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European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Friday 28 March 2014

Top News from the European Commission
29 March – 25 April 2014

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

Monday 31 March: RegioStars 2014: Awards for innovative regional development

The news:

On 31 March EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, will present the 2014 RegioStars Awards to Europe's flagship projects of innovation. Together with the Jury chaired by former Committee of the Regions President, Luc Van den Brande, Commissioner Hahn will award the winning projects in four categories:

  • Smart Growth – SME innovation

  • Sustainable Growth – Green jobs and jobs through bio-economy

  • Inclusive Growth – Creating jobs for the younger generation

  • CityStar – Investment projects in sustainable urban public transport

This year's event comes at a crucial time as Europe's regions and cities are finalising their strategic investment plans, the so-called "Partnership Agreements" on how to spend the European Structural and Investment Funds over the next seven years. The Awards Ceremony will showcase the first projects that reflect the reform of Cohesion Policy.

The background:

In this 7th edition of RegioStars, the Jury singled out 19 finalists from 80 projects on the basis of four criteria: innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership. The finalists come from regions and cities in 17 Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The aim of the awards is to recognise good practice in regional development and to highlight inspiring projects financed either by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or the European Social Fund (ESF), which prove a model for other regions.

The event:

Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, will present this year's RegioStars winners at a press conference on 31 March, from 15.00-16.00 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Rue Ravenstein, Brussels. Journalists will have the opportunity to do interviews with the RegioStars winners after the press conference.

The official award ceremony will take place at the same day, at 19.00 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts with Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the President of the RegioStars Jury, Luc Van den Brande. The ceremony is open to the media, but registration is necessary (see links below).

The sources:

An IP will be available on Monday, 31 March

Information on RegioStars Awards, media programme and registration:

  1. RegioStars 2014 Awards

Information on the finalists:

  1. RegioStars 2014 Finalists

  2. Video footage and portraits of the winning projects (available on 31 March)

  3. Twitter: @EU_Regional @JHahnEU #RegioStars

  1. The award ceremony and press conference will be also be available on Ebs

The contacts:

Shirin Wheeler +32 229 66565, Mobile +32 4607 66565

Annemarie Huber +32 229 93310, Mobile +32 4607 66565

Tuesday 1 April: More flexible visa rules to boost growth and job creation

The news:

Despite efforts in recent years, the amount of red tape and practical difficulties facing those who apply for an EU Schengen visa are substantial. Difficulties include long waiting times in some areas of the world, and complex requirements for supporting documents. On 19 March, the European Commission is putting forward a visa package introducing facilitations in the processing of Schengen visas: (1) Clearer and shorter deadlines and easier lodging of visa applications; (2) Easier issuing of multiple-entry visas; (3) A new type of visa allowing those who intend to travel around Europe to stay longer than 90 days in the Schengen area.

The proposed changes address the main problems faced by all categories of visa applicants, and ensure a better distinction between first-time travellers and well known travellers.

The background:

Since the entry into force of the Visa Code in 2010, it has facilitated legitimate travel and tackled irregular migration, by improving consular organisation and cooperation, strengthening procedural guarantees, and reinforcing equal treatment of visa applicants. However, more should be done to address the challenges faced by visa applicants and Member States' consulates.

In addition, a 2012 Commission Communication highlighted the need for the common visa policy to also address potential for generating economic growth.

A 2013 study on the economic impact of short stay visa facilitations on the tourism industry gives an idea of the economic benefit. The findings show that, by introducing various procedural facilitations, an increase in trips to the Schengen area of between 30 and 60 % could be expected.

The event:

IP and MEMO will be available on the day;

Press conference with Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Malmström;

There will be a technical briefing with experts from DG HOME.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

The contacts:

Michele Cercone: +32 229-80963

Tove Ernst: +32 229-86764

Wednesday 9 April: The Commission adopts the Green Paper on mobile Health

The news:

On 9 April, the European Commission will publish a Green Paper on mobile health (mHealth). This discussion document launches a public consultation which will run until 2 July 2014.

mHealth covers medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices - such as smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices – including lifestyle and wellbeing applications connecting to medical devices and sensors. It is an emerging part of eHealth where Information and Communication Technologies are used to improve health products, services and processes.

The Commission wants inputs and ideas on what should be done to solve several issues in mHealth - such as data protection and users trust, patient safety, contribution to high quality healthcare - and at what level (EU, national, regional).

Along with the Green Paper, the European Commission will also give guidance to app developers through a Staff Working Document analysing the existing EU legal framework applicable to lifestyle and wellbeing apps.

The background:

mHealth is a rapidly developing field, which can improve the quality of healthcare and make it more efficient by supporting healthcare professionals in treating patients and easing continuity of care. Estimates show that the use of mobile devices could help healthcare professionals save up to 30% of their time spent on accessing and analysing information. Technologies like remote monitoring solutions can also give patients a bigger role in healthcare and can keep them living independently in their own home environment.

However, despite this potential, the uptake of mHealth remains limited in EU countries and healthcare authorities may need more evidence before they implement mHealth at a wider scale.

Other barriers include:

  • The consequent lack of compliance and transparency may prevent users from trusting these apps and hinder the development of the market.

  • A low level of knowledge among app developers of the legal requirements applicable to lifestyle and well-being apps.

The Staff Working Document that the Commission will issue along with the Green Paper, will raise app developers' awareness of the EU rules in data protection, medical devices (helping them determine whether such legislation applies to their apps or not) and consumer directives.

The Green Paper on mHealth was announced in the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, where the European Commission recognised the current and potential benefits of mobile health apps, as well as potential associated risks.

The event:

Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, will present the main content of the Green Paper on mHealth at the midday briefing in the Commission's press room (to be confirmed).

A press release will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Information on mHealth:

Information on Commissioner Kroes:

Information on Commissioner Borg:

The contacts:, tel: +32 229 57361, Twitter: @RyanHeathEU

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