EXME 10 / 09.11
Midday Express of 2010-11-09
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
The European Commission today laid out its blueprint for an EU trade policy to help revitalise Europe's economy. In its discussion paper "Trade, Growth and World Affairs", the Commission analyses how trade is an engine for economic growth and job creation. It proposes a strategy to reduce trade barriers, to open global markets and to get a fair deal for European businesses. The overarching aim is to take a more assertive approach to ensure the benefits of trade reach European citizens.
Pour la troisième année consécutive, les comptes annuels de l'UE ont été validés par les auditeurs externes. En ce qui concerne les paiements, l'évaluation générale révèle une amélioration certaine, le nombre d'erreurs constatées dans les aides accordées aux régions de l'UE ayant nettement baissé.
The EU has made progress in curbing drug use and trafficking over the past 18 months. The Commission is acting to stop so-called “legal highs,” proposing on 20 October an EU-wide ban on mephedrone, an ecstasy-like drug that is already illegal in 15 Member States (see IP/10/1355). Important progress has also been made in blocking imports of cocaine and heroin. However, more work is needed to stem a rise in cocaine-related deaths and the emergence of new drugs and cross-border trafficking routes. These are the main conclusions of the European Commission's first review of the EU Drugs Action Plan 2009-2012, released today. Every year, 6,500 to 7,000 people die in the EU from a drug overdose. Between 25 and 30 million Europeans are estimated to have taken some type of illicit drug in the last year, including 4 million who took cocaine. There were 1,000 cocaine-related deaths.
There is a near consensus on the importance of preserving the openness of the internet, according to the results of a public consultation launched on 30th June by the European Commission on the open internet and net neutrality (see IP/10/860). A total of 318 stakeholders at every level of the value chain provided input to the consultation. These included BEREC, the body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications, operators, internet service providers, Member States' authorities, consumer and civil society organisations as well as individuals. The consultation did not reveal a widespread call for further EU legislation, but there is an expectation that additional guidance may be needed in the future. Discussions will continue on 11th November at the "Net neutrality summit" at which the Commission and the European Parliament will discuss a forthcoming Commission report on net neutrality.
The EU is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Leonardo da Vinci programme, which helps to fund thousands of vocational education and training courses across Europe. Since 1995 the EU has helped more than 600 000 young people to go on training placements abroad. It has also funded 110 000 exchanges for trainers and more than 3 000 projects aimed at modernising the sector. Around 50% of all students in upper secondary education receive vocational education and training.
The European Commission launches today the first call for proposals for the world’s largest programme of investment in low carbon and renewable energy demonstration projects. The initiative, known as NER300, will provide substantial financial support for at least eight projects involving carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and at least 34 projects involving innovative renewable energy technologies. The aim is to drive low carbon economic development in Europe, creating new 'green' jobs and contributing to the achievement of the EU's ambitious climate change goals. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is collaborating with the Commission in the implementation of the programme. Companies interested in making proposals have 3 months to submit bids at national level.
Today, the European Commission will adopt its Enlargement Package. This presents the Commission's annual assessment of the European Union's enlargement agenda. It outlines the current state of preparations, the challenges ahead, and the way forward for the Western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland.
Bank fees to become more transparent and easier to compare for EU consumers
The European Commission met the banking industry and consumer advocates today to launch a self-regulatory initiative to ensure that the cost of bank accounts is transparent and comparable for consumers. The first chance for consumers to test the results should come in early 2012 when the practical solutions – to be identified by the industry in mid-2011 – should be in place. The initiative follows a study on bank fees published in September 2009 which showed that opaque bank fees make it very difficult for consumers to compare offers; the study also found market fragmentation, excessive prices paid by consumers and low customer mobility. The dialogue with the banking industry on improving the situation for consumers started at the European Consumer Summit in March 2010. The industry has responded to the Commission's invitation to deliver a practical solution. The Commission's expectations from today's launch are based on best practice already existing in several Member States. They entail resolving three core problem areas: (1) complex bank fees terminology (2) the lack of comparability of banking fees, (3) the absence of basic information on bank fees. The initiative is one of the fifty proposals identified in the recently adopted Single Market Act.
9-10 November 2010 – Conference on "Microfinance in Europe"
A conference on the EU's new Microfinance Facility "Microfinance in Europe" will take place in Brussels at the Hotel Bloom, on 9-10 November. The event is organised by the European Commission in cooperation with several DGs (Employment, Regional Policy, Enterprise and Economic and Financial Affairs). It will set out the Commission's efforts to achieve an integrated EU approach to microfinancing and entrepreneurship as part of the EU's Europe 2020 strategy. The conference will also mark the official launch of the European Progress Microfinance Facility. László Andor EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Johannes Hahn Commissioner for Regional Policy and Joëlle Milquet Belgian Vice-Prime Minister will open the conference. The first part of the conference on 9 November will address EU support to promote entrepreneurship and financial inclusion as a way out of the economic crisis. During the second part of the event on 10 November experts will present national and regional level initiatives on: Developing high quality microfinance and related business services; Improving the environment for microfinance development; Practical setups to facilitate access to microfinance. VNR on European Progress Microfinance Facility: http://www.tvlink.org/mediadetails.php?key=ed12d14986c331d9d5e3&title=Microfinance+Facility&titleleft=Employment Programme of the conference: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=88&langId=en&eventsId=300&furtherEvents=yes
New EU legislation adopted today will bring down industrial emissions from large combustion plants across the EU, bringing several environmental and health benefits to Europe's citizens, like an expected reduction in premature deaths of 13,000 per year. The stricter legislation on industrial emissions was proposed by the European Commission in December 2007. The new rules will also lead to significant savings through the reduction of administrative burden and provide a more level playing field for industry.
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