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EXME 13 / 08.07


08 / 07 / 13

Blue Belt: Commission eases customs formalities for ships

Shipping within the EU is not reaching its full potential – mainly due to considerable administrative requirements which cost time and money and make shipping less attractive than other modes of transport. The ‘Blue Belt’ initiative will provide seaborne transport with a true internal market without barriers, where vessels and cargo can move between EU ports with minimum administrative controls, while at the same time still meeting the requirements for safety, security and customs. The ‘Blue Belt’ will ease custom formalities for ships – reducing red tape, cutting delays in ports and making the sector more competitive.

Number of Erasmus students tops 3 million

Figures released today reveal that more than 3 million students have benefitted from EU Erasmus grants since the exchange scheme's launch in 1987. The statistics, covering the 2011-2012 academic year, show that more than 250 000 Erasmus students – a new record – spent part of their higher education studies abroad or took up a job placement with a foreign company to boost their employability. 33 countries participate in the Erasmus scheme: EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "The latest record figures are testament to the enduring success and popularity of the programme. Erasmus is more important than ever in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment: the skills and international experience gained by Erasmus students make them more employable. Looking to the future, I'm delighted that our new Erasmus+ programme will enable 4 million young people to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad in the next seven years." ( IP/13/657 , MEMO/13/647)

Other news

Preparation of Economic and Finance Ministers Council

The EU's Council of Economic and Finance Ministers will take place in Brussels tomorrow at 10.30. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Olli Rehn and Commissioner Michel Barnier. The Council is due to adopt country-specific recommendations to the member states following general endorsement by the European Council and to finalise the legislative process allowing Latvia to adopt the euro as from 1 January 2014. There will be also discussions on the Lithuanian presidency's work programme, G20 and market abuse.

The need for speed: 45% of European internet users willing to upgrade or change supplier for higher speed

Internet speed is emerging as a top issue for internet users according to the latest EU-wide survey of how Europeans use the internet. Nearly half (45%) of Europeans households would upgrade their Internet subscription or switch supplier for a higher speed broadband, closing the gap with price as in the race for most important factor when choosing an internet plan.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes: "Consumers increasingly care about their internet being fast enough to watch videos, for example. And for those who run businesses from their home, speed is also a competitiveness issue. Consumers now focus on both speed and price when making their choices.

Fighting forest fires in Europe – how it works

Every year there are devastating forest fires in Europe, destroying thousands of hectares of forests. The South European countries are at higher risk, but no European country is immune. The Emergency Response Centre (ERC) is actively monitoring the forest fire risk and incidence across Europe. When the fire gets too big for a country to extinguish it on its own, the European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism can be activated to coordinate the response from participating states. The European Civil Protection Mechanism was activated 18 times over the last three summers to respond to forest fires inside and outside Europe.

Commission awards funding to 18 European sustainable mobility initiatives

The European Commission is awarding funding of up to €7000 to 18 European initiatives for more sustainable urban mobility. As part of three-year campaign called "Do The Right Mix", groups of individuals and non-commercial entities were eligible to apply. The funding will be used for activities promoting sustainable urban mobility, from cycling courses to car-sharing, and more. Since the launch of the campaign in 2012, nearly 380 sustainable urban mobility actions have been registered on the central website. The ongoing and upcoming actions are displayed on the innovative Mobility Map , which provides Europe-wide visibility for campaigners.

Global Aid for Trade Review: EU maintains its leading position

Today, EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, attend the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Fourth Global Review of Aid for Trade (AfT) in Geneva. The meeting will be a key opportunity for donors and developing countries to come together to look at how Aid for Trade is helping people across the world to trade and what has been achieved since the launch of the Aid for Trade Initiative in 2005. This year's joint report ‘Aid for Trade at a Glance: Connecting to Value Chains’ (from the WTO, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD) confirms the importance of AfT in improving trade. In fact, this report provides evidence that it indeed increases trade performance and calculates that every dollar invested in AfT produces between 8 and 20 USD in additional exports from developing countries.

The EU and its Member States are the world's largest provider of Aid for Trade. The EU accounted for around a third of total worldwide Aid for Trade in 2011; totalling some €9.5 billion. Africa remains the most important recipient of AfT, with almost 36% of all EU Aid for Trade allocated to the region.

The EU is also a strong proponent of trade facilitation, within the wider AfT initiative.  In 2011, the share of EU and member states in the global Trade Facilitation accounted for 59%, being the biggest providers of trade facilitation since 2008.  The impact of trade facilitation can be very visible and tangible; it can lower transport costs, shorter queues at the borders, simplified controls and formalities, increase trade opportunities and create new market openings.

How can we use phosphorus more efficiently and create opportunities for recycling?

The Commission has launched a consultation on how to use phosphorus in a more sustainable way. Phosphorus is widely used in agriculture and is an essential component in fertiliser and animal feed, but it is a resource which has no substitute. Supplies are limited, prices have been volatile and much phosphorus is currently wasted, creating concerns about the cost and availability of future supplies in the EU and worldwide. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We are currently wasting this precious resource and creating a pollutant. Using phosphorous more efficiently will reduce its impact on the environment and improve security of supply. We can also create new business opportunities in the recycling sector." The consultation asks how to ensure that reserves are available for future generations, and about ways to minimise the undesirable side effects phosphorus use can have on the environment. Phosphorus run-off from farm fields to watercourses, for example, can lead to increased growth of aquatic plants and algae, a phenomenon known as eutrophication.

Commission proposes catch possibilities for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay for 2013/14

The European Commission has today proposed a total allowable catch (TAC) of 17, 100 tonnes for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay for the fishing season 1 July 2013 – 30 June 2014. This TAC represents a reduction by 17% of the fishing possibilities for this stock as compared to the previous season. The TAC is split between Spain and France – the only two Member States involved in this fishery – with Spain being allocated 15,390t, representing 90% of the total TAC, and France 1,710t. More information here :

Vice-President Šefčovič addressed the chairpersons of European Scrutiny Committees from national parliaments across the EU today, on a visit to the Lithuanian parliament, or Seimas. He was a keynote speaker at the event, alongside Lithuanian Foreign Minister Mr Linas Linkevičius, speaking about the next steps towards a political and economic union. Yesterday he met former Prime Minister Mr Gediminas Kirkilas, now deputy speaker of the Seimas and chair of its European scrutiny committee. Talks covered the role of national parliaments in European decision-making and ways of strengthening that role.

Catherine Ashton travels to Moldova

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton travels to Moldova tomorrow. In Chisinau she will meet with Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman. The High Representative will also meet the President of Moldova, Nicolae Timofti, the Speaker of the Parliament, Igor Corman, and leaders of political parties and factions.

EU-US Trade negotiations to kick off in Washington DC today

The team of EU negotiators, headed by chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, has arrived in Washington to start the first round of negotiations on the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In this first round of talks, a range of issues will be discussed in different working groups: they will cover market access for goods, services, investment, public procurement, regulatory issues, and non-tariff barriers in areas such as customs, intellectual property, energy and raw materials, and the environment. The ambition is to negotiate a deal that could spur growth worth 0.5% of the EU’s GDP. A joint press conference will be held by the chief negotiators on Friday 12 July at the end of the week's negotiations. It can be followed live via EbS at 15:30 (Brussels time).

What Commissioners said

President Barroso signed memorandum on energy during visit to Algeria

President Barroso paid his first official visit as President of the European Commission to Algeria on 6-7 July. "The relationship between the EU and Algeria is strong and based on mutual respect and trust. And its future looks very promising. The potential to further deepen our relationship is enormous", said President Barroso after meeting Prime Minister Sellal. The President announced that the EU and Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of energy. "Energy is a priority area of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. (…) Algeria is a key partner for the EU. Natural gas is a strategic issue for both parties: Algeria is a major supplier to Europe, while Europe is by far the largest customer of Algeria", he added.

Beyond energy cooperation, President Barroso and Prime Minister Sellal also discussed Algeria's social and economic reforms, the country's accession to WTO, mobility and visas plus regional security.

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