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January 29, 2010

Environmental Benefits of CAP

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) has published a report attempting to identify, for the first time, the full range of environmental and wider societal benefits arising from European farming. Public goods provided by agriculture in the European Union concludes that many of these benefits - including the maintenance of high quality water and soils, cultural landscapes, and biodiversity habitats - are found to be highly valued but are already not being provided on a sufficient scale (a situation likely to further deteriorate in the future with technological change and the threats of climate change impact and commodity price instability upon farming).

Instigated on behalf of the Commission's DG Agriculture and Rural Development, the report sets out the arguments for increased public intervention in the delivery of such goods and services. It argues that this can best be achieved through appropriately targeted Common Agricultural Policy measures whereby direct payments are, as now, tied into standards compliance based on environmental factors such as maintaining the condition of land. The publication comes at a time when the debate about the size and character of the CAP beyond 2013 is intensifying.


Posted by iroronan at January 29, 2010 10:13 AM

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January 25, 2010

Irish 2020 renewables target on track

In common with most EU Member States, Ireland has delivered a positive preliminary verdict in relation to its assessment of its ability to meet its commitments on the production of renewable energies. This relates to the national targets set out in the renewable energy directive for at least a 20% share of the EU's overall energy mix to be derived from green sources by 2020.

Under the directive, Ireland is committed to a 16% domestic renewables target by the due date. The current state-of-play is estimated at a 7% share according to a national forecast document, submitted to the European Commission in mid-January but this reflects good progress since 2005 and Sustainable Energy Ireland analysis indicates that the 2020 goal remains on course. This estimation is in part based on the effects of some measures from the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan. It is intended that in a decade's time, renewables will account for 44% of national electricity production (currently 21%), 12% of heating and cooling (currently 5%), and 11% of transport fuels. (currently 3%).

Some Member States including Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain have announced that they expect to exceed their goals and would consider trading credits in excess of intermediary targets to underperforming countries if necessary. Indeed, a key aspect flagged up in the Irish document is that of the need for further development of energy interconnections, including possible joint projects, to harness the export potential of offshore wind and ocean power. Detailed National Renewable Energy Action Plans setting out each Member State's set of measures to achieve the targets are set to follow over the coming 6 months.

Ireland's Forecast document

Posted by iroronan at January 25, 2010 09:55 AM

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January 22, 2010

Paper on future of Cohesion Policy in richer regions

DG Regional Policy has produced a working paper focused on the future of Cohesion Policy in richer regions. The Paper reviews two distinct issues: 1) whether richer regions, particularly those from relatively prosperous Member States, should be eligible for expenditure from the Structural Funds at all,; and 2) whether the relative prosperity of the Member State in which the region is located should be taken into account.

The essence of the debate on future Cohesion Policy seems to hinge on whether the policy should be about redistributive transfers between rich and poorer regions, or rather whether it should be an instrument to promote economic change and development and the realising of potential in all regions.

More information>

Posted by iroronan at January 22, 2010 10:56 AM

« New Commissioner outlines his vision of Regional Policy | Main | Paper on future of Cohesion Policy in richer regions »

January 18, 2010

Globalisation Fund an option for Irish construction sector?

On the same basis that it was pressed into action to help alleviate the effects of the mass redundancies announced last year by DELL, SR Technics and Waterford Crystal, the European Commission is now recommending that the Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) be used in relation to the Lithuanian building construction industry. As with Ireland, construction activity in the Baltic country collapsed during 2009 with small or medium-sized enterprises being hardest hit. Now, subject to approval from the European Parliament, the fund is expected to approve an EU contribution to cover 65% of the costs associated with active labour market measures at individual level to benefit over 800 affected workers. These will include retraining initiatives, self-employment assistance and incentives, and career guidance.

Although details of the application are not yet publically available, this would seem to represent an interesting precedent for EGF in that the proposed intervention would appear to be more in response to the effects of the general economic downturn within national borders than to those of global trade patterns and jobs being relocated to cheaper economies. The application is also on a sector-wide as opposed to single firm (plus suppliers/downstream producers) basis and the threshold for deploying the EGF in this manner in Ireland's case would be 500 redundancies nationally within a single sector, particularly in SMEs, over a period of nine months.

Sectors relating to building construction which would theoretically be similarly eligible for attention on these terms include ''specialised construction activities'', ''civil engineering'', ''architectural and engineering activities'', ''services to buildings and landscape activities'', and ''real estate activities''. Aside from the property market, other hard-hit industries for which an application might be put together by Ireland include ''accommodation'' (hotels etc.), ''retail trade'', ''trade and repair of motor vehicles'', and ''public administration''. In this vein, Lithuania is awaiting a judgement on an application on behalf of its furniture manufacturing sector. EUR500 million is being made available each year to finance such interventions.


Posted by iroronan at January 18, 2010 03:45 PM

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January 18, 2010

New Commissioner outlines his vision of Regional Policy

New Commissioner-designate Johannes Hahn has declared his support for an EU Regional Policy covering the entire territory of the Union. In his 14 January hearing in front of the European Parliament Committee on Regional Development, the former Austrian Minister acknowledged that the intervention of Cohesion Policy should not be limited only to the poorest areas but should be spread more widely as a means of realising the economic development potential of all parts of the Union.

Without making any concrete commitments, Hahn also announced his intention to maintain regional policy's claim on approximately one third of the EU budget despite clamours to reallocate much of this resource elsewhere. Doubtless mindful of the increasing profile of the knowledge economy, he cited the need to bring regional policy goals more closely into line with the overarching 'EU 2020' strategy than was the case with the Lisbon strategy it replaces. This will clearly entail channeling a greater proportion of regional funds into innovation, research and education activities. This statement of intent comes as national media reports has been reporting the success of Irish organisations (mainly Higher Education Institutes and companies) in winning approximately EUR1 million per week in EU research & development funding from the Seventh Framework Programme. While this performance is impressive, it is worth considering that this figure continues to be bettered by Ireland's take from its two regional (Competitiveness & Employment) and one national (Human Capital) Structural Funds which are providing an average of over EUR2 million per week to Ireland right throughout the 2007-2013 period. Additionally, as opposed to the highly competitive bidding that surrounds FP7 funding (Irish applications enjoy a one-in-four success rate), the sums negotiated under the Structural Funds are guaranteed to the state and are channeled towards defined priorities in order to maximise their effect.

Hahn also gave particular emphasis to the need to develop proactive urban policies tailored at improving the contribution of European cities towards regional development goals. This may point the way towards future EU programmes specifically for cities. He also advocated improvements in urban environment policy which is expected to mean a programming emphasis on energy efficient housing. The need to adopt an integrated approach to the planning and delivery of regional policy was another issue to catch the Commissioner’s attention and he underlined that this should involve developing a model of shared management and financial control between national and regional authorities.

Summary of hearing

Posted by iroronan at January 18, 2010 10:24 AM

« Event: Metropolitan governance across administrative boundaries - Lille, 12 February | Main | New Commissioner outlines his vision of Regional Policy »

January 15, 2010

Integrated Atlantic Strategy?

The adoption of the Baltic Sea Strategy in 2009 prompted discussion on the application of this approach in other 'macro-regions' of the EU. In September, the Atlantic Arc Commission of the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions (CPMR) adopted a call for the development of an Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area, to better manage the environment and natural resources, promote economic development and improve co-operation across the area.

Since then the CPMR has had discussions with the European Commission and the Spanish Presidency to advance this proposal. In this regard, it will hold a series of working group meetings and seminars on issues such as transport, energy, and innovation in the coming months with a view to preparing a report by June, which will be submitted to the European Commission. Whilst the Commission has yet to adopt its work programme for 2010, it is likely that it will adopt a Communication exploring a possible Integrated Atlantic Strategy by the end of 2010 or early 2011.

Further information from IRO

Posted by iroronan at January 15, 2010 09:40 AM

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January 14, 2010

Event: Metropolitan governance across administrative boundaries - Lille, 12 February

The URBACT programme's 'CityLabs' are intended as opportunities for dynamic meetings between participants active in the programme's fields of interest. The latest CityLab - focusing on issues of managing the governance of metropolitan areas across national, regional and local boundaries - will be held on 12 February in Lille and will provide an opportunity for different URBACT projects and other current European projects working on metropolitan challenges to exchange their findings and initial conclusions.

Discussion will focus on the following issues:
* Dealing with the complexity of managing both morphological and functional city regions across administrative boundaries;
* Innovative arrangements to overcome the resulting political, financial, and/or administrative division;
* Maintaining citizen engagement and system legitimacy in increasingly complex governance arrangements.

More information

Posted by iroronan at January 14, 2010 07:39 PM

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January 13, 2010

New National Committee of the Regions Delegation

The Irish government has propossed its candidates for the appointment of 9 members and 9 alternate members of the Committee of the Regions for the period from 26 January 2010 to 25 January 2015.

The list of members (County and City Councillors who represent their respective Regional Authorities in the EU decision-making process) may be viewed here.

Minister John Gormley will formally appoint the delegation in Dublin on 27 January.

Delegation website

Posted by iroronan at January 13, 2010 03:15 PM

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January 13, 2010

North-South project about to revolutionise regional broadband access

A joint venture between the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to give the island of Ireland a direct telecommunications link with North America has been shortlisted for the 2010 RegioStars, the awards for innovative projects supported by EU cohesion policy, in the category of ''broadband coverage in less developed regions or rural areas''.

Project Kelvin, a EUR32 million initiative including INTERREG 4A funding, is currently developing a hi-tech fibre-optic cable system to directly tap into the transatlantic telecommunications connection that links Canada and Cumbria. The 32km spur from Co. Derry will, in turn, interconnect with existing telecoms infrastructure on both sides of the border. This is set to substantially enhance the availability of faster, more reliable and cheaper broadband and direct international telecoms connectivity for companies in Letterkenny, Monaghan, Castleblaney, Drogheda and Dundalk as well as Belfast, Derry, Coleraine and Armagh. Until now this sort of communication has had to be routed through London-based networks with consequent impacts on cost and service quality. The benefits which access to the fastest connectivity line to North America will bring for locally-based US-owned firms are expected to be especially attractive. The investment is expected to be complete and operational by March.

More information

Posted by iroronan at January 13, 2010 12:56 PM

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January 12, 2010

Euractiv feature article: 'Arts sector drives regional growth in West of Ireland' (BMW Regional Operational Programme)

Posted by iroronan at January 12, 2010 04:03 PM

« Project Focus: Energy planning in SME clusters (Shannon Development & Limerick/Clare Energy Agency) | Main | Euractiv feature article: 'Arts sector drives regional growth in West of Ireland' (BMW Regional Operational Programme) »

January 11, 2010

ELENA: European Local ENergy Assistance - more details

The Irish Regions Office has met with Representatives of DG TREN (Transport & Energy) to discuss the new ELENA (European Local ENergy Assistance) facility. This European Commission and the European Investment Bank joint initiative has been created to facilitate the mobilisation of funds for investments in sustainable energy at local level.

Financed through the Intelligent Energy-Europe programme, its annual budget of in the region of EUR15 million will parlt cover the cost of technical support and financial engineering necessary to prepare, implement and finance energy investment programmes or large-scale projects. Eligible actions include feasibility and market studies, structuring of programmes, business plans, energy audits, and preparation for tendering procedures. The objective is to increase experience in developing activities of a certain scale, expected to be above EUR 50 million in value. Small projects can be supported once they are integrated into larger investment programmes.

The following areas may avail of support:
1) public and private buildings, including social housing and street and traffic lighting, to support increased energy efficiency - e.g. refurbishment for decreasing energy consumption;
2) integration of renewable energy sources into the built environment - e.g. solar photovoltaic, solar thermal collectors and biomass;
3) renovation, extension or building new district heating/cooling networks, including networks based on combined heat and power (CHP); decentralised CHP systems (building or neighbourhood level);
4) urban transport to support increased energy efficiency and integration of renewable energy sources, e.g. energy efficiency buses, including hybrid buses, electrical or low-carbon propulsion systems, electric cars, freight logistics in urban areas; and
5) local infrastructure including smart grids, information and communication technology infrastructure for energy efficiency, energy-efficient urban equipment, inter-modal transport facilities and refueling infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles.

No calls for proposals are involved. Applications are to be tabled directly and the funding will be dispersed on a first-come-first-served basis. ELENA supports the EU Covenant of Mayors pledge for local authority energy plans, but it is not restricted to its signatories.

Further information

Posted by iroronan at January 11, 2010 10:50 AM

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January 11, 2010

Project Focus: Energy planning in SME clusters (Shannon Development & Limerick/Clare Energy Agency)

Shannon Development, along with the Limerick/Clare Energy Agency, are lead partners in an 8 country Intelligent Energy Europe project entitled 'RegCEP- Regional Clusters in Energy Planning' which aims to integrate energy and regional policy. This is to be achieved through a focused promotion of improved energy planning and management practices among SMEs in key regional economic sectors and specific clusters, including industrial parks such as the Shannon Industrial Zone.

The project will address renewable energy as well as energy efficiency. It will take stock of current industrial performance and targets in these fields (audit and analysis) at each site; elaborate a set of cluster-specific energy plans; develop specifications for undertaking pilot projects to implement key elements of these strategies; devise a transnational tool-kit arising from the partners' collective experience; and dissemination findings to regional target groups and internationally.


Posted by iroronan at January 11, 2010 09:51 AM

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January 07, 2010

Universal broadband across EU?

The incoming Spanish EU Presidency, along with its immediate successors in Belgium and Hungary, wants to include broadband as part of the range of telecommunications services covered by the Universal Service Directive (which relates mainly to fixed-lines). This follows agreement between the European Parliament and Council in November on a major overhaul of EU telecoms rules ('Telecoms Package'), which will strengthen consumer rights, safeguard internet access, protect data, boost competition, and modernise signal technology from mid-2011. December's European Council subsequently agreed priorities for a new European Digital Agenda (which is set to have its own Commissioner) - highlighting the importance of an ambitious European ICT policy in terms of reaching key goals for growth, jobs, social inclusion and sustainability. These include achieving 100 percent broadband coverage across Europe by 2013.

The Spanish ambition would oblige Member States to make broadband available right throughout their territories and for citizens to have a right to be offered the opportunity to access it. The move is aimed at improving web access in rural areas and to ward off a socio-economic 'digital divide' as increasing number of services are made available online. Until now, national regulators have retained the right to declare universal services unnecessary in areas which are already covered by existing offers. According to the three governments' joint programme for the next 18 months of the EU Council, ''the presidencies will launch work on the new scope of the universal service in electronic communications and on the incorporation of broadband in the scope of universal service.''

Telecoms Package
Draft Programme of the next three EU Presidencies

Posted by iroronan at January 7, 2010 02:34 PM