February 26, 2010
Spanish Presidency backs local role in EU decisions
Spain's Minister of Territorial Policy, Manuel Chaves, has expressed his government's support for local governments assuming greater importance in EU decision-making. A speech delivered as part of the Networked Local Governments for a New Europe conference on 21 February pointed out that among the current Spanish Presidency of the EU's priority commitments are applying the Treaty of Lisbon (with its emphasis on subsidiarity) and ''ensuring that the EU becomes rooted in the conscience and desires of its citizen'' through''multilevel governance''with an expanded role for local government.
Chaves advocated moving on from an ''outdated pyramid model'' and strengthening a kind of Europe that serves the real needs of its citizens, in which he believes local authorities should play''a more active rol'' in EU proceedings in order to be able to overcome the economic crisis, create employment and maintain the European social model. The conference brought local governments from 42 countries together to create the Barcelona Agenda - defining solutions to major economic, environmental and social inclusion problems from the perspective of local governance, in the hope these will influence the EU.
Posted by iroronan at February 26, 2010 01:29 PM
February 26, 2010
MEPs want green law compliance
The European Parliament has branded Member States' persistent failures to properly implement EU environmental legislation as ''increasingly absurd''. At their 23 February meeting, MEPs in the Environment Committee called on the European Commission to take a harder and more consistent line in publically naming and shaming governments who have not managed to nationally transpose the laws they helped draw up.
The Committee also suggested the establishment of an early-warning system in order to improve respect for legal obligations and to provide for a more accurate reflection of the state of environmental management across Europe. This intervention follows upon a recent Commission feasibility study into the need for a specific EU waste management body to ensure compliance of national laws in this field, including by carrying out the growing backlog of inspections pending for infringements in Member States (see January's Bulletin).
The recent decision to divide the Commissio'’s environment directorate-general into two separate directorates - climate action and environment - may allow a future streamlining of attention paid to implementation in waste, water, air quality and nature protection. Four priority areas for improved enforcement have already been emphasised by the Commission: lack of transposition; systemic breaches (e.g. tolerance of illegal landfill and poorly treated waste water); breaches of infrastructure (e.g. inadequate environmental impact assessments); and non-respect of European Court of Justice rulings. The Lisbon Treaty grants the Commission easier recourse to court proceedings and fines against Member States than before. More constructively, as a means of bridging the gap between adoption of legislation and its implementation, the Commission has developed'Implementation Action Plans' and is working on ongoing 'Transposition Plans' for Member States to follow.
Posted by iroronan at February 26, 2010 10:33 AM
February 25, 2010
European Agenda for Culture
The new European Agenda for Culture, outlining the EU strategy in this field for the period 2011-2013, is expected to be approved by EU Ministers of Culture in November. In July the European Commission is also planning to publish a Communication assessing the implementation to date of the 2008-2010 Agenda, and outlining possible future scenarios.
Current ‘Agenda for Culture’
Posted by iroronan at February 25, 2010 02:12 PM
February 25, 2010
Poverty in urban areas (publication)
Eurocities has recently published research on poverty and social exclusion in urban areas. The study highlights the cross-cutting nature of poverty and social exclusion, and how these issues have an impact on several policy areas covered by local authority services and how they require holistic and coordinated policy responses.
Posted by iroronan at February 25, 2010 09:49 AM
February 24, 2010
Regional funding and small firms
Speaking before the European Parliament's Regional Development committee on 22 February, European Investment Bank (EIB) President Philippe Maystadt flagged regional funding as being vital for the EU's economic recovery and hinted that new support instruments could be introduced in the coming years to provide opportunities for investments and loans to stimulate regional economies across the EU. This prospect could well build upon the model of microfinance facilities such as JEREMIE which were recently introduced for small firms in some Member States to facilitate the use of venture capital, loans, guarantees, and seed capita
An influential European small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) association have responded by urging a rethink of EU funding for regional projects in order to make them more accessible to small firms. The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) characterised the financial tools and funding opportunities offered by the EIB towards regional and local initiatives in energy, transport, research & development and innovation, as tending to be too large and overcomplicated to be useful for SMEs.
Posted by iroronan at February 24, 2010 11:01 AM
February 19, 2010
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (publication)
The Commission has published some success stories from the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs scheme. Launched in 2009, the programme allows budding entrepreneurs to acquire relevant start-up and SME management knowledge and skills through working with an experienced entrepreneur in another EU Member State over a one to six-month period. Typically the placements focus on areas such as financial and operational management, development of innovative products and services, sales and marketing techniques, and dealing with the Single Market.
Posted by iroronan at February 19, 2010 10:03 AM
February 18, 2010
Stockholm offers green study visits
Stockholm has opted to celebrate its status as the inaugural European Green Capital by launching a major new professional study visits programme to generate local and international awareness about environmental issues and to strengthen its networks with other European cities. The 'European Green Capital 2010 Study Visits' programme provides opportunities for other cities to freely learn about the Swedish capital's much-praised public and private sector efforts in relation to city renewal; the planning of new urban projects; a sustainable transport system; and the advantages of a well-connected society from a democratic and environmental perspective. Information on other issues including waste management, district energy production, water management, ICT clustering, education and creativity can also be factored into a tailored programme.
Posted by iroronan at February 18, 2010 10:47 AM
February 15, 2010
Kerry: 'European Entrepreneurial Region 2011'
County Kerry can justifiably call itself European Entrepreneurial Region of the year for 2011 after it was awarded the inaugural EER label at a ceremony in Brussels on 11 February. The pan-European pilot scheme, organised by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and European Commission, is intended to allow local authority areas and regions of all scales to profile their collective sense of entrepreneurial vision building on local circumstances and potential and allied to a creative action plan through which to make economic development in SMEs a reality.
The Kerry application, which was jointly spearheaded by the Institute of Technology, Tralee and Shannon Development with support from the County Council and wider entrepreneurial community, was selected by a jury of representatives associated with the two EU institutions along with major European business organisations (BusinessEurope, UEAPME and Eurochambres). In particular, it was lauded for a forward-thinking initiative designed to cultivate real life business skills among second and third level students (ITT's Young Entrepreneur Programme) and for excellent business-academia linkages providing promising start-ups with access to a supportive environment of facilities and ongoing mentoring from outstanding entrepreneurs (the Endeavour Programme based at Kerry Technology Park).
The EER award scheme underlines that high-level EU goals to create jobs and growth are largely dependent on local and regional initiatives and plans. It is hoped that among the rewards attached to the award will be boosts to both local business confidence and inward investment prospects. Kerry, one of four nominees from Ireland alone, shares its award with Brandenburg and Murcia.
Meanwhile the Assembly of European Regions has recently launched its own 2010 Innovation Award which is open to all regions in Europe that have initiated, fostered and implemented innovation. The deadline for submitting applications is 1 June.
Posted by iroronan at February 15, 2010 11:26 AM
February 08, 2010
Report highlights regions' potential for employment
An institutionalising of relations between business support and local government actors; the strategic focusing of investment towards the National Spatial Strategy Gateway cities; and strengthened oversight roles for the Regional Authorities are among the key recommendations being proposed by the national policy advisory body for enterprise and science, ForfAs.
The Regional Competitiveness Agendas (RCAs) report, published in January, comprises 7 separate analyses of the baseline economic situation plus the same number of ''Realising Potential'' options for ensuring quality mid-term employment prospects in the Border, East (Dublin & Mid-East), Midlands, Mid-West, South-East, South-West, and West. The latter documents set out the key opportunities for each region to optimise its enterprise assets and achieve internal collaboration. An overview volume piecing together the various profiles on issues such as skills and training; economic infrastructure and connectivity; innovation drivers and approaches; quality of life; and governance arrangements is also included.
In seeking to deliver a more strategic and coherent regional response, harnessing necessary stakeholder engagement in a coordinated enterprise-focused agenda is highlighted as a particular challenge. To achieve this, the creation of an Economic Forum is suggested for each region whereby the appropriate expertise and competences from the enterprise development agencies and planning and development authorities (at Regional and Gateway level) would be regularly brought together to monitor and update action oriented progress.
In what is described as a ''refresh of the NSS'', the report urges the need to take steps to assure suitable coordinated and resource efficient governance arrangements for each gateway along with its hinterland. The reinstatement of the National Development Plan's deferred Gateway Innovation Fund to encourage coordinated, innovative and strategic development initiatives in key urban centres as part of a drive to deliver the appropriate supporting infrastructures to create competitive and attractive environments for sustainable business investment.
Similarly, the importance of achieving widespread buy-in and compliance from relevant actors with the soon-to-be updated and strengthened Regional Planning Guidelines is another matter emphasised with the Regional Authorities being suggested as the best placed bodies to ensure adequate implementation arrangements. The Authorities are also charged with developing strong linkages with neighbouring regions ''in particular to harness services and/or leverage key 'national' infrastructures as appropriate''.
This analysis is the first in what is to be a planned 2 yearly review of the competitiveness of the regions.
Posted by iroronan at February 8, 2010 07:51 PM
February 05, 2010
New waste enforcement agency on cards?
Enforcing compliance of national laws with EU waste legislation merits a new EU body according to recommendations contained in a European Commission feasibility study published on 1 February.
The quality of the implementation efforts attached to the various waste regulations and directives in many Member States has long been a concern in Brussels with the backlog of time-consuming infringement proceedings mounting year on year. Almost one in five environmental infringement cases is now waste-related yet the Commission is not in a position to provide the practical resources to address this situation throguh early-stage interventions.
The study depicts this situation as being mirrored within many national jurisdictions where a lack of technical capacity to prepare waste management plans, poor coordination among organisations, and a lack of resources for enforcement activities are seen to be widely in evidence - creating an environment where implementing waste laws is a distinctly low priority at national level while ranking among the EU's top concerns.
The proposed agency is being envisaged as carrying out reviews of Member States' enforcement systems, supplying guidance on the interpretation of EU waste requirements, and providing training for national officials. Where serious cases of non-compliance arose, direct inspections and controls of facilities would take place. An in-depth cost-benefit analysis on the proposal is to be carried out over the coming year.
Posted by iroronan at February 5, 2010 10:28 AM
February 01, 2010
An end to annual accounts for micro enterprises?
An amendment to the EU accounting directives rules, approved by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee on 28 January, is a significant step in exempting micro-enterprises from having to draw up annual accounts. This follows upon a Commission proposal from February 2009 to realise one of the ambitions of the European Economic Recovery Plan to simplify the business environment for small firms so as to enhance their competitiveness and release their growth potential.
Although firms would still have to maintain records of their business transactions and financial situation, the move would help to alleviate some of the disproportionate regulatory burden on the smallest companies by differentiating them from larger firms. The exemptions would have to be granted by national authorities. In order to qualify, firms would need to meet two of the following criteria: balance sheet total under EUR500,000, net turnover under EUR1 million and/or an average of 10 employees during the financial year.
Posted by iroronan at February 1, 2010 03:17 PM
February 01, 2010
Biodiversity protection: vision and possible scenarios
In a bid to launch a debate among Member States with a view to developing a post-2010 biodiversity EU policy framework, a Communication setting out four possible scenarios as mid-term vehicles to contribute to achieving a long-term (2050) vision for reducing biodiversity loss in Europe was published by the European Commission on 19 January. The vision is grounded in the proper valuing and preservation of natural ''ecosystem services'' and biodiversity given their functions in supporting economic prosperity and human well-being as well as environmental stability.
The options, which take account of what can be achieved within the next decade, are tiered in terms of their respective levels of ambition:
1) Significantly reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services;
2) Halting the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services;
3) Option 2 plus restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services as far as possible, and
4) Option 3 plus stepping up the EU's contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.
The extent of the biodiversity loss in the EU and globally, the main drivers of this crisis, and its implications for the environment, economy and society as a whole are also highlighted in the Communication. It further outlines the main achievements and shortcomings of the current EU Biodiversity Action Plan. A major conference on this issue will be held in Athens at the end of April.
Posted by iroronan at February 1, 2010 10:24 AM