February 27, 2009
PENDING FUNDING DEADLINES!!!
8 March: PRO INNO-Learning Platform: public innovation funding agencies to participate in pilot testing of peer review and exchange of good practice activities.
9 March: European Fund for Integration of Third Country Nationals: common indicators to assess integration policy outcomes; common European modules addressing specific integration issues; links between admission policies and integration processes and the impact of new patterns of immigration and mobility.
23 March: European Refugee Fund: furthering Community cooperation in setting up of transnational cooperation networks and pilot projects based on partnerships; actions which support studies, dissemination and exchange of information on best practice in asylum policies and on cooperation between local and regional authorities, refugee associations and voluntary groups; exploring the possibility of new forms of Community cooperation on asylum; supporting the development and application of common statistical tools, methods and indicators for measuring policy developments; support services in the event of emergency situations.
31 March: ICT and Energy
Joint FP7 call for collaborative projects based on ICT for mobility, environmental sustainability and energy efficiency and on smart energy networks
1April : ICT Call 4
ENERGY CALL PART 2
Posted by iroronan at February 27, 2009 08:45 PM
February 27, 2009
CIVITAS UK/Ireland City Network event: 10-11 March, Norwich
A CIVITAS (sustainable mobility in cities) event is to be held in Norwich on 10-11 March to promote the benefits of membership of the CIVITAS UK and Ireland City Network and demonstrate the work of the CIVITAS SMILE project which is developing an intelligent, sustainable and intermodal city traffic strategy that makes it possible to live an active life independent of use and ownership of private cars. Attendees will benefit from the sharing of experience and best practice in sustainable mobility with colleagues from other cities across the UK & Ireland and will see at first hand measures implemented in Norwich. The event will also provide you with the opportunity to make contact with existing members of the UK & Ireland City Network. http://www.civitas-initiative.org/event.phtml?archiv=&event_id=180 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by iroronan at February 27, 2009 11:27 AM
February 25, 2009
EIB agrees credit aid to SMEs
Europe's beleagured small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have received a shot in the arm as the EU's long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank (EIB), announced that it would be providing this key sector of the economy with EUR30 billion in loans over the next three years.
The EIB is to use the conventional banking sector as the means to reach SMEs with much-needed credit while assuming half of the risk, thus reducing the capital requirements of lending institutions. Ireland's three largest retail banks are alredy known to have submitted applications totalling EUR100 million each. Investments in research, distribution and patents are among the credit uses being encouraged for these sums.
The EIB, which had its capital for 2009 increased from EUR50 billion to around EUR65 billion by EU finance ministers in December, had been asked by Member States to prioritise SMEs and consequently worked on devising new lending products. However, an initial attempt to establish a European Microfinance Fund has stalled having failed to attract sufficient funds from national governments due to what EIB President Philippe Maystadt described as ''a lack of solidarity''and an insistence on attaching strict conditions to the money to be lent.
Posted by iroronan at February 25, 2009 10:53 PM
February 22, 2009
'Erasmus for SMEs' launched
The long-running Erasmus student exchange programme is widely acknowledged as one of the deepest expressions of building understanding among EU citizens of different nationalities. Now a pilot project has been launched (19 February) to bring the concept to the business world by part-funding young entrepreneurs to move to another EU country for up to 6 months in order to experience another business culture, gain invaluable skills and earn a greater appreciation of the workings of the internal market and international business.
The European Entrepreneur Exchange Programme will function by means of a 'mix and match' system whereby people with a viable plan to start their own businesses will be paired up with more experienced counterparts who run established SMEs. Intermediary organisations including South Dublin Chamber of Commerce will assist in putting both sides of the equation together. A target of 870 such arrangements are to be established by the end of this year.
The scheme is a direct ouput of last year's Small Business Act - the first comprehensive SME policy framework for the EU and the Member States - and is an initial response to findings that Europe has a serious deficit in its entrepreneurial culture and that too few SMEs are sufficiently engaged in business beyond their own countries.
Posted by iroronan at February 22, 2009 11:20 PM
February 22, 2009
Communicating Europe Initiative
The Programme for Government 2007-2012 contains a commitment by the Government to propose measures to improve the quality of communications and mutual understanding between the European Union and its citizens. The Communicating Europe Initiative, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, provides grants to groups and organisations for the development of EU themed projects and events on or around 9 May 2009 to celebrate Europe Day.
As in previous years, the CEI will also fund applications from groups who are interested in raising awareness about Ireland's membership of the European Union.
Applications are judged on merit and evaluated on the basis of the following:
* Clarity of the rationale for the proposed project or programme
* Clarity of aims and objectives
* Clarity of expected outcomes
* How well the activities will achieve the aims and objectives
* Extent of participation by target group in the design, planning and implementation of the project or programme
* Clear monitoring and evaluation of the long term benefits of the project
Deadline for submission: 6 March
Posted by iroronan at February 22, 2009 06:45 PM
February 20, 2009
Leipzig Charter on Sustainable Urban Development
The URBACT II Programme for Urban Sustainable Development is creating a Working Group on the implementation of the Leipzig Charter. The Charter is an understanding, signed in May 2007 by all EU Ministers responsible for urban development, to establish common principles and strategies for urban development policy.
The platform will:
- work on systems of reference/sets of criteria to implement the Charter principles and objectives and monitor policy implementation;
- constitute a test group to trial agreed frameworks and provide a set of related good practices in the design, monitoring and assessment of sustainable urban development policies which will be made available to all European cities; and
- react to projects from involved cities and develop concrete, realistic proposals for future actions.
Candidate cities (defined in the broadest sense and “of different scales and contexts”) are invited to submit an expression of interest or more concrete proposals to the URBACT Secretariat by 21 March.
Posted by iroronan at February 20, 2009 11:11 PM
February 19, 2009
European Public Sector Award
''Assess Yourself and Learn from the Best'' is the motto of the European Public Sector Award (EPSA 2009), organised by the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) to highlight the most innovative and efficient administrative initiatives and performances from the various public sector institutions across Europe and to make these more transferable. Organisations and projects from all levels - with special attention given to local and regional approaches, as well as public sector enterprises, agencies or public-private partnerships - are eligible to submit applications until 20 March.
Four thematic fields apply:
- Performance Improvement in Public Service Delivery
- Citizen Involvement
- New Forms of Partnership Working
- Leadership and Management for Change
Further information from the IRO or from http://www.epsa2009.eu
Posted by iroronan at February 19, 2009 11:03 AM
February 18, 2009
First European SME Week
Posted by iroronan at February 18, 2009 11:13 PM
February 18, 2009
Financing green transport
Credit to SMEs isn't the only area where the EIB has been busy of late - the bank has also been active in prioritising energy efficiency projects. Last year, it lent more than EUR10 billion to the energy sector, with more than 20% going to renewable energy projects.
An additional EUR2.6 billion was granted for urban public transport system and a conference in Brussels on 11 February heard that the EIB intends to pursue this approach using green public procurement rules as a lever, while strongly promoting new technologies like hydrogen or hybrid buses in urban contexts. Funding will go to projects that can demonstrate their ability to deliver on the EU's so-called '20-20-20' policy of reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, and meeting 20% of its energy needs with renewables by the same date.
In advance of unveiling a fully-fledged financing facility to help cities and transport providers improve their energy efficiency and buy cleaner bus fleets, the EIB is currently working with the European Commission to set up an initial EUR15 million fund to offer "technical assistance" in developing more elaborate projects of a much greater scale. The facility has not yet been officially approved, but this is expected imminently. It is envisaged that up to 75% of costs could be financed.
These ambitions tie in with December's EU Economic Recovery Plan where, amongst other things, some EUR4 billion was made available to help Europe's motor manufacturers to make cleaner vehicles. EIB support for investment in energy-efficient buildings has also been forthcoming to a number of cities and regions recently and the bank is set to increase its financing for climate change and energy infrastructure by as much as EUR6 billion per year, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will double its efforts in energy efficiency, climate change and financing for municipalities.
Posted by iroronan at February 18, 2009 11:02 PM
February 16, 2009
TENs transport review
In early February, the Commission launched a consultation Green Paper, 'Towards a better integrated Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) at the service of the Common Transport Policy'. This broad review process seeks the opinion of national governments, regional and local authorities, infrastructure managers, transport operators, financial institutions, and citizens on a set of the outlined policy objectives and options proposed to make the network of almost 100,000 km of roads and a similar length of railways plus inland waterways and over 800 airports or ports, more than the sum of its parts.
These revolve around the Commission's starting positions that TEN-T policy needs to progress beyond transport to account for future challenges such as EU-level objectives in relation to climate change and sustainable development, economic growth, and social cohesion plus the need to connect with the wider world. The Commission also proposes that a shift is needed to place infrastructure ''at the service of the transport sector'' through improved logistics and services, and seamless inter-connections between different modes of transport.
Among the options set out are a broadening of focus to better integrate the existing 30 (sometimes isolated) priority projects, including the Cork-Dublin-Belfast road/rail route, with a wider ''priority network''while equally catering for a broad range of evolving projects that may be identified on the basis of pre-established specifications and criteria. Input will be taken into consideration when preparing future legislative action including renewed Guidelines or other initiatives. This need not be limited to the Issues Paper on which the Green Paper is based - in fact free rein is encouraged. The public consultation remains open until 30 April.
Posted by iroronan at February 16, 2009 10:51 PM
February 15, 2009
Rethinking energy efficiency ?
Energy efficiency may well have become the Commission's number one priority after the Second Strategic Energy Review (last November) made commitments to go beyond the objective of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, but with only around a third of its 85 measures having been implemented to date, the EU's 2007-2012 Action Plan for Energy Efficiency is falling far short of reaching even this original target.
With its mid-term evaluation looming this year, the Action Plan is ripe for a revision which, according to a Commission official speaking at an 11 February conference, could include incorporating additional policies. This is felt to be warranted by the increased scope of Community legislation introduced to the field in the past year – notably the extension of the product list for the Eco-Design Directive and the recast Energy Performance of Building Directive.
An obvious stumbling block towards more effective and ambitious energy efficiency measures is providing sufficient financing options. It Is thought that the Sustainable Energy Financing Initiative - currently under preparation between the Commission, the EIB and other financial organisations - may be a key component here in helping to mobilise large-scale private funding for investments as well as financing for cleaner energies.
Action Plan for Energy Efficiency http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l27064.htm
Posted by iroronan at February 15, 2009 11:17 PM
February 11, 2009
Temporary framework for State aid measures
The Commission announced on 22 January a ''Temporary Community framework for State aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis'', which establishes some additional measures which Member States may implement in order to reduce the difficulties faced by companies to access financial instruments and to support investment in certain areas.
On 26 November 2008, the Commission adopted the Communication ''A European Economic Recovery Plan'' to drive Europe's recovery from the current financial crisis. In this context, the challenge for the Community is avoiding public intervention which would undermine the objective of less and better targeted State aid. Nevertheless, under certain conditions, there is a need for new temporary State aid. The Communication, therefore, describes a set of possible additional aid measures for the grating of temporary aid by Member States.
The temporary additional measures provided for in this Communication pursue two objectives:
1. To unblock bank lending to companies and thereby guarantee continuity in their access to finance. As borne out by the recently adopted Communication ''Think Small First - A '‘Small Business Act' for Europe'', SMEs are particularly important for the whole economy in Europe and improving their financial situation will also have positive effects for large companies, thereby supporting overall economic growth and modernisation in the longer term.
2. Encourage companies to continue investing in the future, in particular in a sustainable growth economy.
The temporary aid measures foreseen by this Communication may not be cumulated with aid falling within the scope of the de minimis Regulation for the same eligible costs.The Commission applies this Communication from 17 December 2008, the date on which it agreed in principle its content, having regard to the financial and economic context which required immediate action. This Communication is justified by the current exceptional and transitory financing problems related to the banking crisis and will not be applied after 31 December 2010.
Proposed Aid Instruments:
General Economic Policy Measures
To achieve the objectives of the Recovery Plan, Member States already have at their disposal a number of instruments which are not considered State aid. Member States may adopt a series of general policy measures, applicable to all companies on their territories and, consequently, falling outside the State aid rules, with the aim of temporarily alleviating financing problems in the short and medium term.Member States may also grant financial support directly to consumers, for instance for scrapping old products and/or buying green products. If such aid is granted without discrimination based on the origin of the product, it does not constitute State aid.
State Aid Possible Under Existing Instruments
State aid rules have been greatly simplified and streamlined by the Commission declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the common market. Of particular importance is Commission Regulation (EC) Nº 1998/2006 of 15 December 2006 on the application of Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty to de minimis aid, which specifies that support measures worth up to EUR200,000 per company over any three-year period do not constitute State aid within the meaning of the Treaty. The same Regulation also states that guarantees of up to EUR 1.5 million do not exceed the de minimis threshold and therefore do not constitute aid.
Compatible Limited Amount of Aid
The financial crisis is affecting not only structurally weak companies but also companies which will find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of credit. Therefore, in view of the current economic situation, it is considered necessary to temporarily allow the granting of a limited amount of aid which will be considered compatible with the common market provided that they do not exceed a cash grant of EUR500,000 per undertaking, among other aspects.
Aid in the Form of Guarantees
In order further to encourage access to finance and to reduce the current high risk aversion on the part of banks, subsidised loan guarantees for a limited period can be an appropriate and well targeted solution to give firms easier access to finance.Among other requirements the guarantees will be considered compatible if they are granted until December,31st 2010 at the latest, and they do not exceed 90 % of the loan.
Aid in the Form of Subsidised Interest Rate
The Commission will accept that public or private loans are granted at an interest rate which is at least equal to the central bank overnight rate plus a premium equal to the difference between the average one year interbank rate and the average of the central bank overnight rate over the period from 1 January 2007 to 30 June 2008, plus the credit risk premium corresponding to the risk profile of the recipient, as stipulated by the Commission Communication on the revision of the method for setting the reference and discount rates. The reduced interest rates may be applied for interest payments before 31 December 2012.
Aid for the Production of Green Products.
Additional measures in the form of subsidised loans could encourage production of ‘green products’. However, subsidised loans may cause serious distortions of competition and should be strictly limited to specific situations and targeted investment.The Commission considers that, for a limited period, Member States should be given the possibility of granting aid in the form of an interest-rate reduction. The company may benefit from an interest-rate reduction of 25 % for large companies, and 50 % for SMEs.
Risk Capital Measures
It is considered appropriate to temporarily raise the safe-harbour threshold for risk capital investments to meet the increased equity gap and to temporarily lower the percentage of minimum private investor participation to 30 % also in the case of measures targeting SMEs in non-assisted areas.
Short-term Export Credit Insurance.
The Commission considers that, as a consequence of the current financial crisis, a lack of insurance or reinsurance capacity does not exist in every Member State, but it cannot be excluded that, in certain countries cover for marketable risks could be temporarily unavailable.In this context, in order to speed up the procedure for Member States, the Commission considers that, until 31 December2010, Member States may demonstrate the lack of market by providing sufficient evidence of the unavailability of cover for the risk in the private insurance market
Posted by iroronan at February 11, 2009 11:42 AM
February 09, 2009
''2020 Vision for European Research Area"
The conclusions reached by the EU Council on the definition of a “2020 vision for the European research area” (ERA) have been published (Official Journal, 31January). By 2020, all players are set to fully benefit from the 'fifth freedom' across the ERA: free circulation of researchers, knowledge and technology.
The ERA provides attractive conditions and effective and efficient governance for carrying out research and investing in R&D intensive sectors in Europe. It creates significant added value by fostering healthy Europe-wide scientific competition whilst ensuring the appropriate level of cooperation and coordination. It is responsive to the needs and ambitions of citizens and contributes effectively to the sustainable development and competitiveness of Europe. According to this definition, the Council endorses the Vision which has been developed in partnership by the Member States and the Commission in the context of the first phase of the 'Ljubljana Process'.The Council also encourages the Community and the Member States to further coordinate their research and technological development activities so as to ensure that national and Community policies are mutually consistent, reaffirming the importance of strengthening scientific and technological bases across Europe and developing its competitiveness in pursuit of sustainable development in all aspects and satisfying the needs of its citizens, by achieving an ERA in which researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely.
In this sense, it is important to recall that in addition to the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development there is a variety of other important initiatives at European level, such as EUREKA and COST, that continue to be essential to the creation of a true spirit of cooperation. As part of its conclusions the Council points out that the Community patent would also constitute an important part of the operational IPR framework which the EU is gradually putting in place, and that the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) together with its forthcoming Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) should be instrumental in bringing closer together research, innovation and education across Europe.The increasing world-wide competition in research and the emergence of global societal challenges call for accelerating the full realisation of the ERA, including its external dimension. In this context, it is extremely important to reaffirm the role of ERA as a core element of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs and the necessity to ensure that the it is fully operational and fully contributes to the ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, innovation and education. This process drives the international competitiveness and sustainable development of Europe and underpins its ambitions to become a leading knowledge-based economy and society. Within this framework, the Council invites the Commission to propose by the end of 2009 a limited number of monitoring indicators and evaluation criteria to measure the progress made in achieving the Vision.
- The ERA is firmly rooted in society and responsive to its needs and ambitions in pursuit of sustainable development: The European publicly-supported research and technology base plays a key role in responding to the needs of citizens and business, through world-class cutting-edge research. The ERA builds on mutual trust and continuous dialogue between society and the scientific and technological community and therefore the freedom of research is fully recognised.
- The ERA defines the European way to excellence in research and is a major driver of European competitiveness in the globalised world: the 2020 vision acknowledges that modernisation of research, education and innovation systems go hand in hand, and that the ERA underpins the development of European competitiveness and provides coordinated support to researchers and research institutions engaged in excellent research, at the same time that S&T capacity building is promoted across the EU.·
- The ERA provides a seamless area of freedom and opportunities for dialogue, exchange and interaction open to the world: Public authorities at all levels jointly pursue an outward-looking approach to collaboration with third countries, based on mutual benefit and appropriate intellectual property management and protection. The ERA is at the core of all major global networks of scientific and technological knowledge producers, distributors and users.
Posted by iroronan at February 9, 2009 11:20 AM
February 04, 2009
Draft directive to penalise employers not illegal migrants
Members of the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee adopted, on 21 January, a compromise reached with the Council, paving the way for a first-reading agreement on the ''sanctions directive'' which will be debated at Parliament’s plenary session in Brussels on 19 February.
Between 4.5 and 8 million illegal immigrants work in the construction, farming, hotel and other sectors in the EU. Under a new draft directive, their employers would be penalised while the illegal immigrants would be granted legal conditions of employment. MEPs are calling for criminal law sanctions in the most serious cases and want to make companies responsible for the actions of their subcontractors. The Commission's draft legislation is supposed to complement other measures, such as the ''return directive'' adopted at the end of 2008, and the ''blue card'' directive, the overall aim being to combat illegal immigration more firmly while encouraging legal immigration.The ''sanctions directive'' would introduce minimum penalties at European level against employers of illegal immigrants.
Employers could be fined, forced to pay wages in arrears at legal levels or even banned for up to five years from bidding for public sector contracts or from receiving state aid - whether national or European.The directive would also lay down criminal law penalties against employers for repeat offences, where a large number of people in an irregular situation are employed, where the working conditions are exploitative, where the employee is a victim of human trafficking and this is known to the employer, or if the employee is a minor.Economic sanctions for guilty employers. An employer who is found guilty must also refund any state aid received the previous year and pay a graduated fine according to the number of illegal immigrants employed. In addition, he must pay a sum equal to the amount of taxes and other levies he would have paid if the worker had been employed legally and, where applicable, the cost of returning the migrant. The employment relationship will be assumed to have lasted at least three months unless the employer or worker supplies proof to the contrary.
MEPs demanded that the procedures necessary for the employee to recover the unpaid wages must be automatic, without any need for the employee to take action.If the guilty employer is a subcontractor, the contracting firm must also be held liable, and even fully liable if it turns out that the contracting employer knew the subcontractor was acting illegally. A list of employers who have infringed the directive may be made public - another successful demand by MEPs.MEPs successfully argued that Member States should establish lower financial penalties for people using clandestine immigrants as domestic staff, provided the working conditions are not exploitative.
Parliament also wants Member States to set up mechanisms to enable illegal immigrants to lodge complaints. Third parties designated by Member States, such as voluntary bodies or trade unions, should be allowed to report a guilty employer without running the risk of being subsequently taken to court for assisting someone to stay in the country illegally. Irregular immigrants will, if they cooperate with the legal action against their employer, be able to get a temporary residence permit. The Member States are asked to conduct effective inspections sufficiently frequently to check on the employment of non-EU nationals in an irregular situation. They must also require employers to check that their non-EU employees have a valid residence permit and inform a national authority of any new recruitments of non-EU nationals.
Posted by iroronan at February 4, 2009 11:37 AM
February 04, 2009
EP seeks better returns from urban development spending
Fully integrated urban development plans should form the basis for granting EU Structural Funds and receiving European Investment Bank loans for public urban development support from 2013 according to a new European Parliament report, but this will only work if sufficient resources are available and if "a minimum level" of spending in urban areas, per person and per programme period, is determined.
The Report on the urban dimension of cohesion policy in the new programming period, approved in the Regional Development Committee on 20 January, regrets that Member States are currently not obliged to promote urban development as a strategic priority. It urges national governments, the European Commission, and regional and local authorities to evaluate the impact of mainstreaming the stakeholder partnership approach of the URBAN initiative and to closely monitor the impact of EU policies and funds on the economic and social situation in urban areas.
The report points out that Member States may delegate the management of structural funding for sustainable urban development measures and argues that enabling cities to take responsibility, from planning to implementation, would be ''more efficient for regional and European growth''and could also improve the administrative capacity of local management, adding that this should become mandatory in the next programming period.
Better use by EU Regional Policy of financial engineering, such as JESSICA-style revolving funds, which offer credit on favourable terms, rather than relying solely on grants, as at present, is also urged as is the use of public/private partnerships (e.g. for infrastructure and housing projects), provided these are governed by a clear code of conduct, particularly for public authorities. The committee also believes that the ''one programme, one fund'' principle (e.g. European Social Fund for economic and social development and European Regional Development Fund for physical infrastructure investment) should be reviewed, to enable local and regional authorities to make better use of synergies between them.
Posted by iroronan at February 4, 2009 10:46 AM
February 03, 2009
MWRA Water Management Conference: 19-20 February, Adare
This year's Mid-West Regional Authority Annual Conference is entitled 'Ireland's Water: What is the real cost?' The event will address topics including 'National Investment in Water & Waste Water Infrastructure including Funding & Pricing Mechanisms', the Water Framework Directive and 'River Basin Management Planning - Impact on Land-use Planning' as well as examining enterprise and local authority perspectives on particular matters.
The key-note address will be by Minister of State with special responsibility for Local Services, Michael Kitt, T.D. Speakers include Sean O'Neachtain MEP plus representatives of Forfas, the Shannon River Basin District, and the Water Services Section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government.
Programme & Application Form:
Posted by iroronan at February 3, 2009 11:06 AM