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EXME 14 / 21.02
21 / 02 / 14
In February 2014, the DG ECFIN flash estimate of the consumer confidence indicator decreased in the euro area (-12.7 after -11.7 in January 2014) and, to a lesser extent, in the EU (-9.3 after -8.8 in January 2014).
The ongoing wave of pension reforms implemented by EU Member States will help them to achieve more sustainable pension systems and face demographic changes ahead, the European Commission stressed on the occasion of the publication today of the World Bank report "The Inverting Pyramid". "The demographic trends underlined in the World Bank's report are indeed challenging: people live longer, and the post-WWII 'baby boomers' are retiring and being replaced by fewer young people entering the labour market. This means that the working age population will be shrinking while the number of older people will be rising fast. But with the right combination of pension reforms and measures adjusting labour markets and working conditions to allow people to work longer, pensions schemes can continue to deliver good living standards in old age even at the height of population ageing", Commissioner László Andor commented.
Employment: EU Globalisation Fund pays €18.4 million to help 5,205 redundant workers in Denmark, Germany and Finland.
The European Commission has issued payments to Denmark, Germany and Finland from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF). The total amount of €18.4 million will help 5,205 dismissed workers back into employment, following their dismissals in the wind turbines, solar modules and mobile phones manufacturing sectors. €6.3 million will help 611 former workers of Vestas Group, €2.3 million will help 875 former workers of First Solar Manufacturing GmbH, and €9.8 million will help 3,718 former workers of Nokia plc. These payments follow approval by the European Parliament and the Council on 11 December 2013. The relevant proposals were made by the Commission on 16 October. For more details about the support measures, see also: IP/13/951 (Vestas), IP/13/950 (First Solar) and IP/13/949 (Nokia).
Food safety: Commission reviews measures on imports from Japan
Experts meeting in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) endorsed a Commission proposal to revise rules on import conditions of food and feed originating from Japan following the Fukushima nuclear accident. Existing restrictions for food and feed imports coming from the prefecture Fukushima are maintained whereas control measures have been reviewed for several other prefectures. Based on over 85,000 samples of products harvested in the third growing season after the nuclear accident, the restrictive measures in place have been lifted for 2 prefectures (Tokyo and Kanagawa) and have been eased for 7 other prefectures (Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Saitama, Iwate and Chiba) . For 4 other prefectures (Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Niigata and Aomori), restrictive measures remain in place for mushrooms and for 3 other prefectures (Nagano and two newly included prefectures Akita and Yamagata) restrictive measures have been put in place for a few products (mushrooms and a few edible wild plants). For the control at import, a further reduction of the frequency of controls will apply. Based on the monitoring results from the 2014 growing season, it is foreseen to undertake a review of these measures shortly before 31 March 2015. The measures will be published at the end of March 2014 following the adoption of the proposal by the Commission and are foreseen to enter into force on 1 April 2014.
Commission publishes annual report on direct aids to farmers in 2012
The proportion of farmers receiving low amounts of direct payments decreased in 2012 relative to 2011, and the average amount of support paid to farmers as direct payments increased, particularly in the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. This is the main conclusion of the annual report on the distribution of direct payments by Member States with final data for 2012 published today by the Commission. This evolution comes through a combination of ongoing structural adjustment (leading to a reduction in the number of farms) and the continued phasing-in of direct payments in newer Member States. Nonetheless, the report shows considerable variation in the distribution among beneficiaries in each Member State: on average, taking a benchmark Direct Payment figure of €5000, some 80% of beneficiaries receive around 17% of payments. However, this global figure conceals important differences between Member States, where, for example, less than 40% of beneficiaries get less than €5000 in Direct Payments in Luxembourg, France & Belgium, but the figure is higher than 75% in Spain, Italy & Portugal (excluding those countries where payments are still being phased in). This is mainly so because the structure of payments depends largely on the structure of farms. With the new Common Agricultural Policy agreed in 2013, a series of tools (e.g. internal and external convergence thresholds, degressivity of payments, the so-called redistributive payment, & the small farmers scheme) will ensure that direct payments will be distributed in a fairer way between Member States, between regions and between farmers, with a further shift away from 'historical references'. Direct payments will also be made more sustainable thanks to the "greening" mechanism (30% of direct payments will be linked to environmentally-friendly farming practices). Introduced as part of the shift away from price support in the 1992 reform, Direct payments amounted to €40.9 billion in 2012, approximately 70% of the support provided to farmers by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This represents a 1.7% increase as compared to 2011, due to the continued phasing-in of direct payments in newer Member States. In 1991, more than 90% of the CAP budget was spent on export refunds and the public intervention of production surpluses.
A series of steps have been taken by the Commission and EU Member States in the 12 months following the Commission's adoption of the Social Investment Package , a comprehensive strategy for structural reforms in social policy to help Member States better protect and invest in people. EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, said: "The situation is challenging: since 2008, there have been 7 million more people living in poverty or social exclusion, which is a total of 125 million people at risk of destitution today, with a lot of divergence amongst and inequalities within EU countries. However we have shown that investing in people and social cohesion pays off and avoid much higher costs at a later stage. Progress has been made in modernising welfare states throughout Europe. The Commission continues to work with Member States to support the structural social reforms necessary and developments will be monitored through the European Semester exercise."
The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) provides the overarching framework for the EU's dialogue and operational cooperation with non-EU partner countries. Two years after the important revision of the approach, what progress has been made to better manage migration flows and promote mobility in a secure environment? In a report adopted today the Commission looks at the main developments within the EU's external migration policy in 2012 and 2013: important achievements in strengthening dialogue and cooperation are reported, while recognizing that more should be done to make further progress. "Well-managed migration can be truly beneficial for everybody involved, migrants and countries alike. Our success largely depends on our dialogue and cooperation with non-EU countries and international organisations", said Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
Commission proposes European Fund for minor uses of pesticides
The Commission adopted a report earlier this week concluding that there is a need to create a €350.000 European fund for minor uses of pesticides. Minor uses of pesticides (plant protection products) are uses on certain niche crops with a high economic value but are not considered as having enough marketing potential to be worth investment. Lack of investment by the agro-pesticides industry to get specific uses authorised in EU Member States leads to a lack of authorised products on the market for farmers to use on these crops. This can lead to illegal uses or to loss of crop production. These crops include most vegetables, fruit, nurseries and flowers. It is estimated that overall they represent up to € 70 billion per year, which equates to 22% of the total EU plant production value. Although similar funds exist in some EU Member States, the creation of a European fund aims to protect the production of Europe's minor crops. Further support will be provided under the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme called "IPM ERANET", a Europe-wide programme with 32 partners which will run from 2014-2016 with a budget allocation of € 2 million. Please also see the European Commission's website on Legislation on pesticides .
Quality food products: Commission approves four new requests
The European Commission has approved the addition of four new quality farm products to the register of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs). These are, for Germany, " Bayerische Breze " (also "Bayerische Brezn", "Bayerische Brez’n" and "Bayerische Brezel", PGI), a typical Bavarian lye pastry whose shape symbolises arms folded in prayer. Topped with coarse salt, cheese or poppy, sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, the Bavarian pretzel is characterized by a doughy taste, combined with a short, crisp ‘crack’ and a soft, fluffy texture ; for Hungary " Szentesi paprika " (PGI), a paprika with a hot, sweet or spicy taste grown since the second half of the 19th century in the region of Szentes in south-eastern Hungary ; for Italy, " Patata dell’Alto Viterbese " (PGI), a potato with an intensely yellow flesh grown in the north of Lazio, in the province of Viterbo, between Lake Bolsena, Umbria and Tuscany and ; for Lithuania, " Daujėnų naminė duona " (PGI), a brown rye bread with a rich aroma and sweet-and-sour flavour baked following a traditional method in the region of Daujėnai: the rye flour dough is slowly leavened in an oak trough and baked over live coals or in a hearth oven. The denominations will be added to the list of more than 1,200 products already protected. More information: webpages on quality products and DOOR database of protected products.
What role should the EU play in the economic recovery? What rights do we have as European citizens and how do these rights affect our daily lives? What kind of Europe do citizens want for the future? These are some of the issues that European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding will discuss with around 250 citizens on 23rd February in Barcelona for the 45th Citizens' Dialogue. "In the midst of the crisis, Spain undertook painful reforms. Citizens might not be feeling the immediate results in their daily lives yet, but Spain is firmly on the path to recovery. I want Spanish citizens to know: The EU is not letting you down. Fighting youth unemployment is our top priority," said Vice-President Viviane Reding ahead of the dialogue.
Ahead of tomorrow’s European Day for victims of crime (22 February), the European Commission is taking action to make sure that victims of crime can rely on their rights under EU law in practice. The landmark new rules on minimum rights for victims' across the EU ( Directive 2012/29/EU) were adopted on 4 October 2012. The EU’s Member States have until 16 November 2015 to implement the European provisions in their national laws, and the Commission has today issued guidance to assist them in this process. "The victims’ rights directive is a ground-breaking piece of European law and one of which our Union can be most proud. The victim must not be forgotten but should be treated justly. Citizens who have fallen victim to a crime deserve nothing less," said Vice-President Viviane Reding.
The EU-Brazil Summit will take place in Brussels on Monday, 24 February 2014. European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy will represent the EU, while Brazil will be represented by President Rousseff. The Summit will be an occasion to take stock on progress in the bilateral relationship, which has grown stronger since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in 2007. Leaders will discuss economic issues, including progress in the ongoing negotiations of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement. They also discuss global challenges (international cyber policy and internet governance, climate change, energy etc.) as well as the cooperation on sectorial policies. The Presidents will also exchange views on regional issues in Latin America as well as on international security and peace questions. A press statement will take place after the Summit and be transmitted on EbS . For further information see EU-Brazil fact sheet .
The challenge of improving the skills needed to enhance employability and increase levels of literacy and numeracy in the European Union will be at the top of the agenda when EU Education Ministers meet in Brussels on 24 February. Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will join their discussion on the findings of recent studies by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), which show that the EU still has a lot to do if it is to meet its 2020 target to reduce the share of low achievers in schools to under 15% and ensure that adults are equipped with the skills they to find decent jobs and lead fulfilling lives.
Barcelona (Spain), Grenoble (France) and Groningen (Netherlands) are the three finalists for the first European Capital of Innovation award, or iCapital ( IP/13/808). The winner of the €500000 prize will be announced at the closing ceremony of the Innovation Convention 2014 , Europe’s premier innovation event which will take place in Brussels on 10 and 11 March.
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead