed and that Europe should use its technological know-how to help. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change says that developing countries need to reduce their emissions by 15-30% compared to business as usual.

The Commission has proposed that countries can reduce their emissions (those not included in the trading scheme) until 2020. Countries can either borrow or carry over their emissions limit to the next year depending on progress.

The Hassi report will be voted on by the Environment Committee in October, the plenary will consider it in December.

 
  Source:
European Parliament

EU funding: Member States sould reimburse 410,3 million Euro for CAP

Mercredi 9 juillet 2008
 
 

Commission to recover € 410.3 million of CAP expenditure from the Member States

A total of € 410.3 million of EU farm money unduly spent by Member States is claimed back as a result of a decision adopted by the European Commission. The money returns to the Community budget because of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds.

Main financial corrections

Under this latest decision, the 28th since the 1995 reform of the system for recovering unduly spent CAP money, funds will be recovered from Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. The most significant individual corrections are:

* € 145.2 million charged to Italy for weaknesses in the photo-interpretation of images and in the on-the-spot control procedure based on images from earlier years concerning arable crops (area aids) payments;
* € 127.7 million charged to Greece for shortcomings in LPIS-GIS system and in on-the-spot checks concerning area aids and nuts payments;
* € 69.4 million charged to Great Britain for inappropriate timing of the follow-up field visits and for the inaccurate determination of the area eligible for payments.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission

EU funding: Can animals comprehend the power of symbols?

Mercredi 9 juillet 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 New framework programme for research and technology aiming at better exploiting research capacities in Europe and transforming scientific results into new products, processes and services.

Humans interpret symbols every day, from traffic lights to warning labels on tins. We also use symbols on a more complex level such as currency.

When we use money, be it a paper note or a coin, we inherently understand the corresponding intrinsic value that that note or coin has. Our whole economic system runs on the basis that we all understand the value currency has.

The question is, do animals also have this understanding? The project SEDSU, funded by the EU with around €37,500 in financing, is saying yes, animals may very well understand the power of symbols and of currency.

Conducted by the CNR, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Unit of Cognitive Primatology and Primate Center, Rome, Italy, the SEDSU (’Stages in the evolution and development of sign use’) study was funded by the NEST (’New and emerging science and technology’) programme of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and examined the fundamental question of ‘Can non-human animals comprehend and employ symbols?’

Traditionally speaking, it has been humans who have been defined as the ’symbolic species’. Perhaps the most complex implementation of symbols humans have devised is in the languages and scripts they have created. According to this study: ‘This mental representation of symbols - objects that arbitrarily represent other objects - ultimately affords the development of language, and almost certainly played a decisive role in the evolution of our hominid ancestors.’

Over the years it appears as though humans have been unique in the evolution of the use of symbols. While some evidence does exist however that apes can use symbols in various contexts and indeed, have even been trained to use language, data is lacking when it comes to species of monkeys which are further removed from the human family tree.

This is why the study focused on the tufted capuchin monkeys, a South American species that diverged from humans about 35 million years ago. In this experiment five capuchins were engaged in ‘economic choice’ behaviour. Each monkey was given the chance to choose between three different foods offered in variable amounts.

The monkeys chose between ‘tokens’ that represent actual foods. After choosing one of the two token options, monkeys could exchange their token with the corresponding food. What they saw was that the capuchin monkeys assigned a value for each token and food item. Capuchins were indifferent between one Cheerio and two pieces of parmesan cheese, indicating that the value of one Cheerio is equal to two times the value of one piece of parmesan cheese. When choosing between tokens that represented the same foods, the relative value increased - for example, capuchins were indifferent between one Cheerio-token and four parmesan-tokens.

These results indicate that capuchin monkeys can indeed apply reason to symbols. However, as they do so, capuchins also experience the cognitive burden of figuring out what each symbol represents. In this respect they appear to behave similarly to young children.

The study concludes that while capuchin monkeys may not achieve the same standard of adult humans with regard to symbolic competence, the study is able to demonstrate that animal species relatively distant from humans have undertaken the path of symbolic use and understanding.

 
  Source:
CORDIS
 
  More information:
Sedsu

EU funding: All-inclusive air fares just around the corner as MEP back legislation on transparency

Mercredi 9 juillet 2008

Air travellers will soon be able to see at a glance exactly what they have to pay for their tickets, as Parliament approved new EU rules.

Air fares as displayed will have to include all taxes, fees and charges added to the basic ticket price and known at the time of publication. Parliament approved a deal on this legislation reached with the Council, as it takes on board the EP’s key first-reading amendments.
The price you actually have to pay

Booking via Internet - often the only possibility with low-cost air carriers - is a particular concern. Under the EU regulation, all carriers will in future have to provide the general public with comprehensive information, “including on the Internet,” on their air fares. Air fares that are “addressed directly to the travelling public” will have to include all applicable taxes, non-avoidable charges, surcharges and fees known at the time of publication.

The following information, at least, must be specified: air fare or air rate, taxes, airport charges and other charges, surcharges or fees, such as those related to security or fuel. Optional price supplements must be communicated in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way at the start of any booking process and their acceptance by the consumer must be on an “opt-in basis”.

Security taxes and charges

With security charges on the rise, MEPs successfully argued that the consumer has a right to know how high these costs are, and what they are used for. Where airport or on-board security costs are included in the price of an air ticket, these costs will have to be shown separately on the ticket or otherwise indicated to the passenger. And, whether levied by the Member States or by air carriers or other entities, security taxes and charges must be transparent and be used exclusively to meet airport or onboard aircraft security costs.

A wide-ranging regulation

The new rules on transparency of air fares are part of a regulation which updates existing EU legislation on a range of matters to do with the operation of air transport services in the Community.

Among other things, it aims to establish a level playing field for leasing aircraft and to clarify who has administrative responsibility for revoking or suspending licences.

In addition, stricter controls on the financial situation of airlines should ensure that, if a carrier is on the verge of going bankrupt, passengers’ rights can be safeguarded.

Moreover, Member States must now ensure the proper application of Community and national employment legislation to employees of any Community carrier operating air services from an operational base outside the Member State where that carrier has its principal place of business. In the past, the use of bases outside the country of origin has made it difficult to determine which territory’s employment laws apply to crews.

The new regulation should enter into force later this year or early next year.

 
  Source:
European Parliament

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