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Brussels Friday 11 July
Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for
Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
11:30: Press conference by the Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, in the Berlaymont press room
• Available on EbS
• I-052700: Joint Research Centre, Ispra
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:
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.
11:30: Press conference made by Commissioner Kovács, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union (Press room BERL- Brussels).
• EbS coverage
• I-055383: Cigarette Smuggling
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.
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.
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.
• I-056779: Climate Trackers: Weddell seal
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 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.
Press Conference by Vice President Verheugen and Environment Commissioner Dimas, in the Berlaymont press room, 12:15.
• Available on EbS
• I-057728: Sustainable consumption and production: the way to a greener world
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 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:
In 2008, the Agency launched a joint deployment plan to protect the vulnerable bluefin tuna stocks in the East Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
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.
• I-054956: Towards a future maritime policy for the Union
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.
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.
Presentation at the Midday briefing (details to be confirmed)