EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
EU News: The EU recently launched a challenge to Argentina's import restrictions at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. Under WTO dispute settlement procedures, the EU is first requesting consultations with Argentina in a bid to have these measures - which negatively affect the EU's trade and investment - lifted.
The restrictive measures include Argentina's import licensing regime and notably the procedures to obtain an import licence as well as the obligation on companies to balance imports with exports. This is a first step in the WTO dispute settlement system. If no solution is found within 60 days, then the EU can request a WTO Panel to be established to rule on the legality of Argentina's actions.
EU News: In 2011, the European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, helped more than 22 000 European citizens, companies, NGOs, and associations, either by investigating complaints, answering information requests, or giving advice via his online interactive guide. More than 18 000 citizens used the guide to obtain advice on where to turn with their problems.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted a package of recommendations for budgetary measures & economic reforms to enhance financial stability, boost growth and create employment across the EU. The recommendations are country-specific, taking account of the individual situation of each Member State.
The Commission has also issued recommendations for the euro area as a whole, and set out its vision for the EU-level policy action needed to complement the national measures to deliver an ambitious, two-tiered EU growth initiative. It has also presented the conclusions of 12 in-depth reviews in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure and made recommendations to the Council relating to the Excessive Deficit Procedure.
EU News: In 2011, the 27 EU Member States received more than 300,000 asylum applications, a 16.2% increase from 2010. Although this remains far below the peak of 425 000 applications received in 2001, increases in asylum flows can stretch the reception capacity of some Member States.
Last week the Commission proposed to improve the overall efficiency of EURODAC, the system which facilitates the quick & correct identification of the Member State responsible for assessing an asylum claim. EURODAC, a system for collecting asylum seekers' fingerprints, has been operating since 2003 and is an essential part of the EU's Common European Asylum System.
WAG: A £2.5m project aimed at forging an enterprising culture and raising prosperity amongst communities in 3 south Wales counties has received an EU funding boost. Led by Timebanking Wales, the project will invite people in Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Bridgend to join Community Enterprise Networks where they will undergo a skills audit to identify their particular talents which can be used in their local areas.
Those who join the CENs will be thanked with time credits, equivalent to the amount of time they have voluntarily spent using their skills. Time credits can then be exchanged for an equivalent time spent on educational and cultural activities, developing new skills to improve their capabilities and work opportunities.
EU News: On the eve of World No Tobacco Day last week, the European Commission published an EU study on attitudes towards tobacco. On average, 60% of citizens support measures to make tobacco less visible & attractive, such as keeping tobacco products out of sight in shops or curbing the use of attractive flavours and colours. At the same time, other figures give cause for concern: 28% of EU citizens aged 15 and over smoke, and 70% of the smokers and ex-smokers took up the habit before the age of 18.
EU News: Improvements to on-board recording equipment (digital tachographs) should make life easier in future for truck drivers and haulage companies that obey EU rules on driving & rest times. They should also make it much easier for properly trained & equipped officers to detect & punish fraud and tampering, says a report adopted at first reading by the transport committee on 31 May.
EU News: The European Commission has adopted a report assessing progress with convergence towards the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 8 Member States (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden).
According to the Treaty, the Commission reports every 2 years on the subject. The report concludes that none of the countries examined fulfils all conditions for adopting the euro at this stage, and that there should therefore be no change in their status of 'Member State with a derogation'.
EU News: Two teams of researchers recently had innovative behavioural studies published in the journal Science which suggested that low levels of neonicotinoid pesticides can have significant effects on bee colonies. Following publication of the studies, the European Commission asked EFSA to compare the actual exposure of bees to neonicotinoids – as a result of their use as plant protection products in the EU – with the exposure levels used in the research.
In its statement published recently, EFSA concludes for honeybees that the concentrations tested in the published studies are higher than the highest recorded residue levels found in nectar for the neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.
EU News: The Commission has published a Report on the 2011 developments in the areas of immigration and asylum, accompanied by a Eurobarometer on European citizens' attitudes towards cross-border mobility, migration and security.
PC&PE: EU plans to impose new environmental regulations on farmers across Europe will reduce food production and are likely to harm the environment, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. In their latest report on Greening the Common Agricultural Policy MPs reject the European Commission’s proposed ‘greening’ regulations in favour of giving the Member States the flexibility to encourage farmers to tailor their land management to local circumstances.
Launching the report, Anne McIntosh MP, EFRA Committee Chair said; “……………. It’s a nonsense to think that farmers from Finland to Sicily should be tied to the same narrow prescriptive rules. One-size-fits all regulation cannot work across the range of environments found in Europe”.
PC&PE: Proposed EU rules on the working hours and conditions for pilots and cabin crew must be improved or safety could be at risk, says the Transport Committee in a report examining draft proposals from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to change the rules that govern how many hours a pilot can fly.
EU News: Industrial innovation is one of the key drivers to improve our competitiveness. This is why the Commission has launched a new public consultation, which is meant to provide input for the mid-term review of the industrial policy communication planned for September 2012 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
EU News: The European Commission is inviting comments on the application of EU state aid rules to the public funding of broadband networks. Comments on the draft guidelines should be submitted by 3 September 2012 – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.