October 28, 2010
CAP Reform leak
A leaked copy of the eagerly awaited Communication on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 has made its way onto the Brussels circuit in advance of the official publication of the document on 17 November.
Unsurprisingly the Commission is recommending that the two pillar structure of the policy should be retained in any event, although three broad policy options remain under consideration as part of the reform: an ''enhanced'' status quo; ''more balanced, targeted and sustainable support''; abolishing market and income support. No costings of these options or indications of overall budget have been outlined at this point.
For pillar one (direct payments) the Commission is recommending the redistribution, redesign and better targeting of support to “active” farmers only, with payments on a decoupled per-hectare basis. It is envisaged that the lowest level would comprise a basic income support payment subject to cross compliance. with potential top up payments for 'agri-environmental actions'.
For pillar two (rural development) quantified targets would be set for outcomes established at both EU and national programme level along with a new ''risk management tool-kit'' to address production and income risks. The introduction of an income stablisation tool has also been mooted.
Payments for Less Favoured Areas - those with''specific natural constraints'' - would be calculated on a per hectare basis and subject to voluntary national top-ups.
The Communication is not expected to launch a stakeholder consultation, though the European Commission will be open to receive reactions and comments to the Communication, particularly with regards to rural development.
Posted by iroronan at October 28, 2010 03:58 PM
October 27, 2010
Energy fund grows to EUR146 million
What had been an EUR115 million reallocation to finance local and regional energy saving, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects (see September Bulletin) was swelled to EUR146.34 million on October 26 as the European Parliament's Energy Committee gave its approval to the Council to release uncommitted funds from the European Energy Recovery Plan.
A new fund will be operational from 1 January 2011 until 31 March 2014 and will provide support in the form of loans, guarantees, equity or other financial products to assist local and regional authorities in paying for economically and financially viable projects such as:
* renovations of public and private buildings to improve energy efficiency or switching to renewable energy;
* the construction of renewables-based heat-and-power installations, with distribution networks, and their integration into electricity grids;
* clean urban public transport solutions, particularly electric and hydrogen vehicles; and
* local infrastructure, including efficient street lighting, electricity storage, smart metering and smart grids.
Up to 15% of the funding may be used to provide technical assistance to public authorities to help set up the projects. Geographical balance is to be an important criterion in the selection of projects.
The full Parliament will vote on the changes during the November session in Brussels.
Posted by iroronan at October 27, 2010 05:23 PM
October 27, 2010
'Smart specialisation strategies' for innovation at regional level
Last June's Council of the EU noted that Regional Policy can release the growth potential of the Union by promoting innovation in all regions while ensuring complementarity between European, national and regional measures to support research and development, entrepreneurship and information technology and communication (ICT).
October saw the release of a Commission Communication outlining how regional funds can help unlock the growth potential of the EU as a whole, by targeting investment in innovation in all regions.
'Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020' describes the role of regional policy in the achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy, in particular by bringing a local/regional dimension to the 'Innovation Union' Flagship Initiative (see following article). The Communication encourages national and regional authorities to design ''smart specialisation strategies''(previously advanced in the Barca Report and in the report 'The role of Community Research Policy in the Knowledge-Based Economy') to help regions identify and set about exploiting their outstanding assets including through direct interaction with local higher education institutions and businesses.
Through this communication and its associated Working Document the Commission wants to raise the awareness of relevant new concepts and policy tools regarding innovation support, including new opportunities and ways of maximising synergies across all Community Funds for innovation.
In this sense the Working Document describes how synergies are being developed at Community level amongst Commission departments, groups of Member States responsible for various innovation programmes and High Level Groups of experts to build consistency and critical mass for the purpose of delivering innovation on the ground.
A key aspect underpinning the Commission’s thinking is that concentrating resources on a limited number of priorities will ensure a more effective use of public funds and help to leverage higher levels of private investment.
Posted by iroronan at October 27, 2010 04:46 PM
October 24, 2010
Electronic procurement Green Paper
A consultation was launched by the European Commission on 18 October to seek the views of interested parties on how the EU can help Member States to facilitate public sector entities' deployment of new technologies when purchasing supplies or services or awarding contracts for public works. This first step towards a comprehensive EU level programme to harness the recognised potential of ICT for more streamlined, efficient and cost-effective public procurement is addressed not only to government departments and contracting authorities but also to providers of technology solutions and representatives of business trade associations.
The associated Green Paper identifies obstacles to faster take-up of e-procurement as well as the risks that divergent national approaches present for cross-border collaboration. It sets out a series of options for overcoming these challenges including, regulatory incentives, standardisation and inter-operability solutions. Among the areas it hopes to stimulate discussion on are simplification and improving public purchasing; and the necessary legislative incentives and tools to accelerate the switch-over to electronic procedures as the norm. The phasing in of e-procurement forms part of the ambitious e-Government agenda to fundamentally transform the delivery and performance of public administration.
The Commission has also unveiled its new e-CERTIS data base which is a free, web-based tool to help companies and contracting organisations cope with the documentation demands encountered when tendering for public contracts in another EU Member State.
Posted by iroronan at October 24, 2010 11:51 AM
October 23, 2010
Post-2013 Budget Review
On 19 October, the European Commission published its Budget Review, to set about defining the shape of EU spending post-2013. The document does not provide detailed figures regarding the balance of future budgets for individual policies. It is intended instead to kick off a debate with Member States and the European Parliament so that a regulation on the next Multiannual Financial Framework can be tabled before 1 July 2011.
The paper confirms that the reform of the EU budget will mainly entail a rebalancing act to ensure that the various EU policy budgets match Europe 2020 Strategy priorities. This is most particularly true for the Common Agricultural Policy, which the paper makes clear should focus more on environment and climate change challenges.
The Review includes some hints about the Commission's stance on the future of Cohesion Policy. For example, the desire to adopt a Common Strategic Framework is evident. Such a framework would replace the current approach of separate sets of strategic guidelines for the major funding instruments (ERDF, ESF, EAFRD and EFF) and would ensure greater coordination between them by outlining a comprehensive investment strategy to translate the Europe 2020 targets and objectives into investment priorities, particularly in relation to headline targets and flagship projects.This would entail concrete objectives and commitments being negotiated between the Commission and Member States and formalised in 'Development and Investment Partnership Contracts'.
The framework would also serve to highlight the reforms needed to maximise the impact of Cohesion Policy support and to identify linkages and coordination mechanisms with other EU instruments such as programmes for research, innovation and lifelong learning.
There are also some indications that Cohesion Policy and its objectives could be broadened to support the Europe 2020 Strategy priorities and become the ''standard bearer for the objectives of smart, inclusive and sustainable growth'' in Europe.
One option cited is the reshaping of the budget to create large-scale, dedicated funds devoted to the delivery of investment in areas such as energy and climate change with the European Energy Recovery Plan cited as a good example.
The review also broaches the subject of how the EU is resourced by setting out the pros and cons of a list of possible future revenue streams relating to taxes on the financial sector, emissions, air travel, energy, corporate income and sales (VAT).
Posted by iroronan at October 23, 2010 07:52 PM
October 17, 2010
'Innovation Union' launched
On 6 October, the Commission published a Communication on the Innovation Union, another of the 'Europe 2020' Staregy's flagship initiatives. It outlines the key aspects of the ''IU'' as follows:
* EU innovation partnerships are to be piloted, starting in early 2011 with a partnership for active and healthy ageing, designed to address growing demographic disparities. Other pilot projects will be set up in the fields of energy, smart cities and agriculture.
* An Innovation Union scoreboard will track the progress of Member States' innovation policies.
* the Commission is encouraging further use of the European Investment Bank’s risk-sharing financial facilities as a means of enabling innovation by Improving access to finance .
* The European Research area will be completed by 2014, and a major research programme on public sector and social innovation will be launched, alongside a European Design Excellence label - all designed to encourage Europe as a centre for innovation.
* The Commission proposes that National Governments set aside dedicated budgets for public procurement of innovative products and services. In addition, a legislative proposal on improving standard setting is due to be published early 2011.
* By early 2011, the Commission will make a proposal for an EU knowledge market for patents and licensing; as well as a review of structural funds and state aid frameworks in order to boost the potential for innovation.
Posted by iroronan at October 17, 2010 04:03 PM
October 16, 2010
Regional Competitiveness Index 2007-2009
The Commission's Joint Research Centre and DG for Regional Policy have developed a new index to track competitiveness across 268 EU regions from 2007-2009. By providing a composite rating based on a series of performance indicators taken from a number of reliable international sources, the instrument offers regions a means to identify strengths, weaknesses and capacities in order to settle upon priorities for increasing economic growth. This is intended as an alternative and complementary approach to the traditional use of GDP figures alone. The latter are used as a cross-reference to determine each region's ''stage of development'' before arriving at the final rating.
The index incorporates measures of innovation and technological capabilities, transport and communications, health, education, and governance. Quality of Institutions, Macro-economic Stability, Infrastructure, Health, and Educational Quality are measured as basic economic drivers for all regions along with the indicators of ''efficiency'' - Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Labour Market, and Market Size. For more highly developed regions, the further factors of Technological Readiness, Business Sophistication and Innovation are taken to assume greater significance.
The disparities evident within Member States indicate a very strong regional dimension to competitiveness. Ireland's two EU regions - Southern & Eastern (S&E) and Border, Midlands & Western - are placed 43rd and 129th respectively in terms of overall competitiveness. According to the categories for which figures are available, the S&E rank is most encouraging for Business Sophistication (16th), Higher Education/Training & Lifelong Learning (26th), Labour Market Efficiency (55th) and Innovation (65th); average for Health (109th) but disappointing for Infrastructure (180th). BMW rates well for Health (58th); on an intermediate level for Higher Education/Training & Lifelong Learning (91st) as well as Business Sophistication and Innovation (both 120th) and Labour Market Efficiency (124th) and less impressively for Infrastructure (185th). Its 'Stage of Development' was also adjudged to be marginally below the EU average.
Posted by iroronan at October 16, 2010 11:33 AM
October 12, 2010
MEPs vote for flexible post-2013 Regional Policy for all
The European Parliament has set out what it sees as the key principles that should underpin post-2013 regional policy. They are summed up in a pair of resolutions adopted on 7 October that anticipates the publication of the Fifth Cohesion Report. MEPs support a policy''embracing all the European regions'' and call for post-2013 Cohesion Policy to offer a''simple, fair and transparent'' regime for transition regions.
They also state that implementation of cohesion policy is indispensable to the success of the Europe 2020 strategy, but that it must remain an independent policy. They insisted that the European Social Fund should be kept within
the framework of the regulation on general provisions on the Structural Funds but that it ''Needs its own rule''. The Parliament’s views have become increasingly important since it obtained co-decision power over the policy.
Posted by iroronan at October 12, 2010 04:23 PM
October 10, 2010
EC seeks Digital Agenda role for regions
In an address to members of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) on the 6 October, Commissioner Neelie Kroes, called upon regional and local authorities to become partners in the implementation of the 'Digital Agenda for Europe'. This major EU initiative to maximise the economic and social benefits of information technology includes aspects such as affordable broadband access in rural areas. The Commissioner invited the CoR to get involved in the European Commission's experts groups and the annual Digital Assembly.
Posted by iroronan at October 10, 2010 12:55 PM
October 08, 2010
Regions march on Brussels to maintain Structural Funding for Ireland
With Ireland receiving the equivalent of EUR2 million per week in EU Structural Funding support throughout the 2007-2013 period, a decision on the future shape of EU Regional Policy from 2014 onwards will be of major national significance. There are concerns that the next generation of funds could be restricted to only the very poorest parts of the EU - leaving Ireland out in the cold. This prospect has encouraged regions right across the EU to campaign collectively in order to demonstrate why such a change would be misguided.
While the bulk of Structural Funds spending is channelled towards providing a means for regions lagging behind to catch up, some resources are used to support tailored, place-based interventions designed to help all regions, regardless of their income levels, to properly realise their own development potential. This arrangement reflects EU Regional Policy's integral contribution to wider European goals of creating the conditions for competitive regional economies in which employment can flourish - in line with new 'Europe 2020' Strategy for smart, sustainable and socially inclusive growth.
In Ireland this takes the form of a national employment and human resources development programme as well as two Regional Programmes covering the Border, Midland & Western (BMW) and Southern & Eastern (S&E) Regions. The value of EU support delivered to Ireland through these programmes is significantly in excess of the national take from any other EU source, with the exception of the Common Agriculture Policy.
As a means of developing a critical mass to lobby against a radical remodelling of the funds, the Irish regions, operating through this office, have helped create an alliance of 137 similarly affected regions. On 7 October, during the Open Days week of regions and cities, political representatives from across Europe gathered in Brussels to formally sign a joint declaration of intent to secure significant continued European support for all regions. After a symbolic march to the Commission Headquarters, the official dossier was presented to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn as well as the Presidents of the European Parliament and EU Committee of the Regions. Cllr. Joe Flanagan (Westmeath County Council) and Cllr. John Ryan (Wicklow County Council) signed in their capacities as Cathaoirligh of the BMW and S&E Regional Assemblies respectively.
Further details from this office
Posted by iroronan at October 8, 2010 03:52 PM
October 06, 2010
Impact assessment assessed: before and after?
As part of the European Commission's 'Better Regulation' initiative, EU policy development is strongly informed by impact assessments - evidence-based estimating of the likely impact of planned legislation on citizens and the economy. This approach, based on systematically analysing relevant information, is designed to allow for different policy options to be explored as solutions to particular issues before a more rounded proposal for action emerges from the Commission for consideration by the other EU institutions. As well as improved policy responses, long-term implementation cost savings are a key objective.
A report, released on 28 September by the EU’s independent financial watchdog the Court of Auditors, has found impact assessment to have been''broadly effective'' from 2003-2008. 85% of the experts surveyed agreed that the system is improving legislation effectively. Nonetheless, areas for improvement have been identified in terms of defining which proposals should undergo impact assessment, links with public consultation exercises, clarity of message conveyed and facilitating comparison of available options. A greater emphasis on the role and requirements of implementation has also been called for.
The assessments are considered ''of real value'' by the European Parliament and Member States in supporting decision-making, but there are concerns that they are restricted to appraising only the Commission proposals without being updated to take into account amendments of the final, adopted version of legislation (once it has passed through the various EU Institutions). This in fact leaves a substantial information deficit in the EU knowledge base as to what newly agreed legislation will actually entail and prominent MEPs have called for the procedure to be repeated at this stage in order to analyse the consequences of EU decisions.
The Court of Auditors hopes that the non-binding report's recommendations will be considered by the 3 main institutions when revising their inter-institutional agreements on better law-making and a common approach to impact assessment. The Commission will adopt a communication on smart regulation outlining practical further improvements to the EU regulatory framework over the coming months.
Posted by iroronan at October 6, 2010 03:59 PM
October 04, 2010
Public consultation on EU education funding post-2013
An online public consultation has been launched to open debate on the future of EU education funding post-2013. This is the start of reflections to shape a successor to the Lifelong Learning Programme. The Commission is encouraging anyone who has taken part in the programme to contribute to an online consultation.
Posted by iroronan at October 4, 2010 01:51 PM
October 01, 2010
Renewables generation targets upped
The European Commission’s latest 'trends to 2030' energy report projects that renewable energy sources - principally wind, hydro and biomass - will account for 64% of new electricity generation capacity installed in Europe over the next decade and will provide 36.1% of total generation by 2030. The figures represent an ambitious update of the 2007 report, reflecting factors such as recent EU legislation to enable the deployment of renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies as well as legally-binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions reduction and renewable production. Further details
Posted by iroronan at October 1, 2010 01:51 PM