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AGENDA/12/3

Brussels, Friday 20 January 2012

Top News from the European Commission
21 January - 17 February 2012

Background notes from the Spokespersons' service for journalists.
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes.

Wednesday 25 January: Commission proposes a comprehensive reform of EU data protection rules 2

Thursday 26 January: Conference on the European Citizens' Initiative hosted by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič 3

Thursday 26 January: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package 5

Friday 27 January: Tailoring trade and investment policy for those countries most in need: EU sets out 10-year agenda 6

Monday 30 January to Tuesday 31 January: Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years 7

Wednesday 8 February: Alert Mechanism Report on the prevention and correction of macro-economic imbalances 8

Wednesday 25 January: Commission proposes a comprehensive reform of EU data protection rules

The news:

The Commission will adopt proposals to update and modernise the principles enshrined in the 1995 Data Protection Directive to guarantee privacy rights in the future.

The proposals will focus on reinforcing individuals' rights, strengthening the EU internal market, ensuring a high level of data protection in all areas (including police and criminal justice cooperation), ensuring proper enforcement of the rules and setting global data-protection standards.

The background:

On 4 November 2010, the Commission set out a strategy to strengthen EU data protection rules (IP/10/1462 and MEMO/10/542). The goals were to protect individuals' data in all policy areas, including law enforcement, while reducing red tape for business and guaranteeing the free circulation of data within the EU. The Commission invited reactions to its ideas and also carried out a separate public consultation to revise the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive.

The event:

Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, will hold a press conference at 12:30, followed by a technical briefing off the record.

IP and MEMO will be available on the day.

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The sources:

European Commission – data protection:

Justice Directorate General Newsroom:

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

  • I-069716 Announcement: Data protection 2012, distribution 23/01/2012

The contacts:

Matthew Newman +32 2 296-2406 Matthew.Newman@ec.europa.eu

Mina Andreeva +32 2 299-1382 Mina.Andreeva@ec.europa.eu

Thursday 26 January: Conference on the European Citizens' Initiative hosted by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič

The news:

On 1 April 2012, EU citizens will gain a new right: The European Citizens' Initiative will enable one million EU citizens to call directly on the European Commission to propose legislation.

To prepare for the entry into force of this new instrument, the European Commission will hold a conference "Warming up for the citizens' initiative" on 26 January 2012.

The purpose of the conference will be to showcase the Commission's new website and software for the Citizens' Initiative, to discuss how successful initiatives should be followed-up and to explore the role of social media in relation to the Citizens' Initiative.

The background:

The Treaty of Lisbon introduced a new dimension of participatory democracy: European citizens have the right to submit an initiative supported by at least one million signatories coming from at least seven different Member States. The European Commission has the duty to examine the initiative and to reply to its organisers: in the event of a positive response, the Commission will prepare a proposal and submit it to the legislator.

Regulation (EU) N° 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Citizens’ Initiative provided the necessary elements to implement the Treaty provision: it will apply from 1 April 2012.

The Commission has taken the measures required by the Regulation: it has developed a comprehensive and user-friendly website and register for the Citizens' Initiative, as well as software for the online collection of signatures; it has published a guide on the European Citizens' Initiative, which will soon be available in all 23 official languages; and it has adopted an Implementing Regulation setting out technical specifications for online collection systems.

The website will be officially launched on 26 January 2012. The register will be available on 1 April 2012.

The event:

Conference for 400 participants "Warming up for the citizens' initiative" hosted by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on 26 January 2012 in the European Commission Charlemagne building from 9h00 to 17h30. Vice-President Šefčovič will give a press conference at 13:30 in the Charlemagne building.

Following introductory speeches from the Vice-President and the Danish Minister of European Affairs, Nicolai Wammen, and a presentation of how the Citizens' Initiative procedures will function in practice, including a demonstration of the Commission register and the software for online collection, three panels will discuss the implementation of the European Citizens' Initiative from the perspective of the Member States and civil society, the potential for using social networks and the follow-up to an initiative. Top figures from the world of social media will attend, including Erika Mann, Managing Director for EU Affairs, Facebook; Simon Hampton, Director of European Public Policy, Google; Colin Crowell, Head of Global Public Policy, Twitter and Giuseppe de Martino, Secretary General, Dailymotion.

The sources:

Webstreaming live only on 26 January:

Key facts:

Commission's website and register (website available from 26 January and register from

1 April):

Regulation (EU) no 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Citizens’ Initiative:

Commission implementing regulation (EU) No 1179/2011 laying down technical specifications for online collection systems pursuant to Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Citizens’ Initiative:

The contacts:

Antony Gravili +32 (0)2.295.43.17 antonio.gravili@ec.europa.eu

Marilyn Carruthers +32 (0)2.299.94.51 Marilyn.carruthers@ec.europa.eu

Thursday 26 January: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package

The news:

On Thursday 26 January, the European Commission will adopt its monthly infringements package. These decisions cover all Member States and most of EU policies and seek to enforce EU law across Europe in the interest of both citizens and businesses.

The background:

Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.

There are three successive stages: Letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and referral to the Court of Justice.

If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU. After only one written warning, Commission may refer a Member State back to the Court and it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties based on the duration and severity on the infringement and the size of the Member State.

The event:

Several IPs and MEMOs will be available on the day.

The sources:

The IP and MEMO will be made available on the day on Rapid:

The contacts:

Overall coordination: Olivier Bailly: +32 2 296 87 17 olivier.bailly@ec.europa.eu

On specific infringements, please contact the spokesperson in charge.

Friday 27 January: Tailoring trade and investment policy for those countries most in need: EU sets out 10-year agenda

The news:

In a strategy paper, the European Commission will propose to refocus its trade and development policy to those countries most in need. It aims to reflect shifts in the relative trade power of developing countries, notably with respect to the growing weight of emerging economies and the struggle Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have in reaping the benefits of world markets. The paper will outline the EU's trade and investment policies fro development for the next decade.

The background:

The world economic landscape has changed dramatically in the past decade, with deep implications for trade, investment and development policies. Some developing countries, such as China, India or Brazil, have managed to reap the benefits of increasingly integrated world markets and are now among the largest and most competitive global economies. They have also moved millions of people out of poverty.

Others continue to lag behind and risk further marginalisation on global markets. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in particular, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to face difficulties to develop their productive capacity, diversify their export base and take advantage of regional or world markets. They are also most off track in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The EU has a particular responsibility as the world's largest trading power, the biggest importer from LDCs and the largest provider of development assistance.

The event:

The Commission will publish its Communication "Trade, growth and development: tailoring trade and investment policy for those countries most in need", accompanied by a Staff Working Paper.

IP and MEMO will be available on the day.

The sources:

All press material will be available on the following website:

The contacts:

John Clancy +32 2 29 53773 john.clancy@ec.europa.eu

Catherine Ray +32 2 29 69921 catherine.ray@ec.europa.eu

Helene Banner +32 2 29 52407 helene.banner@ext.ec.europa.eu

Wojtek Talko +32 2 29 78551 wojtek.talko@ec.europa.eu

Monday 30 January to Tuesday 31 January: Erasmus: changing lives, opening minds for 25 years

The news:

Erasmus celebrates its 25th anniversary, Monday 30 January.

The background:

The Erasmus student and staff exchange programme will celebrate its "silver" anniversary in 2012. Erasmus is at the heart of the European Commission's education policy and its strategy to combat the crisis and youth unemployment. Since its launch in 1987, nearly 3 million students and staff have received grants to study or teach abroad or undertake work placements. Studies show that this experience is invaluable for boosting skills in areas such as language learning and adaptability, which can increase an individual's employability. The scheme also helps to promote teaching quality and institutional cooperation. 33 European countries participate in the Erasmus scheme (27 EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey). Demand for Erasmus places strongly exceeds the availability of grants in most countries. The Commission has called for a significant increase in EU support for higher education mobility under its proposed new programme for education, training and youth ('Erasmus for All'), which is due to start in 2014.

The event:

The 25th anniversary celebrations will be launched at a press conference by the Commissioner responsible for education, Androulla Vassiliou. She will be joined by "Erasmus ambassadors" from the 33 countries participating in the scheme. One student and one staff member have been chosen to represent each country, based on the impact that Erasmus has had on their professional and private lives; their role is to encourage other students and staff to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

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The sources:

Press release with country-by-country data for the 2009/10 academic year:

European Commission's website on http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/doc80_en.htm

Commissioner Vassiliou's website:

  • I069517 Education: Erasmus for All (2011)

The contacts:

Dennis Abbott +32.2.295.92.58 dennis.abbott@ec.europa.eu

Dina Avraam +32 (0)2 295 96 67 dina.avraam@ec.europa.eu

Wednesday 8 February: Alert Mechanism Report on the prevention and correction of macro-economic imbalances

The news:

On 8 February, the European Commission will present its first Alert Mechanism Report (AMR) under the new surveillance procedure on the prevention and correction of macro-economic imbalances. The AMR assesses for which Member States further in-depth study into possible risks of imbalances appears to be required.

The background:

This assessment is based on an economic reading of a scoreboard of selected economic indicators. This will be the first time the Commission presents this report since strengthened rules on economic governance, the so-called "six pack" entered into force on 13th December 2011.  

The sources:

Press conference by Commissioner Olli Rehn, followed by a technical briefing off the record (time to be confirmed).

Memo on the entering into force of the six-pack entered into force: (MEMO/11/898)

The contacts:

Amadeu Altafaj Tardio: +32 2 295 26 58 amadeu.altafaj-tardio@ec.europa.eu

Catherine Bunyan: +32 2 299 65 12 catherine.bunyan@ec.europa.eu

Vandna Kalia: +32 2 299 58 24 vandna.kalia@ec.europa.eu


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