June 29, 2010
New self-employed female workers rights
The Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of Ministers formally endorsed a Directive on social protection for self-employed workers and assisting spouses on 24 June.
Under the new rules, which passed through the European Parliament in May, self-employed women and assisting spouses/partners (as recognised in national law) will be able to voluntarily avail of maternity leave equivalent to that of salaried employees. Assisting spouses/partners will also have access to social security coverage including individual pension entitlements as already enjoyed by the self-employed.
The changes are particularly intended to benefit women entrepreneurs. Member States now have 2 years to introduce the measures into national law unless extenuating complications are proven.
Posted by iroronan at June 29, 2010 06:22 PM
June 28, 2010
Belgian Presidency looks to shape Cohesion Policy
With the rotating Presidency of the EU Council switching to Belgium from July onwards, the shape of regional support post-2013 will come into sharper focus. As a highly devolved country Belgium has already pledged to make Cohesion Policy with its interlinked economic, social and territorial elemEnts into one of its strong priorities.
The discussion will centre on the fundamental question of how widely EU support should be shared among regions. Like the outgoing Spanish Presidency, Belgium is known to favour Structural Funding not being restricted to being a redistribution measure for the exclusive use of only the poorest parts of the Union. This is on the basis that funding through Regional Programmes is seen to have a role to play in meeting key EU aims in policy fields such as innovation and energy. By carefully 'earmarking' a portion of the overall Cohesion Policy package for these purposes it is argued by both the new Presidency and the European Parliament's Regional Policy Committee that highly beneficial grassroots actions which might not otherwise easily get off the ground.
According to its recently published Programme of the Belgian Presidency, the 6-month period will ''place greater emphasis on the role of the Cohesion Policy and Structural Funds, as a long-term instrument aimed towards achieving priority targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth at member state and regional levels'' - in line with the 'Europe 2020' strategy. This will entail a refocusing of ''the connection between cohesion and regional competitiveness'' in determining objectives and geographic and thematic targeting.
The Belgian Presidency will also work on building ''the partnership between the EU, Member States, local and regional authorities and, more specifically, through 'multi-level governance'.'' As such. the programme commits to ensuring ''that the main stakeholders, including those at regional and local levels, are brought together in order to implement the Europe 2020 strategy in such a way as to obtain optimum results.''
Another area being emphasised is ''the dynamic role'' to be played by towns and cities and sustainable social and economic urban development in responding to Europe's major demographic and environmental challenges.
As to the size of the future Cohesion Policy budget - thought to be under pressure from both the agriculture and research lobbies - EU Council President Hermann Van Rompuy is known to be supportive of maintaining its current level of influence. The relevant Ministers are to meet to informally discuss these issues in September in advance of the Cohesion Policy meeting in Liege in November. In the meantime the crucial 5th Cohesion Report is set to be published in October.
Posted by iroronan at June 28, 2010 02:35 PM
June 25, 2010
Ministerial Declaration brings cities to EU forefront
As expected (see last month's Bulletin), the informal meeting of EU ministers for housing and urban development held in Toledo on 21-22 June is being hailed as a major milestone in bringing cities into the frontline of EU policy making.
The Toledo Declaration, signed by Ministers at the meeting, spells out the Member States' shared commitment to promoting integrated urban regeneration and to strengthening the sustainable urban dimension of EU Cohesion Policy - mainly through greater involvement by cities in shaping and implementing any future Structural Fund operational programmes. This would reflect a smart, sustainable and socially inclusive vision of urban development in line with the EUROPE 2020 objectives.
The meeting also saw EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn further outline his vision for future Cohesion Policy. In a speech entitled 'Cities delivering smart, sustainable and socially inclusive growth - Towards a strong urban dimension of EU Cohesion Policy' which underlined the importance of sustainable and integrated urban development, the Commissioner particularly stressed the key role to be played by cities in delivering the Europe 2020 vision of green, smart and socially inclusive growth. ''We need to consolidate a European urban agenda which puts our cities and towns in the position of drivers of growth and sustainable development''he commented, describing this objective as one of his political priorities.
The Commissioner has been increasingly forceful in recent times in his support for the appropriate district, city or regional level being empowered to address their various issues in an all-round manner rather than in purely sectoral isolation. This stance is largely based on the Lisbon Treaty's new aim of achieving territorial cohesion across the EU which has given new emphasis to the role of local and regional authorities in turning place potential into socio-economic performance.
Posted by iroronan at June 25, 2010 04:38 PM
June 25, 2010
Sustainable local energy survey
The Committee of the Regions' (CoR) survey of best practice policies and initiatives in support of sustainable energy by local and regional authorities (see April's Bulletin) has been extended by 3 weeks to 20 July. Input will contribute to the CoR’s political message to the special session of the European Council devoted to energy policy early next year, thereby helping to define future EU action in this area.
Posted by iroronan at June 25, 2010 12:11 PM
June 22, 2010
New vision for vocational training
On 15 June, the Commission presented its new 10-year vision for the future of vocational education and training (VET). The Communication 'A new impetus for European cooperation in Vocational Education and Training' sets out objectives to modernise the delivery of VET in order to make it a more relevant, attractive and high quality option for second level students in their progression between education and work as well as for adults in terms of lifelong upskilling.
The plan outlines several possible ways to give VET a new impetus, including:
* Ensuring access to training and qualifications is flexible and open at all stages of life;
* Promoting mobility to make it easier to gain experience abroad, or in a different sector of the economy;
* Ensuring the highest possible quality of education and training;
* Providing more opportunities for disadvantaged groups such as school drop-outs, the low-skilled and unemployed, people with migrant backgrounds and the disabled; and
* Nurturing creative, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking in students.
These objectives link directly to the Europe 2020 agenda for smart and inclusive growth, as well as the upcoming ‘'Youth on the Move' initiative to support wider learning and mobility opportunities for all young people.
Posted by iroronan at June 22, 2010 10:24 AM
June 21, 2010
EU Atlantic Strategy a step closer
At the General Affairs Council meeting on 14 June, Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed to develop an Integrated Maritime Policy strategy for the Atlantic 'macro-region'. This is intended to provide a basis to address the common challenges faced by the EU's five Atlantic Member States - Ireland, UK, France, Spain and Portugal - in jointly managing their shared maritime space.
The plan, which is to be coordinated by the European Commission's DG Maritime Affairs in close cooperation with the countries concerned, is intended to reflect areas where heightened cooperation can provide obvious added value. This can be expected to provide a means of ensuring better implementation of existing EU policies and improved policy integration, with themes such as maritime research, maritime surveillance, and environmental, energy, connectivity and economic issues, likely to be included.
From an Irish perspective a macro-region approach could provide a mechanism to focus more strategically on issues and opportunities which might be appropriate to EU support. This could improve the effectiveness and rate of drawdown of aspects of the Structural Funds while also identifying significant projects (and readymade partners) for applications to a range of Interreg, research & development and other European funds.
A broad on-line stakeholder consultation based on a set of key challenges is due to be launched in July. The finalised strategy is to be presented by June 2011. The Association of Irish Regions (AIR) has drafted a position paper in response which is available from the IRO upon request.
Posted by iroronan at June 21, 2010 11:54 AM
June 19, 2010
Sustainable biofuels certification
A set of criteria to assure the sustainability of biofuels produced or imported into the EU has been published by the European Commission. The system sets out what voluntary certification schemes established by industry, governments and NGOs for all types of biofuels must do in order to comply with guidelines on the implementation of the Renewable Energy Directive, due to come into effect in December.
Three standout criteria are reflected in two Communications launched on 10 June: independent auditing of the biofuel production chain from source to retailer through all intermediaries; raw materials to expressly not include recently deforested areas, drained peatland, wetland or areas of highly biodiversity; and significant greenhouse gas reductions of at least 35% compared to fossil fuels, rising to 50% in 2017 and to 60%, for biofuels from new plants, by 2018 (there is a temporary derogation for installations that were in operation in 2008). As of yet the criteria do not take indirect land use change (ILUC) into account.
Posted by iroronan at June 19, 2010 11:57 AM
June 18, 2010
Elderly migrant integration best practice
A competition calling upon European local authorities to present their good practices in the integration of elderly migrants has been launched by the Ministry for Generations, Family, Women and Integration of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR). The cash prizes awarded will recognise initiatives, activities and schemes aimed at improving quality of life with respect to aspects such as housing, leisure, culture and the support of volunteering by and for elderly immigrants.
Deadline: 31 October
Posted by iroronan at June 18, 2010 11:50 AM
June 16, 2010
Services of general economic interest - consultation
The terms of EU Competition Policy -ensuring a level playing field among operators - apply to those services of general interest (SGEI) which not only safeguard the overall public interest by meeting essential needs but also have a definite economic character. This encompasses any activity offering goods and/or services on a given market, including broadcasting, energy, transport, postal and some services provided by local authorities.
On 10 June, the Commission launched a public consultation reviewing the application of its 2005 'SGEI Package' which sets out guidance on the compatibility of funding for services of general economic interest with State aid rules. The consultation is open to public service providers and users and their associations, local and regional authorities, stakeholders, citizens and all other interested parties. The results forthcoming will be used along with a separate Commission evaluation report on the operation of the Package (based on Member State feedback) as a basis for evaluating its operation and for proposing improvements.
Deadline: 10 September
Posted by iroronan at June 16, 2010 12:13 PM
June 14, 2010
Waterford to develop 'European City of Scientific Culture' approach
Waterford has secured EU funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under the 'Science in Society' strand to develop as a 'European City of Scientific Culture' over the next four years.
The PLACES (Platform for Local Authorities and Communicators Engaged in Science) venture led by ECSITE, the European Network of Science Museums, and also involving the European Science Events Association (EUSCEA) and the European Regions Research and Innovation Network (ERRIN) aims to build community platforms of local practitioners engaged in science in society issues. It will stimulate the sharing of good practice, knowledge and tools and promote cooperation between platform members, experiment with new activities, raise awareness on scientific culture with local/regional politicians, define a model of European city of science, and deliver policy recommendations to EU actors.
The Irish element will see the Waterford Institute of Technology outreach Centre for the Advancement of Learning of Maths, Science and Technology (CALMAST) partnering with the local authorities in Waterford City and County to promote the area's existing scientific research and communications activity and to strengthen the appeal of the wider South-East region to attract competitive research funding and inward investors.
Posted by iroronan at June 14, 2010 04:06 PM
June 13, 2010
Regional indicators show knowledge economy progress
Although the Lisbon Strategy for sustainable knowledge-based growth and jobs has recently been succeeded by the advent of Europe 2020, DG REGIO has just released a new indicator to measure how close each EU region had come to achieving its main 2010 targets on employment, education, and research & development in the seven years leading up to 2007. No figures are yet available for subsequent years during which the situation is likely to have changed somewhat.
The ''Lisbon Index'' is a composite rating covering eight targets:
* 85% employment among men aged 15-54;
* 64% employment among women aged 15-54;
* 50% employment for ages 55-64;
* 10% (maximum) of early school leavers aged 18-24;
* 85% of secondary education attainment for ages 20-24;
* 12.5% lifelong learning participation among ages 25-64;
* 2% (of GDP) business expenditure on R&D;
* 1% (of GDP) government, higher education and non-profit R&D expenditure.
Although detailed region-by-region figures have yet to be released, in terms of progress made, the Border, Midland & Western Region is known to have been among the highest performers across the EU with overall indexed improvement across the eight criteria in excess of 15% ahead of its 2000 equivalent. Regions starting from a low base have made the greatest leaps forward during the period in question. The Southern & Eastern Region enjoyed an improved high single figure performance.
Both of the Irish regions' 2007 situations placed them within the third of seven tiers with across-the-board scores of 60-70% attainment of Lisbon targets - above the EU average of 60%. Scandinavian, British, Dutch, German and Austrian regions dominate the top category with many achieving scores exceeding 80%.
Posted by iroronan at June 13, 2010 06:20 PM
June 12, 2010
Council adopts future Energy Strategy
The recent Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of Ministers meeting reached agreement on the need to endorse the forthcoming 10-year EU Energy Strategy by March 2011. This will succeed a current strategy in place since March 2007 which has been implemented through energy liberalisation proposals, the climate and energy package and the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan for financing low carbon technologies.
The timeline for the successor plan has been extended to 2020 in order to align it with the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. EU ministers have underlined that to achieve the latter's climate objectives it will be necessary to first fully implement existing legislation, while incorporating long-term climate goals and addressing external energy supply policy. They also stressed that striking a balance between sustainable energy aspirations and economic growth is becoming increasingly important in the current economic climate.
Ministers also noted that cost-efficient reporting and review mechanisms will be necessary to adapt policies to changing circumstances while guaranteeing national governments the right to decide on their energy choices.
Posted by iroronan at June 12, 2010 06:08 PM
June 11, 2010
River basin plans: Ireland warned
On 3 June the European Commission has sent an initial formal warning to twelve Member States including Ireland for failing to adopt and submit plans for managing river basins, as required by the 2000 Water Framework Directive. Under the legislation, Member States were required to publish an integrated management plan, backed up by a full public consultation process, for each river basin district by December 2009 at the latest. The basin plans - 7 of which relate to Ireland with 3 of these being managed in a cross-border manner - are to provide a comprehensive overview of the main issues for each basin and should include the specific measures needed to achieve set environmental quality objectives. Chief among these is the obligation upon Member States to protect and restore all bodies of ground water and surface water (rivers, lakes, canals and coastal water) to achieve a target of ''good status'' by 2015. The delay in compliance puts implementation of the Directive at risk and has now caused the Commission to take action. In Ireland’s case, unlike in 9 of the other errant Member States, consultations have been finalised but the plans are still awaiting adoption. Member States have 2 months in which to reply to the warning. Further details Water Framework Directive
Posted by iroronan at June 11, 2010 11:27 AM
June 05, 2010
New Biodiversity Protection tools
The opening session of the annual Green Week conference in Brussels saw the unveiling of two new weapons to step up the fight against biodiversity loss: a ''baseline'' to measure progress and failures and a Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE). The European Environment Agency (EEA) and European Commission have developed these tools as part of the International Year of Biodiversity.
One of the principal reasons cited for Europe's failure to halt biodiversity loss by a 2010 target date has been the persistence of gaps in available knowledge. The new baseline tool is intended to solve that problem by providing policymakers with a comprehensive snapshot of the state of play across the Union. Its framework should allow for robust linkages to be made between different forms of validated data on species numbers, habitats status and ecosystem services. Species and habitats information will be organised into main ecosystem types (coastal, wetlands, grasslands, forests etc.) and updated annually.
BISE will provide a centralised online platform designed to facilitate access to existing information about nature and biodiversity, presenting data in a far more comprehensive manner than before. As well as information about EU policy and legislation in the area of nature, it provides a wealth of material about the state of the EU environment and ecosystems and the threats they face, ongoing research in biodiversity, and access the state of biodiversity reporting in Member States in order to encourage greater levels of cooperation.
Posted by iroronan at June 5, 2010 05:32 PM
June 04, 2010
Publication: Regional Innovation Governance
Support for the development and implementation of 'bottom-up' Regional Innovation Strategies involving relevant actors as partners has been an option offered by the European Commission as part of the Structural Funds programmes over the last 15 years. At the end of May, DG REGIO produced a paper on this issue. It examines the experiences of 14 European regions - including Denmark, Western Sweden, East England and Southern & Eastern Scotland ('Lowlands & Uplands') - who have chosen to take advantage of this opportunity during the current programming period in order to better understand the various approaches to regional governance of innovation employed on the ground by different programme Managing Authorities, regional stakeholders and academics.
The case studies demonstrate complementarities between the Structural Funds support and national regional innovation policies and funding arrangements, while also showing that further room remains to improve the effectiveness of operations. This report is one in a series on regional research and indicators.
Posted by iroronan at June 4, 2010 07:00 PM
June 04, 2010
Globalisation Fund: Irish Construction Sector application
As speculated in the January Bulletin following a successful aid package negotiated by Lithuania, the Irish Government is preparing to submit a similar bid to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) on behalf of the Irish construction industry.
A recent meeting held between Marian Harkin MEP (Member of the European Globalisation Working Group in the European Parliament), the BMW Regional Assembly and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provided clarification that it is now the Irish Government's intention to pursue an application based on the effects of the economic downturn on Ireland’s construction sector. While the fund has already been deployed in relation to the mass redundancies announced last year by DELL, SR Technics and Waterford Wedgewood, this would represent the first time that it will be invoked by Ireland at sector level and beyond the effects of a single firm closure.
The application, to be based on official National Redundancy Database statistics, is to be forwarded to the European Commission by the middle of June and, if successful, would part-finance one-off retraining initiatives, career guidance and self-employment incentives for a certain number of individual workers made redundant within a timeframe likely to stretch from July 2009 to March 2010. The EGF regulation potentially allows for support for those made unemployed in a range of sectors relating to building construction including ''specialised construction activities'', ''civil engineering'', ''architectural and engineering activities'', ''services to buildings and landscape activities'', and ''real estate activities''.
Posted by iroronan at June 4, 2010 01:19 PM
June 01, 2010
Ministers back cultural role in local development
The importance of culture as both a key driver for competitive, innovative and inclusive local and regional development and as a vehicle for social cohesion was emphasised at the most recent meeting of the Education, Youth & Culture Council in May.
The Ministers set out a series of priorities which they strongly recommend should be taken into consideration by Member States and the European Commission when drawing up and implementing current and future local and regional development policies, and when implementing European Cohesion Policy. These include:
* Mainstreaming culture as a strategic and cross-cutting element for the social and economic development of cities and regions - including greater involvement of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the European Agenda for Culture, and an evidence-based approach to cultural investment at these levels;
* Stimulating a favourable local and regional level environment for a better development of cultural and creative industries, especially SMEs;
* Deepening the contribution of culture to sustainable tourism, and paying attention to the protection of the environment, cultural heritage, landscape and the quality of life;
* Raising awareness among decision-makers on local and regional policies that develop new skills and competences through culture; and
* Reinforcing cross-border, transnational and interregional cultural cooperation.
Meanwhile, the EUROCITIES Network has published a report showcasing good practices policies and initiatives implemented by 16 member cities in order to foster equal opportunities access to cultural spaces and services and the participation of different social groups in the local cultural life. The report takes social, cultural, intellectual, physical and financial aspects into consideration. Dublin’s Winter Festival and 'One City One Book' initiative are profiled.
Posted by iroronan at June 1, 2010 12:34 PM
June 01, 2010
Spanish Presidency to push urban renewal agenda
The Informal Meetings of Ministers on both Housing and Urban Development will take place on 21-22 June in Toledo with urban sustainability topping the agenda. The Spanish Presidency established urban development among the key priorities for its current tenure of the EU and has been making efforts to promote a common appreciation among all Member States and EU institutions of how Integrated Urban Regeneration and renewal measures can be deployed with all-round benefits, namely:
* Fighting against Climate Change (buildings' energy efficiency; use of renewable energies; public transportation; general improvement of air and noise conditions etc.).
* Addressing urban sprawl (brownfield development emphasis)
* Creating economic growth and employment through urban 'green' renewal; and
* Developing comprehensive social programmes in parallel with (physical) urban regeneration activities in deprived neighbourhoods.
Spanish Minister of Housing, Beatriz Corredor Sierra, who will chair negotiations, has flagged up the importance of the Toledo meetings for Europe's cities as presenting a follow-up on the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities. In particular she has laid emphasis on how this agreement needs to be properly developed to frame the promotion of sustainability in cities, the innovative exploitation of the various approaches contained within urban policies, and to allow special attention to addressing quality of life, equality, and the fight against poverty and social exclusion through integrated policies. The Minister has also spoken of the requirement to profoundly adapt economic and social development models and the template for urban growth in the light of past mistakes by granting city themes a greater degree of influence.
Posted by iroronan at June 1, 2010 12:08 PM