Archive pour janvier 2012

The European Commission focuses on the animal welfare

Jeudi 19 janvier 2012

The European Commission today adopted a new strategy for 2012-2015.

The need for change
EU Animal Welfare legislation, developed in response to contingencies and political demand over the past 3 decades, is often detailed and sector specific but sporadic in its coverage. Uneven application of these rules in the member States makes for an uneven playfield in this important economic sector. Viewed against the background of the diversity of climatic, terrain and farming systems in which it must be applied, this area of European law calls for change.

The new Strategy was adopted in the form of a Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Why problems persist
The Commission Communication identifies the lack of enforcement of EU legislation by Member States in a number of areas as one of the major issues adversely affecting animal welfare in the EU. Another brake on full and even implementation is the fact that the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance.

The Communication also notes that many of the parties involved lack sufficient knowledge about animal welfare, while it points out gaps in EU legislation which make it harder to ensure adequate welfare conditions for some categories of animals.

Suggested Actions
To address these issues and concerns, the Strategy provides for a two-pronged approach: a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and a reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.

The second element proposes a reinforcement and the optimisation of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen Member State compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information, and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encounter the most problems.

The Commission first adopted an Animal Welfare Strategy in 2006. The Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010, grouped the various aspects of EU policy on animal welfare governing the keeping of billions of animals for economic purposes.

The new Strategy builds on the old one and, in particular, on lessons learned during the five-year implementation period of the first Action Plan. The necessity of a new strategy becomes all too obvious with a glance at the importance of animals in our daily lives.

The farming sector is the largest, as far as use of animals is concerned. In farms across the EU, there are about two billion birds (chickens for meat production, laying hens, turkeys, ducks and geese) and three hundred million mammals (cows, pigs, sheep, etc.). The pet population is also quite large in the EU. It is estimated that there are about one hundred million dogs and cats in the Union. The annual value of livestock farming in the EU is estimated at approximately 150 billion euros. The Union’s contribution to support animal welfare is estimated at 70 million euros a year, either directed to farmers as animal welfare payments under rural development programmes or dedicated to other activities related to animal welfare, such as research, economic studies, communication, training and education etc.

Martin Schulz elected new president of the European Parliament

Mardi 17 janvier 2012

Tuesday morning MEPs elected German Socialist Martin Schulz as president. He will lead the EP until the next European elections in June 2014.

Martin Schulz was born 20 December 1955 in Hehlrath - a small German city close to the German-Dutch-Belgian border. After high school he apprenticed as a bookseller and opened his own store in Würselen in 1982, which he ran for 12 years.

He began his political career at 19, joining the German Social Democratic Party. At 31 he became the youngest mayor of Germany’s most populous Land, North Rhine-Westphalia, when he was elected mayor of Würselen, a post he held for 11 years. “This time shaped my enthusiasm for Europe and the conviction that I wanted to help build and advance the European project,” he says of his time as a local politician.

Elected to the EP in 1994, Schulz has served on a number of committees, including the sub-committee on Human Rights and the Civil Liberties Committee. He led the German delegation of the Socialist group (SPD members) from 2000 and was also a vice-chair of the Socialist Group in the EP. He was elected group leader in 2004, a position held until he was elected EP president. Since 2009, Schulz has also acted as representative for European Affairs for Germany’s SPD party and his views have deeply influenced his party’s pro-European politics.

He is known as a man of convictions who is not afraid to speak his mind. This once provoked a now famous insult from the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi during a plenary session in Strasbourg in 2003.

A well known face in European politics, he nevertheless maintains a strong link with his constituency. “For many years, I served as mayor of my town and listening to people’s concerns and answering their questions was my daily business. This still remains a very important part of my job,” he said.

A passion for books…and football

His wife is a gardener and landscape architect and they have two children. His hobbies include reading, history and football – he roots for his local club 1. FC Köln. Among his favourite books is “The Leopard” by Tomasi di Lampedusa and all the books of Eric Hobsbawm.

Together at work

Mardi 17 janvier 2012

The EU is presently facing major challenges and perhaps its greatest challenge ever since the establishment of European cooperation.

The paramount task will be to emerge safely from the current deep crisis in the EU, to ensure economic stability and to create the foundation for future growth and employment. At the same time, Europe must address new cross-border challenges relating to i.a. climate, energy, environment and security. Only in partnership can Europe meet these

Through close and trusting cooperation, the Danish Presidency will collaborate with the other Member States, the EU institutions, including the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as the Trio partners of Poland and Cyprus in a focused way to create the momentum that Europe needs. The Presidency wishes to be an open and credible partner for all parties.

The Presidency will actively support the permanent President of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in their efforts to promote European interests and values.

The Danish Presidency will work for a strong European economy, revitalised growth in the EU and for a stronger EU that effectively addresses the
problems that occupy Europe’s citizens and enterprises on a daily basis. We will unite and strengthen the EU by delivering concrete results that demonstrate the value of European cooperation. In this regard, four main focus areas will lie at the heart of the Danish Presidency:

1. A responsible Europe

Sustainable growth as well as job creation require that Europe emerges safely from the crisis by pursuing a responsible policy, ensuring sustainable public finances and implementing the necessary structural reforms. At the European Council on 9 December 2011, a number of important decisions were taken with respect to enhancing fiscal policy discipline with the aim of securing economic stability in Europe.

During the Danish Presidency, work will need to be done on implementing these decisions in order to enhance fiscal policy and economic coordination as part of the short-term and longterm efforts to tackle the debt crisis.

Similarly, a key goal of the Danish Presidency will be to ensure the consistent implementation of the first full European Semester and the measures adopted earlier to strengthen economic governance, also based on a strengthening of the Stability and Growth Pact and a new cooperation on addressing the economic imbalances and common requirements of national budget rules.

The negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU budget for the period 2014-2020 will be one of the largest single issues for the Presidency. The new EU budget must reflect the present economic situation and focus on the areas where the EU can make a difference . The goal will be to conclude the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework by the end of 2012. The Danish Presidency will strive to move negotiations forward and thereby prepare the ground for the final negotiations.

2. A dynamic Europe

The return of growth and higher employment to Europe must be secured in both the short and long term. The Single Market is a cornerstone of EU cooperation, which over the last two decades has tied Europe together and created increased growth and prosperity. More than ever we need a sustainable Single Market that creates jobs and stability as well as prosperity for Europeans and companies in the EU. Growth in Europe requires the further development of the Single Market in a way that benefits both citizens and companies, and
it also requires that we strengthen education, research, innovation, gender equality and the European labour market. The Single Market must be a dynamic single market that is digital, innovative and requires creative solutions. It should constitute a strong basis for leading high-tech companies and create more green jobs.

Lastly, the EU must use its economic strength to open new international market opportunities and to promote free and fair trade, thereby enhancing the growth of European companies.

3. A green Europe

Europe should promote the transition to a green economy and enhance its focus on sustainability. This requires enhanced efforts to bring about
this transition and tackle the rising problems of environmentally harmful production methods, over-utilisation of important natural resources and climate change. The EU must strive to achieve its climate and energy targets regarding increased energy efficiency by 2020 as well as expansion of renewable energy, enhanced energy efficiency and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Action must be taken to formulate aneffective and green transport policy, common green standards in the Single Market and the widespread adoption of sustainable consumption and production patterns.

An agricultural sector that embraces environmentally, nature and climate-friendly farming methods is also part of the solution. Similarly, action is to be taken to bring about a sustainable reform of the EU fisheries policy.

The funds for research and development within the environmental and energy sector must be increased. Lastly, the Presidency will also work towards ensuring a strong European voice at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

4. A safe Europe

The safety of citizens and Europe’s international influence in a globalised world is most effectively promoted and safeguarded through joint efforts and strong European cooperation.

Europe’s international influence within security, trade and development must be maintained.
The Member States must enhance cooperation regarding a wellmanaged asylum and migration policy as well as regarding effective action
to fight and prevent both terrorism and cross-border crime. The Danish Presidency will support the wish of EU neighbouring countries for closer cooperation, including access to EU markets, and contribute to ensuring that the enlargement process continues as a responsible enlargement policy. The Presidency will actively support EU institutions and Member States in their efforts to strengthen the EU’s global role. Lastly, the Danish Presidency will actively work towards ensuring that the European External Action Service (EEAS) becomes a strong and effective actor and towards securing better coherence between the EU’s policy within the sectors affecting developing countries.

The European Commission launches public debate on corporate restructuring.

Mardi 17 janvier 2012

European Commission launches until March 30, a major campaign of public consultation and a Green Paper on the subject.

The aim is to identify successful practices and policies in the field of restructuring and adapting to change. The results will feed into the upcoming employment package and should help to improve further cooperation between workers and employers’ representatives, government, local and regional authorities and the EU institutions. The consultation will also help identify specific restructuring measures that could help deal with employment and social challenges, and help European companies improve competitiveness through innovation and a fast, but smooth adaptation to change.

Restructuring is part of business life and one of the important ways of helping a company stay competitive. The economic and financial crisis has put an extra strain on business: from 2002 to 2010, over 11,000 cases of restructuring were recorded by the European Restructuring Monitor, with a ratio of almost two jobs lost for every one created (1.8:1). Between 2008/2010, this ratio has increased to 2.5:1. Many companies and their workers have developed innovative arrangements to limit job losses. Here, social partners have played a key role. These initiatives have varied from working hours, to more social dialogue, to adjustment measures or the intervention of public employment services. However, these may be less effective in a context of persistently weak demand.

László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion presented the new Green Paper saying: ‘To be able to react better in the future, we have to understand the reasons behind the success of some measures in some countries, or sectors during the crisis. We have to look at how measures, like for example short-time work, can be used to deal with the challenges we are likely to face in the coming period”. He added “We also want to see how we can best anticipate the employment and skills needs of the future, especially in the light of new challenges and growing social inequalities across Member States. And last, but not least, we want to see how the social impact of restructuring can be limited.’

The Commissioner also stressed how the EU stands ready to help and support Member States through the cohesion policy in particular the European Social Fund as well as the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Content of the Green Paper:
The Green Paper includes several questions. In particular, it addresses the following issues:

- Lessons from the crisis – are existing policy measures and practices adequate? What are the success factors and future challenges? How have short time working schemes functioned during the crisis and how have they coped with a persistently weak demand?
- Economic and industrial adjustment – what are the relevant framework conditions and existing good practices on access to finance, to accompany structural adjustment?
- Adaptability of business and employability of workers – an anticipative approach best? Is there a possible need to update existing guidelines on restructuring and the means to ensure their implementation?
- Creating synergies in the process of industrial change – how to improve the synergies between companies, local authorities and other local actors? How to develop training as a permanent feature of human resources management?
- Role of regional and local authorities – how to encourage a supporting role of public authorities taking into account different national traditions?
- Impact of restructuring operations - what can be done by companies and employees to minimise the employment and social impact of restructuring operations and what role can public policies play in facilitating these changes?

The Green Paper is supported by the staff working document “Restructuring in Europe 2011″ Restructuring in Europe 2011, which draws on the main lessons learned in recent years on anticipation and management of change and restructuring.

The consultation period will run until 30 March 2012. During this period, anyone with an interest in the subject can submit their views via email or by post.

Restructuring has been raised by the European Commission in its industrial policy flagship of October 2010, the flagship initiative ‘An Agenda for new skills and jobs’, as well as the Single Market Act. The Commission wishes to renew the debate on restructuring in the light of the lessons learned from recent experience.

The outcome of this consultation will feed into the upcoming employment package and the revived flexicurity agenda. It could lead to a renewed debate at EU level on a possible new framework for restructuring.

Sahel Food Crisis

Mardi 17 janvier 2012

Commissioner Georgieva declares the state of emergency.

The European Union’s Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva arrives in Niger today amid a looming crisis in Africa’s Sahel region. The Commissioner is responding to calls for assistance from the affected countries.

During a four-day visit to the region she will visit Niger and Chad, two of the five Sahel countries (including Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania) most at risk of major food shortages over the coming months.

“Nobody should have to live in fear of famine yet within months people will begin to starve unless we act,” said the Commissioner. “This is the third time in a decade that this region has fallen into crisis. Every year we save more than 200,000 children from severe acute malnutrition but we must and will go further.”

The Commissioner said that, as in the last major crisis in 2010, by anticipating the worst effects of the looming food shortages and acting before they strike more lives would be saved.”I am here this week to make sure that we deliver smart aid, targeting the most vulnerable and delivered in the most cost-effective and efficient manner.”

She will be evaluating humanitarian needs with the authorities and the European Commission’s current response to the crisis as well as identifying the potential needs for further assistance.

Because crops failed in last September’s harvest the annual ‘lean season’ – when food reserves have dwindled – will begin next month instead of June. Seven million people are already facing shortages. Food prices have already risen by 40 per cent, with some forecasts predicting that they will triple with the onset of the lean season.

The Commission has been working to mitigate future crises by establishing an innovative programme through its partners. This programme currently treats more than 200,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Sahel and is working to achieve a permanent and sustainable solution to the region’s chronic food security problems.

Commissioner Georgieva added: “The Commission has provided more than €225 million since 2005. But we want to go further and break the cycle of hunger. In the current crisis we’ve already allocated more than €100 million to fight hunger and we are working closely with other agencies to build a comprehensive aid strategy to cover both the short and long-term actions required to make malnutrition history.”

Approximately 22.9 million people are beginning 2012 with huge uncertainty about how they will feed themselves and their families.

The Sahel suffers from a chronic malnutrition crisis but the prospects of a full-scale disaster this year have already been signalled with the governments of all five countries taking the unprecedented step of declaring emergencies and calling for international assistance. Early, effective and coordinated action by the Sahel governments supported by the international community can reduce the risk of it turning into a major disaster.

Most people who live in the Sahel are heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and livestock for survival. Food production deficits are as high as 52% in comparison to last year while an estimated 1.3 million children in the region are currently suffering from acute severe malnutrition.

The Commission has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to malnutrition in the Sahel since 2007 when a specific ECHO Sahel Plan was adopted to raise awareness of nutrition issues, demonstrate the effectiveness of nutrition action and advocate for an enhanced focus on nutrition issues.

EIB Group Key Figures Strategy Structure Corporate Responsibility Partners Jobs Procurement FAQ Contact Pim Van Ballekom appointed as new EIB Vice-President

Lundi 16 janvier 2012

Pim Van Ballekom (55) has been appointed Vice-President and member of the Management Committee of the European Investment Bank (EIB) by the Bank’s Board of Governors, consisting of the 27 European Union Finance Ministers.

The appointment takes immediate effect. Van Ballekom is the first Dutch Vice-President since 2000 and the fourth Dutch Vice-President since the Bank was founded in 1958.

Until his appointment at the EIB Van Ballekom was Head of International Public Affairs at APG Pension Group. Prior to this he was Dutch member of the Board of Directors of the EIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Financial Counsellor and Head of the Financial Section at the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU, (Deputy) Head of Cabinet for Frits Bolkestein, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Taxation and Customs Union, and has had various positions within the Ministry of Finance.

The EIB is the European Union’s financing institution. Its purpose is to promote the EU’s objectives by providing long-term finance in support of viable investment projects. In the Netherlands, the EIB provides funding for amongst others large infrastructure projects and SME’s through local banks, and is prepared to support a broad range of projects, such as research and development.

The employment is created thanks to SMEs

Lundi 16 janvier 2012

Between 2002 and 2010, 85% of new jobs were created in SMEs.

This figure is considerably higher than the 67%-share of SMEs in total employment. During this period, net employment in the EU’s business economy rose substantially, by an average of 1.1 million new jobs each year. These are the main results of a study on the essential contribution of SMEs on job creation presented by the European Commission today.

With 1% annually, the employment growth for SMEs was higher than for large enterprises with 0.5%. A clear exception is the trade sector, in which employment in SMEs increased by 0.7% annually, compared to 2.2% in large enterprises. This is due to the strong increase of large trade enterprises, in particular in sales, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles.

Within the SME size-class, micro firms (less than 10 employees) are responsible with 58% for the highest proportion of total net employment growth in the business economy.

Secondly new firms (younger than five years) are responsible for an overwhelming majority of the new jobs. New enterprises operating in business services create more than a quarter (27%) of the new jobs, while the new firms in transport and communication contribute least (6%).

Main effects of the crisis: smaller enterprises report negative impacts more often
According to the results of the survey, the economic crisis has left its mark on enterprises from all size-classes, with micro firms being particularly vulnerable. As a result of the 2009/2010 economic crisis the number of jobs in the SME-sector has on average decreased by 2.4% annually, as against 0.95% annually in the large enterprises sector. Employment developments are still negative in 2010, but expectations for 2011 were improving at the time the survey was held. The share of firms that expected to lay off employees in 2011 was smaller than the share of firms that actually laid off employees in 2010.

Besides the employment effects, by far the most important negative effect of the crisis on firms is the overall decline of total demand for their products and services (mentioned by 62% of companies), followed by the increase in customer payment terms (mentioned by 48% of firms) and finally the shortage of working capital, which affected 31% of the respondents.

Innovativeness is a weapon against the crisis
Innovation seems to have a positive effect: innovative enterprises, as well as enterprises from more innovative countries, more often report employment growth and have higher employment growth rates.

The survey underlines that innovative SMEs or companies operating in more innovative economies suffered less from the economic crisis. For example, while the decline in overall demand is mentioned by 70% of enterprises in countries that are considered modest innovators2, the corresponding figure is 45% for countries which are innovation leaders.

Job quality in SMEs
The study distinguishes two broad dimensions of the job quality: employment quality and work quality. On average it is true that jobs in small enterprises are less productive, less remunerated, and less unionised than jobs in large enterprises. However, microenterprises report that they have a competitive advantage over their competitors as far as ’soft’ aspects of the human resource aspects of an enterprise are concerned: working climate, work-life balance, working-time arrangements.

The study is part of the SME Performance Review project and based on a survey of enterprises conducted at the end of 2010 and covering the 27 EU member states and 10 other countries participating in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, namely Albania, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, and Turkey.

The European Parliament debate on the Hungarian law

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

Concerns as to whether the laws implementing Hungary’s new constitution are compatible with EU rules and values were raised by Civil Liberties Committee MEPs in a debate on Wednesday.

The Commission’s Director General for Justice, Françoise Le Bail, said that the Commission’s evaluation of the compliance of the Hungarian laws with EU law was focusing on three issues: measures to retire judges and prosecutors at 62 years old, rather than 70, the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the data protection authority.

Replying to MEPs’ questions, Ms Le Bail explained that the retirement age measure was being checked against an EU directive on non-discrimination in employment, the independence of the judiciary one against Charter of Fundamental Rights Article 47 and the data protection authority one against the 1995 data protection directive.

Ms Le Bail said that the compatibility of some of these measures with EU law was “questionable”, and promised that the Commission would complete its analysis in time for the College of Commissioners to decide on 17 January how to proceed with respect to Hungary. The Commission is prepared to make full use of its prerogatives, which could entail the launching of infringement procedures, she added.

Risk of breach of EU values?

“We don’t have to wait to see what the Commission is doing. Parliament is entitled by the Lisbon Treaty to take action”, said Renate Weber (ALDE, RO). She recalled issues such as the Hungarian media law, the Roma in France, upon which the Commission had begun very bluntly but lost momentum thereafter, and voiced concern over Hungary’s cardinal laws, which she said “would allow legislation to be cemented for the next hundred years”.

Ms Weber added that the Commission should also test Hungary’s laws against EU Treaty Article 2, which states that the EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

“There is every indication that Hungary will realign its legislation according to the Commission’s evaluation”, said Frank Engel (EPP, LU), adding that “I don’t see any reason for all this hysteria”. He proposed to wait until the “regular procedure is fulfilled” before coming to any conclusion “on a decision taken by a sovereign country”.

“We needed this new constitution”, said Kinga Gál (EPP, HU), adding that “it can happen that there are mistakes, but I don’t think this can give raise to any affirmation or rumour saying that there is a breach of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary”.

“The Charter of Fundamental Rights is primarily for the EU, not necessarily legally binding in this way for Member States”, said Axel Voss (EPP, DE), adding that “this should be addressed as a regular breach of the EU Treaties”. On the independence of the data protection supervisor, he said that “it should be discussed, but not in an exaggerated fashion”. “European law must be the cornerstone of our action”, he underlined.

“Let the Commission do what it has to do”, urged Ms Gál, adding that “these issues should not be politicised” and that it is “very good” that the Commission, as guardian of the treaties, “follows this and says what needs to be changed”.

“This is about the risk of breach of fundamental rights”, argued Sophie int’Veld (ALDE, NL), adding that activating Article 7 of the Treaty, in order to assess whether there is a risk of a serious breach of EU values, “would be justified”.

“I support my group’s request for the application of Article 7. These are basic rights that should be respected by all Member States in Europe”, added Sonia Alfano (ALDE, IT).

“We are facing a drift that is worrying this House”, said Rui Tavares (Greens/EFA, PT). “A dictatorial drift”, he added. “We see again and again that citizens expect us to act on fundamental rights”, he insisted, adding that “democracy means not only that majorities rule, it is also means that majorities change”. “Would a candidate country with this kind of laws have any chance to join the EU?”, he wondered.

Mr Tavares also advocated applying Article 7, in order to determine whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the values on which the EU is founded. This would be an “alert procedure” for Hungary, he said.

Media law, electoral law, church law

Kinga Göncz (S&D, HU), asked the Commission what it expected the Hungarian authorities to do after the legal analysis is concluded, suggesting that a more political answer would be required, and not just a legal one. In the previous year, there had been “cosmetic changes” to Hungary’s media law, she recalled, adding that this should be avoided now. Ms Göncz also asked the Commission to analyse Hungary’s electoral law and church law.

Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL, CY), asked whether the infringement of labour laws and attacks against political parties were being addressed by the Commission. Krisztina Morvai (NI, HU) also urged that the Hungarian people and workers should be heard.

Csaba Sógor (EPP, RO), defended the media and religious laws passed by the Hungarian government. “There are nine Member States which recognise fewer churches than Hungary”, he said, adding that “in Hungary there is no state religion, as it happens in many other Member States”. He also claimed that the Club radio was not closed in Hungary.

Ana Gomes (S&D, PT), voiced concerns about the electoral laws, which could render the main political opposition party illegal, she said, adding that this debate “is not against the Hungarian people, it is for the Hungarian people”.

“What is happening in Hungary today is very serious for the European project and its universal values. This is a mutation of democracy”, said Louis Michel (ALDE, BE).

József Szájer (EPP, HU), called on the European Parliament to “make an investigation before passing any judgement, as the Commission is doing”. “What Fidesz inherited is something that needed to be restructured, we needed to create a new state that is functional”, he stressed, noting that the Hungarian parliament had passed 230 laws and 30 cardinal laws. “If there are only these 4 or 5 mistakes that we are discussing, I think we did a very good job”, he concluded.

It’s not only about Hungary

We are talking about “shared principles and values” and “Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening”, said Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE), stressing that “this is not a discussion between the Commission and Hungary only. As the EU we lose all our credibility if one of our Member States is not respecting fundamental rights”.

“This isn’t about Hungary, it is about any Member State of the EU having problems with fundamental rights. I think no other Member State would have been treated differently. The Copenhagen criteria do not disappear when a country joins the EU and Article 7 also allows the Parliament to initiate proceedings”, said Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, DE).

Sophie int’Veld (ALDE, NL), observed that “Hungary took a sovereign decision to adhere to the EU treaties” and must therefore respect them. “The situation in Hungary is exceptionally serious”, but there are other Member States not respecting fundamental rights, se said, citing the treatment of Roma people in France or that of migrants and asylum seekers in her own country.

Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, DE), described the way in which the Roma issue had been handled as a “fiasco”, and called for action to prevent the treaties from being violated.

A strictly legal issue?

“We accept that this is not only a legal issue, it is both legal and political”, Ms Le Bail told MEPs after the debate. “What the Commission is expecting from Hungary is full compliance with EU laws, the wording and the spirit of the EU Treaties and with the Charter of Fundamental Rights”, she concluded.

‘RegioStars Awards’

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

The European Commission has announced the winners of the 2012 RegioStars awards

Category 1: Smart Growth - service innovation
- ‘Technopol Programme’ - Lower Austria, AT
- ‘RUR@CT’ – régions actrices de l’innovation rurale – Limousin, FR
- ‘Innovative Collaboration Networks for Smart growth’ – London, UK
- ‘ECO World Styria’ - Styria, AT
- ‘Hohe Tauern Health’ - Salzburg, AT
- ‘Orientation and guidance services for start-ups in Brandenburg’ – Brandenburg, DE
- ‘Digi-lodge’ - various Greek regions, EL

Category 2: Sustainable Growth – eco-system services
- ‘Parc naturel transfrontalier du Hainaut (PNTH)’- Wallonie–Nord-Pas de Calais. BE-FR
- ‘Alps-Carpathian Corridor Trnava’ – Bratislava, Vienna, Burgenland, Niederösterreich. SK-AT
- ‘SIC ADAPT! (Strategic Initiative Cluster – Adaptation to the impacts of climate change)’ – North‑West Europe, DE BE FR IE LU NL UK
- ‘Green Corridors Contracts’ - Rhône-Alpes, FR
- ‘GRaBS: Green and blue space adaptation for urban areas and eco-towns’ - England (leader), UK

Category 3: Inclusive growth – addressing demographic change and active ageing
- ‘I-Cane’ - Province of Limburg, NL
- ‘Project for Early Support of Elderly People in their Daily Lives (VAMU)’ - Northern Savo, FI
- ‘O4O : Older people for older people’ - Finland, Greenland, N.Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, UK FI IE SE
- ‘Seniors in Motion’ - Northern Portugal, PT

Category 4: Citystar: - Integrated development of deprived urban areas
- ‘SÖM South East Malmö’ – Malmö, SE
- ‘Baum – Bratislava Urban Regional Cooperation’ - Nordburgenland, Wiener Umland-Nord, Wiener Umland-Süd, VUC Bratislava, SK-AT
- ‘Open LAB Ebbinge (OLE)’ – Groningen, NL
- ‘Rediscovering Vila do Conde’ - Vila do Conde, PT

Category 5: Information and Communication: presenting project data
- ‘’ - Estonia – Latvia, EE-LV
- ‘’ - The Netherlands, NL
- ‘’ – Podlaskie, PL
- ‘’ – Hungary

The Jury’s decision on the award winners will be announced in June 2012 at the Regions for Economic Change conference.

2013 Awards
The application process for the 2013 RegioStars Awards is now open. The Award Categories for 2013 are:
- SMART GROWTH: Connecting universities to regional growth
- SUSTAINABLE GROWTH: Supporting resource efficiency in SMEs
- INCLUSIVE GROWTH: Social innovation: creative responses to societal challenges
- CITYSTAR: Integrated approaches to sustainable urban development
- INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION: Promoting EU Regional policy with short videos

Applications should be sent by 20 April 2012. The selected finalists will have the opportunity to showcase their projects before an independent jury during the tenth annual European Week of Regions and Cities - OPEN DAYS 2012. The Award ceremony itself will take place in Brussels in early 2013.

Waste: factor of growth and deficit reduction

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

According a study, compliance with European standards of waste would permit 72 million savings and the creation of 400,000 jobs.

Illegal waste operations in Member States are causing missed opportunities for economic growth, but stronger national inspections and better knowledge about waste management would bring major improvements.

Improved implementation leads to significant benefits
The study gives an in-depth analysis of the effects of better implementation and enforcement and shows that benefits would be significant. It analysed a number of case studies in Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands to demonstrate economic, financial and social benefits to Member States.

The EU’s waste management and recycling sector is very dynamic, but still offers economic opportunities with vast potential for expansion. In 2008, its €145 billion turnover represented around 1% of the EU’s GDP and 2 million jobs. Compliance with EU policy would help create a sector with 2.4 million jobs and a total annual turnover of €187 billion.

The underlying problem is that too many prices do not reflect the true cost of disposal of goods – if they did, this would help prevent waste in the first place. In addition, many Member States still lack adequate infrastructure for separate collection, recycling and recovery. An absence of systematic control and enforcement mechanisms is another hindrance, coupled with a lack of reliable data on waste management.

Four key conclusions
- The study concludes that we need to know more about waste. Better data and systematic monitoring of how the laws work in practice must be made available. There is progress here, with a specific Data Centre on Waste recently set up by Eurostat.
- Better use of the polluter pays principle, and wider use of economic instruments like raising the costs of disposal, could help ensure compliance and provide the necessary financial resources for waste management.
- Inspection and monitoring capabilities need to be strengthened in Member States. This could mean establishing an auditing capacity at EU level and, possibly, common inspection standards.
- One relatively cost-effective option to strengthen implementation monitoring at EU level could be to draw on the expertise and capabilities of the European Environment Agency (EEA). This option would carry lower administrative costs than creating a new agency dedicated to waste.

Next Steps
The study’s conclusions will be discussed and analysed by the Commission. They will serve as grounds for developing a balanced mix of legal and economic instruments as suggested in the Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe and the Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention. These strategies encourage economic and legal incentives such as landfill taxes or bans, extending “producer responsibility” schemes and introducing “pay as you throw” schemes.

The EU’s economy uses 16 tonnes of materials per person per year, of which 6 tonnes becomes waste, half of it going to landfill. Many Member States rely mainly on landfill as the preferred waste management option. This situation persists in spite of existing EU waste legislation and is unsustainable.

The Commission’s Roadmap for Resource Efficiency sets out milestones for ensuring that waste is managed as a resource by 2020 including through the revision of prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfill-diversion targets, and through the development of markets for secondary and recycled materials.