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European Union Midday Express

European Union Midday Express

· The EU joins forces with international partners on research to "clean up" fossil fuels

On 24 June in Washington, the European Commission, represented by Loyola de Palacio, Vice President in charge of Energy and Transport, signed an international charter on CO² capture and storage (CO²/carbon sequestration). This will create the "Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum" with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Italy, India, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the People's Republic of China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US. The Forum aims to stimulate research into carbon sequestration technologies, to "clean up" fossil fuels by capturing CO² at source and storing it for thousands of years deep underground. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

· €25 million for regional cooperation with the Mediterranean and Middle East

With a total budget of €25 million from the MEDA Programme, the European Commission will launch a number of small-scale operations (maximum €2 million each) to facilitate and reinforce the cooperation with its Mediterranean Partners. Operations to be funded include studies for the preparation and evaluation of large bilateral or regional projects, grants for cultural or information activities to promote peace and dialogue in the region and organisation of meetings in the scope of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

· Neil Kinnock and Hong Kong's Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong exchange views on administrative reform

The Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Mr Joseph Wong, called on the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Administrative Reform, Mr Neil Kinnock, in Brussels today. This was the first official visit to Brussels of a Hong Kong Principal Official since Hong Kong successfully contained the SARS outbreak. Mr Wong and Mr Kinnock exchanged views on reforms in the Hong Kong Civil Service and at the Commission. They also considered the possibility of a secondment scheme for civil servants working in the Commission and HKSARG. Mr Wong briefed Mr Kinnock on the Civil Service Reform that Hong Kong had initiated in 1999, with the objective of ensuring that the civil service can provide more efficient and cost-effective services for the public, enhancing the competitive advantages of Hong Kong.

He also informed Mr Kinnock about Hong Kong's successful efforts to contain the SARS outbreak and underlined the dedication of the Hong Kong civil service and of the front-line medical and health care workers. When they met in Brussels on 21 May last year, Commission President Romano Prodi and Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration, Donald Tsang, had jointly declared that Commission-Hong Kong relations should be enhanced, notably by exploring potential areas of enhanced cooperation. Mr Kinnock and Mr Wong discussed possible cooperation between Commission and HKSARG civil services and agreed to conduct further exploratory talks at working level. Such a scheme could include exchanges of officials, something that could foster mutual understanding and enable Hong Kong and Commission civil servants of gaining first-hand knowlegde of the institutions and policies of the other party, thus enhancing relations between the European Union and Hong Kong.

· Anna Diamantopoulou meets Michael Sommer, President of the DGB

Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, will today meet Michael Sommer, President of the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB). This is their second meeting this year and will be an occasion to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest including modernisation of the labour market, social protection and social dialogue, as well as matters of general interest such as the draft Constitution for Europe.

· Margot Wallström pushes for endorsement of EU's Marine Strategy

On 26 June 2003 European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström participates in the joint Ministerial Meeting of the Helsinki Commission, HELCOM, and Oslo and Paris Comission, OSPAR, on the protection of the Baltic Sea and the North East Atlantic. Ministers at the meeting will try to agree on a number of important actions for the protection of the marine environment. Among the issues to be discussed is the contribution of HELCOM and OSPAR to the development of the EU marine strategy. Commissioner Wallström said : "I hope HELCOM and OSPAR will join us in taking up the challenge of enhanced marine protection by endorsing the approach set out in our Marine Strategy. This strategy presents a coherent and consistent approach to control the pressures on marine ecosystems and improve the quality of European seas. Healthy seas and oceans are crucial to the survival of our planet. We must ensure that the exploitation of the sea's natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, proceeds in a sustainable manner. The EU's marine strategy is a step in this direction." The meeting will also focus on the future cooperation between the EU and the marine conventions in the light of enlargement of the European Union.

· Europe's largest forum of domestic election observers opens in Zagreb today

Domestic election observers from across Europe and other regions convene in Zagreb today to identify strategies to improve the effectiveness and professionalism of observer groups and address limitations to their work. With over 30 observer groups represented, the five-day European Domestic Election Observer Forum is the largest meeting of its kind. The Forum is organised by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Network of Europeans for Electoral and Democracy Support (NEEDS), which is sponsored by the European Commission. Over the past 15 years, domestic non-partisan civic organisations have played an important role in consolidating democratic transition. Thousands of citizens have joined domestic observer groups to monitor elections in their countries. The value of domestic election observation is increasingly recognised by governments, but in several countries observer groups still face serious obstacles in carrying out their work. OSCE/ODIHR and the Commission support the development of professional, credible and impartial domestic observer groups to strengthen their role in the consolidation of democracy throughout the region and beyond. At the meeting, OSCE/ODIHR will present a new handbook of best practice for domestic election observers, developed with the participation of domestic observer groups from across the OSCE region. The NEEDS project, which is 90% funded by the Commission, is planning to organise similar events in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

· Commission and United Nations launch UN Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets

The European Commission and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Actions (OCHA) launch the UN Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets (known as MCDA Guidelines) to support United Nations humanitarian activities in complex emergencies. These guidelines set out the main principles, concepts, tasks and responsibilities of the players in a complex humanitarian emergency. The guidelines will be presented by Poul Nielson (Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid), Kenzo Oshima (UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator), Jean-Christophe Rufin (President of Action Contre la Faim) and General Günther Greindl (former Austrian official and chairman of the internal consultative group on the use of MCDA) during a conference that will take place in Brussels on 26 June 2003 (Centre Albert Borschette) from 10h30 to 12h00. A press conference will be held at the Centre Albert Borschette at 11h30 on 26 June 2003. ·

· Ethnic minority entrepreneurs in Europe : Commission to initiate dialogue at a conference in Brussels

The power of ethnic minority entrepreneurs to spur economic growth, raise living standards and enhance social inclusiveness across Europe will be discussed at a conference in Brussels on 26 June. To be opened by Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, it aims to generate support for a pan-European study of ethnic minority entrepreneurship, and begin building networks of national officials and private practitioners to promote it. Access to finance and support services, and strategies for breaking out of political isolation and local, low-income, co-ethnic markets, will be reviewed by ethnic minority entrepreneurs, their representative bodies, and officials from national, regional, European and international organisations. Wide diversity in existing ethnic minority entrepreneurship models and their performance across Europe suggests there may be extensive unfulfilled potential for ethnic minority businesses to expand within and beyond their traditional areas of trading, food and tourism.

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