Top News from the European Commission 9 June to 6 July 2008
European Commission - AGENDA/08/21 06/06/2008
Other available languages: FR
Brussels Friday 6 June
Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will open a high level conference on soil and climate change, and the role of soil management in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The participants will include leading scientists and researchers. They will report on the latest scientific findings on issues such as the projected effects of climate change in Europe, the amount of carbon stored in European soils, the effects of the forecasted increase in global average temperature, emissions due to land use changes in Brazil and the role that agricultural and forestry practices can play in mitigating negative effects of a rise of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.
Members of the European Parliament, representatives of the Council of Ministers, and other key players have been invited to participate in a roundtable discussion on the policy options that are available for enhancing the role that soils can play as a repository of carbon, and for limiting the loss of organic carbon from soils.
The day-long conference will conclude with a panel discussion on the policy
The conference aims to inform the debate at European level on the best course of action for supporting the Soil thematic strategy and its accompanying legislative proposal adopted by the European Commission in September 2006 as well as the objectives presented in the Green paper on adaptation to climate change adopted by the European Commission in June 2007.
From 09:00 to 18:15: the conference will take place in the Borschette conference centre (CCB), 36 rue Froissart, Brussels. .
At 12:30, Commissioner Dimas will hold a press conference in the CCB.
Participation in the conference is free but places are limited.
• I-053854: Stockshot – Energy and climate change – 2007
Carbon capture and geological storage: archives
Every four-and-a-half seconds, a worker in the EU is involved in an accident that forces him/her to stay at home for at least three working days (over 7 million every year). Every three-and-a-half minutes, somebody in the EU dies from work-related causes. This means almost 167,000 deaths a year as a result of either work-related accidents (7,500) or occupational diseases (159,500).
Most work-related accidents and illnesses are preventable, and risk assessment is the first step. It enables employers to understand the action that they need to take to improve workplace health and safety, as well as productivity.
Therefore, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has developed a European-wide information campaign focusing on risk assessment. It’s slogan: “Healthy Workplaces. Good for you. Good for business.” It will run for two years (2008/09).
The campaign wants to demystify the risk assessment process (risk assessment is not necessarily complicated, bureaucratic or a task only for experts) and promotes a simple 5-step-approach. It also wants to identify and promote transferable Good Practices. The campaign produces information material in 22 EU languages and focuses on high risk sectors (e.g. construction, health care, agriculture) and SMEs.
The Healthy Workplaces campaign seeks to contribute to the Community strategy 2007-2012. The overall objective during this period is to reduce the rate of accidents at work by 25% across the EU. Better identifying and assessing potential new risks is one of the key actions in this strategy. The others are improving and simplifying legislation, designing national-specific strategies and mainstreaming health and safety concerns in other policy areas.
Press conference with Commissioner Vladimír Špidla, Mrs Romana Tomc, Slovenian State Secretary of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, and Jukka Takala, Director of EU-OSHA from 12:15 in Berlaymont press.
Safety at work - Filming was carried out in Cockerill-Sambre - Iron and Steel
Industry, showing employees at work and several preventive panels, as well as,
The launch of the" European Pact for Mental health and Well-being".
A High Level EU Conference on Mental Health, chaired by European Commissioner for Health, Ms Androulla Vassiliou with key note speeches by Commissioner Spidla and several EU Ministers of Health, Education and Labour including Minister Bachelot-Narquin, Minister Zofija Mazej-Kukovic, and leading experts in mental health. The ex prime minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik will participate in the event and Princess Esmeralda of Belgium as a Guest of Honour.
The pact focuses on four priority themes:
Mental health has become a top public health priority in Member States, and its relevance is also increasingly recognised in schools and at workplaces. In 2006, suicide caused more than 58,000 deaths in the EU.
The conference is a follow-up to the consultation on the Green Paper on Mental Health, which was presented by Commission in autumn 2005.
EU high level Conference "Together for mental health and well being": at 09:00 – 16:30 Charlemagne – meeting rooms Alcide de Gasperi and Jean Durieux
Commissioner Špidla participates in a roundtable at 11:00
Press point at 12:30 in Charlemagne
Live web streaming of conference
The objective of the policy plan is to outline a possible "blueprint" for the Common European Asylum System (ECAS), depending largely on the outcome of the discussions on the Green Paper published on 6 June 2007.
It will include proposals for the relevant long term components of the CEAS as described in the Hague Programme, inter alia the common asylum procedure, the uniform status for refugees and for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and the European support office for all forms of cooperation between Member States.
The Common European Asylum System (CEAS), as defined in the Tampere and the Hague Programmes, has two phases. The first phase - the harmonisation of Member States' legal frameworks based on common minimum standards - is now complete.
The Hague Programme states that the second phase should be adopted by the end of 2010. Before presenting its new proposal for a Policy Plan on Asylum, the Commission had launched, with its Green Paper, a broad debate on the future architecture of the Common European Asylum System.
The second phase envisages further approximation of national asylum procedures, legal standards and reception conditions. This will promote EU solidarity and reduce the phenomenon of 'asylum shopping' where applicants move around the EU mainly because of the diversity in Member States' applicable rules. Keywords of the whole process are equal treatment and solidarity. Solidarity that all Member states will build among themselves also via common practical cooperation and other implementing measures. These could include operational assistance through joint asylum experts' teams or agreed common standards in dealing with vulnerable asylum seekers such as women children or victims of torture.
16 June: Technical briefing, at 11:00, in the Press Room of the Berlaymont, Brussels
17 June: Press conference by vice-president Barrot, in the press room of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg (TBC)
In this Communication to the Member States and the European Parliament, the Commission proposes a set of basic common principles and measures organised around three policy pillars: prosperity, solidarity and security.
These proposed common principles should serve as the platform to continue building a comprehensive EU migration policy. This will also guarantee that actions will be based on full respect for the rights, freedoms and principles that are enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The common principles on migration policy will then form the basis for closer cooperation both internally in the EU and vis-à-vis partner countries.
This Communication addresses legal immigration, integration, visas, border control and management, illegal immigration, trafficking of human beings, undeclared work and relationship with third-countries. The Communication also deals with cross-cutting issues such as the need for increased political, operational and financial solidarity and burden-sharing among Member States, as well as the necessity to increase coordination between different levels of governance (EU, Member States and local level) and between different policy areas involved in migration management.
For each common principle, a series of measures, to be implemented at EU and/or Member State level, are proposed for discussion. These – together with the Policy Plan on Asylum, presented in parallel – will be further developed and rendered more operational during the course of next year's debate on a new 5-year Programme in the Justice, Freedom and Security area. They will thereby also contribute to the definition and implementation of other policy areas, such as the renewed EU Social Agenda.
Heads of State and Government have repeatedly called on the EU to respond to immigration challenges and opportunities with a common voice and a common set of instruments. In December 2007, they explicitly requested a renewed political commitment in order to continue to develop a comprehensive European migration policy complementing those of the Member States and based on common political principles and on a genuine partnership with countries of origin and transit of immigrants.
With rapidly ageing societies Europe has reached a point where it has to take bold decisions, including on immigration, to ensure economic growth and wealth also for future generations. Demographic forecasts foresee that the size of the working-age population in the EU will decrease by 48 million by 2050 and that the dependency ratio (the proportion of the non-working part of the population) is set to double and to reach 51% by 2050; even though not all Member States will be affected to the same degree. To ease this situation and to better cope with the challenges of demographic ageing, the EU will have to attract more immigrants in the future, at all levels of skills and qualifications.
Due to the fact that the EU today is an area without internal border controls, national immigration policies have indeed become strictly interrelated; a very restrictive migratory policy in one Member State may deviate migration flows to its neighbours and a regularisation procedure may attract illegal immigration into a Member State, from which regularised migrants easily move afterwards to other Member States.
This EU action is only meant to complement, not to replace, national policies in this field; Member State competences – for example in determining the number of immigrant workers to be admitted – will remain unaffected.
Press conference by vice-president Barrot, in the press room of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg (TBC).
• I-057469: Morocco: Management of Seasonal Migration
• I-053777: Integration of immigrants - 2007
This includes two parts: the results of a public consultation on the future of cohesion policy and an in-depth analysis of major regional trends. An accompanying staff working document analyses sectors with high growth in Europe.
Ideas for the future: The first part of this report concerns a follow-up to the public consultation on the challenges with which cohesion policy will be confronted in the coming years to collect ideas on the priorities, organisation and governance of the policy. It provides a synthesis of the contributions received between September 2007 and February 2008. This first phase of the debate helps to identify issues for discussion and direction for reflection, which the Commission will take into serious consideration in the context of the budget review.
Trends – growth sectors: The second part of the report provides a more in-depth analysis of major regional trends. The theme of this progress report is European growth sectors, whose performance in the regions will, to a large degree, determine the level of regional economic development in the years to come.
Commissioner Hübner will hold a press conference at 11.30 in the Berlaymont's Press room.
• EbS coverage
The launch event of the ‘For Diversity. Against Discrimination.’ European Truck tour will take place in Prague (Czech Republic) during the United Islands of Prague Festival with the participation of Commissioner Špidla. It will take place on the stage of the truck and include a debate on discrimination issues and music performances.
20,000 visitors are expected to attend this international multi-genre music festival. The truck will be located near the entrance of the festival.
The truck tour is a popular activity of the ‘For Diversity. Against Discrimination.’ Campaign – an EU-wide information campaign which began in 2003 and aims to raise awareness of discrimination and the legislation which exists to combat it, as well as to promote the benefits of diversity across the EU.
The campaign aims in 2008 to build on the success of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All to which its activities last year were closely linked. The truck tour will visit ten EU Member States: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Stopping in two cities per country, the truck will visit music, youth and film festivals, sporting events, universities and employment fairs, and bring together business, NGOs, musicians, artists and the general public to explore discrimination and diversity issues.
This year’s tour follows four previous tours organised every summer since 2004. In total the truck has visited 78 cities in all 27 EU Member States and over half a million people have taken part in its activities. Campaign activities in 2008 also include the Journalist Award which will be launched in early summer. This award recognises the work of online and print journalists in the EU who, through their work, contribute to a better public understanding of the benefits of diversity and the fight against discrimination.
A press conference with Commissioner Špidla will take place on the truck stage at 11.30 on 21 June. Journalists are also welcome to attend the formal launch at 12.00 and the panel debate between Commissioner Špidla and representatives of NGOs.
• I-053188: 2007 - European Year of Equal Opportunities for All
Employment: intergeneration solidarity and equal opportunities -
The European Commission will inaugurate its register of interest representatives, i.e. organisations involved in influencing the policy formulation and decision making of the European institutions. This register will be available online and can be freely consulted by the public. Linked with this register, the Commission has adopted a code of conduct setting out clear and precise rules to guide the activities of lobbyists in their dealings with the Commission. Acceptance of the code of conduct is a requirement for entry in the register.
In 2005, the European Transparency Initiative (ETI) started taking steps to enhance public trust in the EU institutions by making them more open and accessible, and by increasing the accountability of EU policymaking. There are four concrete objectives of the ETI: 1) publication of the beneficiaries of EU funding, 2) standards for public consultation, 3) professional ethics for EU office-holders and staff, and 4) a structured framework for the activities of interest representatives (lobbyists, etc.). A Green Paper was published in May 2006 to spark a public debate with stakeholders on these issues. It identified the need for a more structured framework for the activities of lobbyists.
In its communication "Follow-up to the Green Paper 'European Transparency Initiative'", the Commission proposed, among other things, the creation of a voluntary register for lobbyists. In the interest of full transparency, organisations that register will be asked to disclose information about what their mission is, who they represent, and how they are funded, thus ensuring that both policymakers and the public can assess the strength of the interests promoting a particular policy option.
The Commission recognises that lobbying is a legitimate, even essential part of democratic decision making, whether it is carried out by consultancies, private companies, NGOs, law firms, think tanks or trade associations. The Commission needs and appreciates the input it gets from such organisations, but in return asks their cooperation in showing the public that the relationship is based on high standards of probity and transparency.
Oil prices have been trading as recently as last week at $135.09 a barrel so this Dialogue meeting attended by Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will be a very useful platform for discussion.
Also present amongst others at the EU-OPEC Energy Dialogue meeting will be Andrei Vizjak, President of the EU Energy Council and Minister of Economy of Slovenia, Chakib khelil, President of the OPEC Conference, Minister of Energy and Mines of Algeria.
On the agenda will be the EU's Long Term Energy Scenarios and OPEC world oil outlook as well as discussions on fundamentals and pricing factors.
A summary report and conclusions of the study on oil refining will be presented by the EU and OPEC will present a progress report of the study on the impact of financial markets on oil price and volatility. There will be a round table and site visits on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) with presentations by both sides. The EU will report on the OPEC-EU Energy Technology Centre.
Meeting taking place in the Jean Rey Room, Berlaymont.
Press Conference in Berlaymont Press Room 12h30
• EbS coverage
Strategic Reserves 2003 – In light of the current geopolitical situation
and of its eventual impact on energy dependence in the Union, this infoclip
proposes the following images: pumping an oil tanker in the port (Wilhelmshaven,
Allemagne); stock installations (tanks); pumping and distribution of petrol
(pipelines); installation control room.
The European Commission is mounting an extensive media campaign (Internet, TV, radio) to raise public awareness about the problem of torture, which will culminate on International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. On that day, 47 countries will hold a specific event and 57 will broadcast video clips and display posters produced and supplied by the Commission.
At European Union level, 11 member states (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the United Kingdom) will take part in this campaign.
For more than 15 years now, the European Commission has been funding projects each year to prevent torture and help rehabilitate direct and indirect victims of acts of torture (in physical, psychological, legal and social terms) - the EU alone has 400.000 torture survivors living in its territory, of which the vast majority is made up of refugees.
With an annual budget of more than EUR 11 million to fund this kind of project, the European Commission is one of the principal donors in this field and its action is global in scope.
This is, however, the Commission's first information campaign on this subject on such a large scale.
25 June at 4.30 pm: Session with the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, in Brussels, attended by national parliamentarians and representatives of the press. EuropeAid will present the action taken by the European Commission to combat torture, its progress and results. Organisations which are active in the area will also present their field work.
26 June in the evening: Showing of Jim Threapleton's film "Extraordinary Rendition" on secret CIA flights and their tough interrogation methods, at the Espace Senghor in Brussels, followed by a debate on torture with EuropeAid officials.
The annual "EU Budget 2007 Financial Report" will look at which Member States got what in 2007, and on which areas the €114 billion budget was spent in that year - the first of the enlarged EU-27 and the start of the 2007-2013 financial framework.
The key findings of EU spending for that year will be presented by EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Dalia Grybauskaitė on Friday June 27th at 11h30.
The annual report covers key features of spending for 2007. It includes an annex with an historical series of financial flows between Member States and the EU budget. It also includes information on Member State's operating budgetary balance for the period 1998-2007.
Press conference at 11h30 with Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaitė in the Berlaymont Press Room, Brussels.
How high are taxes in Europe? Are tax levels increasing or decreasing? How is the tax burden shared between labour, capital and consumption? How does my country compare with the other Member States?
DG TAXUD will present the 2008 edition of the report ‘Taxation Trends in the European Union – period 1995-2005’.
This report contains statistics and economic analysis on the tax systems of the EU Member States (plus Norway).
Every year DG TAXUD, in close cooperation with Eurostat, publishes a report on the tax systems of the Member States of the European Union and Norway. This report offers a breakdown of tax revenues by economic function (i.e. according to whether they are raised on consumption, labour or capital). It also contains indicators of the average effective tax burden on consumption, labour and capital in the countries covered. Data are presented both as a percentage of GDP and as a percentage of total taxation.
Technical briefing at 11:00 made by Marco Fantini- Head of sector "Taxation trends in the EU" (Press room BERL, Brussels)
• I-053370: Commercial Diesel Taxation
Taxation: VAT reduction
The Commission is issuing its ninth annual 'Public Finances in EMU' report. The report analyses recent budgetary developments and assesses the outlook over the coming year, for both the euro area and the EU and the individual Member States. It also examines developments in the EU’s fiscal surveillance framework, specifically concerning the assessment of the structural budget balance and the measurement of the quality of public finances.
On the back of favourable economic conditions and buoyant revenue developments, public finances have continued to improve significantly in 2007. The general government deficit reached 0.6% of GDP in the euro area and 1.0% of GDP in the EU. Structural fiscal deficits (cyclically adjusted and net of one-off measures) are estimated to be at their lowest levels since the early 1970s. As a result, public debt in the EU dropped below the 60% of GDP threshold and is approaching this reference value in the euro area as well. At the same time, Member States have made considerable advances toward correcting their excessive deficits. In May the Commission proposed to the Council to close the procedure for the Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal and Slovakia. The ECOFIN Council is expected to consider these recommendations in June. If confirmed, only two non-euro-area members, Hungary and Poland, would remain under the excessive deficit procedure.
Nevertheless, many Member States face considerable fiscal challenges over the short and long term. In the short run, safeguarding the recent consolidation gains may require greater efforts than envisaged under the 2007 Stability and Convergence Programmes since the 2007 improvements came on the back of the better-than-expected 2006 budgetary outcomes and revenue windfalls which may unwind as the economies face exceptional economic uncertainties going forward. Those countries that lacked behind in their 2007 fiscal improvements and have not yet reached their medium-term budgetary objectives are at particular risks. The report analyses these developments in detail and discusses potential technical advances for fiscal surveillance. In the long run, the budgetary costs from population ageing remain a primary concern in the EU. Five Member States are still at high risk and 13 at medium risk, calling for further consolidation efforts as well as pension and structural reforms.
A promising avenue to tackle these long-term fiscal challenges, while at the same time supporting the European economies in an environment of increased global competition, is a greater focus on the quality of public finances. The two analytical parts of the report centre on this topic. The first part sets out a comprehensive framework of quality of public finances bringing together its different yet interlinked dimensions as well as providing some initial empirical illustrations on the links to economic growth. The second part analyses one particular dimension of quality of public finances, namely the efficiency of revenue systems. It reviews the tax systems structures in the EU and highlights those elements that can be particularly conducive to economic growth.
Adoption by the college.
The 1st July 2008 marks 40 years of Customs Union in Europe. To celebrate this milestone, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs, László Kovács, will participate in a number of activities organised around the anniversary.
The week of 9 June is Customs Action Week, and the Commissioner will visit the customs at the port of Rotterdam (9 June), Frankfurt airport (11 June) and Röszke land border (Hungary- 12 June), to highlight the important but often invisible role of the Customs Union in protecting citizens and facilitating trade.
On 17 June, Commissioner Kovács will give a press conference in Strasbourg following the European Parliament vote on the resolution on Customs Union.
On 4 July, there will be a French Presidency event in Bercy, hosted by French Budget Minister Eric Woerth, to celebrate the anniversary of Customs Union. Commissioner Kovács will speak at this event, which will also be attended by the Director Generals of all the Member States' customs administrations.
Since its creation on 1 July 1968, the EU Customs Union has been one of the cornerstones of European integration and a key component of the single market. It has brought about two major achievements:
- the removal of all customs duties and restrictions between Member States
- and the application of a common customs tariff at the external frontiers.
Customs play a crucial role in protecting the EU's 500 million citizens, while at the same time working to facilitate trade.
• I-056378: EU external border control
• I-056819: Enlargement of the Schengen area to airports of nine new Member States
• I-055974: Enlargement of the Schengen area
The French Presidency has organised, in partnership with the European Commission and the European Parliament, a conference "Who will feed the world? – Towards diverse, sustainable forms of agriculture as drivers of development"
Commissioners Mariann Fischer Boel and Louis Michel will participate, together with Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament, French Ministers Michel Barnier and Bernard Kouchner, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and others.
The aim of the conference is to have a discussion on the challenges facing today's agriculture (food, energy, climate and the environment), including the question of the future of agriculture in developing countries and new initiatives in the fields of policy and governance.
The recent increases in food prices, as a result of a complex combination of both structural and more temporary factors, are having a dramatic impact on the world's poorest populations.
Responses to this situation have to be sought at all levels:
- The European Council will discuss the effects of rising food prices on 19/20 June
World Food Security