Articles taggés avec ‘Food and drink’

EU funding: EU-Russia: first round of negotiations for the new Agreement

Jeudi 3 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants provided to cross-borders projects of civil societies’ development in CEE/Russia Regional area

On 4 July, the negotiators of the European Commission and the Russian Federation will meet for a first round of talks on the new Agreement in Brussels.

During this first meeting negotiators will focus on defining the overall scope of the negotiations, the agenda for the different areas to be covered, and establishing a calendar for the negotiations. The EU delegation is led by the head of the Directorate General for External Relations, Director General Eneko Landaburu. The Russian delegation is headed by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy commented: “Just a week after the political launch of these negotiations on the new Agreement in Khantiy-Mansiisk, the two negotiating teams are getting down working here in Brussels. Our aim is to achieve a comprehensive and substantive Agreement that will serve as the institutional and legal basis for our relations for a long time to come. The new agreement will help to unlock the full potential of this partnership, which is based on so many common interests”.

The new Agreement will provide the legally binding framework for future co-operation between the EU and the Russian Federation, building on existing cooperation in the Four Common Spaces. It will underpin this strategic partnership by preparing the ground for stronger results-orientated political co-operation, deep economic integration, a level playing field for our energy relations, closer relations in the field of freedom, security, and justice, and the mutual opening of educational and scientific systems to.

Russia’s completion of its WTO accession process will open new perspectives for trading and economic relations with the EU.

Another important component of the new agreement will be the commitments both the EU and Russia have signed up to at international level, notably as members of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

After the conclusion of this round of negotiations, the main negotiators will brief the press on the record on Friday 4 July at 12:30. Journalists wanting to attend this briefing should please contact Christiane Hohmann (

Press Room - European Commission

EU funding: Volunteering: Commission proposes a boost for the mobility of young people

Jeudi 3 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for any informal youth initiative by means of a transnational European voluntary service for the youth

The European Commission today proposed the launch of an initiative to create more opportunities for young people to volunteer across Europe.

Young people who wish to volunteer in another Member State currently do not have enough opportunities to do so. With this proposal, the Commission is putting forward a solution that respects Europe’s diversity of volunteering schemes and allows them to better inter-operate and open up to volunteers from other EU countries.

Youth volunteering

The initiative concerns young people in the European Union under the age of 30 who wish to volunteer in a country other than their own. Such voluntary activities differ from formal employment, since they are usually unpaid (except for some pocket money and expenses) and cover a limited period of time, typically several months. Volunteers are active in a whole range of areas, from civil protection and social inclusion to cultural preservation and the environment.

Cross-border volunteering offers young people a special experience that can have strong beneficial effects on their personal development. This kind of ‘non-formal education’ — learning outside the classroom — can improve young people’s employability and career prospects while at the same time strengthen their sense of solidarity with, and active citizenship of, the society of which they are a part.

The current situation

Youth volunteering differs widely across Europe, and there are many schemes. While these may be based on civic services organised by public authorities in one country, they may be run by non-governmental organisations in another.

At the European level, there is the EU’s Youth in Action programme, which offers opportunities for volunteering, among them the European Voluntary Service (EVS). This enables young people to be full-time volunteers for up to one year in another country participating in the programme. However, the demand for cross-border volunteering among youth in Europe exceeds by far the capacities of the EVS alone.

The proposal

The Commission is encouraging Member States to improve the interoperability of national youth volunteering schemes in order to make it easier for a volunteer from one country to participate in the volunteering schemes of another.

Actions proposed to Member States include:

• gathering knowledge on existing schemes within their territories

• disseminating information about available opportunities

• increasing the number of cross-border volunteering opportunities under different national schemes

• providing a reasonable level of quality assurance of volunteering activities

• ensuring appropriate recognition of the learning outcomes from volunteering

• providing targeted support to socio-educational instructors specialised in youth (commonly called ‘youth workers’) and young people with fewer opportunities.

These efforts would be supported through the Europass and Youthpass services, and the promotion of trans-European youth volunteering towards employers, authorities and institutions. The Commission would support the use of these instruments and continue to develop the European Young Volunteers’ Portal as part of the existing Youth Portal.

The ambition of the proposal is not to bring about radical change but rather an evolution of mechanisms already existing within Member States. Based on existing Resolutions on youth volunteering and Recommendations on mobility, the goal is to propose operative recommendations towards improved mobility of young volunteers in Europe.

The proposal is part of the EU’s “Renewed Social Agenda: Opportunities, Access and Solidarity in 21st century Europe”. It contributes to the agenda’s objectives by opening up access to new opportunities for mobility, non-formal education and solidarity across borders.

Press Room - European Commission

EU funding: 1968-2008: 4 decades of customs union

Mardi 1 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for exchange projects for customs officers and the modernisation of information and communication services

The 1st of July marks 40 years since customs barriers fell across the 6 members of the then EEC.

The black and white picture - which was taken on the Belgian border - shows that moving goods around could be a slow process. Customs control at the EU’s external borders has allowed its internal market of goods, people and services to develop. Today, the main goal is to protect people against terrorism and organised crime, unhealthy foods and dangerous products like counterfeit medicines.
The amount of transactions customs officers deal with is immense. Last year 183 million customs declarations were processed and 43,000 cases of fake goods seized. In addition to this import duties levied by customs for goods imported to the EU were €15 billion last year.

There is no EU customs service but 27 working on the basis of the “Community Customs code”. New methods are constantly being adopted to deal with a global trade. These include customs that are more up to date and “friendlier” for consumers and businesses. So-called “E-customs” (using electronic technology) paperless customs and an updated Community Customs code are just some of these.

European Parliament and the customs union

Parliament’s Internal Market Committee - under its Chair, British Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy - has supported the role the customs union plays. On 19 June they introduced a resolution which was passed by fellow MEPs in Strasbourg.

It calls for;

* More cooperation between national customs authorities in the EU and International ones.
* Investment in new technologies and methods.
* Action to cut red tape.
* A proper balance between trade and security.
* It voices opposition to US plans for the 100% scanning of containers from foreign ports as it believes this will not improve Europe’s security.

In February this year Members voted to support a report by French Liberal MEP Janelly Fourtou on modernising the customs code. In December last year backed report calling for paperless customs by British Conservative Chris Heaton-Harris.

Not just customs

It is also known that customs procedures can have a spin-off in helping implement other EU policies. For example trade policy requires a common customs tariff and measures such as the customs value and the origin of goods.

Also, in development policy economic cooperation is built around the system of trade preferences which are based around a common customs tariff.

This year sees a series of events organised by the European Commission and the French Presidency to mark the anniversary and draw attention to new challenges. For more on this see the first link below.

European Parliament

EU funding: Erasmus Mundus: “be curious and don’t hesitate”

Mardi 1 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through co-operation with third countries

Special visas and higher scholarships to cope deal with rising living costs are just two things MEPs on the Culture and Education Committee would like for the Erasmus Mundus student exchange course.

The report comes ahead of the second phase of the programme. Erasmus Mundus is for students from outside Europe who wish to study at its Universities and for European students to study far a field. The separate Erasmus scheme has already helped 1.5 million people study in Europe.
Since 2004 Erasmus Mundus has awarded over 4,400 scholarships for students to come to study in Europe. One of these was Belek from Kyrgyzstan who spent 6 months doing an MA in international relations at Vilnius University. He told us he was sure “it will help me find a job and make a career”.

Student visa and higher scholarship say MEPs

An important part of the programme is building Europe’s links with countries from around the world and attracting the best and brightest to Europe’s universities. However, the importance of students returning to their country is an aspect stressed by French Liberal MEP Marielle De Sarnez who acted as rapporteur for the issue. After fellow MEPs on the committee voted to support the report on 24 June she said “the aim is not to organise the brain drain, but to train future generations of emerging countries”. It will now be put before a vote of the full parliament in the autumn.

The report focuses on a number of areas where it believes practical action can help. It wants European governments to introduce a specific visa for the Erasmus Mundus students. This would greatly help them to study abroad. Equally it wants the amount of scholarships increased to reflect higher living costs. Current scholarships are €21,000 for 1 year if you are outside Europe whilst a European student gets €3,100 for 3 months.

MEPs also want the decision on whether to award a place to a student taken earlier to help with administration. Students should also be able to learn 2 foreign languages. Finally, special attention should be given to those with disabilities and those who come from poor and minority backgrounds.

Erasmus Mundus open to non-EU students

The next phase of the Erasmus Mundus programme (which has a budget of 950 million from 2009-2013) aims to get more scholarships for European students and for more interests from people from the former Yugoslav states. It also wants to improve the information available to students about the programme. Part of the appeal of Erasmus Mundus is that it is open not just to students in the 27 countries of the EU but also Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Croatia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The final word must go to another Erasmus Mundus student - Mindaugas from Lithuania. He went to do a PhD at the law faculty of Kyiv University in Ukraine.

On his experiences he said that “Kiev is quite an expensive city, but I could survive with my PhD scholarship. I greatly improved my legal knowledge…met many interesting people, learned Ukrainian and improved Russian skills”. He has a word of advice to those thinking about studying abroad - “be curious and don’t hesitate”.

European Parliament

Eu funding: Footballers and employers launch new EU forum for social dialogue

Mardi 1 juillet 2008

Organisations representing players, leagues and clubs from around the EU today sat down together for the first time, in Paris, to discuss and tackle labour issues of common concern in the professional football sector.

The new social dialogue committee – launched by Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimír Špidla and Education, Training, Culture and Youth Commissioner Ján Figeľ – brings together the International Federation of Professional Footballers’ Associations-Division Europe (FIFPro) and the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL). The employers’ side is complemented by the European Club Association (ECA). Given the specificity of sport governance, the social partners have invited UEFA to chair their dialogue.

Minimum requirements for professional players’ contracts is the first issue on the discussion table. The partners – represented by Sir Dave Richards, Chairman of the EPFL and the Premier League, Philippe Piat, President of FIFPro Division Europe, and Jean-Michel Aulas, (ECA and Olympique Lyonnaise) – will discuss and try to reach agreements on minimum standards in fields like health and safety at work, health insurance, education for young players, obligations and rights of players, conflict resolution and image rights.

Within the European Union, FIFPro represents more than 28 000 players in 20 EU Member States. EPFL represents high-level leagues and clubs associations from 17 EU Member States with altogether more than 600 clubs in the EU. In particular, it speaks on behalf of those leagues and the French and Dutch club associations that negotiate collective agreements at national level, which currently exist in eleven Member States. The social partners also want to promote social dialogue and reinforce capacity in the EU Member States. ECA represents 103 top clubs, of which currently 67 are in the EU Member States.

This latest sectoral social dialogue committee is the 36th of its kind set up at EU level and gives the European social partners an opportunity to contribute to governance in employment affairs in an autonomous and participative way. The Commission encouraged social dialogue in the sport sector in its 2007 White Paper on Sport.

Press Room - European Commission
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European Commission

EU funding: Commission launches debate on relations with Overseas Countries and Territories

Mercredi 25 juin 2008

The Commission today tabled a Green Paper on the future relation with Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT), aimed at launching a broad debate on the EU–OCT relations.

Following the public consultation, the Commission will propose a new partnership that takes better account of the special characteristics and present economic situation in the 21 islands .

Because of their special relations with Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the UK, OCTs are closely associated with the EU. For historic reasons, the current relationship was very much modelled on the relationship with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) Such an agreement does not correspond to the specific social, economic and environmental challenges faced by OCTs today.

The Green paper is intended to launch a broad discussion on the opportunity of replacing the current agreement with an innovative partnership for the OCTs. Any future partnership should be tailored to their specific status, needs, challenges and potential whilst also recognising the close link, mutual interest and solidarity between the OCTs and the EU. Any future partnership should fully or partly replace the current one when the present Overseas Association Decision expires on 31 December 2013.

The Commission will hold a online consultation covering these issues from 1 July to the 17 October 2008.

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Eu funding: The Commission launches Single European Sky II for safer, greener and more punctual flying

Mercredi 25 juin 2008

The European Commission adopted today the second package of legislation for a Single European Sky (SES II).

These proposals aim to further improve safety, cut costs and reduce delays. That will in turn mean lower fuel consumption, so that airlines could save up to 16 million tons of CO2 emissions and cut their annual cost by between two and three billion euros. This full reform of the European air traffic management system will be key to managing the doubling of traffic expected by 2020. Not only airline passengers, but also freight forwarders and military and private aviation will benefit. The package will create additional jobs in aviation. Meanwhile, European manufacturing industry will gain from being at the forefront of innovation in air traffic management technology (i.e. satellite based systems - Galileo, datalink, etc.), thus giving it a competitive edge on global markets.

The SES II package is based on four pillars: updates to existing legislation from 2004; the SESAR ATM (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research) Master Plan or ‘technological pillar’; the ’safety pillar’ and an airport capacity action plan.

The first pillar introduces several enhancements to the original SES legislation, including binding performance targets for air navigation service providers, a European network management function to ensure convergence between national networks and a definitive date for Member States to improve performance ,initially through a cross border cooperative approach known as Functional Airspace Blocks.

The new package places environmental issues at the core of the Single European Sky and improved air traffic management should realise its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. Prospective improvements are up to 10% per flight, which amounts to 16 million tons of CO2 savings per year and a reduction of annual costs by €2.4 billion.

The technological pillar focuses on introducing better technology. The SESAR programme brings together all aviation stakeholders to develop and operate a new generation, Europe-wide air traffic management system. Its deployment will enable the safe, sustainable and cost-effective handling of twice the current traffic by 2020.

The safety pillar provides for increased responsibilities for the European Aviation Safety Agency. This would ensure precise, uniform and binding rules for airport safety, air traffic management and air navigation services, as well as sound oversight of their implementation by Member States.

Finally, the airport capacity pillar tackles the shortage of runways and airport facilities, which currently threatens to become a major bottleneck. The initiative seeks to co-ordinate better airport slots issued to aircraft operators with air traffic management measures as well as the establishment of an airport capacity observatory to fully integrate airports in the aviation network.

Press Room - European Commission

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Eu funding: “Think Small First”: A Small Business Act for Europe

Mercredi 25 juin 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants within the frame of the DG Enterprise and Industry annual work programme concerning very specific projects

Most jobs in the EU are provided for by Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), companies of 250 employees or less.

They have a crucial importance for the future development, but very often face enormous bureaucratic hurdles and obstacles. European SMEs deserve to be better assisted to fully unlock their potential of long term sustainable growth and of more job creation. To achieve this goal, the European Commission has unveiled today the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA), based on ten guiding principles and proposes policy actions to be undertaken by both the Commission and Member States.

The Commission is proposing a genuine political partnership between the EU and the Member States reflecting the political willingness to recognise the central role of SMEs in the EU economy and to put in place for the first time a comprehensive policy framework for the EU and its Member States. The SBA proposal goes hand in hand with the recently announced plans of the European Investment Bank Group to simplify, modernise and diversify the range of its instruments to support SMEs.

At the heart of the SBA is the conviction that achieving the best possible framework conditions for SMEs depends first and foremost on society’s recognition of entrepreneurs, including crafts, micro-enterprises, family owned or social economy enterprises, and making the option of starting one’s own business attractive. This means that the rather negative perception of the role of entrepreneurs and risk-taking in the EU must change.

The European Small Business Act sets out 10 principles which should be adopted at the highest political level and concrete measures that will make life easier for small businesses. After consulting with businesses and their representatives, the European Commission has also resolved to propose new legislation in four areas that particularly affect SMEs:

* First, a new General Block Exemption Regulation on state aids will simplify procedures and reduce costs. It will increase the aid intensity for SMEs and make it easier for SMEs to benefit from aid for training, research and development, environmental protection and other types of aid.
* Secondly, a new statute for a European Private Company will allow a “Société privée européenne” (SPE) to be created and operate according to the same uniform principles in all Member States. It has been designed to address the current onerous obligations on SMEs operating across borders, who need to set up subsidiaries in different company forms in every Member State in which they want to do business. In practical terms, the SPE would mean that SMEs can set up their company in the same form, no matter if they do business in their own Member State or in another. Opting for the SPE will save entrepreneurs time and money on legal advice, management and administration
* Thirdly, a new proposal on VAT will offer Member States the option to apply reduced VAT rates for locally supplied services, including labour intensive services, which are mainly provided by small and medium enterprises.
* Lastly, an amendment to the directive on late payments is foreseen in 2009 to help to ensure that SMEs are paid within the 30 day time limit stipulated.

10 principles shall guide the conception and implementation of policies at EU and Member State level, such as granting a second chance for business failures, facilitating access to finance and enabling SMEs to turn environmental challenges into opportunities.

In addition to the standing commitment to cut administrative burden by 25% by 2012, the time needed to start a new company should be no more than one week, the maximum time to obtain business licenses and permits should not surpass one month and one-stop-shops should assist to facilitate start-ups and recruitment procedures.

Where practical, the Commission plans to use concrete dates in a year for the entry into force of regulations/decisions affecting business. Member States are invited to consider similar measures.

The SBA includes an ambitious set of measures to allow SMEs to fully benefit from the Single Market and expand into international markets by orienting more resources to small companies’ access to finance, Research & Development and innovation. They will also make it easier for them to participate in the standard-setting process, win public procurement contracts and turn environmental challenges into business opportunities.

Finally, the SBA seeks new ways to stimulate interest in entrepreneurship and cultivate a more entrepreneurial mindset, especially among young people. Young people, who want to start up a business, can now gain experience by spending time in an SME abroad via the just launched “Erasmus for young entrepreneurs” programme. This will help upgrade their skills and contribute to the networking among SMEs in Europe. Similar mobility programmes are also underway for apprentices.

The SBA is fully embedded in the Growth and Jobs strategy. Member States are invited to take advantage of the update of the Lisbon cycle 2008 to reflect the SBA in their National Reform Programmes.


Although 99% of companies in the EU are SMEs (companies with a maximum of 250 employees and a maximal turnover of € 50 million), most legislation and administrative procedures don’t distinguish on the basis of company size. As a result, 23 million SMEs often have the same administrative requirements as Europe’s 41,000 large companies. During past years SMEs have created 80 % of the new jobs in the EU.

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DG enterprise

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EU funding: EUROCITIES Conference on Climate Change and Mobility

Mardi 24 juin 2008

Environment and transport experts from across Europe attend event in London

Around 100 participants from across Europe attended the EUROCITIES Conference on Climate Change and Mobility, which was jointly organised by EUROCITIES’ Environment and Mobility Forums and hosted by Transport for London. The joint session on 3 June was opened by Kia Andreasson (Vice-Mayor of Gothenburg, Political Chair of the Environment Forum) and Niels Torslov (Copenhagen, Technical Chair of the Mobility Forum).

London’s Climate Change Action Plan was presented by Shirley Rodrigues, Head of Environment at the Greater London Authority. The Plan aims to deliver major reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while also bringing financial benefits in terms of lower energy costs. It includes a series of measures that will drastically improve energy efficiency in buildings, businesses and the transport sector, while also making greater use of renewable energy sources.

A very interesting and fruitful panel discussion included contributions from: Ronan Dantec (Vice Mayor of Nantes), Mario Aymerich (European Investment Bank), Pedro Ballesteros (European Commission - DG Transport and Energy), Ian Hodgson (DG Environment) and Helen Woolston (Transport for London). The speakers analysed how climate change and urban mobility are being addressed at different levels of governance, and how integration can be improved.

More than 65 participants took part in a Projects Fair, starting with an introduction of the European funding opportunities that are available for cities in the mobility and environment sectors, followed by a project brokerage session in which a variety of project proposals were presented by the cities of Düsseldorf, Leeds, Rotterdam, Sheffield and Stockholm, plus the Region of Wallonia (Belgium).

During the afternoon, two parallel workshops dealt with the practical aspects of developing and implementing urban mobility policies that also contribute to tackling climate change. One workshop looked at how to facilitate cooperation among different actors and stakeholders, and the other focused on issues in relation to decision-making procedures.

The Conference was preceded on 2 June by meetings of various EUROCITIES Working Groups that deal with issues related to environment and mobility. Then on 4 June there were separate meetings of the Environment and Mobility Forums during which members discussed their respective ongoing activities and plans for the next two years.


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EU funding: Energy dialogue regarding high oil prices

Mardi 24 juin 2008

Minister of the Economy Andrej Vizjak today co-chaired the fifth meeting of the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue in Brussels.

The main theme of the ministerial meeting was high oil prices. The ministers of the EU Member States and OPEC Member Countries exchanged positions and information.

Energy policy and climate change are major priorities among EU policies, as demonstrated in particular during recent years. “We are aware that these two areas must be at the top of the list of discussed topics,” noted Minister Vizjak in his address. He pointed out that the aim of a low-carbon future is clear and binding. The EU Member States and OPEC Member Countries share a common interest in encouraging energy efficiency and alternative energy sources, increasing the transparency of oil markets, encouraging competitiveness in energy markets and enhancing dialogue between oil-producing countries.

High oil prices were an important topic at the meeting, and Minister Vizjak expressed his concern on behalf of the Council of the European Union as well. He explained that there is a correlation between the current high oil prices and the motivation of the EU to reach its ambitious goals concerning renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Mr Vizjak added: “This correlation is even more alarming because its consequences are felt by our companies and our citizens. It would be reasonable to increase productivity and thus help reduce prices to a more acceptable level.”

The ministers also discussed the establishment of an OPEC-EU energy and technological centre, which was welcomed both by the Presidency and the Member States.

Slovenian presidency