March 30, 2010
Future CAP scenarios update
The European Commission has published an updated version of the Scenar 2020 study to refine and improve the identification of major future trends and challenges in European agriculture and rural issues. It compares how the agricultural sector might evolve under different approaches without evaluating the impact of potential policy changes.
Three policy scenarios are proposed:
1) a 'Reference' scenario where policy decisions are carried forward in the time period of the study (assuming a 20% reduction of CAP budget, implementation of a Single Payment System as of 2013, 30% decrease in direct payments and a 105% increase of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, EAFRD);
2) a 'Conservative CAP' scenario keeping the overall level of the budget devoted to agriculture but changing the balance between pillars; and
3) a 'Liberalisation' scenario where all agricultural trade-related measures are discontinued (CAP budget is reduced by 75% in real terms, direct payments and market instruments are removed and there is a 100% increase in the EAFRD.
The scenarios are compared on a two-step basis:
* Macro-economic simulation modeling based on analysis of likely outcomes in order to spatially understand the range of potential shifts in agricultural production, income and markets; and
* A SWOT analysis of social and environmental conditions in order to capture the interplay between the possible pathways for change in the economy and to reveal the likely effects of and responses to each of these scenarios at regional level (857 territorial units across the EU).
Posted by iroronan at March 30, 2010 05:39 PM
March 30, 2010
Report: Social protection across the EU
The European Commission has recently published the 2010 'Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion'. The document provides an overview of the social situation in the Member States and the importance of preserving sustainable social protection as well as their policy responses to the crisis and the need for strong policies for inclusion, social services, and minimum incomes. Other topics covered include public perceptions of poverty; the role of the European Social Fund and the Globalisation Adjustment Fund; homelessness and housing exclusion; healthcare expenditure; the sustainability and adequacy of pensions; and matters of governance. The publication also includes recommendations on how to develop policy measures to ensure a lasting recovery while addressing long-term structural challenges. Separate sections with specific data on the situation in each country are also provided.
The 25-26 March European Council Conclusions revealed that promoting social inclusion, in particular through the reduction of poverty, is one of the two areas (along with improving education levels) for which shared targets were suggested in the Commission's 'Europe 2020' Strategy proposal which the Member State governments have decided to revisit before signing off on.
Posted by iroronan at March 30, 2010 12:23 PM
March 30, 2010
SME standardisation helpdesk
The European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) recently launched an SME helpdesk on standardisation. The role of this free service will be to introduce European SMEs to the knowledge and business tools required to access the European Standardisation System including expert advice and investigation of other support measures, such as training and mentoring.
Posted by iroronan at March 30, 2010 11:34 AM
March 28, 2010
Review of Working Time rules gets underway
The process to reignite the review of EU working time rules got underway on 25 March with the launch of a consultation seeking the views of workers' and employers' representatives on whether action is needed at EU level and what scope this should take. This represents the first step towards a comprehensive review of the Working Time Directive since the process stalled in April 2009.
This brought a halt to attempts to tackle a series of problems left unsolved by the existing legislation and European case law, namely:
* To clarify the Directive's application to on-call time in certain sectors of work
* To give more flexibility in calculating weekly working time
* To review the individual opt-out from the 48-hour limit.
Ultimately, despite Member State government representatives having acknowledged the need to strengthen the protection of workers' health and safety and for greater flexibility in organising working time, lengthy negotiations between and the Council and the European Parliament failed to reach agreement.
The Commission is now kick-starting a comprehensive review of the existing rules, starting with a thorough evaluation of the current provisions and issues in their application, before considering the different options to address these issues. A number of trends and realities in modern working in Europe have crept onto the renewed agenda:
* Falling average weekly working hours;
* increasing shares of part-time workers in the workforce;
* greater variation in individuals' working time and working lives, reflecting more emphasis on work-life balance measures such as flexitime;
* growing workers' autonomy in parallel with the expansion of the knowledge-based economy.
The review will be shaped by a set of policy objectives, including protecting workers' health and safety, improving work-life balance, and giving businesses and workers flexibility without adding unnecessary administrative burdens. In parallel to the consultations, the Commission will carry out an extensive impact assessment, including an examination of the legal application of the Directive in the Member States and a study of the social and economic aspects that are pertinent to a comprehensive review of the Directive. The social partners have six weeks to make their views known.
Working Time Directive
Posted by iroronan at March 28, 2010 10:54 AM
March 27, 2010
Organic Farming figures - Ireland ranks lowly
Organic farming in the EU is on the rise with a 7.4% increase in acreage from 2007-2008 according to a recent Eurostat study. Ireland experienced a 4.1% increase in its 'organic area' (the sum of the 'area under conversion' and the already 'fully converted area') to reach a total of almost 43,000 hectares while Spain increased its organic farming footprint by a full third during the same period.
Ireland's figures (approximately 1%) represents the fourth smallest national percentage of agricultural land given over to organic practices across the EU where the average is 4.1% and Austria leads the way with 15.7%. Figures for Ireland do not specify the 'area under conversion' which would give an indication of the potential growth in the organic sector in the years to come. It is noticeable that two of the three countries with a smaller organic area than Ireland - Bulgaria and Romania - are also making very significant headway in conversion terms.
Ireland’s organic bias is a striking 96% in favour of pasture - leaving only 1,500 hectares for arable crops. (cereals, vegetables, fodder). At the other extreme Denmark and Finland devote almost all their organic activities to arables with only a few percentage points for pasture.
Posted by iroronan at March 27, 2010 02:31 PM
March 27, 2010
European Week for Waste Reduction 2010
Last November the local authorities in Counties Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, and Monaghan as well as Waterford City organised some of the more than 2670 actions which took place in 14 European countries as part of the inaugural European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR). The 2010 edition aims to progressively extend the scope of the initiative to reach an even wider audience from 20-28 November by promoting sustainable waste reduction actions and highlighting the impact of human consumption on the environment and on climate change.
An initial Call for Interest was launched on 26 March to invite public authorities competent in the field of Waste Prevention at local, regional and national level to act as coordinators of the EWWR within the area covered by their authority. As such, they will commit to promoting the initiative and coordinating the registration and validation of actions from stakeholders (e.g. schools, businesses) within their areas of jurisdiction. Potential participants are requested to register their expressions of interest by 31 May.
Posted by iroronan at March 27, 2010 10:02 AM
March 25, 2010
SMART SPP is an EU-funded project promoting the introduction of new, innovative and cost-effective low carbon emission technologies and integrated solutions for public authority procurers by encouraging early engagement with suppliers and developers in the pre-procurement phase of public tendering. Two supportive guidance outcomes have been developed by the project and both are now available online for testing by procurement practitioners.
A Guide, which presents a standard step-by-step procedure designed to encourage the benefits of highly energy-efficient technologies which meet the needs of the purchasing authority, is accompanied by a spreadsheet tool designed to calculate the life-cycle costs and CO2 emissions of different products and services. Finalisation of the tools for widespread use will take place in early 2011.
Separately, on 12 March the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Institute for the Environment and Sustainability released a tool entitled the 'ILCD (International Reference Life Cycle Data System) Handbook'. This aims to provide purchasers and users of goods and services with the tools to accurately appraise levels of eco-efficiency as part of their decision-making processes.
The document provides detailed guidance on consistent steps in quantifying environmental impact, such as greenhouse-gas emissions and resource use in an attempt to conduct a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) from raw material extraction through manufacture, transport, consumption, reuse and final disposal. LCA is increasingly influencing EU policies and legislation in areas such as Integrated Product Policy, sustainable consumption and production, and waste management.
Posted by iroronan at March 25, 2010 01:14 PM
March 25, 2010
The outputs of the URBACT programme's 12 February 'CityLab' on the management of metropolitan areas whose complicated flows of people, goods, capital and knowledge range across administrative boundaries are now available online.
The event brought together a series of ongoing EU projects working on urban challenges to exchange their findings to date on managing local issues such as sprawl, mobility, social polarisation and energy efficiency in a fragmented urban sphere as a means towards generating common conclusions across the following cross-boundary themes:
* Land use, housing and urban planning;
* Economic development and labour markets;
* Light footprint urban environments; and
* Identity and citizen participation
Posted by iroronan at March 25, 2010 10:18 AM
March 24, 2010
Report: Active Inclusion through housing
Five members of the Eurocities Network of Local Authority Observatories on Active Inclusion have published a comparative analysis on the delivery of social and supported housing services at local level in Europe. 'Supporting Active Inclusion through housing - A response from five European cities' attempts to define the key concepts and target groups of the EU Active Inclusion Strategy and the role of the local level in social services provision within this. The importance of housing in Active Inclusion is also analysed through identification of main challenges as well as of how these are determined by policy and institutional frameworks. Local implementation examples from Bologna, Prague, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Southampton are assessed against the EU common principles on the access to services, and gaps, and recommendations to address these, are identified.
Posted by iroronan at March 24, 2010 12:08 PM
March 22, 2010
BMW Annual Conference: 'Promoting Growth and Jobs in Ireland's Regions' - Cavan, 16 April
The BMW Regional Operational Programme is concentrated on meeting the challenges of promoting regional innovation, ICT, entrepreneurship, and accessibility and competitiveness. The need to unlock the potential of all Irish regions and to build on their competitive assets and capacities to ensure balanced economic growth is similarly reflected in the theme of the BMW Regional Assembly’s Annual Conference 2010: 'Promoting Growth and Jobs in Ireland's Regions'.
This half-day event will discuss how to mobilise economic activity and employment creation in all sectors with growth potential (including those outside the smart and green agendas) and how to best align relevant economic strategies to the benefit of the regions. It will include focuses on micro-enterprise support from agencies such as the County Enterprise Boards; the role of higher education in providing relevant qualifications and in extending innovation and technological support services to firms; and opportunities for cross-border trade and interaction.
Posted by iroronan at March 22, 2010 06:32 PM
March 22, 2010
Cork IT project shortlisted for European Enterprise Award
The Genesis Enterprise Programme (GEP) run by Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) has been shortlisted from among 338 entries for this year's European Enterprise Awards (EEA) under the category of 'Promoting the Entrepreneurial Spirit'. For more than a decade GEP has been bringing together regional and national partners to provide a package of support measures to start-up entrepreneurs in order to accelerate the development of their businesses during their first 12 months in operation. Over 1,100 current jobs in knowledge-based and export-driven enterprises across the South-West can be directly traced to Genesis support with participating enterprises achieving an 80% survival rate.
The winners will be announced on 31 May at an award ceremony in Madrid organised in cooperation with the Spanish EU Presidency to mark the closing of the second European SME Week.
Posted by iroronan at March 22, 2010 04:25 PM
March 20, 2010
Local Renewables Web Portal
ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability - in partnership with the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), has launched the Local Renewables Web Portal, a comprehensive collection of local level information and resources on renewable energy.
The partners of the initiative are aiming to enable local governments to become a driving force for innovation and investment towards a renewable energy future by provising a one-stop shop on policies, guidelines, technologies, information sources, and events, as well as providing tips on how to become a 'Local Renewables Model Community' and on integrating sustainable energy into their development strategies.
The portal will also provide channels for external stakeholders working on/with renewables -including national governments, businesses, NGOs, community energy actors and the general public - to learn more about local governments activities to promote the uptake of renewable and to provide input.
Posted by iroronan at March 20, 2010 12:10 PM
March 19, 2010
Joining up EU Regional and Innovation Policy
After the launch of the 'Europe 2020' Strategy for sustainable growth and jobs, the European Commissioners for Innovation and Regional Policy have each called for an end to fragmentation and wasteful duplication of effort and spending between their two policy fields.
At the Week of Innovative Regions in Europe, in Granada on 14 March, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and her colleague Johannes Hahn outlined ways their respective Directorates-General could better work together to improve the innovation output of Europe's regions and reduce overlap between their services. A joint communication to ''better align Cohesion Policy with the Europe 2020 strategy'' is expected in the second half of the year.
Among the initial coordination measures being proposed are enhanced formal contact mechanisms between Managing Authorities for Structural Fund Programmes and national contact points for the Seventh Framework Programme for Research & Development as well as the Enterprise Europe Network services in regional cities. The Lisbon Council think-tank for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal has also suggested incentivising regions which perform well in research and innovation terms by providIng access to additional funding or ''at the very least'' greater recognition by the responsible EU authorities.
Arguing in favour of the credentials of Regional Policy as a coherent multi-level framework by which to implement innovation actions, Commissioner Hahn emphasised that interaction among competing companies, suppliers and different sectors based on ''geographic proximity and an eco-system that allows new ideas to emerge'' were vital characteristic of successful innovation. He also stressed the proven capacity and wider potential of the regional level for managing ''the availability of finance, creative and well-educated human resources, an innovation-friendly market and, most importantly, entrepreneurial spirit''. In achieving this objective, the Commissioner expressed the wish that the EU should work with regions to identify their existing strengths and how to make best use of their comparative advantages.
Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation, Cristina Garmendia, commented that European science policy ''cannot progress without the involvement of regional and local government''. The Minister underlined her intention to put recommendations on the EU political agenda during the current Spanish Presidency of the Council wherebyt the Union, Member States and the sub-national level should develop measures to improve coordination between the various instruments for promoting research and innovation, with particular emphasis on the power of the regions.
Posted by iroronan at March 19, 2010 10:25 AM
March 15, 2010
Energy Communities - event and site visitS (22-23 April, Co. Tipperary)
The SERVE project (under the Concerto strand of the Framework Programme for R&D) led by Tipperary Institute has been focused on the creation of a region in North Tipperary which demonstrates best practice in sustainable energy. It aims to upgrade 400 existing buildings in terms of energy efficiency and renewable energy use, to support the development of the eco-village in Cloughjordan and to install biomass district heating systems. This event will highlight progress over its first two years and enable discussion on key energy challenges facing the construction sector in Ireland. Site visits to the eco-village and to existing houses which have undergone energy upgrades will be included.
Posted by iroronan at March 15, 2010 03:29 PM
March 11, 2010
EU Heritage Label proposed
On 9 March the European Commission proposed to establish the European Heritage Label initiative across the Union's Member States. The label, which is intended to increase public awareness of the diverse common elements of European cultural heritage and to stimulate cultural tourism, would differ from other initiatives such as the UNESCO World Heritage List or the Council of Europe's European Cultural Routes which emphasise beauty or architectural quality. Instead it would be based on historic and symbolic value and would stress the educational dimension. The voluntary plan builds on a 2006 inter-governmental project among 17 Member States (not including Ireland) which has led to the designation of 64 sites. Under the proposed new scheme, each of the 27 Member States would be able to nominate up to two sites per year with an independent expert panel sanctioning no more than one of these.
Posted by iroronan at March 11, 2010 04:09 PM
March 10, 2010
'Europe 2020' roadmap unveiled
On 3 March the European Commission unveiled its proposals for Europe 2020, the successor to the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. The new document - subtitled ''a European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth'' - sets out a vision for returning to and maintaining prosperity across the EU over the next decade. The Commission had already identified these three areas as the key drivers for growth in its earlier consultation document and has now announced that they are intended to be achieved through concrete actions at EU and national levels which foster knowledge, innovation, education and the digital society; promote more resource efficient production to boost competitiveness; and raise labour market participation and skills acquisition while fighting against poverty.
While there is unquestionably the same underlying degree of concentration on the economic bottom line as was the case with Lisbon, the design and execution of the previous strategy is now recognised as having been less than a success, due in part to its perceived unrealistic aims as well as an inherent lack of high level political 'buy-in'. This has caused the Commission to urge a renewed sense of ownership of '2020' to mobilise all relevant actors into an acceptance that Europe's economies are interlinked and can best stave off global challenges by collective and coordinated action. It is asking that progress towards these objectives over the next decade should be measured against five headline EU-level targets, which Member States will be asked to translate into meaningful and realistic national targets reflecting progress from their current positions:
- 75% of those aged 20-64 in employment;
- 3% of GDP invested in R&D;
- Achieving the '20/20/20' climate/energy targets;
- Less than 10% of youths as early school leavers while at least 40% having a degree or diploma;
- 20 million less people at risk of poverty.
In terms of effective action on the ground, the Commission expresses the wish that authorities at all levels -local/regional, national and European - should play their part in delivering upon these commitments through seven new Flagship Initiatives:
1) an ''Innovation Union'' re-focusing R&D and innovation policy on major challenges and market opportunities;
2) a ''Youth on the move'' to enhance the quality and attractiveness of Europe's higher education system through mobility and qualifications recognition;
3) a ''European Digital Agenda'' to achieve sustainable economic and social benefits from a Single Market based on ultra fast internet;
4) a ''Resource Efficient Europe'' to support the shift towards a low carbon economy;
5) an ''Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era''to improve business and industrial performance, particularly among SMEs;
6) an ''Agenda for New Skills and Jobs'' modernising labour markets and training;
7) a ''European Platform against Poverty'' combining economic, social and territorial cohesion so that the benefits of growth are widely shared.
Posted by iroronan at March 10, 2010 09:58 AM
March 08, 2010
Forest protection (consultation)
The European Commission published a consultation document on 1 March setting out options for an EU approach to the protection of forests and to information about forest resources. The Green Paper on forest protection and information in the EU: Preparing forests for climate change is part of the follow-up to last April's White Paper on adapting to climate change and sets out the main challenges facing Europe's forests. It presents existing forest information systems and the protection tools available, and raises a series of questions relevant to the development of future policy options. Reactions received will guide the Commission on whether additional action is needed at EU level. Competence for forest policy lies primarily with the Member States but the EU may have a role in developing policies to support national initiatives mitigating the effects of climate change on forest management and protection.
Posted by iroronan at March 8, 2010 01:36 PM
March 08, 2010
Eco-innovation support (publication)
One of the cornerstones of the EU's Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP) is support to improve market conditions for eco-innovation in products, processes and organisations. A recent study on behalf of DG Environment has found that market uncertainty presents the main barrier to investment, with commercialisation prospects being impeded by a combination of reticence among developers/manufacturers to speculate as to what new technologies will be in demand and a similar wariness among buyers until the product reaches the market. It suggests that by bringing together public and private purchasers as buyers groups of significant scale, future market needs can be better communicated to potential innovators. Other recommended policy instruments include public testing of innovations and eco-Labelling.
Posted by iroronan at March 8, 2010 11:55 AM
March 06, 2010
Digital era universal services (consultation)
Current EU rules on universal service obligations for telecoms date from a 2002 directive guaranteeing citizens, regardless of the remoteness of their location or the extent of their social exclusion, affordable minimum basis access to essential public telephone networks and associated services plus internet. As an updating exercise, a public consultation to determine the best approach to ensure similar levels of access and availability in the digital age has been launched by the European Commission. Among the topics open for discussion are whether broadband access should be included as a basic right; variations between the extent of development of Member States' telecoms markets and the extent of the ''digital divide''; and future financing arrangements. The Commission will organise a public workshop on 30 March in Brussels where consumers, industry stakeholders, policy experts and other interested parties can exchange their views.
Deadline for input: 7 May
Posted by iroronan at March 6, 2010 06:03 PM
March 05, 2010
Urban dimension in EU policies (publication)
This updated guide from the European Commission's Inter-Service Group on Urban Development, explores the impact of EU policies underpinning the development and revitalisation of Europe’s towns and cities, as well as looking at the ways in which urban areas can benefit from these policies and potential sources of financing.
Posted by iroronan at March 5, 2010 11:22 AM
March 04, 2010
Drinking water quality - local concerns apparent
The outcome of the Committee of the Regions' autumn 2009 consultation on the Drinking Water Directive was published in February. The consultation focused on the examination of the local and regional impacts of two policy options attached to the European Commission's ongoing revision of Directive 98/83/EC with the aim of protecting consumer health, namely:
- the introduction of Water Safety Plans (WSPs); and
- the extension of existing reporting obligations to cover small water supplies.
According to feedback received, WSPs are widely perceived as being time-consuming, expensive and possibly of little added value where different risk assessment/management procedures - notably river basin risk management plans under the Water Framework Directive - have already been established. Most respondents highlighted that the need for a WSP should be determined on a case-by-case basis by the competent national and local/regional authorities weighing benefits to be derived against any additional administrative burden involved, with such bodies also having responsibility for the plan content and controlling mechanisms.
In terms of reporting, while there is widespread support for its annual application in relation to outbreaks in order to properly guide targeted and effective preventive measures including upgrading, on cost and efficiency grounds, most respondents strongly questioned the necessity of extending the requirement to small supplies which are already being adequately controlled.
More generally, among the other most widely reflected findings included among the 93 submissions received were that:
- the national level is best placed to set water quality standards based on simple, target-oriented EU guidelines that are feasible for the specific circumstances of all sizes of water supplier;
- continual infrastructure investment at local level, particularly in assuring the quality of distribution systems materials and providing risk assessment training, require prioritisation; and
- microbiological methods and existing parameters used in determining water quality control require thorough revision.
Posted by iroronan at March 4, 2010 06:22 PM
March 03, 2010
Parliament urges local fisheries focus
In response to the Commission's Green Paper on Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Reform, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 25 February pressing for major changes in the policy's management system. This is intended to reverse the traditional 'top-down' approach to the CFP by ensuring that better account is taken of the local sea and fleet particularities and that local stakeholders (professionals and communities) are provided with primary access to fish stocks as well as assuming greater responsibilities. To this end, MEPs have taken the opportunity to urge a rethink of how future total allowable catches (TACs) are determined by rejecting the idea of national quotas in favour of environmental and social criteria (e.g. contribution to the local economy) based on good fishing practices as the key determinant.
The report also calls for the creation of specific and user-friendly management models for small-scale coastal fisheries and the shellfish sector as well as improving access to European Fisheries Fund support in order to enhance the value and competitiveness of these activities. Another demand is for a specific eco-labeling programme to promote the healthy image of fish products. Positive discrimination measures in favour of the most remote fishing regions are also proposed for consideration.
The report will now feed into a Commission White Paper reflecting consultation feedback received and legislative proposals to be brought before the Parliament and Council by the end of the year. The framework new CFP is due to be adopted in 2011
Posted by iroronan at March 3, 2010 01:58 PM