June 30, 2009
Study shows devolving responsibilities assists economic progress
'From Subsidiarity to Success: The impact of decentralisation on economic growth', an independent two-year pan-
European study, commissioned by the Assembly of European Regions, has found that countries which balance the
distribution of powers by devolving significant responsibilities from central government to other tiers are performing
considerably better than highly centralised states at maximising the economic growth potential of their territories.
Part One of the study combines qualitative and quantitative analysis to produce a Decentralisation Index based on five indicators in order to ascertain the degree of devolution on a scale from 0 to 100. Of the 26 European countries surveyed, Switzerland (70) was found to be the most decentralised while Bulgaria (25) is the most centralised.
Ireland, assessed in relation to the powers of local authorities, registers an overall 41, below the European average of 45. This includes relatively high scores for ''Vertical'' (50, ranked 9th) and ''Financial'' decentralisation (49, ranked 9th as ''both qualitative and quantitative (income and expenditures) indicators show a considerable degree of financial means in the regions.''). By contrast, Ireland's devolution status is ranked much lower in terms of the ''Administrative'' (23, rank 21st – ''mainly due to a very low share of regional public sector employment''); ''Functional'' (33, ranked 20th); and ''Political'' (41, ranked 18th) indicators. A clear imbalance between decision making (25) and implementing power (74) is also noted.
Part Two, investigates the impact that devolving power has upon economic variables such as GDP, growth and innovation output. It concludes, through employing extensive data and empirical analysis, that this approach is a key determinant of economic success, and offers evidence that national performance can be improved by providing egions with greater influence at national level, more decision-making independence, financial resources, and competences in recreation and culture, infrastructure, education and research, and health care.
Posted by iroronan at June 30, 2009 01:07 PM
June 30, 2009
Midland Region forms European Cultural Heritage Network
The Midland Regional Authority is among the founder members of the European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN), a
newly-formed initiative to provide a platform for cooperation, shared research, and exchange of experience opportunities among professionals and public bodies involved in tourism and cultural industries in different European regions. The network's establishment follows upon the core partners' involvement in an INTERREG 3C project to provide guidance towards best practice in the development, management and promotion of Cultural Tourism, based on case studies,research and experience.
ECTN's areas of interest to date include training, better integration between the tourism and culture sectors, and providing coherent representation for the interests of cultural tourism in relations with the European Commission and other networks. Network membership is open to other regions and organisations. ECTN's inaugural annual conference, 'Culture with a twist - new ways of thinking about cultural tourism', will take place in Turku, Finland on 23-24 September.
Posted by iroronan at June 30, 2009 12:06 PM
June 28, 2009
Towards local sustainable energy
Sustainable NOW is a new project coordinated by ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) focuses on strengthening the role of local and regional governments in the sustainable energy transition period. The project addresses non-technical aspects of sustainable technologies and facilitates peer-to-peer exchange and reviews, in order to compile and disseminate tangible results. These results will be made available through the Sustainable Cities and Towns campaign.
Posted by iroronan at June 28, 2009 04:37 PM
June 28, 2009
Creative and Innovative Regions report
The 6th Progress Report on Economic and Social Cohesion - a key milestone in the wider debate on the future Cohesion Policy - was adopted by the Commission on 25 June and takes as its central theme how creativity and innovation boost can regional development.
The report finds that more developed EU regions tend to score well on most creativity and innovation indicators, such as high-technology, their attractiveness to ''core creative class'' professionals (e.g. engineers, writers, architects, scientists, professors and artists) who tend to generate more ideas and are more likely to set up new companies, products and services; R&D; and human capital intensity. Nonetheless, the EU's less developed regions are generally displaying impressive 'catch-up' in terms of productivity growth. A series of factsheets illustrate and analyse the key indicators. The report also includes a short summary of responses received to the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and will feed into the Fifth Cohesion Report on Economic and Social Cohesion, due for publication in autumn 2010.
Posted by iroronan at June 28, 2009 04:26 PM
June 28, 2009
EU Enterprise Awards 2010
The 2010 European Enterprise Awards to recognise excellence in business and entrepreneurship promotion are seeking nominations across five categories:
1) Promoting the entrepreneurial spirit; 2) Investing in skills; 3) Improving the business environment; 4) Supporting the
internationalisation of business; and 5) Responsible and inclusive entrepreneurship.
Participation is open to national, regional or local authorities or public-private partnerships having been pre-selected at national level.
Posted by iroronan at June 28, 2009 09:47 AM
June 27, 2009
Open Days - now open
Registration for the 2009 edition of the Open Days - European Week of Regions and Cities to be held in Brussels from 5-8 October is now open. A draft programme is also available.
This year, the Irish Regions Office is involved in the Atlantic Alliance consortium which will organise a seminar on future prospects for cooperative activities in the wider Atlantic space.
Posted by iroronan at June 27, 2009 12:45 PM
June 27, 2009
Emissions limits tightened
EU Environment Ministers reached agreement on 25 June to tighten rules on the emission of harmful industrial pollutants including sulphur and nitrogen compounds, dust particles, asbestos and heavy metal into the air, soil or water. The proposed legislation, brought forward by the European Commission in 2007, attempts to combine seven existing EU air pollution laws, including the directive on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) and the Large Combustion Plants (LCP) Directive. It would require 52,000 industrial operators to obtain permits from national authorities to release designated pollutants.
The Ministers agreed to bring emission limits on LCPs such as power stations into line with state-of-the-art emission reduction technologies by 2016 and to fast track this stipulation for new installations - within two years of the entry into force of the directive. According to the Commission, tightening emission limits on LCPs alone, will reduce health costs by EUR7 billion and prevent 13,000 premature deaths every year. The directive now returns to the European Parliament for a second reading in the autumn.
Posted by iroronan at June 27, 2009 12:00 PM
June 26, 2009
Third-Level Institutional Research Agreement in BMW Region
The development of research and innovation across the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Region has received a timely boost with the 17 June signing of a Collaborative Research and Innovation Strategy by the heads of all third-level institutions across the region. The joint initiative combines the individual strengths of NUI Galway, the institutes of technology in Athlone, Dundalk, Galway-Mayo, Letterkenny and Sligo, and St. Angela's College, Sligo and identifies a number of research areas where collaboration will take place, including biomedical science and engineering; environmental science; health services research; marine and energy; food and agriculture; socio-economic sciences and humanities; social entrepreneurship; and software development and applications.
The Director of the BMW Regional Assembly, Gerry Finn has welcomed the signing of the milestone agreement - which was developed under the auspices of Lionra, the Region's higher-education network - as representing a significant boost to the research resources of the regional economy while also ''placing the institutions in a stronger position to seek research and development funding'' and developing the capacity to ''facilitate the necessary shift towards a regional economic base which creates more sustainable and diversified sectors of employment, is more innovative, more knowledge-based and ultimately can compete on an internationally basis - a necessary transition for the future prosperity of the Region''.
The Regional Assembly has highlighted the lack of public funding awarded to the institutes in the BMW Region under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and Science Foundation Ireland programmes and has raised this issue at meetings with An Taoiseach, the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Chief Science Adviser. However, one of the priorities under the EU co-financed BMW Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013 is to enhance Regional research, innovation and ICT infrastructure and capacity. This focus arises from the Regional Assembly's 2004 Audit of Innovation report which identified an innovation deficit and inadequate entrepreneurial character when compared to the Southern and Eastern Region. This agreement also tallies with the vision set out in the Assembly's Regional Foresight 2005-2025 exercise of an innovative, knowledge-based and competitive BMW Region.
Posted by iroronan at June 26, 2009 04:56 PM
June 24, 2009
Energy Efficiency Action Plan consultation
The 2006-2012 Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (EEAP) to boost the achievement of Europe’s substantial cost-effective energy savings potential and a target of 20% reduced energy consumption has reached its mid-term phase.
A major review to evaluate its effectiveness and results to date is scheduled to take place in 2009 and the Commission has launched an online consultation of interested parties as a key element of this. The exercise will remain open until 3 August in a bid to identify how best the EU may identify and initiate improved policy actions and measures which contribute to a maximum extent to the its energy saving targets.
Posted by iroronan at June 24, 2009 04:40 PM
June 22, 2009
Renewables link to growth & jobs
A new Study conducted on behalf of the European Commission's DG for Energy and Transport, has assessed for the first time in detail, the economic effects of supporting renewable energy sources (RES). 'The Impact of Renewable Energy Policy on Economic Growth and Employment in the European Union' examines not only job creation effects within the RES sector itself, but takes into account impacts on all sectors of the economy. The study has determined that policies that support RES provide a significant boost to the economy and the number of jobs created. It concludes that improving current policies so that the target of 20% RES in final energy consumption in 2020 can be achieved will provide a net effect of about 410,000 additional jobs across the EU and an average 0.24% jump in GDP.
Posted by iroronan at June 22, 2009 04:45 PM
June 22, 2009
Parental Leave agreement
Social Partners at European level reached an agreement on 18 June on the revision of the 1995 Framework Agreement on parental leave which paved the way for the subsequent directive. Among the new conditions specified in the new agreement is an increase in the duration of leave from three to four months; its application to all
workers, regardless of their contractual arrangements; greater protection measures; and more flexible terms and
conditions for new parents upon their return to work.
Following this breakthrough, the Commission is expected to publish a proposal over the summer for a directive to be considered by the Council.
Posted by iroronan at June 22, 2009 12:30 PM
June 20, 2009
CORDIS, the Community Research and Development Information Service, has recently launched its new online Transport service with extensive information on all matters relating to the Transport theme of the Seventh Framework Programme and its aim to develop safer, greener and smarter transport systems for Europe that will benefit citizens, respect the environment, and increase the competitiveness of our industries in the global market.
This service includes latest developments, events and funding opportunities plus a ‘find a project’ database across five separate sections: Aeronautics and Air; Road research; Rail research; Waterborne; and Multimodal transport.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is surveying opinions on the CIVITAS Initiative and the needs of cities to achieve more sustainable, clean and energy efficient urban transport systems. Results of the survey will be summarised in a recommendation report which should influence the future supportive role to be played by the Commission in terms of developing integrated policy and technology measures and funding mechanisms.
Posted by iroronan at June 20, 2009 04:48 PM
June 20, 2009
INTERREG IVC approvals delayed and future strategy
Due to the high number of applicants (almost 500 projects) received in response to the second call for proposals which closed at the end of January, the INTERREG IVC Secretariat has announced that the Monitoring Committee meeting has now been postponed until 4-6 November.
Meanwhile the Monitoring Committee agreed a strategy for the third, and possibly final, call for proposals at its most recent meeting in Prague. A two-step package with different calls to be applied for Capitalisation (i.e. preparing the transfer of good practices into regional operational programmes, with assistance from the European Commission) projects and Regional Initiative (i.e. 'classic' Interreg-style) projects. The Capitalisation call will be opened by the end of this year while the Regional Initiative call must wait for a programme level analysis of the projects approved under the first and second calls, and their geographical and thematic spread. The list of 35 approved projects from the first round are now available online.
Posted by iroronan at June 20, 2009 04:14 PM
June 18, 2009
Emissions Trading Scheme Consultation
A public consultation on rules to govern the future auctioning of emission allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) has been launched. The consultation (open until 3 August) forms part of the Commission's preparation of a Regulation on auctioning of allowances with respect to the third and later trading periods. In accordance with the revision of the Emissions Trading Directive agreed as part of the EU climate and energy package last December, the Commission must adopt a Regulation by June 2010 to ensure that auctioning is conducted in an open, transparent, harmonised and non-discriminatory manner.
Posted by iroronan at June 18, 2009 04:50 PM
June 15, 2009
Green Housing plans setback
The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission communicated a progress report on the revision of the
largely unimplemented Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) to EU ministers at their 12 June Council meeting. This is part of a wider energy efficiency package along with initiatives on energy labelling and tyre labelling directives as part of the drive to contribute to reaching the EU's target of using 20% less energy by 2020.
The report is broadly supportive of the proposals amended by the European Parliament's first-reading position from
April which include calls for Member States to set percentages for a minimum share of buildings to be energy neutral by 2015 and the installation of smart metres in all new and renovated buildings. However, it reflects concerns expressed by several Member States over the likelihood of a significantly increased administrative burden, subsidiarity considerations (i.e. whether this issue should be legislated for at EU level), cost-efficiency, certification, property owners being discouraged to carry out renovations as a result of stricter rules, adaptability to different national circumstances and policies to promote energy efficiency, the proposed lowering of the size threshold for subjecting existing buildings to minimum requirements to 250 m2, and the proposal that all new buildings should produce at least as much renewable energy on-site as they consume by 2019.
Posted by iroronan at June 15, 2009 12:39 PM
June 14, 2009
Baltic Sea Strategy launched
The European Commission adopted and launched the 'EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region' on 10 June. This constitutes the first such strategy to range across several EU policy fields and to be applied at a 'macro-region'. The Strategy along with its accompanying Action Plan will aim to address four priority areas: environmental sustainability; prosperity; accessibility and attractiveness; and safety and security. This approach has sparked interest in other sea basins including the Irish Sea.
The added European value is that of improving cooperation across stakeholders in the eight Baltic Member States through instruments such as the Structural Funds to finance the Action Plan's 80 flagship projects and through monitoring and evaluation of their progress and implementation.
The Commission DG for Maritime Affairs has also published documentation on the presentations delivered and workshops held at the European Maritime Day stakeholder conference held in Rome on 18-20 May.
Posted by iroronan at June 14, 2009 04:52 PM
June 14, 2009
Local Authority Active Inclusion network launched
A new Network of Local Authorities' Observatories on Active Inclusion (NLAO) under the banner of the EUROCITIES organisation will see five member cities set up 'observatories' to monitor the local implementation of social policies and identify good practice. These instigator cities will report on governance arrangements; procurement practice; and provisions for quality management in a range of social service areas with particular emphasis on training/employment as well as social and supported housing. Each observatory has pledged to engage with NGOs, the research community and public bodies at national level with EUROCITIES coordinating this work and producing comparative reports. This initiative, supported and financed by the European Commission, is an attempt to significantly boost urban local authorities' influence by putting cities' concerns centre stage in both EU and national social policy-making.
Posted by iroronan at June 14, 2009 02:31 PM
June 08, 2009
2011 European Year of Volunteering
The European Commission has officially published a proposal to declare 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. 4 key objectives have been set out for volunteering as an activity in the 3 June document: working towards enabling and facilitating the environment; empowering organisations and improving quality; rewarding and recognizing activities; and raising awareness of its value and importance. The total budget dedicated to these activities is expected to be approximately EUR6 million which will fund awareness raising campaigns, conferences, seminars, exchange of best practices and publications. An additional EUR2 million will be available for preparatory activities in the years leading up to 2013. The Council and the European Parliament are expected to endorse this proposal by early next year.
Looking another year further into the future, a Commission consultation with a 31 July deadline is underway on an initial proposal for designating 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity. The current concept deals inter alia with the threats and opportunities of ageing; necessary policy measures; and the role of the EU in these fields.
Posted by iroronan at June 8, 2009 04:21 PM
June 08, 2009
'Match-funding' to be relaxed for Structural Funds?
The rules that Member States must follow to obtain regional aid, employment aid and infrastructure project financing from the EU budget seem likely to be temporarily relaxed in the light of the current economic crisis. The European Commission is suggesting that, for 2009-2010, national governments could be exempted from the requirement to co-finance Structural Funds assisted projects - a burden which typically amounts to 50-60% of a project's overall cost. This would effectively free up access to hundreds of millions of euros which might otherwise have been seen as more of a drain on national public finances than a benefit at the current time. A further positive arising from this move would be a reduction in the threat of committed but unused funds being revoked if they have not been spent nationally within three years of being allocated by the EU. (''n+2'' rule).
The proposal, published in a policy paper on measures to support employment on 3 June with further details to follow later in the month, could apply to all Structural Fund facets of the European Regional Development Fund (including Ireland's two regional Operational Programmes) and the European Social Fund (National Human Resources Programme) if approved by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. While it will be enthusiastically welcomed by many parliamentarians and governments, achieving agreement seems likely to depend on wealthier states securing assurances that any EU funding without the security of a national equivalent will only be directed towards projects which are cost-effective, well managed and will deliver real and strategic benefits.
Posted by iroronan at June 8, 2009 02:02 PM
June 03, 2009
Commission Policy Strategy for 2010
The Committee of the Regions organised a Structured Dialogue on 26 May at which Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström discussed the Commission's Annual Policy Strategy Policy for 2010 with representatives from local and regional associations. The debate focused on Economic and Social Recovery; Climate Change and Sustainable Europe; Europe as a World Partner ; andthe Stockholm Programme - putting the citizen first.
Posted by iroronan at June 3, 2009 04:34 PM
June 03, 2009
Greenhouse emissions - falling but unevenly
A European Environment Agency inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the EU in 2007 shows a year-on-year drop for the third consecutive year, 1.2% overall in this case (1.6% in the EU15). This achievement, which coincided with a sustained period of economic growth, brings these emissions to 12.5% below their levels in 1990 and sets the EU well on its way to meeting its Kyoto Protocol target of an 8% reduction (by reference to the base year) for 2008-2012.
Despite this progress, Ireland has been calculated as being among the poorest of EU15 performers since 1990 with a GHG rise 11.5% above the additional 13% emissions increase what was permitted by the national 2008-2012 Kyoto commitments. Only Spain, which has exceeded its own allowed 15% increase by a further 37.6%, faces significantly greater challenges in reining in its excesses while, at another level, Denmark and Austria have, as yet, been slow to fulfill their scheduled reductions.
On a related matter, Geraldine Tallon, Secretary General of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, briefed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Scrutiny on 23 May on the most imminent EU environment developments. In regard to the implementation of the elements of last December's climate and energy package to reduce GHGs by 20% on 1990 levels, the Department is devoting its attention to continued work on measures to reduce domestic emissions supported by the use of flexible mechanisms. The key areas of focus for the foreseeable future are the revision of the emissions trading directive (with the system set to be administered by the European Commission from 2012); the effort sharing decision on emissions from sectors beyond the trading system; and the new regulation on CO2 emissions from cars.
Posted by iroronan at June 3, 2009 02:22 PM
June 01, 2009
Sustainable urban development publication
A new DG REGIO brochure summarises the experiences and new approaches pioneered by the Urban Pilot Projects and the URBAN Community Initiative which collectively ran from 1989 to 2006 as well as the current URBACT programme. Among the key achievements of these actions has been strengthening acceptance across Europe of a culture of integrated urban development to envisage and deliver each project within a broader development context taking account of various social, economic and environmental objectives. This approach has also been allied with an emphasis on ensuring both new forms of local input into policy-making and ever-greater public participation in planning.
The publication details a series of examples and recommendations from some of the over 200 cities to have participated in site projects during this time in order to inspire local and regional authorities to undertake similar physical regeneration and social inclusion actions. It also looks towards future prospects for any city or region to engage in networking to exchange knowledge and benefit from guidance in order to develop competence and build capacity.
Posted by iroronan at June 1, 2009 03:04 PM
June 01, 2009
Swedish Presidency sees key local/regional role
The upcoming Swedish Presidency of the EU has acknowledged the importance of involving local and regional authorities in European policy discussion and the role these levels across Europe can play in a number of EU policy areas that will be prioritiSed in the second half of this year. The Swedes have made it clear that one of their objectives will be to progress the Lisbon Strategy for Jobs and Growth where they are keen to encourage EU Member States to take on greater responsibility, and are calling for local and regional authorities to be given a greater say in drawing up and implementing initiatives to see its ambitions realised. Similarly, with another main concern, climate change, in mind, Sweden is keen to see its own highly regarded model of sustainable development, with local authorities being heavily involved in areas such as district heating schemes and waste recycling, being investigated and considered for wider deployment in other countries.
As such, EU affairs minister, Cecilia Malmstrom, local affairs minister, Mats Odell, and the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Per Westerberg, recently pledged to work closely on these issues with the Committee of the Regions (CoR) during their country's 6-months at the helm of the EU. This collaboration will be especially focused on two key conferences - on sustainable cities in September and on the post-2010 implementation of the Lisbon Strategy at the local and regional level in November. A further stated area of agreement between the next Presidency and the CoR is monitoring the application of the principle of subsidiarity, underlined in the Treaty of Lisbon, whereby decisions are taken at the most appropriate level.
Of real potential interest to Ireland, with a view to possibly being involved in a replication along Europe's Atlantic shore, is a third priority to develop a strategy facilitating cooperation at national, regional and local levels between the various countries bordering the Baltic Sea. The European Commission is to present its proposal for the strategy later in June.
Posted by iroronan at June 1, 2009 02:18 PM