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EXME 12 / 08.05
Midday Express of 2012-05-08
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Twenty-five years after its launch, Erasmus has become the best known EU programme and the most successful student exchange scheme in the world. More than 231 000 students received Erasmus grants to study or train abroad during the 2010-11 academic year – a new record and an 8.5% increase compared to the previous year. With its focus on languages, adaptability, inter-cultural awareness and leadership, Erasmus provides young people with vital skills to boost their employability and personal development. Since it began in 1987, the programme has provided more than 2.5 million European students with the opportunity to go abroad to study at a higher education institution or for a job placement in a company. On current trends, the European Union will reach its target of supporting 3 million Erasmus students by 2012-13.
The European Commission will mark Europe Day tomorrow (9) by registering the very first European Citizens' Initiative. Other proposed initiatives will also be added to the online register in the coming days. "Fraternité 2020 – Mobility. Progress. Europe" is the title of the first initiative, proposed by a committee of EU citizens living in Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania and Spain. Their stated motivation is to "enhance EU exchange programmes – like Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service – in order to contribute to a united Europe based on solidarity among citizens". The organisers of the initiative – which boasts registration number ECI(2012)000001 – now have 12 months to collect 1 million signatures from at least seven Member States. If they succeed, they can invite the European Commission to propose legislation on the issue.
EU consumers want to be sure that the products – whether produced in the EU or imported from third-countries - are safe. The good news is that thanks to the increasing effectiveness of the EU's rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products ("RAPEX") dangerous products are detected earlier and more effectively and are more promptly removed from the EU market. This process involves a chain of actions including upstream efforts to design out risks at source, better risk assessment and close co-operation between EU authorities, notably customs, to identify risks at the points of entry.
The European Commission has adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation (SAM), setting out the objectives of an ambitious reform package. In the broader context of the EU's agenda to foster growth, state aid policy should focus on facilitating well-designed aid targeted at market failures and objectives of common European interest. The Commission also aims at focusing its enforcement on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, streamlining rules and taking faster decisions. The Communication identifies a number of actions with a view to implementing these objectives. The main elements of the reform shall be in place by the end of 2013.
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules public support for two regional investment projects, one in Poland in favour of paper companies Mondi Świecie and Mondi Packaging Paper Świecie and one in Germany in favour of the German solar modules producer Masdar. The Commission concluded that the measures comply with the regional aid guidelines (see IP/05/1653 and MEMO/05/491), because the aid intensity, the beneficiaries' market shares and the capacity created by the assisted projects are sufficiently low to ensure that the benefits of the aid for regional development will outweigh any potential distortions of competition brought about by the aid.
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a Spanish scheme allowing up to €10.95 million of public funding for the publication of culturally valuable books in Spain over the next three years. The Commission found that the scheme pursues an objective of common interest, the promotion of cultural heritage, is well designed to achieve this objective and minimises potential distorsions of competition.
The European Commission has concluded that €265 million public funding granted by the Valencia Regional Government to the Ciudad de la Luz film studio complex was not provided on market conditions and needs to be paid back by the beneficiary. Following an in-depth investigation (see IP/08/217), the Commission concluded that no private investor would have accepted to invest on the same terms and that the public funding massively distorts competition between major European film studios.
Brussels, 8 May 2012 - The European Commission has concluded that €23 million public funding, which Italy intends to grant to Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics S.r.l. (NV&D) for the research and development of innovative vaccines, is in line with EU state aid rules, in particular because it tackles a genuine market failure and stimulates research in the EU. The project aims at ensuring that developing countries gain quicker access to such innovative products at affordable prices.
The European Commission has informed Slovak Telekom a.s. (ST) and its parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG, of its objections against their behaviour on several wholesale broadband markets in Slovakia. At this stage, the Commission takes the view that Slovak Telekom may have refused to supply unbundled access to its local loops and wholesale services to competitors, and may have imposed a margin squeeze on alternative operators by charging unfair wholesale prices, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Deutsche Telekom may be liable for the conduct of its subsidiary. The companies now have three months to reply to the Statement of Objections (SO).
The European Commission is launching a €34.8 million call for eco-innovation projects. Businesses and entrepreneurs from across Europe can apply for funding to help bring novel environmental projects to the market. The call is open to eco-innovative products, techniques, services and processes that aim to prevent or reduce environmental impacts, or which contribute to the optimal use of resources. The call for applications is open until 6 September 2012, and around 50 projects will be selected for funding.
The European Commission has launched a two million euro project to preserve the cultural heritage in Cyprus. The project is part of the European Commission's aid programme for the Turkish Cypriot community.
New study on "Addressing biodiversity and habitat preservation through measures applied under the Common Agricultural Policy"
Of all EU-funded policies, the Common Agricultural Policy has the greatest potential to deliver biodiversity on farmland and help meet the EU's 2020 biodiversity targets, according to a new study carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). However, a step change is needed if the EU is to achieve the 2020 targets, the report states, suggesting that there are 5 main issues that need to be addressed. Firstly, the area in which agricultural biodiversity is provided needs to be increased significantly and the efficiency and effectiveness of measures needs to be improved; Secondly, rules to protect Europe's most valued biodiversity needs must be properly implemented and enforced; Thirdly, sufficient funding needs to be available to go beyond basic law with "significant increases" needed – for greening of CAP direct payment and agri-environment schemes; Fourthly, it is important to combine different measures to provide integrated packages for farmers, notably the importance of providing more targeted schemes through Rural Development plans (eg agri-environment schemes) to build on the broader, wider effect of greening Direct Payments. Other combinations might involve measures to boost the economic viability of farms and rural areas and measures to develop the skills and capacity of farmers. Finally, the role of innovation in fostering sustainable land management should be encouraged to ensure that production increases are sustainable and take account of the needs of biodiversity and the provision of the full range of ecosystem services. The report is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/analysis/external/biodiversity-protection/index_en.htm
Animal Health: Commission earmarks €3 million to carry out scientific studies on Schmallenberg virus
As part of a series of initiatives to closely monitor the development of the Schmallenberg virus (SBV), the Commission has today earmarked almost EUR 3 million to support 7 Member States to carry out scientific studies aiming to gather further information on the SBV. 14 projects submitted by 7 Member States have been selected based on commonly agreed priorities aiming to fill the SBV knowledge gap in 3 main areas: the mechanism by which the infection is caused (pathogenesis); the transmission pathways, the role of vectors and reservoirs and the host range (epidemiology) as well as the development of suitable analytical methods allowing large-scale testing. Most (11 out of 14) of the scientific studies have been presented by several Member States in the form of a consortium aiming for synergies and cooperation and allowing a wider range of data for example on vectors distribution, weather conditions and host ranges. The studies will be co-financed by the Commission at the rate of 50 % of eligible costs for the period 1 April 2012 to 31 December 2013 for the following Member States: Belgium; Germany; Spain; France; Italy; the Netherlands and the UK The studies are expected to be finalised by 31 December 2013 and published in April 2014. SBV is an emerging infectious agent of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats and wild ruminants) named after the place where it was first isolated in the EU in November 2011. Available information indicates that the SBV does not infect humans and the number of affected animals (mainly congenital malformations and aborts) is very limited compared with the susceptible ruminant population in the eight Member States (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom) that have signalled confirmed cases of SBV. For more information on the Schmallenberg virus: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/schmallenberg_virus/index_en.htm . For more information on the International Scientific seminar on the Schmallenberg virus hosted by the Commission on 3 April 2012: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/schmallenberg_virus/index_en.htm
Commissioner Damanaki presents Common Fisheries Policy Reform in Lithuania
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki will visit Lithuania on May 9 & 10, 2012. The aim of her visit is to present the reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy to Lithuanian decision makers and stakeholders of the fishing sector. The new policy will aim at preserving fish stocks at sustainable levels for the benefit of current and future generations by managing fisheries in a responsible, science-based way. Regionalisation of the policy making is an important aspect of the reform and Commissioner Damanaki will put emphasis on finding solutions for the Baltic Sea during her visit. On May 9, the Commissioner will meet Kazys Starkevičius, Lithuanian Minister of Agriculture. Following that, she will participate in a special session on CFP reform of the Lithuanian Parliament. She will also have a meeting with Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius. On May 10, Commissioner Damanaki will be in Kaunas, where she will be delivering a speech during the official opening ceremony of the exhibition AgroBalt 2012, alongside the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, Prime Minister Kubilius and other personalites. Before the conference, Commissioner Damanaki will give a press conference with Agriculture Minister Starkevičius (9.30 local time).
A high-level group of experts today warned that Europeans will only be able to benefit from the affordable, less intrusive and more personalised healthcare which Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) can bring if agreement is reached on how to use health data. The group, headed by the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, delivered this and other recommendations for redesigning health in Europe to Vice President Neelie Kroes and Commissioner John Dalli at eHealth Week 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The eHealth Task Force was established a year ago (see IP/11/551) to advise the Commission on how to unlock the potential of eHealth for safer, better and more efficient healthcare in Europe.
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