Articles taggés avec ‘Welcomeurope’

EU funding: Cleaner, greener cities debated Tuesday night

Mardi 8 juillet 2008

More European cities in the future should think hard about introducing measures such as “green zones” in their city centers, argues Austrian centre right MEP Reinhard Rack (EPP-ED) in a report to be debated Tuesday evening.

The report calls for greater use of public transport across Europe in an effort to reduce the number of private cars on the road. The hope is that this could protect the environment and reduce CO2 emissions from cars.
The report argues that cities and their surroundings face similar problems and challenges regarding pollution, congestion, and noise and road safety. The result is that is getting more difficult to move around towns and cities according to the report.

Negative effect on quality of life noted

It says that in addition to being a major contributor to climate change, pollution and other environmental problems, traffic can also have negative effects on the quality of people’s lives. Given this the report calls for towns and cities across Europe to choose from a wide range of flexible instruments, combining “hard” and “soft” law measures

The report goes on to say that cities should be free to adopt their own mobility policies while public transport must be made more efficient, attractive and accessible. Attention must be paid to the particular needs of employees, people with reduced mobility, children and the elderly

Currently cities such as London, Rome, Milan, Valetta and Stockholm already introduced measures such as green zones, road pricing and congestion charging.

The Rack report responds to a Commission Green Paper entitled “Towards a new culture of urban mobility” and a White Paper on a European transport policy for 2010.

European Parliament

Eu funding: Commission welcomes Council approval of Slovakia’s euro adoption

Mardi 8 juillet 2008

The European Commission welcomes today’s final and formal decision by the ECOFIN Council allowing Slovakia to adopt the euro as from 1 January 2009.

On a proposal by the Commission, the Council also decided that the Slovak koruna will be converted into euro at the rate of 30.1260 SKK/EUR. In the coming 5½ months, it will be vital for Slovakia to advance with and complete its technical and practical preparations to ensure that the changeover to the euro takes place smoothly, as it did in Cyprus and Malta at the beginning of this year.

Today the European Union’s finance ministers adopted the legal acts necessary for Slovakia to adopt the euro on 1st January 2009. Based on a Commission proposal, they also decided that the Slovak koruna will be replaced by the euro at the rate of 30.1260 SKK to the euro. On 7 May this year, the Commission concluded that Slovakia met the convergence criteria to adopt the euro and consequently made a proposal to the Council that it allow Slovakia to do so.

Need to pursue stability-oriented policies

Membership of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) offers huge benefits for the Slovak economy and its citizens, including thorough integration into a stability-oriented policy framework, enhanced cross-border trade and investment, better access to integrated financial markets, and greater price transparency and competition.

In order to fully reap the benefits of the monetary union and ensure a smooth integration into the euro area, Slovakia needs to build on the efforts it has made to qualify for euro adoption by striving to maintain sound public finances, promoting wage-setting in line with productivity growth, pursuing further structural reforms to enhance the functioning of product and labour markets, and remaining vigilant in monitoring financial sector and credit dynamics.

Final practical preparations

Like previous euro-area entrants, Slovakia will also have to pay close attention to the practical preparations needed in the next 5½ months to ensure a smooth changeover.

Production of the euro coins will start shortly after today’s ECOFIN decision in the Slovak Mint of Kremnica. To see the Slovak national sides of the euro coins go to:

Next week, the Commission is expected to adopt its regular report on the state of the practical preparations for the introduction of the euro in the EU countries that have not yet adopted it and do not have a legal opt-out. This seventh report will focus on Slovakia, given the imminence of its changeover date.

Press Room - European Commission

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EU funding: Europe offers young scientists astronaut experience

Lundi 7 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 European Space Agency is giving graduate students the opportunity to take their experiments to new heights.

Under the programme ‘Fly Your Thesis! - An Astronaut Experience’, Master’s or PhD thesis students will fly their experiments in microgravity. The ESA’s Education Office says interested parties have until 31 August 2008 to submit their proposals.

In layman’s terms, microgravity is weightlessness or zero gravity. The first image that springs to mind is an astronaut floating inside their spacecraft. But microgravity also affects active people, like swimmers jumping off diving boards and amusement park revellers. Lasting for only short periods of time, microgravity occurs during the ‘free fall’ period of such types of activities.

Using an Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft, the students will take part in a series of parabolic flights during the programme. The participants will be placed in up to 20 teams, chosen by a review board, and will be asked to present a detailed scientific proposal, under the guidance of a scientific mentor. The French-owned Airbus A-300 aircraft provides frequent and repeated periods of weightlessness, the ESA says.

The review board will assess all proposals during a workshop, to be held at ESA’s European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in the western Dutch municipality of Noordwijk later this year. Visits to the Germany-based European Astronaut Centre (EAC) are also on the cards for the students. EAC is the training site for European astronauts.

At the end of the first workshop, three or four teams will be asked to carry out their experiment on an ESA Microgravity Research Campaign, which is scheduled to take place in the French port city of Bordeaux in 2009. Thanks to this campaign, the students will have the opportunity to rub elbows with leading European scientists who are conducting their own research. It should be noted that the teams will accompany their experiments on board for 3 flights of 30 parabolas. Each parabola will provide students with around 20 seconds of microgravity.

Under the programme, each team of students must design a scientific experiment that will be carried out in microgravity. The experiment is part of the students’ Master’s or PhD thesis, or research programme. The deadline for the teams to register on ESA Education’s Project Portal and upload their outline proposals is 31 August 2008. All teams must use the Letter of Intent template for their proposals.

Students taking part in Fly Your Thesis! are supported by the ESA Education office, ESA microgravity experts and members of ELGRA (European Low Gravity Research Association). In a statement, ESA says it will also provide financial support to cover part of the cost of the experiments, necessary travel and accommodation, as well as conference participation.

In a related development, people attending the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) workshop of the ESA may be asked to perform their experiments in another gravity research facility.


EU funding: Climate Change package 2020: the EU’s Emission Trading System’s 3rd Phase

Lundi 7 juillet 2008

What will be the future shape of the European Emission Trading System (ETS), a cornerstone of the EU’s efforts to curb greenhouse gases?

The EU Commission proposed in January to extend ETS to other sectors and greenhouse gases. Parliament rapporteur Avril Doyle agrees, but her draft report for the Environment Committee calls for adjustments to channel ETS auction revenues towards climate protection measures and to give industry more clarity of how exactly the system will work after 2012.
The Emission Trading System (ETS) is a “cap and trade system”. At present “National Allocation Plans” prepared by each country define allocations - or “caps” - of how much CO2 each country and each industrial emitter in the scheme may emit. If companies emit more they must purchase permits. If they emit less, they can sell - “trade” - their unused allowances. An allowance for a ton of CO2 currently trades €28.

The aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by 8 % by 2012 compared to 1990 levels and at least by 20% by 2020. These are based on commitments made at and after the Kyoto agreement. If further agreement is reached these cuts could be raised to 30%.

ETS “cornerstone” of climate change package

There are three phases envisaged for the ETS from 2005 to 2020. The sectors covered are power and heat generation, oil refineries, metals, pulp and paper and other energy intensive industries - for example cement production.

The Scheme has drawn criticism from several quarters - especially in the first phase. Having said that, the importance of the Scheme has been defended by the rapporteur, Irish centre right (EPP-ED) MEP Avril Doyle. She told us that as it covers sectors which make up half of the CO2 emissions the Scheme is “the cornerstone of the EU strategy for fighting climate change”.

Rapporteur wants more revenue for environmental measures

The Commission proposals for the third phase of the ETS are planned to be adopted by the end of 2008: They include extending it to other industries such as chemical and aluminium production. They also include a single EU-wide cap for the Greenhouse gases - as opposed to national plans and allocations. It also wants future allocations to be by auctioning and for free allocation to be exceptional and to be decreased.

Ms Doyle presented a draft report in the Environment Committee at the end of June. She praised proposal as “balanced” and says that it would “significantly improve and strengthen” the ETS.

Nevertheless, she put forward a number of draft amendments:

* Notably that 50% (rather than 20% as foreseen by the Commission) of revenues from auctioning should be directed towards environmental and climate protection measures such as reducing deforestation.
* Strict rules to be applied to which kind of credits / emission allowances are given for investment in green and renewable energy projects.
* Emission credits are to be awarded to the operators of the first 12 facilities that are using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology before 2013.
* Ms Doyle wants that EC, by the end of 2010, to indicate the amount of allowances to be auctioned for the period 2013 to 2020. This will ensure planning and predictability for industries.
* Avoiding the risk of “carbon leakage” in energy intensive industries (see box). Ms Doyle is against already naming these sectors in the Directive, as it would be “detrimental to the chances of international negotiations reaching an international climate agreement”.

Dublin born Avril Doyle is a vice-chair of the Fisheries Committee and a member of the Environment and Climate Change Committee. She was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999.

What happens next? The deadline for amendments in the Environment Committee was 2 July, MEPs in that Committee will hold a vote on 7 October and the matter will be debated by the full plenary probably in December.

Jargon buster - become a climate change guru

Carbon leakage: the risk that high emitting industries are either delocalised to sites outside the EU or that competitors outside the EU take over the market share of European companies.

Clean Development Mechanism & Joint Implementation: Possibilities under the Kyoto protocol (for countries and companies) to receive emission credits by investing in climate friendly technologies in another country.

Windfall profits: In the first phase of ETS especially power companies made profits by selling allowances that they had received for free but did not need.

European Parliament

EU funding: Young People - Agents of Intercultural Dialogue

Lundi 7 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants for actions promoting intercultural dialogue and a citizenship citizenship respectful of cultural diversity

Meeting of youth representative groups from the European Union in Marseilles from 5 to 9 July.

This European youth event aims to foster dialogue between young people and policy makers on all levels. It highlights the importance placed by public authorities on involving young people in the decisions affecting them and achieving their full participation in society.

As part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 (EYID), this youth event takes place during the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and revolves around intercultural dialogue and “young people’s role as agents of intercultural dialogue”.

The event will take place in Marseilles from 5 to 9 July 2008.
Some 150 national youth delegates will attend from 50 different countries including Member States of the European Union and European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and countries around the Mediterranean. They will be joined by representatives of European associations, a delegation from the European Youth Forum and a number of experts.

Five issues will be addressed:
1) Intercultural dialogue on a daily level,
2) Youth involvement in intercultural dialogue,
3) Measures accompanying as part of the intercultural dialogue process,
4) Challenges and opportunities for intercultural dialogue: focus on mobility,
5) Tools and communication in the different fields of intercultural dialogue.

The conclusions from discussions between young people will be recorded and presented to policy makers in a plenary session on 9 July. The 27 Directors-General, the European Commissioner for Youth, the French Minister for Health, Youth, Sport and the Voluntary Sector and the Secretary of State for Sport, Youth and theVoluntary Sector will attend the presentation in the Palais du Pharo. This event is intended to provide political leaders with food for thought and help them draft domestic and European youth policies.

French Presidency

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EU funding: French unveil presidency priorities for European research

Vendredi 4 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 French have set the construction of the European Research Area (ERA) as the main research priority for their presidency of the EU.

Other priorities include boosting Europe’s role in space and making progress towards a Community patent.

The French took over the EU Council Presidency from Slovenia on 1 July. During their time at the helm, they plan to focus on four main areas: energy and the climate; migration issues; agriculture; and security and defence.

In the field of research, the French plan to carry forward the Ljubljana process which was launched under the Slovenian Presidency and sets out a new vision for the ERA.

According to the work programme of the French Presidency, a range of activities designed to define a ‘vision for 2020′ for the ERA will be launched. Among other things, research ministers will discuss the challenges facing European research, with the aim of setting out how the ERA can address priority issues such as energy and climate change, food and agronomy, health and ageing, and the information society.

The French have also set themselves the goal of reaching conclusions on a number of points, namely the joint programme strategy, the mobility of researchers and a strategy for international cooperation in the ERA. They also hope to reach an agreement on the legal framework for pan-European research infrastructures.

Many of these issues will be discussed at an informal meeting of Europe’s research ministers which will be held in Versailles, France, on 16 and 17 July.

Space is another priority identified by the French. Noting that ’space is a significant driver for growth and competitiveness in Europe’, the French state their aim to enhance the EU’s role as a major player in space policy. A meeting of Europe’s aerospace ministers and representatives of the European Commission and European Parliament is planned for September.

Elsewhere, the French pledge to ’strive to make progress towards a Community patent’. This would be standardised throughout the EU, and be affordable while guaranteeing legal security and preserving ‘current linguistic balances’.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not forgotten; the French plan to gain agreement on the measures taken to support SMEs, and will focus in particular on improving access to funding for innovative SMEs, protecting industrial property rights and promoting entrepreneurship.

Research also crops up in the health priorities of the new presidency. One of the three priorities identified by the French is Alzheimer’s disease. ‘The presidency will promote better care for sufferers and their families, based on three strands of action, namely health, solidarity and research,’ the work programme reads. A major European conference on Alzheimer’s disease will be held in Paris in October.

France will hold the Presidency of the EU until the end of the year, when it will hand over to the Czech Republic.


EU funding: Rail transport: new agreement for the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS)

Vendredi 4 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the frame of the Trans-European Networks for transport

The European Commission and the rail industry (manufacturers, infrastructure managers and undertakings) today signed a memorandum of understanding in Rome aimed at accelerating deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERMTS) throughout Europe.

Deployment of ERTMS, which is equally suited to high-speed and conventional railway lines, will enable trains to carry a single signalling system on board. This new European concept will reduce operating costs and enhance the efficiency of the system.

ERTMS can succeed only if, on the one hand, there is full technical compatibility between the tens of thousands of kilometres of track and the trains to be equipped and, on the other, deployment is carried out swiftly and in a coordinated manner. Failing to equip just one kilometre of a route can seriously jeopardise the competitiveness of rail transport on the entire route.

The memorandum of understanding signed today is aimed at addressing these two fundamental issues, mainly by:

* using a single technical baseline[1] for all railway lines equipped with ERTMS in the European Union up to the end of 2012;
* getting manufacturers to agree to include software updates in new contracts at a client’s request. Clients (rail companies and infrastructure managers) currently complain about the excessive costs imposed by manufacturers;
* agreeing on a programme enabling a new version of the specifications[2] to be drawn up by the end of 2012 in such a manner that trains equipped with this new version can run on lines equipped with the old version;
* improving and harmonising test procedures for checking the compatibility and compliance of equipment;
* accelerating deployment of ERTMS, particularly by adopting a binding European plan and equipping new models of engine.

In the autumn the Commission will present a draft of this binding European deployment plan and at the beginning of 2009 will publish a new call for proposals amounting to around €250 million to provide financial support for the deployment of the system from the trans-European transport networks budget. Deployment of ERTMS on infrastructure is also eligible for financial support from the Regional Fund and the Cohesion Fund.


Over twenty different signalling systems currently coexist on railway lines in Europe. For instance, the seven signalling systems installed on the high-speed Thalys train plying between Paris and Brussels increase the risk of breakdowns and generate extra costs. These costs are such that engines do not generally cross frontiers.

The ERTMS concept is simple: information is transmitted from the track to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and to slow the train down automatically if necessary. The on-board computer therefore has to understand the information sent from the ground.

ERTMS can bring about a significant increase in competitiveness. That is particularly true in the case of freight when the system is deployed in a coordinated manner along a route and is accompanied by relevant measures, such as harmonisation of the operating rules or enhancement of the infrastructure if necessary. On the Rotterdam-Genova corridor, for example, the volume of goods transported could be doubled by 2020, which would be the equivalent of an additional heavy goods vehicle passing along this route every 37 seconds.

Around 2 000 km of track is currently in use in the European Union but contracts already cover almost another 30 000 km, as well as 5 000 vehicles, within Europe and even outside. These contracts consolidate the European rail industry’s leading position in the world.

In March 2005, the Commission signed a first memorandum of understanding with the sector with the chief aim of studying the feasibility and economic viability of deploying ERTMS on major trans-European network routes. The rail-freight and high-speed sectors are particularly affected by this project, which was first developed thanks to a European research programme, and then funded from the trans-European network budget.

Press Room - European Commission

EU funding:

Vendredi 4 juillet 2008

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Assistance to citizens in order to promote European pathways in work-linked training, including apprenticeship

The European Commission has today presented a report evaluating Europass. Launched in 2005, Europass provides a coordinated portfolio of documents helping people to describe what they know and can do in a way that is clearly and easily understood throughout Europe.

Today’s report is based on an external evaluation which concludes that Europass is achieving its objectives as a cost-efficient mobility tool for citizens, and that the service it offers is relevant to their needs. More than 12 million visits to the Europass online portal since 2005 are proof of its success, as well as the fact that more than 3 million people have already generated their CVs using the resources on the Europass website, a target that was originally expected to be reached only in 2010.

The Europass portfolio consists of five documents. The Europass CV (ECV) and the Europass Language Passport can be completed by citizens themselves, namely through an assisted online tool made available in 26 languages on the Europass portal, while the Europass Diploma Supplement, the Europass Certificate Supplement and Europass Mobility are issued to citizens by competent organisations when they have completed specific learning experiences. The total of Europass documents created online or issued to citizens since its launch comes up to more than 3.5 million.

The Europass CV is at the heart of the initiative and its single most successful component so far. About 3.1 million Europeans have created CVs on the Europass portal since 2005, with more than 900,000 since the beginning of 2008 alone. The evaluation attributes this to the fact that the Europass CV is a useful tool for self-assessment based on learning outcomes (what a learner knows, understands and is able to do).

The Europass portal has had more than 12 million visits since its launch in January 2005 and the trend is clearly upward, with almost 3 million visits in the first half of 2008. Surveys conducted for the evaluation have shown a high degree of user satisfaction. All of this confirms the relevance of the service provided and the high quality of the portal, which is developed, hosted and managed by Cedefop, the European Agency to promote the development of vocational education and training in the EU.

However, while Europass CV is overall very successful, this is in particular with the highly-educated, and one of the findings of the report is that the representation of the low-qualified and the unemployed among the users of the Europass portal and the Europass CV needs to be improved.

The overall conclusion of the evaluation report is that Europass is good value for money - a cost-efficient tool that is relevant to citizens’ needs. The total annual budget of around € 2.5 million covers both a network of national Europass centres and the running of the Internet portal. National Europass Centres (NECs), coordinated by the European Commission, play a crucial role in promoting the initiative. They also directly manage the Europass Mobility, a tool that describes skills acquired in a mobility experience, such as a participation in a student exchange or a work placement in another country. More than 100,000 such documents have already been issued.

The evaluation report makes suggestions on how to extend the success of the ECV to all Europass documents. The uptake of both the Europass Diploma Supplement and the Europass Certificate Supplement has been below potential, and a stronger focus on learning outcomes – as opposed to learning inputs, such as the length of a learning experience or the type of institution – is seen as a promising way forward.

With the support of Cedefop and the NECs, and in cooperation with guidance, employment and youth services in the Member States, the European Commission is planning to improve Europass on the basis of this first evaluation. A greater focus on learning outcomes and a wider outreach, in particular to the unemployed and the low-skilled, are among the key challenges to be tackled.

Press Room - European Commission
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EU funding: Help in sight for sufferers of Crohn’s disease

Jeudi 3 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.
 Grants for research projects concerning the treatment of major diseases and the delivery of health care

An international team of researchers has identified 21 new genetic risk factors for Crohn’s disease, bringing the total number of genes linked with the disease to 32.

The findings may one day help researchers to develop new treatments for the disease.

Crohn’s disease affects close to half a million people across Europe, and many more around the world. This chronic inflammatory bowel disease has, as yet, no cure and its exact cause is still unknown. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, weight loss or weight gain.

The condition is widely believed by the medical community to be an autoimmune disease and genetically linked, although smokers are more likely to get Crohn’s disease than non-smokers.

The international consortium was made up of three separate research teams, with one based in North America, involving six institutions and clinical sites; a UK team supported by the Wellcome Trust; and a group of French and Belgian investigators. The results of their research can be read in the journal Nature Genetics.

The three teams were able to combine their data through a process called meta-analysis, allowing the comparison of data from more than 3,200 Crohn’s patients with more than 4,800 controls. This was supplemented by an analysis of new data from an additional 3,700 patients and matching controls.

Their discovery reveals the genetics behind the disease and greatly assists researchers in producing new therapies which may help sufferers.


EU funding: Who will feed the world? Towards diverse, sustainable forms of agriculture as drivers of development

Jeudi 3 juillet 2008

By 2050, the world’s population will have reached 9 billion.

To cope with demographic growth and the consequent increase in food demand, agriculture must double its production in the next 30 years

To meet the challenge, all agriculture forms in countries of both the North and the South will need to be involved and developed. Yet these developments will only be sustainable if a number of environmental challenges are also addressed: climate change, desertification, land degradation, depletion of water resources, etc. Since most impoverished population groups live off subsistence farming, peasant farming is a necessary condition to acheiving the Millennium Development Goals which aim to halve the world’s population living in extreme poverty and suffering from chronic hunger by 2015. Moreover, fluctuating food prices and the non-food uses of agricultural products are changing the conditions of development of agricultural practices. Agriculture is therefore a major issue on the international scene and has regained a genuinely central role in growth and development.

In this context, the conference aims to present the challenges ahead for global food security and the world’s various forms of agriculture, and to discuss the ways in which they can be met through the involvement of stakeholders, producers, private sector operators, politicians and researchers on national, regional and global levels. It also seeks to clarify the role of agriculture in development policies which aim to alleviate poverty, drive growth and improve management of the environment.

French presidency