Daily News of 2013-10-21
European Commission - MEX/13/1021 21/10/2013
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EXME 13 / 21.10
21 / 10 / 13
Time for stronger EU action against gun violence
Today the European Commission is presenting suggestions on how to reduce gun related violence in Europe. It identifies actions at EU level, through legislation, operational activities, training and EU funding, to address the threats posed by the illegal use of firearms. On the same occasion, the Commission is also publishing the results of a Eurobarometer survey showing that six in ten Europeans actually believe that the level of crime involving firearms is likely to increase over the next five years; it also shows that overall 55 percent of Europeans want stricter regulation on who is allowed to own, buy or sell firearms. "Every week, we hear of new acts of violence being committed with firearms. Yet the debate about the illegal use and trafficking of guns in Europe is worryingly quiet. The American debate on gun prevalence is often more visible, when we should be focussing on the home front. We have plenty of work to do here in Europe to make sure handguns, rifles and assault weapons do not end up in the hands of criminals", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. See also: IP/13/980 ; MEMO/13/916
“In line with their own national priorities, EU Member States have chosen different ways of securing our future energy needs. The UK and Poland are currently the frontrunners in looking into the possibility of developing a shale gas sector as part of their energy mix. Shale gas could indeed well bring a positive contribution to economic activity and jobs, and become a part of the energy transition agenda here. But a coin has always two faces. We have to recognize that the technology used today for shale gas extraction – high volume hydraulic fracturing or fracking - also raises environmental concerns related for instance to water pollution, the use of chemicals, air emissions, induced seismicity, as well as community impacts (linked to transport and land use in particular). Some of these risks and impacts can have cross-border effects. The European Commission's objective is to put in place a framework that would reap the potential economic and energy benefits of shale gas, and ensure that extraction activities using fracking are carried out with proper climate and environmental safeguards. In other words, we want to establish public confidence and reassure people, provide legal clarity and predictability for competent authorities and operators and create a level playing field within Europe, while respecting the EU's commitments towards decarbonisation and resource efficiency. Because whether shale gas becomes a success story in Europe or not, whether it is profitable or not, we need to remain consistent with our agreed long term economic strategy based on bringing about a low carbon, resource-efficient economy.”
In 2012, the government deficit of both the euro area (EA17) and the EU28 decreased in absolute terms compared with 2011, while the government debt rose in both zones. In the euro area the government deficit to GDP ratio decreased from 4.2% in 20113 to 3.7% in 2012 and in the EU28 from 4.4% to 3.9%. In the euro area the government debt to GDP ratio increased from 87.3% at the end of 2011 to 90.6% at the end of 2012 and in the EU28 from 82.3% to 85.1%.
EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht welcomed on Friday 18 October the green light by the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) for a mandate which will allow the European Commission to negotiate an investment agreement with China. Such a deal would be the EU's first ever stand-alone investment agreement and would aim to reduce barriers to investing in China, to improve the protection of EU investments in China as well as Chinese investments in Europe, and provide European investors with better access to the Chinese market with more legal certainty. Companies operating in both Europe and China would be able to operate on a more level playing field – no matter what their origin or ownership structure. Commissioner De Gucht very much insisted on this last point, stating after the meeting that “the EU-China investment agreement is not about investment protection only, but also about market access for European companies. Only on that condition does such an agreement make sense for the European Union.” Europe hopes that the negotiations for an investment agreement with China can be launched at the EU-China Summit next month.
Strengthening already amicable business relations and exploring further opportunities for European SMEs on the Israeli market will be the main focus of this week's visit to Israel by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. During the visit, which will take place from October 21st to 23rd, he will be accompanied by more than 65 industry associations and companies from EU member states to help them form new partnerships and expand into new markets, especially in the areas of innovative and environmental technologies, information and communication technology, machinery, and space. In meetings with President Shimon Peres and key Israeli ministers, the Vice-President will also sign agreements strengthening cooperation on industrial policy, in the field of satellite navigation research and SME cooperation. This visit is part of the "Missions for Growth" to help European enterprises, in particular small and medium sized businesses better profit from fast growing international markets.
What Commissioners said
On Sunday, 20th October, European Commission President l Barroso held a speech at the 5th world health summit in Berlin. He stressed that health policy is at the heart of the social model of the European Union and an inherent element of its philosophy.
President Barroso underlined that while healthcare lies within the competence of the national governments, the EU can complement national policies and thereby improve the context in which the Member States are operating. This is done by supporting and funding research and innovation in this field as well as by helping to improve the efficiency and quality of spending in national systems.
The President furthermore pointed out that the EU will continue its commitment to development aid, with health being "one of the strands of the EU's development agenda", as "health is a fundamental right of every human being".
Following a meeting with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso said: 'Myanmar is turning a page in the history of the country and we are turning a page in our bilateral relationship. The European Union is very well aware however that the way to democratisation is still incomplete and that more needs to be done. But the will is there and Myanmar deserves the support of the international community to continue with its political and economic reform process. We will work with the Myanmar authorities to ensure that 2015 elections will be credible, transparent and inclusive.
Speech by László Andor: Labour law – cornerstone of Europe's social dimension
"European labour law plays a key role in guaranteeing decent working conditions. It was initially designed to ensure that the introduction of the EU's Single Market did not lead to a lowering of labour standards or distortion of competition. Today, labour law also plays a key role in ensuring that a high level of employment and sustained economic growth are accompanied by a continuous improvement in living and working conditions throughout the European Union. Labour law has become a cornerstone of Europe’s social dimension", said László Andor at the Labour Law high level conference in Brussels today. "I am convinced that labour protection has to go hand-in-hand with economic growth. I am also convinced that our labour law can benefit employers, employees and consumers", Andor concluded.