July 31, 2009
CoR publishes results of sustainable growth consultation
The Committee of the Regions has published all the contributions submitted to the consultation of European regions and cities on a new strategy for sustainable growth, the Lisbon strategy post-2010, carried out earlier this year. The findings will be presented at the 2009 OPEN DAYS, which will take place in Brussels from 5 to 8 October.
Posted by iroronan at July 31, 2009 11:12 AM
July 31, 2009
Parental leave extension proposal
The European Commission formally proposed on 30 July to increase paid or unpaid minimum parental leave (over and above maternity leave) by 2011, with ramifications for Irish legislation if approved by Member State governments. The proposal would increase the current entitlement whereby all parents qualify to take a period of up to 14 weeks' unpaid leave each from employment in respect of children up to eight years of age to four months per parent. Up to three of each parent's four months allocation could be transferred to the other.
The move driven by Commission action on improving work-life balance and improving labour standards would prevent a new parent being unfavourably treated upon their return to work. In June, EU social partners reached an agreement on applying this change to all employees, regardless of contract, and this breakthrough is thought to significantly strengthen the proposal's prospects of being approved.
Posted by iroronan at July 31, 2009 10:09 AM
July 25, 2009
Launch of Youth Health initiative
The European Commission, in collaboration with the European Youth Forum, has launched the Youth Health initiative. The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness among young people on healthy behaviours, to involve youths in EU health policies and to support Member State's activities on these themes. As part of this initiative, the Commission has launched the website ''Be Healthy - Be Yourself'' an online portal with useful information and a blog for raising awareness on healthy lifestyles among youths.
Posted by iroronan at July 25, 2009 09:25 PM
July 25, 2009
Financing plan for energy technology
The Commission has finally announced that the financing structure to underpin the EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan will be made known this autumn. The SET Plan was published in November 2007 as a means of directing the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies through research in renewables, clean coal, smart grids and nuclear energy. It also includes measures relating to planning, implementation, resources and international cooperation.
This long-awaited Communication will define the financing needs on an industry basis and compare these with what is already available or in the pipeline. Once the remaining gap is identified, it will propose new sources of funding to bridge it as well as recommending more strategic linkages between the relevant energy financing elements of existing Community instruments, including the 7th Framework Programme, Trans-European Energy Networks and various European Investment Bank (EIB) vehicles.
The Commission's Directorate General for Energy is expected to consult stakeholders over the autumn on the 'Technology Roadmaps' developed by the Joint Research Centre to form the backbone of financing needs assessments. The roadmaps describe the current status of key low-carbon energy technologies and their future prospects, including emissions reduction potential and barriers to market penetration.
Posted by iroronan at July 25, 2009 09:10 PM
July 22, 2009
Renewables, 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 July 22, 2009 04:29 PM
July 20, 2009
Lifelong Learning - 'best of' and 2008 approvals
18 innovative and creative projects and student mobility activities funded by the EU's education and training programmes have recently received the 2009 European Awards for Lifelong Learning for their contribution to modernising education and training systems in Europe. The six categories are: school education; higher education; vocational education and training; adult learning; language learning; and ICT.
Meanwhile, EACEA, the European Commission agency in charge of managing all centralised funding streams of the Lifelong Learning programme, has now published the list of successful projects across the Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundvig sub-programmes , following the 2008 Lifelong Learning call for proposals, published last October.
Posted by iroronan at July 20, 2009 06:29 PM
July 20, 2009
Time up for sub-standard landfills
16 July was the deadline for sub-standard landfills to comply with EU rules. Member States had eight years to ensure sites that existed before European legislation on landfills became applicable were brought into line or closed down altogether. The Commission has written to all Member States to remind them of their obligation and to gather data on compliance. Those found to be in breach of the legislation may face legal action. Member States are also now required to reduce the amounts of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfills by half of 1995 levels.
Posted by iroronan at July 20, 2009 12:04 PM
July 20, 2009
MEPs committees positions
The newly-elected European Parliament assembled for the first time in Strasbourg on 14 July. This session saw the election of Poland's Jerzy Buzek as its new President until January 2012, receiving over 86% of the vote. The 20 EP committees which draw up, amend and adopt proposals and reports to be presented to the plenary on proposed legislation for which they have joint responsibility alongside the national ministers in the European Council were also formed.
The Irish MEPs were allocated to the following (alphabetical) committees:
Agriculture & Rural Development (Mairead McGuinness; Liam Aylward)
Development (Gay Mitchell)
Employment & Social Affairs (Proinsias De Rossa; Marian Harkin)
Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (Nessa Childers; Bairbre de Brun representing Northern Ireland)
Fisheries (Pat the Cope Gallagher);
Industry, Research & Energy (Brian Crowley)
Internal Market & Consumer Protection (Alan Kelly)
International Trade (Joe Higgins)
Petitions (Mairead McGuinness; Bairbre de Brun)
Regional Development (Sean Kelly)
Transport &Tourism (Jim Higgins).
No Irish MEPs will sit on the following committees: Budgets; Budgetary Control; Civil Liberties, Foreign Affairs; Constitutional Affairs; Culture and Education; Justice and Home Affairs; Legal Affairs; or Women's Rights and Gender Equality, although some have been granted substitute member status.
Posted by iroronan at July 20, 2009 09:47 AM
July 18, 2009
The Swedish Presidency has published a report entitled 'A European Eco-efficient Economy' ahead of the informal meeting of energy and environment ministers on 23-25 July. The report argues that, in order to build upon Europe's leadership as regards climate change commitments, the EU needs to continue promoting innovation and energy efficiency.
Three areas where EU policy can promote a shift to a competitive green economy are highlighted: 1) pursuing greater resource system efficiency, particularly through energy efficiency and sustainable urban planning; 2) further exploring climate change solutions offered by new technology markets such as renewable energies and sustainable transportation; and 3) instituting global carbon pricing as a standard practice.
The report also provides an action plan for a more sustainable future which urges EU policy-makers to: adopt ''package solutions'' combining taxes, standards-setting and novel forms of governance in the manner of the green package for renewables; to further promote clean technologies and better platforms to assess the impact of climate policies; and to push for a gradual expansion of global carbon pricing as well as international standards.
Posted by iroronan at July 18, 2009 02:15 PM
July 18, 2009
Green Paper on Youth Mobility includes local focus
On 8 July, the Commission published a Green Paper aimed at mapping existing instruments and good practices for mobilising and promoting the mobility of young people across the EU. In particular part of the document focuses on how public authorities at all levels (EU, national, regional and local), together with private sector and civil society, can be mobilised for ensuring that cross-border mobility among youth becomes the norm in the EU. The Green Paper comprises three sections: i) activities necessary to ensure a wide information dissemination on mobility opportunities and motivating youth people to participate in mobility; ii) the obstacles to mobility; and iii) the development of a new youth mobility partnership involving a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.
Submissions are welcome before the 15 December deadline by responding to the Green Paper's open questions, providing information on existing good practices or completing the online questionnaire.
Posted by iroronan at July 18, 2009 12:23 PM
July 14, 2009
Agri-food industry crisis report
On 6 July, the High Level Group (HLG) on the Competitiveness of the Agro-Food Industry Group published a report with thirty recommendations to help the European food industry emerge from of the crisis. The HLG was set up last year to formulate a way forward to help boost the competitiveness of sector and is composed of senior policy makers from across EU Member States. The HLG recently met with the European Commissioners responsible for Industry, Agriculture, and Consumer Affairs to formulate a series of measures designed to give fresh impetus to the sector.
Among the actions detailed in the roadmap were more transparency in the setting of prices, the simplification of administrative procedures for research funding programmes, and the improvement of relations between operators in the food supply chain.
Posted by iroronan at July 14, 2009 03:45 PM
July 14, 2009
Culture's role in fostering innovation
The European Commission has published a study on the role of culture as a catalyst to economic and social innovation in EU regions and cities. The'Impact of Culture on Creativity' research explores the links between culture, cultural diversity, creativity and social, scientific and economic innovation and highlights the importance of culture as a resource for creativity, and the necessity to devote more financial resources to programmes that stimulate creativity. The research also outlines the importance of culture in promoting a city or a region's uniqueness and local identity as well as reinforcing social cohesion in the community.
Posted by iroronan at July 14, 2009 09:45 AM
July 09, 2009
Biowaste directive to include Local Authorities' input
EU Member States have asked the European Commission to bring forward a proposal for a directive on biodegradable waste management, possibly by next year, following last December's Green Paper and consultative process on the issue. It is envisaged that the legislation would take account of waste prevention, separation of collection, quality assurance and traceability measures, as well as labeling and quality criteria for compost.
Currently biowaste (from food and gardens) constitutes up to 45% of municipal solid waste in Europe and, when sent to landfill, is a significant producer of harmful methane gas - a key contributor to the greenhouse effect. The EU Landfill Directive obliges Member States to reduce the amount of biowaste disposed of in this manner by 65% by 2016 compared to 1995 levels but does not set binding specifications on the appropriateness of alternative methods which range from widely-used incineration to the more sustainable high recovery approaches. Now, with a standalone biowaste directive on the cards, Environment Ministers have asked the Commission to report in detail by the end of this year on its current impact assessment of the different policy options available and the views submitted by invited stakeholders.
The Ministers also stressed the need to take the experiences of local authorities and other local-level factors into account when determining which policy options to pursue. This will be especially important in reaching an EU-level compromise which will account adequately for all conditions at subnational level. Taking a gradual approach towards legislating for the various elements of the future directive may be in order.
Posted by iroronan at July 9, 2009 12:54 PM
July 07, 2009
New microfinance fund for unemployed entrepreneurs
As of next year, the newly unemployed or workers at risk of redundancy will be able to avail of a fresh new start courtesy of up to EUR25,000 in seed corn loans and credit guarantees towards starting their own businesses. This follows a 2 July announcement of a joint European Commission - European Investment Bank (EIB) 'Progress Microfinance Facility'.
The scheme, which will operate on a pan-European basis without national allocations, will be especially targeted at young people and will also include support measures such as mentoring, training, coaching and business plan development. An initial EUR100 million is to be made available over a four-year period and this is expected, in turn, to be used to leverage a further EUR500 million worth of credit as well as creating a significant employment multiplier effect.
The funding, reallocated from elsewhere within the EU Budget, is to be dispersed through banks and non-profit trusts in partnership with the EIB which has been attempting to extend lines of credit to various hard-hit industries and energy efficiency and research and development initiatives since the credit crisis began.
Posted by iroronan at July 7, 2009 01:00 PM
July 04, 2009
EEA backs local role in tackling climate change
The European Environmental Agency (EEA), the body with responsibility for monitoring the state of Europe's environment, has emphasised that there cannot be a solution to climate change without the involvement of local governments.
Speaking on 23 June at a seminar organised as part of EU Green Week by LG Action, the European local government networking and advocacy initiative on climate protection and sustainable energy, the Head of the agency's Air and Climate Change Programme Jeff Huntington outlined this level as being the most vital element in delivering the urgent constructive change envisaged by major international agreements.
In particular, he highlighted a series of key climate change areas in which the EEA regards local & regional actors as being best placed to act. In relation to mitigation he stressed energy efficiency in buildings, local energy generation, and appropriate planning and transportation decisions as being key while on adaptation, he underlined the potential for tapping into available expertise in the areas of engineering design and planning (e.g. water and sewage systems), and biodiversity and ecosystems protection. The overall session, entitled 'Mobilising Local Authorities' called for action, inclusion and recognition of the role of local and regional governments in national climate strategies and plans for this level to be provided with the resources and capacity from national government to act in accordance with its 'frontline' role.
Posted by iroronan at July 4, 2009 11:15 AM
July 02, 2009
Sustainable Cities Framework
The EUROCITIES network has been appointed to help EU Member States and the European Commission develop a set of criteria for actions by which a ''sustainable city'' may be defined. Following the adoption of the Leipzig Charter for Sustainable Cities two years ago, Member States expressed an ambition to develop a tool to be used to implement the Charter's principles. While remaining adaptable to local circumstances, this attempt to agree on a common practical vision of the concept is intended to provide all EU cities with a reference point and a means by which to facilitate exchanges on effective ways of achieving sustainability.
The three main elements involved in the framework are:
- guiding cities in developing and/or assessing their own sustainability frameworks;
- good practice from cities having developed effective sustainable strategies; and
- qualitative and quantitative indicators to allow for a concrete assessment of cities' performances.
Concrete results of this work should be ready by 2011. A set of cities under the URBACT sustainable urban development exchange programme will test the outcomes in practice. The LC-FACIL working group will review the current status of implementation related to integrated sustainable urban development in terms of social (including integration, labour market, skills development); economical (including mobility); and environmental (including physical renewal) aspects. A common understanding about necessary tools for integrated urban development according to Leipzig will be established over the coming years. Membership remains open to cities with a definite interest in this area.
Posted by iroronan at July 2, 2009 04:42 PM
July 01, 2009
Local Service Delivery - Court of Justice Ruling on Tendering and Ireland's Lisbon Guarantees
A Court of Justice decision on 9 June has clarified that delivering public services through cooperation among local authorities/municipalities without private sector involvement does not require the issuing of a call for tender. This relates to a case brought by the European Commission against Germany after four district authorities near Hamburg concluded a 1995 contract with the city of Hamburg relating to collective waste disposal in one of its incineration facilities.
The Commission had argued that the district authorities must be regarded as contracting authorities within the meaning of the public procurement directive (92/50/EEC), that the contract was for profit, and that therefore it required a public tendering procedure. However, the Court of Justice has ruled that the collective approach of the local authorities was established with the aim of ensuring that a necessary public interest task was carried out using their own resources in an appropriate manner and without recourse to outside entities. This ruling means that EU law does not require public authorities to use any particular legal form in order to jointly carry out their public service tasks without this in any way undermining the principal objective of the Community rules on public procurement. The decision is also in line with March's European Charter on Local and Regional Services of General Interest from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) in that it stresses the primacy of these levels being freely allowed to organise service delivery efficiently and in the interest of citizens and business.
Coincidentally, Annex 2 of Ireland's recently secured set of guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty (the 'Solemn Declaration on Workers' Rights and Social Policy') formally recognises, for the first time at European Council level, ''as a shared value of the Union, the essential role and the wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest as closely as possible to the needs of the users … [without in any way affecting] the competence of member states to provide, commission and organise noneconomic services of general interest.''
Posted by iroronan at July 1, 2009 04:09 PM
July 01, 2009
Council expresses Biodiversity concerns
The findings of last year's European Commission report on the implementation of the EU's Biodiversity Action Plan revealed that the Union is far from meeting its target of halting biodiversity decline by 2010 and EU Environment Ministers, at their 25 June Council meeting, discussed with concern, the plan's mid-term assessment.
In particular, Ministers have now suggested examining the impact of EU rural development and fisheries policies on biodiversity. This is in line with recent calls from the European Environment Agency (EEA) reiterating the need for biodiversity protection measures to be integrated into agricultural, forestry and fisheries policies. The EEA has also been emphasising the need for a move towards better ''ecosystem accounting'' to indicate the true value of the natural capital depleted by economic activity in the pricing of goods and services.
Ministers have now responded by suggesting that the worth of valuable resources and processes supplied by nature to society and the economy, such as clean drinking water and decomposition of waste (''ecosystem services''), need to be factored into national policies in order to appreciate the extent of the challenge biodiversity is
facing. They have also suggested that greater analysis of the environmental impact of consumption of products including meat is necessary. Ministers are also proposing that an assessment of the effectiveness of the NATURA 2000 network of protected areas should take place.
Meanwhile, an EU strategy on invasive alien species (IAS) containing measures on prevention, early detection, warning and rapid response, monitoring and control, and restoration is to be prepared by 2010 on the basis of Commission proposals.
Posted by iroronan at July 1, 2009 09:12 AM