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EXME 12 / 16.02
Midday Express of 2012-02-16
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Pensions are the main income source for around a quarter of the EU's population today and younger Europeans will also come to rely on pensions later in their lives. Unless Europe delivers on decent pensions now and in the future, millions will face poverty in old age. Europe is also ageing as people live longer and have fewer children. From next year, the EU's working population will already start to shrink. Pensions are putting increased financial pressure on national budgets, especially with the added strain of the financial and economic crisis. To support these efforts, the European Commission has published a White Paper on adequate, safe and sustainable pensions. It looks at how the EU and the Member States can work to tackle the major challenges that confront our pension systems. It puts forward a range of initiatives to help create the right conditions so that those who are able can continue working - leading to a better balance between time in work and time in retirement; to ensure people who move to another country can keep their pension rights; to help people save more and ensure that pension promises are kept and people get what they expect in retirement.
A total of €115.2 million of EU agricultural policy funds unduly spent by Member States is being claimed back by the European Commission today under the so-called clearance of accounts procedure. As some of these amounts have already been recovered from the Member States, the financial impact is somewhat lower at €54.3 million. This money returns to the EU budget because of non-compliance with EU rules or inadequate control procedures on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds.
Commission Action team leaves for Latvia
Today, the European Commission second action team is travelling to one of the Member States suffering from a very high youth unemployment. In Latvia, unemployment is affecting almost 30% of young people. This is mainly due to a high level of early school leaving, lack of professional education and skills mismatch. The crisis has exacerbated these structural problems. The Commission team will be working jointly with a team of experts in Latvia to see how the 10% of EU Structural Funds that are still to be allocated could be re-focused to make a rapid difference in youth unemployment. For example, the funds could be used for short term measures targeted to youth from disadvantaged groups, for preventing early school leaving or reducing large gender imbalances, as well as for continuing the reforms in vocational and higher education. The discussions will also focus on how to stimulate the SME sector as the key driver of job creation, as in Latvia, the percentage of EU planned investments in SMEs is very low (7,1%) compared to the EU average (16%). On all these aspects the Commission's experts are ready to work with the national authorities and the national social partners to find the best solutions with quick impact on the ground and to complement the reforms that Latvia has already undertaken. The President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, launched this intensive joint effort at the informal meeting of the European Council on 30 January, calling for an extra effort to be made to tackle youth unemployment and prevent the alienation of young people from the labour market; and to focus on helping hard-pressed SMEs. The President proposed to create Action teams of Commission and national experts, with the involvement of national social partners, to develop targeted plans to be included in the National Reform Programmes which will be submitted to the European Commission (mid-April) as part of the European semester of EU economic governance. President Barroso will report back on initial results at the European Council on 1-2 March 2012.
(for more information: K. Kottova - Tel: 02 298 7019 - GSM: 0498 98 4412; C. Arigho - Tel: 02 298 5399 - GSM: 0498 98 2118; D. Abbott - Tel: 02 295 9258 - GSM: 0498 95 9258; T. van Lierop - Tel: 02 296 6565 - GSM: 0498 96 6565; S. O'Connor – Tel: 02 296 7359 – GSM: 0498 96 735)
Commissioner Karel De Gucht makes the case for open markets and strengthened trade relations with China
On his official visit to Hong Kong on 16 February, Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade, underlined the importance of open markets to further develop the second-largest economic partnership in the world between the EU and China. Speaking to journalists at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club, the Commissioner said that the gigantic changes that have already taken place in China's economy must not be underrated. He however also stressed that some European companies feel that "economic openness in China is improving too slowly or not at all". Underlining that the door of free trade has to be open both ways, the Trade Commissioner added that he intends to propose a new mechanism that should help to tackle imbalances in openness of public procurement markets. During his visit, De Gucht also met the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, as well as European business representatives.
Youth on the Move in Nicosia
The European Commission's Youth on the Move road-show arrives tomorrow (17 February) at the International Education Fair in Nicosia, Cyprus. Youth on the Move highlights the EU grants which are on offer for young people interested in spending part of their studies abroad or taking up work placements at foreign companies. In 2012/13, Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci , the main two EU support programmes for youth mobility, will fund 400 000 study opportunities and 280 000 work placements. Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will inaugurate the Education Fair, which will also highlight the support provided through the Youth in Action programme for youth exchanges and volunteering abroad. "The Youth on the Move campaign is a great opportunity for young people to find out how our programmes can help increase their skills, development and employability. In times of high youth unemployment, our schemes can help young people to get their first step on the career ladder and contribute to addressing the skills mismatch that exists in many countries," said Commissioner Vassiliou. More than 10 000 people from Cyprus, Greece and neighbouring countries are expected to visit the three-day Education Fair.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič to visit Ireland's Oireachtas
Vice-President Šefčovič will today (16) address the Joint Committee on European Affairs of Ireland's Oireachtas, or Parliament. He will outline the key priorities of the European Commission as part of a debate on the Commission Work Programme for 2012. The debate will be followed by private meetings with the leaders of the Dáil and Seanad, or Lower and Upper House. He will also meet Ms Lucinda Creighton, Minister of State for European Affairs, for a joint event promoting careers in the European institutions, and Mr Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The following day, Vice-President Šefčovič will deliver a speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs entitled 'Dealing with the Crisis – the Strength of the European Approach'.
Radio spectrum supports 3.5 million jobs and more than €250 billion of economic activity each year in Europe, including incredibly popular services such as wireless broadband. The Commission therefore welcomes the European Parliament's adoption of the five-year Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) which will allow sufficient spectrum to be made available for wireless applications and services such as high speed 4th generation (4G) wireless broadband. The RSPP also supports entertainment/culture (mobile TV or wireless electronic books), transport systems, health (such as medical appliances and devices to assist disabled persons), research, civil protection, the environment and energy (including smart energy grids and smart metering systems), without affecting the requirements of other policies such as defence.
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