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October 30, 2011

Urban planning beyond city borders

The recently published Commission proposals to reform EU Cohesion Policy for the 2014-2020 programming period contained a clear focus on urban development - including ring-fencing 5% of national ERDF allocations for integrated actions to be delegated to city authority level; an ''urban development platform''to foster capacity-building; and a focus on innovative actions. These have been hailed by Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Mercedes Bresso as holding much promise in addressing spatial segregation and ''ghettoisation''in European cities.

However, speaking on 24 October at a conference on 'Effective instruments supporting territorial development (regions, urban areas, rural areas)'’ organised by the Polish Ministry of Regional Development, Bresso drew attention to the need for urban development policies across Europe to consider the wider territorial context by also taking cognisance of and improving their interaction with surrounding rural areas beyond cities' administrative limits.

On behalf of the CoR she expressed ''regret (with) the lack of any specific reference to suburban and rural areas in the draft regulation''. She went on to urge a more clearly defined role for urban-rural and urban-regional cooperation in EU regional policy based on building partnerships and the need to ''support administrative structures promoting a form of cooperation operating close to the grass roots, which stretches beyond official limits, to ensure that resources are managed more effectively''.

Speech by Mercedes Bresso:http://www.google.be/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=%E2%80%98%E2%80%99support%20administrative%20structures%20promoting%20a%20form%20of%20cooperation%20operating%20close%20to%20the%20grass%20roots%2C%20which%20stretches%20beyond%20official%20limits%2C%20to%20ensure%20that%20resources%20are%20managed%20more%20effectively%22&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDsQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cor.europa.eu%2FCOR_cms%2Fui%2FViewDocument.aspx%3Fcontentid%3D7be8196c-08c8-4e24-81c3-9f730159952c&ei=vz7qTrz0E4ecOoGLqZkI&usg=AFQjCNGjKIrBo_7aleVWU8ir0WdQJKjeFw&sig2=0IKROspVu2O91EWO5Q0C0Q

On a related theme, a new report from the Eurocities network on urban cooperation across administrative borders brings together the perspectives of almost 40 cities of very different size, role and geographic background including capitals, major regional hubs, polycentic metropolitan areas, smaller cities representing wider areas, and secondary centres in larger urban regions. The report states that the role of functional urban areas as economic drivers is becoming increasingly important across Europe with public administrations seeking to find more effective solutions in order to adapt to the policy challenges of new realities. The examples profiled suggest that the role of metropolitan areas is generally best shaped through bottom-up governance processes rooted in local partnerships and adapted to work alongside existing political and administrative structures.

''Cities cooperating beyond their boundaries: evidence through experience in European cities' (Eurocities Report): http://www.eukn.org/dsresource?objectid=238996

Posted by iroronan at October 30, 2011 06:33 PM

« Waste Management economic instruments | Main | Urban planning beyond city borders »

October 28, 2011

Future of Integrated Maritime Policy

A recent speech on the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), given by the European Commission's highest-ranking official in charge of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries, gave some indications as to the priority being given to the issue and the direction in which it is heading. Addressing the General Assembly of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), DG MARE Director-General Lowri Evans highlighted key IMP milestones to date in providing a framework for dialogue, instruments and actions by which to coordinate EU policies affecting seas and coasts and to turn economic and environmental challenges into opportunities. These include Maritime Spatial Planning, the Marine Knowledge Initiative, and the further development of cooperation between European maritime surveillance authorities.

In casting an eye towards the future Evans confirmed that the IMP's financing regulation should come into force next year, allowing it the scope to become fully anchored within all community funding instruments. High-level discussions are also due to be held on the relationship between various EU funds and the implementation of sea-basin strategies on the one hand, as well as on the challenges facing the sustainable development of European coastal areas and the maritime economy on the other. The end of 2012 should also see the release of the EU's 'Blue Growth' strategy, which will focus on key sectors and thematic areas linked to maritime policy and will, above all, aim to remove barriers hindering the development of Europe’s maritime economy.

Specifically in relation to the Atlantic, the importance of this sea basin shared by five EU Member States was highlighted both in terms of its natural energy resources and its precious ecosystems. These points will form the cornerstones of the EU's forthcoming Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area which will set out the financial and regulatory instruments needed to take advantage of the area’s potential in a sustainable manner.

'The Integrated Maritime Policy: One Right Answer to a Difficult Economy' (speech): http://www.google.be/url?sa=t&rct=j&q='the%20integrated%20maritime%20policy%3A%20one%20right%20answer%20to%20a%20difficult%20economy'&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fec.europa.eu%2Fmaritimeaffairs%2Fnews%2Fspeeches%2Fpdf%2F20110929_evans_en.pdf&ei=q0fqTtnxC8yYOoy-xNgJ&usg=AFQjCNH8rvJ3jeiknMOZB1OLUVOJmIx55w&sig2=w2g3K72jzwyqy3ColiWXjQ

Posted by iroronan at October 28, 2011 07:15 PM

« Regions examine Ireland's maritime resources | Main | Future of Integrated Maritime Policy »

October 28, 2011

Waste Management economic instruments

A high level stakeholder event on 25 October presented the interim results of a Commission study on the use of economic instruments and their impacts on Member States' waste management performances. The study was a follow-up to last January’s adoption of the Review on the Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste which revealed significant differences between Member States in the implementation of legally binding EU minimum targets for recycling, recovery rates and landfill diversion as well as clear links between the performance of Member States and the use of economic instruments.

Discussions focused primarily on three key approaches: (1) Charges for waste disposal and treatment (landfill and incineration); (2) Pay-as-you-throw systems; and (3) Producer responsibility schemes. Next steps identified by the Commission include the finalisation of the study and using these in the impact assessment on the review of the EU targets in 2013. The Review’s recommendations were confirmed through the adoption in September of the'‘Roadmap on Resource Efficiency' (see September's Bulletin) which includes several references to the use of economic instruments and notably the extension of the concept of ''producer responsibility''

Use of Economic Instruments and Waste Management Performances' (event background paper): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/strategy/Background%20Report%20Waste%20EIs%2025
Report on the Thematic Strategy (January 2011): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/use.htm

Posted by iroronan at October 28, 2011 12:29 PM

« 'Regions of Knowledge' to move into Interreg? | Main | Waste Management economic instruments »

October 27, 2011

Regions examine Ireland's maritime resources

As part of the Association of Irish Regions' commitments under the 2011 OPEN DAYS, a 'local event' seminar was hosted by the Marine Institute (MI) in Galway on 21 October. 'Maximising the Value of our Maritime Resource' provided delegates with opportunities to learn more about what the ocean can offer Ireland in promoting economic development.

According to MI Chief Executive Peter Heffernan, Ireland has 10 times more territory off-shore than on land. To enable this country to harvest this vast resource - for which a number of key sectors including ICT, food, biotechnology, shipping financial services and ocean energy have been identified as offering particular potential -the MI has already carried out a great deal of work to underpin the prospects of giving Ireland strategic advantages in these fields including a comprehensive seabed mapping programme and a rapidly developing research programme.

Further steps will require plan-led approaches and the integration of both the terrestrial and maritime planning systems and their associated processes. This is all the more important with the evolution of integrated maritime policy at EU level and the growing recognition of the importance of the marine environment and marine space. Mark Griffin, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, set out the Government's commitments to updating the planning framework and the role that local and regional authorities will play in this process. He also highlighted that the forthcoming Integrated Strategy for the Atlantic Area (to be launched in Lisbon on November 28) will be important in bringing key stakeholders together to discuss the future development of the shared marine space.

Delegates were also presented with some examples of good practice at local, regional and national levels in tapping into the marine resource, including: the development of Killybegs as a renewable energies services hub; the regional framework plan for the Shannon Estuary; and the WestWave project - Ireland's first wave farm.

'Real Map of Ireland': http://www.marine.ie/home/community/education/lessonplans/TheRealMapofIrelandIrelandsMarineResource.htm

WestWave project: http://www.westwave.ie/

Posted by iroronan at October 27, 2011 03:09 PM

« Connecting Europe Facility: infrastructure priorities unveiled | Main | Regions examine Ireland's maritime resources »

October 26, 2011

'Regions of Knowledge' to move into Interreg?

The 'Regions of Knowledge' (RoK) programme is the element of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) most immediately relevant to local and regional actors. It aims to strengthen regional research potential, in particular by encouraging and supporting the development of 'research-driven clusters' bringing together universities/research centres, the business community and regional authorities. By bolstering these 'triple helix' partnerships, the programme enables regions to strengthen their capacity for investing in and carrying out research activities, while maximising their potential for successful ongoing involvement in further European research projects.

The Commission's recent Synergies Expert Group Report on developing value-added and streamlined linkages between the main EU funding mechanisms (Structural Funds, FP7 and the Competitiveness & Innovation Programme) for the 2014-2020 period has strongly recommended a redirection of capacity-building schemes such as RoK away from the next framework programme (to be entitled 'Horizon 2010') and into Cohesion Policy as a pillar of Territorial Cooperation. This is despite a recent positive evaluation of RoK in its current incarnation.

Critics of the proposal, notably the ERRIN network of research and innovation regions, have pointed out that, among other issues, the current RoK arrangements provide for one of the few opportunities where regional governments can actively engage in the EU research agenda based on their excellence. This ties in with the notion of 'smart specialisation' which is currently very much in vogue with the Commission and which is one of a number of complementary EU policy initiatives (along with lead markets and key enabling technologies) from which regions risk being cut off by a migration of the programme into Cohesion Policy. It is also suggested that a severing of the direct links between regions and the Commission's DG Research & Innovation would be a retrograde step and would endanger the political awareness and buy-in necessary to the development of regional innovation systems. The higher than average rates of EU support and predictable annual funding system currently provided for are cited as further reasons to resist change.

The current EUR18 million RoK call for proposals on ''RTD and innovation aspects of EU digital agenda'' and/or ''Development of technologies and services relevant for the implementation of a 'resource efficient Europe''' has attracted interest from a number of clusters based in four separate Irish regions.

‘Regions of Knowledge’: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/capacities/regions-knowledge_en.html
Final Report of the Synergies Expert Group: ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/docs/seg-final_en.pdf
Assessment of the impact of the ‘Regions of Knowledge’ programme: http://ec.europa.eu/research/evaluations/pdf/archive/other_reports_studies_and_documents/assessment_of_the_impact_of_the_regions_of_knowledge_programme.pdf

Posted by iroronan at October 26, 2011 07:21 PM

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October 25, 2011

Connecting Europe Facility: infrastructure priorities unveiled

On 19 October, the Commission published a proposed infrastructure package, composed of a new budgetary instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), as well as revised guidelines for transport, ICT and energy. CEF outlines a EUR50 billion plan to improve Europe's transport, digital and energy networks in the 2014-2020 period. The instrument will provide seed finance to kick-start key missing link and bottleneck project investment that can make a significant contribution towards making Europe's economy both more competitive and greener by promoting cleaner transport modes, enabling high speed broadband connections and digital services, and facilitating the use of renewable energy. See the sections below for details of what is planned.

The Commission has spelt out that a competitive process will apply and prospective applicants - likely to have a public-private partnership element - will need to be proactive in submitting detailed proposals for infrastructure works and studies in line with the design of CEF in order to avail of the EU co-financing.

As part of the financing arrangements, the Commission has adopted the Project Bond Initiative, which will be one of a number of instruments to attract private finance from capital markets, pension funds or insurance companies to revenue-generating CEF projects. It is envisaged that investment by the EU - which will largely be in the form of European Investment Bank (EIB)-backed equity, debt or guarantees - will help promoters of individual infrastructure projects by providing credibility and lowering their risk profiles. This could then be complemented by public investment at local, regional and national levels and through the Structural Funds. The expectation is that the EU financing will generate a five-fold contribution in terms of public resources and a twenty-fold investment from the private sector.

The Commission is proposing to launch a CEF pilot phase in 2012-2013, funded to the tune of EUR230 million, which is expected to mobilise investments of up to EUR4.6 billion. This will focus on five to ten projects across Europe, concentrating on those that are at a relatively developed stage of the financing process in one or more of the three targeted sectors.

A growth package for integrated European infrastructures
Connecting Europe proposal
Project Bond Initiative pilot

CEF: Transport networks
EUR31.7 billion is to be provided for upgrades in order to transform the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, airports and canals into a unified trans-European transport network (TEN-T) with a focus on safer, more efficient and less polluting modes. The new policy establishes a ''core'' TEN-T network of the most strategic links between the EU’s major ''nodes''(social and economic centres, ports and airports) and analyses their relationships with land transport and passenger and freight traffic flows in order to identify priority sections and projects. Investments are to be completed by 2030 to deliver a backbone for transportation within the Single Market.

A series of cross-border corridors have been established to facilitate coordinated development and joining-up of infrastructure of added European value. Of these, one is entitled ''Dublin-London-Paris-Brussels'' and includes sections for ''Belfast-Dublin-Holyhead-Birmingham'' and for ''Dublin/Cork/Southampton-Le Havre-Paris'' with pre-identified sections being mentioned as upgrading the Dublin-Belfast rail line; the recently shelved DART ''Interconnectors''; port hinterland connections at Cork and Dublin; and ''Rail connection Shannon-Cork-Dublin (studies ongoing)''. Associated maps also identify the port of Foynes along with the airports of Dublin and Cork as elements of the core network.

A further, longer-term ''comprehensive'' network of routes (for completion by 2050) is intended to feed into the core network at regional and national level in order to ultimately reach all parts of the EU. This second layer will largely be financed by Member States, with some EU funding possibilities, including with new innovative financing instruments. Various other Irish ports and airports are mapped in this category as are some transport routes. Horizontal priorities for CEF transport funding include rail signalling and air traffic control systems.
Revised TEN-T transport network draft regulations

CEF -Digital Infrastructure networks

Almost EUR9.2 billion is proposed for projects to give citizens and businesses access to high-speed broadband networks and the services that run on them. At least EUR7 billion will be available for high-speed broadband infrastructure with investment in less obviously attractive infrastructure projects, especially those outside urban or densely populated areas, to be particularly prioritised in a bid to help to fulfil Europe's Digital Agenda targets of broadband access for all at speeds of at least 30 Mbps and at least 50% of households subscribing to speeds above 100Mbps by 2020. The remaining funding for digital infrastructure will support public interest digital service infrastructure of individual or wider societal benefit. This includes electronic health records, electronic identification, e-procurement and deployment of ICT solutions for intelligent energy networks and for the provision of Smart Energy Services. An emphasis will be placed on promoting pan-European interoperability in the digital Single Market by linking up existing, often national, infrastructures and providing dedicated European-level components of digital service infrastructures. The proposed new guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks and services would establish new objectives, priorities, and criteria for identifying projects of common interest.
Guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks.

Further details

CEF - Energy networks: 3 corridors for Ireland

EUR9.1 billion will be invested in trans-European energy infrastructure, with 12 priority corridors identified, covering strategic networks for the transmission and storage of electricity, gas, oil and carbon dioxide (from source to sink). The long-term objective is to help to meet the EU 2020 energy and climate objectives while also further developing the internal market for energy through better interconnections, leading to security of supply and the possibility to transport renewable energy in a cost effective manner across the EU. Irish investment projects included in the preliminary list relate primarily to electricity and gas interconnections with the UK and the wider continent via the following corridors:
*Northern Seas offshore grid (''NSOG'': an integrated offshore electricity grid to transport electricity from renewable offshore energy sources to centres of consumption and storage and to increase cross-border electricity exchange;
*North-South electricity interconnections in Western Europe (''NSI West Electricity''): interconnections between Member States of the region and with Mediterranean third countries, notably to integrate electricity from renewable energy sources; and
*North-South gas interconnections in Western Europe ''NSI West Gas''): interconnection capacities for North-South gas flows in Western Europe to further diversify routes of supply and increase short-term gas deliverability. Furthermore, all Member States will be involved in the development and deployment of smart grids to integrate offshore renewable energy generation, ''electricity highways'' and cross-border carbon dioxide storage networks.
Energy Infrastructure Package Further details

Posted by iroronan at October 25, 2011 06:22 PM

« Industrial competitiveness report benchmarks Irish strengths and weaknesses | Main | Connecting Europe Facility: infrastructure priorities unveiled »

October 18, 2011

Business R&D Scoreboard

One aspect of the Industrial Competitiveness report (below) to score negatively for Ireland was 'R&D performed by businesses (% of GDP)'. The Commission has also recently published the 2011 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, showing that overall R&D investment by top EU companies recovered strongly in 2010, with a 6.1% year-on-year rise. However, the 16 Irish firms among the top 1000 research-performing European companies saw a collective 4.4% decrease in their R&D spend - bringing the Irish share of this exclusive club back to 1.5%, though maintaining a place in the top ten of EU Member States.

Scoreboard: http://iri.jrc.ec.europa.eu/research/docs/2011/SB2011_October.pdf

Posted by iroronan at October 18, 2011 12:39 PM

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October 18, 2011

Industrial competitiveness report benchmarks Irish strengths and weaknesses

The Commission published a Communication on industrial competitiveness across all EU Member States on 14 October which comes to the conclusion that Ireland is ''relatively well-placed to overcome the crisis'' and scores significantly above the EU average on many aspects of its business environment and work force - although less so in terms of sustainable industry and entrepreneurship & SMEs.

The most favourable indicators for Ireland relate to 'labour productivity per person employed in manufacturing' and 'infrastructure spending per inhabitant'. Other categories to score positively include 'share of innovating enterprises as % of all enterprises'; 'share of high-tech exports in total exports'; and 'e-government usage by enterprises'.

The most underwhelming performances from an Irish perspective relate to ‘% of broadband lines with speed above 10 MBps’ and 'electricity prices for medium size enterprises'. The report also suggests that the capacity of indigenous firms to innovate should be stepped up further, capitalising as much as possible on the increased investment in public R&D and the development of a green tech sector.

The report concludes that while the main short-term challenge for Ireland is to return to a balanced growth path, the undisputed need to consolidate public finances necessitates a careful review of spending and taxation priorities with a view to avoid the emergence of future bottlenecks to growth, in particular with regard to infrastructure and research. It recognises that Ireland's efforts to shift growth from foreign direct investment based on labour cost and construction to more innovative sectors and services had already born some fruit before the onset of the current crisis and that long-term efforts to provide incentives for more sustainable growth are also moving in the right direction.

Report: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/industrial-competitiveness/industrial-policy/index_en.htm

Posted by iroronan at October 18, 2011 11:55 AM

« Microfinancing fund set to gain social focus | Main | Industrial competitiveness report benchmarks Irish strengths and weaknesses »

October 13, 2011

Radio Spectrum Policy

The European Council has recently endorsed a text drawn up with the European Parliament and Commission paving the way for the establishment of a comprehensive European radio spectrum policy, providing the platform for further improvements to wireless services. The new agreement will foster the roll-out of high speed wireless broadband systems, in particular by requiring Member States to authorise the use of the digital dividend 800 MHz for wireless broadband by January 2013.

The agreed Radio Spectrum Policy Programme will begin in early 2012 and includes several groundbreaking measures: 1) creating a European radio spectrum inventory; 2) fostering the deployment of wireless broadband by setting tight authorisation deadlines on the use of several harmonised spectrum bands for electronic communication services; 3) making at least 1200 MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband services by 2015; 4) defining concrete steps to ensure and promote competition in the single EU telecoms market; 5) promoting more flexible spectrum management; 6) meeting the spectrum requirements of EU policies in sectors such as transport, energy, earth observation and monitoring, civil protection, and the Internet of things; and 7) underlining the need for enhanced EU coordination in international spectrum negotiations.

Further details: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/radio_spectrum/index_en.htm

Posted by iroronan at October 13, 2011 07:06 PM

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October 12, 2011

Microfinancing fund set to gain social focus

The Commission's 6 October unveiling of its future cohesion policy package also includes plans for an EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI). This instrument in support of increasing the coherence of employment and social policies across the EU is envisaged as forming a third pillar of the EU Initiative for Employment and Social Inclusion 2014-2020 along with the European Social Fund (ESF) and Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). It will integrate and extend the scope of three existing programmes beyond 2013.

The PSCI will support policy coordination, sharing of best practices, capacity-building and testing of innovative policies, with the aim that the most successful measures should be upscaled and mainstreamed within Member States using their ESF programmes. For example, the foreseen revamping of the PROGRESS programme on employment and social solidarity would involve balancing its current activities (analysis and mutual learning on policy approaches to issues such as working conditions, social inclusion and anti-discrimination) alongside a EUR97 million budget for additional small-scale testing of particularly innovative methods ('social innovation and experimentation').

Similarly, the proposals for an enlarged European PROGRESS Microfinancing & Social Entrepreneurship Facility include extending its remit beyond the current objective of providing entrepreneurial financing (up to EUR25,000) for unemployed persons, those at risk of redundancy or those from disadvantaged categories (such as the elderly, youth, minorities and the disabled) who suffer from limited access to the conventional credit market. The new programme would additionally provide EUR95.5 million in support of investments to develop and expand businesses whose primary purpose is of a social nature. Funding for capacity-building of microfinance institutions (i.e. intermediaries between EU financing and microenterprises) is also envisaged. This may be especially relevant to Irish involvement which has been held back to date by the lack of an agreed organisation(s) to assume the role of intermediary finance provider in operating the EIB guarantee-backed system on a national basis.

The final element of the PSCI is the EURES information and advice services network in support of worker mobility in Europe. This is set to be bolstered at both national and EU level including targeted schemes such as the 'Your First EURES Job' scheme which is currently being piloted.

Further details

Posted by iroronan at October 12, 2011 11:16 AM

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October 10, 2011

Public-Public cooperation: Procurement exemption guidance

A 4 October discussion paper from the European Commission examines the general issue of collaborative arrangements among public bodies in order to use their collective administrative, technical and other resources to perform their public interest tasks. For example, a number of municipal authorities sharing service delivery through a jointly held and controlled undertaking or dividing up relevant but related tasks between themselves.

According to EU Court of Justice case law, under certain circumstances, such cooperation does not fall within the remit of EU public procurement legislation to ensure that the relevant public purchasing contracts are open to competition for suppliers across the internal market. However, this is a grey area for contractors and a 2010 European Parliament Report found that there is a recognised need to draw a more definite distinction between this type of arrangement and those procurement activities which should benefit from open competition among economic operators through an open tendering procedure.

The new Commission 'Staff Working Paper' seeks to distinguish between the two forms by providing clarifying guidance for stakeholders by reference to the case law. Its conclusions, which have no legal standing and create no additional rules, are intended to allow for a better understanding and application of the existing legal framework. The issue is being considered as part of the ongoing reform process of the Public Procurement Directives.

'Concerning the application of EU public procurement law to relations between contracting authorities ('public-public cooperation')'

Posted by iroronan at October 10, 2011 12:13 PM

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October 10, 2011

Shale gas fracking: differing perspectives emerge

'Fracking' - a technology where high pressure combinations of water, sand and chemicals are hydraulically pumped into underground fissures in order to release natural (shale) gas - has been touted as a significant untapped energy option suitable to the geology of parts of Northwest Ireland. The practice is considered controversial due to potential impacts on groundwater resources and methane leakages.

However, not all Member States seem so reticent about the environmental implications. While there had previously been a degree of inter-governmental discussion on the prospects of establishing an EU-wide framework to govern the development and regulation of any future shale drilling industry - the Commission has yet to adopt a position - a recent study from the Polish Institute of International Affairs deviates strongly. It argues against the feasibility of common European arrangements for controlling the risk factor on the grounds of complexity and the inappropriateness of a one-size-fits-all solution. Poland has recently granted more than a hundred licenses for exploration of its plentiful shale gas reserves.

Meanwhile a separate European Parliament report into the issue was presented and discussed in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and the Food Safety (ENVI) on 4 October. In calling for a dedicated shale gas directive, this more skeptical document downplays the benefits arising from fracking and identifies at least nine regulatory gaps which present unacceptable risk, such as the absence of appropriate Environmental Impact Assessments and the lack of best available technological practices in Europe. The report recommends banning, or at least restricting, the injection of toxic chemicals during fracturing, and the mandatory disclosure of the substances used. It also calls for the water framework directive (WFD) to address fracking's impact on surface water and for water flows and air emissions to be monitored in areas where permits are granted. However, it also stresses that, on average, only around 2% of shale gas wells developed globally have led to serious violation of environmental and safety standards.

The subsequent debate provided further evidence of the divide among Member States over the issue. Opposition to unrestricted shale gas drilling was led by a number of UK, French and German MEPs who called for stronger protection of the environment and consumers - particularly in the absence of a proper regulatory framework. Calls were made for a European moratorium on hydraulic fracturing as France has recently implemented and for more emphasis on energy efficiency ahead of such unconventional gas production. From the other perspective, Polish MEPs criticised the study's methodology, especially the methane leakage calculation methods and the fact that the positive impacts of shale gas on national and European energy security or for economic development were not addressed.

'Path to Prosperity or Road to Ruin? Shale Gas Under Political Scrutiny' (Polish Study): http://www.pism.pl/index/?id=6ae948577c0bd7c07f4e74b4745f74a8

'Impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction on the environment and human health' (European Parliament Report):http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201107/20110715ATT24183/20110715ATT24183EN.pdf

Posted by iroronan at October 10, 2011 10:42 AM

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October 09, 2011

European Heritage Label approved

Sites which have significance in the history or integration of Europe are set to be able to avail of a European heritage label from 2013 onwards after the European Parliament's Culture & Education Committee reached unanimous agreement with the EU Member States on 5 October. This decision was seen as likely to have been the main obstacle to the Parliament as a whole approving the proposal in November ahead of formal ratification in the European Council.

The scheme, which will extend a current inter-governmental initiative onto a pan-European footing, aims to promote educational activities and to raise young people's awareness of natural, archeological, or urban sites, cultural landscapes, cultural goods and objects or ''intangible heritage''associated with a place, amongst other categories. The awarding of the label will be based on clear and transparent common procedures and criteria.
Every two years, Member States will be able to propose up to two candidate sites, from which the jury of independent experts will chose a maximum of one.

Further details

Posted by iroronan at October 9, 2011 05:51 PM

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October 08, 2011

Commission proposes integrated development approaches

The European Commission adopted a draft legislative package of regulations to frame cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period on 6 October. The main outcome of the proposals is that the policy should be more closely aligned with the EU’s long-term growth and employment objectives as established in the 'Europe 2020' strategy. This implies deploying its instruments as a means of meeting EU targets on education, job creation, innovation, research & development, climate issues and poverty.
Consequently, Member States are to be asked to enter into 'Partnership Contracts' with the Commission which would operate based on agreeing to use EU resources towards a limited set of priority development themes (chosen from a menu of 'Europe 2020' topics) and committing to the delivery of certain concrete actions which will be measured by milestones. This tighter focussing of the use of EU-assisted investment means that 80% of Ireland’s budget for the next regional programme(s) under the Structural Funds will be devoted to a combination of shifting to a low-carbon economy; research, technological development & innovation; and SME support actions. Similarly, a minimum of 20% of the European Social Fund allocation should be allocated to promoting social inclusion and combating poverty.
A further stipulation is that Member States would have to demonstrate or commit to compliance with legislative and regulatory prerequisites (e.g. full transposition of relevant EU directives or existence of national strategies in support of certain EU objectives) in order to access funding. For the first time, national macro-economic conditions and policy would also become a factor in maintaining agreed EU funding. On the other hand, efficient attainment of targets as set out in the contracts should allow access to additional funding via a performance reserve worth 5% of total programme values.
Harmonising the operation of the various EU funds for regional development (ERDF), social affairs (ESF), rural development (EAFRD), and maritime & fisheries issues (EMFF) under a single coordinated umbrella (Common Strategic Framework) creates the possibility for a more ambitious and integrated EU approach to territorial development. In this vein, sustainable urban development is being prioritised with a proposal for ''integrated actions'' at city level which will be financed by combining at least 5% of national ERDF allocations with allocations from the other funds. Integrated territorial development strategies could also apply to rural areas. This could potentially involve EU funding, from different sources, being delivered at local or regional level as more of a place-based blending of complementary investement in infrastructure, training and enterprise development activities, for example.
The fine details of programme design and budget allocation remain to be determined nationally as does the share-out of funding among Member States. For Ireland a minimum of 52% of the cohesion allocation will go towards ESF activities with the remainder for ERDF. The rural development element will again be more significant in size.
The draft regulations will now be negotiated between the European Parliament and Member States with agreement expected in 2013 as part of the wider discussions over the EU Budget for 2014-2020.

Draft regulations for cohesion policy 2014-2020

Posted by iroronan at October 8, 2011 03:09 PM

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October 06, 2011

Local authorities back citizenship and exchange programmes

At its Congress on Citizenship and Training in early October, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) - the largest organisation of local and regional government associations in Europe - has called on the Commission to strengthen the post-2013 Europe for Citizens programme, based on a budget of EUR495 million to symbolically provide one euro for each European citizen. This proposed increase from the current EUR215 million could bring continued support for twinning links and extend partnership possibilities to neighbouring countries to the East and South of Europe.

The CEMR is also continuing to voice support for a transnational European-level scheme by which to share knowledge and help capacity-building for elected representatives and officials in order to improve local and regional services, democratic development and better citizen participation. Such an initiative gained support from the European Parliament in 2009 when envisaged along the lines of the Erasmus student exchange programme. The CEMR remains hopeful of realising this aim in 2012 through the creation of a ''European Academy for Local and Regional Governance''. It additionally hopes to establish an observatory to implement the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life.

Further details: http://www.ccre.org/champs_activites_detail_news_en.htm?ID=2156&idca=3115

Posted by iroronan at October 6, 2011 11:48 AM