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Brussels Friday 11 July

Top News from the European Commission 13 July to 10 August 2008

Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalists
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Sunday 13 July: "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" Summit in Paris

The news:

President Barroso and Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner will attend the Paris Summit with the Heads of State and Government of the EU and the countries around the Mediterranean. The aim of this initiative is to strengthen regional cooperation between the European Union and the countries bordering the Mediterranean based on the Barcelona Process and the EU's Neighbourhood Policy, by launching the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean".
The Union for the Mediterranean is a new political initiative which will be based on practical projects. It will give a triple boost to the Barcelona Process by:
- enhancing the political dimension of relations between the EU and its Mediterranean partners;
- confirming the shared responsibilities in our multilateral relations;
- promoting practical projects which will enable citizens to appreciate the strength of the ties that unite the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The initiative should also give new political impetus to Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, for example by instituting bi-annual summits and creating a co- presidency and a secretariat.

The background:

Following the decision of the Spring European Council, the European Commission adopted proposals on 20 May 2008 to strengthen relations with its Mediterranean partners based on the Barcelona Process and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The European Council on 19 and 20 June welcomed these proposals, particularly the guidelines on the projects to be launched, all of which are linked by the common theme of closer regional integration. Examples include the "Motorways of the Sea" to revitalise ports and maritime transport, efforts to clean up pollution in the Mediterranean and the exchange of scientific and technological expertise, to name just a few of the main themes. Greater involvement by the private sector is another priority.

The event:

Paris Summit

  • EbS coverage

The sources:
SPEECH/08/309 – Speech to the European Parliament (08/06/08) (FR)
IP 08/774: Commission adopts proposals to enhance the partnership between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council
Commission website:

  • - in Egypt: general images of Cairo, Alexandria and Zafarena wind farm;- in Tunisia: general images of Tunis and aqueduct; - in Morocco: general images of Rabat, Amogdoul wind farm and installation of solar panels.

The contacts:
Christiane Hohmann +32 2 2991196
Concha Fernandez de la Puente +32 2 2952977

Tuesday 15 July: Another step towards the European Research area: a Communication to promote the Joint Programming of national research agenda and a proposal for regulation for big research infrastructures

The news:

Next week, the Commission will adopt the Communication "Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively" and the proposal for a regulation on "Instruments for Research Infrastructures" on the 16 July. These two initiatives constitute a further step towards the creation of the "fifth freedom" – the freedom of knowledge, and support for a stronger cooperation between Member States in Research.

The background:

In 2000 the EU called for realising a European Research Area, creating a single area across Europe and overcoming under-capacity, fragmentation and lack of coordination between national and European research programmes. With the Communication "Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively" the Commission wants to encourage Member States to develop and implement common Strategic Research Agendas on major issues such as climate change, diseases, energy, or agriculture. Pooling resources and data of national research would increase Europe's research efficiency. Joint programmed research on Energy and renewable energy, or on the Alzheimer's disease would be relevant examples.

Europe's big scientific challenges need big scientific infrastructures - radiation sources for new materials, clean rooms for nanotechnologies, databanks for genomics, and observatories for earth sciences. These require massive investment and co-ordination between Member States for their building and operation. The Commission's proposal for the Regulation for "European Research Infrastructures" proposes a new tailor-made legal framework that will make it easier for Member States and international organisations to set up the infrastructures that will attract and retain the best researchers in Europe. The Communication "Towards Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively" and the proposal for the Regulation "Instruments for Research Infrastructures" are key policy initiatives put forth as a result of the public consultation process following the Green Paper "The European Research Area: New Perspectives" adopted on 4 April 2007.

The event:

11:30: Press conference by the Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, in the Berlaymont press room

• Available on EbS

The sources:
IP/07/49: Commission unveils its vision for the future of the European Research Area (Green Paper)
IP/08/637: Help us make research in Europe more European, say researchers European Commission's website on the European Research Area:
Commissioner Potocnik's website:

I-052700: Joint Research Centre, Ispra

The contacts:
Catherine Ray +32 2 296 99 21
Sophie Andersson +32 2 295 02 08

Tuesday 16 July: Solutions to modernise and simplify the current tobacco tax rules

The news:

The European Commission will present a report on the tobacco tax Directive, which will be accompanied by a proposal to amend the existing rules, taking into account the smooth functioning of the single market and wider objectives of the EU.

Substantial differences in tax and price levels of tobacco products lead to considerable cross-border smuggling and consequently distort the Internal Market and undermine the budgetary and health objectives of the Member States.

The Commission therefore takes the view that the existing rules should be:

  • modernised, simplified and made more transparent, in order to create a level playing field for producers, importers and retailers and to ensure stability of budgetary resources for Member States.
  • brought in line with the EU's health objectives to discourage tobacco consumption

The background:

Existing tax rules for tobacco are the outcome of discussions which started more than 20 years ago. Today, the current international market environment is very dynamic, with many different brands and price ranges. Tobacco taxation rules are not designed for this new situation in most Member States.

Moreover, smoking is still the biggest single cause of avoidable death in the EU. The level of excise duties is a crucial element in determining the tax inclusive price of tobacco products. Taxation therefore remains a very effective tool to prevent smoking.

The event:

11:30: Press conference made by Commissioner Kovács, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union (Press room BERL- Brussels).

• EbS coverage

The sources:
Tobacco taxation:

Outcome of the public consultation:

Commissioner Kovacs' website:

I-055383: Cigarette Smuggling

The contacts:
Maria Assimakopoulou +32 2 295 9842
Emer Traynor +32 2 292 1548

Wednesday 16 July 2008: Commission proposes ban on trading of seal products

The news:

The aim of the proposed law on seals is to ensure that products derived from seals killed and skinned in ways that cause pain, distress and suffering are not found on the European market. The proposal also recommends banning the trading of seal products throughout the European Union.

The background:

Seals are sentient mammals capable of experiencing pain and it is feared that seals are being killed and skinned using methods that unnecessarily inflict pain, distress and suffering.

In light of this the European Commission is proposing to ban trade in seal products. As seal hunting is likely to continue, trade in seal products would be allowed only where guarantees can be provided that animal-welfare-friendly hunting techniques were used and that the animals did not suffer unnecessarily. In those countries where seal hunting will continue this guarantee would be established via a certification scheme, which will ensure that seal products traded are clearly indicated as coming from a country meeting strict conditions.

Scientific opinion indicates that seals can be killed rapidly and effectively by a number of methods without causing avoidable pain, distress and suffering. Evidence also shows that effective killing does not always happen in practice.

The aim of the Commission's proposal is to uphold the high standards of animal welfare.

The event:

A press conference will be held on 16 July at 12:15 in the Berlaymont press room following the adoption of the proposal by the Commission.

The sources:
European Commission's website – Animal welfare:

Commissionner Dimas' blog:

I-056779: Climate Trackers: Weddell seal

The contacts:
Barbara Helfferich +32 2 298 20 10
Lena De Visscher +32 2 296 36 94

Wednesday 16 July: Towards a sustainable industrial policy – Action plan to promote sustainable consumption, production and technologies

The news:

The Commission will adopt a package of actions and proposals to improve the environmental performance of products and stimulate the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies. EU industry will be encouraged to take up new opportunities and innovate in order to ensure its continued leadership in environmental performance.

The background:

The Mid-term review of the Industrial Policy calls for actions so that the industrial policy contributes to sustainability and more sustainable production and consumption patterns. It is clear that economic competitiveness of the EU will, to a large extent, be based on its energy and resource efficiency and its capability to develop appropriate technological solutions. Key to future jobs, growth and wealth as well as to environmental protection will be efficient eco-innovations and resource and material efficiency.

The Commission will contribute to this political momentum by presenting an Action Plan on Sustainable Industrial Policy and on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Its aim is improving the way we produce, the design of products available on the market and the way we consume.

A range of policies at EU and national level already foster resource efficient and eco-friendly products and raise consumer awareness, such as the EU framework for the eco design of energy-using products, labelling schemes, and financial incentives granted by Member States to those that buy eco-friendly products. The Action Plan complements and integrates- the potential of these different policy instruments, and provides for new action where gaps exist.

The event:

Press Conference by Vice President Verheugen and Environment Commissioner Dimas, in the Berlaymont press room, 12:15.

• Available on EbS

The sources:
Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Competitiveness:
Towards a sustainable industrial policy:
European Sustainable Consumption and Production Policies:
"Gute Jobs für alle":

I-057728: Sustainable consumption and production: the way to a greener world

The contacts:
Ton van Lierop +32 296 65 65
Barbara Helfferich +32 298 20 10
Ferran Tarradellas-Espuny +32 296 62 93
Catherine Bunyan +32 299 65 12
Lena De Visscher +32 296 36 94

Saturday 19 July: Inauguration of the EU Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo, Spain

The news:

The Community Fisheries Control Agency will inaugurate its new provisional premises in Vigo, Spain. The inauguration event will be opened by Mr Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. Ms Elena Espinosa, the Spanish Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and a large number of European, national and regional personalities and representatives will also be attending the event.

The background:

The Community Fisheries Control Agency is a cornerstone of the EU's efforts to ensure sustainability in Europe's fisheries sector. It was established in 2002 as part of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Operational since the beginning of 2007, the Agency organises coordination and cooperation between national control and inspection activities, to ensure that the rules of the CFP are respected and applied effectively, with the aim of creating a level playing field for EU fishermen and fostering a culture of compliance.

Among the achievements of the newly created agency are three major coordination tasks carried out in 2007, which continue this year:

  • coordination of EU control, inspection and surveillance activities in the regulatory area of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO);
  • a Joint Deployment Plan to combat over-fishing and save endangered cod stocks in the North Sea by pooling resources (inspectors, control vessels, aircraft, etc) from  seven Member States, which were deployed where they were most needed, to ensure more effective and uniform control of fishing activities in seven control campaigns of more than 100 campaign days;
  • a Joint inspection and surveillance campaign in support of the long term management plan for cod in the Baltic Sea, which deploy resources pooled by the coastal Member States in six campaigns of more than 80 campaign days.

In 2008, the Agency launched a joint deployment plan to protect the vulnerable bluefin tuna stocks in the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.

The event:

18 July, 18:30: A press conference will be held at the provisional Agency premises  (Edificio Odriozola, C/ García Barbón No 4, Vigo)

19 July, 13:00: The opening ceremony will be held at Centro Social Caixanova Auditorium. In addition to Commissioner Borg and Minister Espinosa, members of the Spanish government and the region of Galicia, members of the Administrative Board and the Advisory Board of the Agency, representatives of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the European Commission as well as the chairmen of the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) will attend the opening ceremony.

The sources:
Community Fisheries Control Agency:

I-054956: Towards a future maritime policy for the Union

The contacts:
Nathalie Charbonneau +32 2 296 37 63
Lone Mikkelsen +32 2 296 0567
Patricia Sanchez-Abeal +34 666 59 07 25

Wednesday 23 July: Commission reports on Bulgaria and Romania

The news:

The Commission will adopt its latest annual reports on the progress made by Bulgaria and Romania in judicial reform and fighting corruption. The Commission report on Bulgaria will also cover organised crime.

The Commission will assess the state of play on the benchmarks set out under the cooperation and verification mechanism.

The background:

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, shortcomings remained in judicial reform, the fight against corruption and in the case of Bulgaria the fight against organised crime. These shortcomings carried the risk that Bulgaria and Romania would not be able to correctly apply community law and that Bulgarians would not be able to fully enjoy their rights as EU citizens. In order to assist both countries in their reform process and at the same time monitor the progress of reform, a Cooperation and Verification Mechanism was set up by a formal Commission decision on 13 December 2006. It identified six benchmarks to be met by Bulgaria and four to be met by Romania.

The Commission presented its first report in June 2007 on the findings in the areas covered by the benchmarks. It has also published an interim report on 4 February 2008.

This report is prepared by the Secretariat General under the authority of the President of the Commission in agreement with Vice-President Barrot.

The event:

Presentation at the Midday briefing (details to be confirmed)

The sources:
Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania – Articles 36, 37 and 38:

Commission decisions of 13 December 2006 establishing a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in Bulgaria and Romania to address specific benchmarks in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption:

IP/07/948: Bulgaria and Romania make progress but much remains to be done to tackle judicial reform and corruption
MEMO/07/260: Progress Report on the Cooperation and verification mechanism – procedural aspects
MEMO/07/261: Key findings of the progress report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism with Bulgaria
MEMO/07/262: Key findings of the progress report on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism with Romania
MEMO/08/72: Interim Report on Progress in Romania with Judiciary Reform and the Fight against Corruption
MEMO/08/73: Interim Report on Progress in Bulgaria with Judiciary Reform and the Fight against Corruption and Organised Crime
Website of Secretariat General of the Commission:

I-052143: ROMANIA - 2006 Enlargement + I-052144: BULGARIA - 2006 Enlargement

The contact:
Mark Gray +32 2 29 88644

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