News From The EU - 10 December 07 To 6 January 08
Background notes from the Spokesperson's service for journalists
Top News from the European Commission - 10 December to 6 January
Until Friday 14 December: Bali conference on climate change
Environment ministers of the 191 countries that are parties to the UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) will meet in Bali, Indonesia from 3 to 14 December to discuss action to tackle climate change after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol's emission targets will expire.
Environment Commissioner Dimas will represent the Commission at the high-level segment of the conference on 12-14 December.
For the European Commission and EU member states it is essential that agreement is reached in Bali to launch UNFCCC negotiations on a comprehensive global climate change regime for post-2012 that involves all major emitters. The negotiations should be completed by the end of 2009 so that the result can be ratified by 2012.
Their objective must be to limit global warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) above the pre-industrial temperature: scientific evidence shows that this is a 'tipping point' beyond which the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in the global environment will greatly increase. Keeping within this temperature limit will require global emissions to stop rising within the next 10 to 15 years and then be cut to at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Through the climate and energy strategy endorsed by the European Council in March 2007, the EU has committed to cutting its emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and is ready to increase this reduction to 30% if other developed countries agree to similar efforts.
Commissioner Dimas will give daily press conferences during the high-level segment of the Bali meeting.
Monday 10 December: Launch of the new EU Job Mobility Action Plan 2007- 2010
The European Commission will launch its new EU Job Mobility Action Plan: presenting specific actions to help remove barriers to worker mobility at European level and to encourage the relevant authorities to deal with obstacles at national, regional or local level.
15 actions are proposed for the period up to 2010, covering four areas:
improving existing legislation and administrative practices on social security coordination and on the portability of supplementary pensions
ensuring policy support from authorities at all levels
reinforcing EURES (European Employment Services) as the one-stop shop for job mobility in Europe (currently 1.4 million jobs online Europe-wide)
increasing awareness of the possibilities and advantages of job mobility among the wider public.
The new Action Plan is based on the lessons from the previous Action Plan for Skills and Mobility, the results of the 2006 European Year of Workers' Mobility, and on the strong connection between worker mobility and a number of ongoing policy debates, such as flexicurity, lifelong learning, multilingualism and demographic change.
Although it has increased, worker mobility in the EU remains relatively low. Only around 2% of working-age citizens from one of the 27 EU Member States currently live and work in another Member State.
Increasing job-to-job mobility within the EU will also help to develop the employability and adaptability of workers in the context of rapidly changing labour markets. Workers in the EU currently stay in the same job for an average of 10.6 years, compared to 6.7 years in the US.
Press conference by Commissioner Vladimír Špidla at 12.30 on 10 December in the Berlaymont press room.
Year of Workers' Mobility
Monday 10 December: A better coordination of tax anti-abuse rules
The Commission will adopt a Communication aimed at improving the coordination of national anti-abuse rules in the area of direct taxation.
In order to prevent tax abuse, Member States have implemented anti-abuse rules with the aim of preventing economic operators from eroding the tax base in their territory by diverting their income to low tax countries.
The Communication is presented within the framework of the coordination initiative launched by the Commission in December 2006. In this Communication, the Commission outlined ways in which coordination and cooperation between the Member States could enable them to attain their tax policy goals and protect their tax bases while observing their EC Treaty obligations and ensuring the elimination of double taxation.
Abuse occurs only where the purpose of tax law is defeated despite formal observance of the conditions laid down in the tax law, and there is an intention to obtain an advantage by artificially creating the conditions for obtaining it.
Tax avoidance or abuse needs to be distinguished from tax fraud which involves deliberate unlawful behaviour which is generally punishable by law (e.g. submission of deliberately false statements or fake documents).
Technical briefing by DG TAXUD's tax experts in the Berlaymont press room at 11:30.
information on the Communication on co-ordinating Member
States' direct tax systems in the Internal Market can be
more information on the EU Tax Policy strategy,
Tuesday 11 December: Strategic report on the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs and its accompanying measures
As we approach the end of the first three-year cycle, the results of the new Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs are clearly visible. Almost 6.5 million extra jobs have been created in EU-27 in the last two years. Another 5 millions job are expected to be created up to 2009. Unemployment is expected to fall to under 7%, the lowest level since the mid-1980s.
The Strategic Report confirms the central place of the renewed Lisbon strategy and calls for it to be deepened during the next three-year cycle. The EU should use the strategy better to shape globalisation in line with its own values and interests.
The EU goes into a new Lisbon cycle against a background of slowing global growth and risks arising from the financial turmoil, rising oil and (agricultural) commodity prices and a lower dollar. In the face of greater uncertainty about the development of the world economy the EU needs to continue to strengthen its own base and press ahead with the implementation of structural reforms.
The renewed Growth and Jobs Strategy is based on three-year cycle. This report will determine the direction of the Strategy during the next cycle (2008-2010). This is to be launched at 2008 Spring European Council, during the Slovenian Presidency, on the basis of the political orientations provided by this report.
Monday 10/12: Technical Briefing on the 2nd Strategic report in the press room, Berlaymont.
Tuesday 11/12: Press conference with President José Manuel Barroso and Vice-President Verheugen in the pressroom of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 16.00 (time tbc)
European Commission website on growth and
States' autumn 2007 reports on the implementation of their
Wednesday 12 December: Regions delivering Lisbon through Innovation and Cohesion Policy 2007-2013
Between 2007 and 2013, structural and cohesion funds support to a high extent investments in infrastructure, research and innovation, sustainable development and human resources which are relevant for the objectives of the growth and jobs agenda.
In total, cohesion policy programmes will amount to €347 billion of support from structural and cohesion funds complemented by about €160 billion of national and private co-financing. 82% of funding is concentrated on the "Convergence" regions home to 35% of the EU population, most of which living in EU12 but as well in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Eastern Germany and Southern Italy. For the first time, Member States were asked to "earmark" planned cohesion policy expenditure in order to contribute to the "Lisbon " objectives.
The results show that under the Convergence objective in the EU-27, 65% of the funds are to be invested in the Lisbon-related objectives. This represents an increase of 11 percentage points compared to the previous programming period. Regions falling under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment Objective which traditionally have concentrated more effort on investment for competitiveness, plan to continue to invest a high proportion of the funds, 82% of the total, in the earmarked categories, a small increase on the 2000-2006 period.
The analysis per country shows that Member States have confirmed in their national strategies the commitments towards achieving these targets.
For EU15, the figures for earmarked planned expenditure range from 60% to 88% (Austria) for the Convergence regions and between 67% and 92% (Denmark) for the Regional Competitiveness and Employment regions.
For EU12, the commitments are somewhat more modest , but it is important to remember that in many regions there is still a need for investment in a variety of sectors fundamental to economic progress that are not in the earmarked categories. Encouragingly, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania with extensive investment needs to modernise the economy, have decided to concentrate a significant proportion of resources on Lisbon-related priorities.
Press conference with Commissioner Danuta Wednesday 12/12 (Brussels at 12.30)
Commission websites on Regional
Danuta Hübner's website:
Wednesday 12 December 2007: Signature of the Charter of Fundamental rights
The Charter of Fundamental Rights will be proclaimed and signed by Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The Charter of Fundamental Rights to be signed, which are legally binding, will enter into force at the same time as the Treaty of Lisbon (envisaged for 1 January 2009 subject to ratification).
The six chapters of the Charter cover the following aspects: individual rights related to dignity; freedoms, equality, solidarity, rights linked to citizenship status and justice. The institutions of the Union must respect the rights written into the Charter. The same obligations are incumbent upon the Member States when they implement the Union's legislation. The Court of Justice will ensure that the Charter is applied correctly.
All this means more guarantees of rights and greater freedom for citizens. But the incorporation of the Charter creates no further extension of the Union's powers.
The initial Charter of Fundamental Rights was proclaimed by the Presidents' of the three EU institutions on 7 December 2000. During the IGC 2004 amendments were made and a series of explanations to the articles of the Charter were reproduced in a declaration to the IGC 2004. Following agreement at the European Council in June 2007 and the informal Summit on 19 October 2007, it was decided to confirm the legally binding nature of the Charter and include in Article 6 in the Treaty of Lisbon a cross reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Three other texts in the Treaty of Lisbon have implications for the Charter of Fundamental rights. Protocol 7 covers the application of the Charter of Fundamental rights to Poland and the United Kingdom. Declaration N° 51 and Declaration 53 relate to specific aspects of the scope of the Charter in Poland the United Kingdom. The Charter of Fundamental rights and the explanation to the articles of the Charter will be published in the C series of the Official Journal.
President Barroso and Vice-President's Wallström and Frattini will participate in the proclamation and signature of the Charter of Fundamental rights at 11.30 in Strasbourg.
President Barroso and
Wednesday 12 December: European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in 2010
The Commission will adopt a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council to designate 2010 as the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion. This proposal is intended to reaffirm and strengthen the initial political commitment of the EU at the start of the Lisbon strategy to making "a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty".
The European Year should raise public awareness of poverty and social exclusion in Europe and convey the message that poverty and exclusion are disruptive to social and economic development. It should help challenge the view that the fight against poverty is a cost for society and reaffirm the importance of collective responsibility, involving not only decision-makers but also public and private actors. The European Year activities will underpin the Open Method of Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion and aim to produce a clear added value in terms of policy impact and effectiveness. In line with the priorities identified in the Social Protection and Social Inclusion process, it is proposed to focus the European Year around the following themes:
child poverty and the intergenerational transmission of poverty;
* an inclusive labour market;
* lack of access to education and training;
* gender dimension of poverty;
* access to basic services;
* overcoming discrimination and promoting the integration of immigrants and the social and labour market inclusion of ethnic minorities;
* addressing the needs of disabled people and other vulnerable groups.
In the EU, 78 million people - 16% of Europeans and 19% of children - are currently living in poverty. In all Member States, part of the population is subject to exclusion and deprivation, often facing limited access to basic services.
Adoption of Commission proposal - a press release will be issued.
Special Eurobarometer 279 - Poverty and exclusion
- September (public
The European process for social protection and
social inclusion (the European
Wednesday 12 December: State of the EU dairy market and the future of milk quotas
The European Commission will publish a report on the outlook for the EU dairy sector. On this basis, it will decide whether or not there is a need for an increase in milk quotas.
This comes amid recent sharp increase in milk prices and growing demand on internal and world markets.
It also comes shortly after the launch of the Health Check of the Common Agricultural Policy, which talks about a gradual phase out of milk quotas between now and 2015.
A number of Member States have recently called for an increase in milk production quotas.
As part of the 2003 CAP reform, the Commission originally proposed a 2 percent quota increase.
The Council decided against an immediate increase but called on the Commission to report on the market situation before a final decision was taken.
Adoption by Commission of report and proposal, press release (12 December)
European Commission website on agriculture and
Tuesday 19 December: Reform of the European Union wine sector
The Agriculture/Fisheries Council is expected to reach a political agreement on the Commission proposals from July 2007 to reform the wine sector, to bring it into line with the CAP reforms which began in 2003. The reform must:
competitiveness of the EU's wine producers, strengthen the
reputation of EU quality wine as the best in the world,
recover old markets and win new ones in the EU and
Create a wine regime that operates through clear, simple rules - effective rules that ensure balance between supply and demand;
Create a wine regime that preserves the best traditions of EU wine production and reinforces the social and environmental fabric of many rural areas.
Following a thorough debate on its Communication from June 2006, the Commission adopted a legal proposal for the reform of the common market organisation (CMO) for wine in July 2007.
Europe is by far the biggest producer and exporter of wine. But while EU exports are still growing, 'New World' exports are increasing much faster, especially to those European countries where consumers are drinking more wine.
is also left with large quantities of wine for which there
is no outlet. As a result, we spend too much money - around
half a billion euros a year - on measures to dispose of,
store and distil wine surpluses into alcohol.
This money could be more usefully spent on improving market balance, boosting quality and promoting sales of European wines.
EU winegrowers are also hamstrung by over-complex rules on wine-making practices and labelling, which also confuse consumers. The Commission is not advocating reducing the annual budget for wine - around 1.3 billion euros - but using it more intelligently.
Political agreement on the Commission proposal at the Agriculture Council
Press conference by Commissioner Fischer Boel and the Council Presidency
website on the wine
Wednesday 19 December: Clarification for Access to cross-border health care in the EU
The Commission will adopt a new coherent framework for cross-border healthcare. The draft directive clarifies to patients whether and under what circumstances they can choose providers abroad.
The proposal also makes clear who is responsible for quality and safety of healthcare in cross-border settings and provides European added value through cooperation such as in border regions and for centres of reference for specialised care and treatment.
It also aims to provide better and clearer information to the European citizens so that they can make informed choices about the treatment they need.
Europe has a long tradition in ensuring a high level of health for its citizens. The health systems of the Member States, and their shared commitment to ensuring universal access to good quality care on the basis of equity and solidarity, constitute a central element in safeguarding a high level of health in the EU.
The primary responsibility for providing healthcare lies with the Member States. In most cases, patients will have the care they seek from their domestic health system, without needing to consider healthcare abroad.
However, in some instances healthcare may be better provided in another Member State - for rare conditions or specialised treatments, for example, or in the case of border regions where the nearest appropriate facility may be in another country. Therefore, the Commission has developed a legal instrument to help realise the potential of the European dimension for healthcare.
Commissioner Kyprianou will hold a press conference to present the "Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on safe, high-quality and efficient cross-border healthcare."
A video news release on cross border healthcare will also be available, via EBS, for interested television stations.
Friday 21 December: The "Schengen" border-free zone will be extended to Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The Commission represented by President Barroso and Vice President Frattini, together with the Portuguese Presidency and all the concerned Ministers, will celebrate the extension of the Schengen Space with the 9 new Member States, who have successfully met the requirements of the Schengen Acquis. Enlargement of the Schengen area will enable their citizens to travel across an area of 24 countries without internal border controls. Families and friends can come together without queuing at internal border crossings - and for people from outside the EU, only one visa is needed for travelling in the whole of the Schengen area and no visa is needed if they hold a residence permit issued by a Member State.
Fifty-eight evaluation missions covering data protection, police co-operation, external border controls at land, sea and air borders, and visa policy were undertaken in 2006. In 2007, 15 re-evaluation visits were carried out, together with a new sea and air border evaluation. Nine Schengen Information System evaluations visits were completed. Such onerous procedures are needed for our security and to build the necessary trust between Member States.
Underlining above all the enormous efforts made by all the "New Member States" in order to be fully ready for the abolition of border controls within our strict timetable, it is proposed that there will be a series of events symbolising the importance of this event in the history of Europe.
Accordingly, as a sign of recognition, our common celebrations will be starting in the territory of the past German Presidency and finishing within the national borders of the incoming Slovenian Presidency. This is to say that the border point which will be crossed by the Presidency and its Guests on the morning of the 21st of December is the trilateral border point between Germany, Poland and Czech Republic, following the Delegation then to the Baltic States and the rest of the Program.
Friday 21 December: Final countdown to the euro in Cyprus and Malta
On the 21st of December it will be exactly 10 days before Cyprus and Malta adopt the euro. With those two countries, the euro area will count 15 European Union countries and a total of 318 million people. Slovenia became the euro area's 13th member in January this year.
The Commission follows carefully the final practical preparations for the changeover in the two countries and will monitor the situation even more closely in the first days of January. It will keep the press and public informed during those crucial and exciting days.
The Commission concluded on May 16 that Cyprus and Malta were ready to adopt the euro. The proposal was welcomed by the June 21-22 European Council and the formal decision has been taken by the EU Finance Ministers on July 10.
On the 1st of January 2008, the Cypriot pound will convert to the euro at the rate of 0.585274 to the euro.
For Malta it will be 0.429300 to the euro. Retailers must respect the conversion rate. In Malta, rounding up the result of the conversion is prohibited by law.
*** A press release will be issued ***
Commissioner Almunia's welcome statement available from 26 December
Convergence report on
Cyprus (16.5.2007 -
report on Malta (16.5.2007 -
documents concerning the