EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Commission has proposed that the EU accept Russia & 7 more countries as parties to an international convention designed to prevent child abduction.  The 1980 Hague Convention ensures the prompt return of children abducted by one parent to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.
 
The move will effectively extend protection for children in the EU to: Russia, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, Seychelles & Singapore. The Convention has been ratified by 86 countries to date, including all EU members.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The European Commission has published its staff assessment following the second review of the EU & IMF-supported financial assistance programme for Portugal, carried out in Lisbon from 7 to 16 November 2011.

The report concludes that, overall, Portugal has made good progress on a number of fronts, as requested by the Council of Ministers (implementing Decision 2011/344/EU). This paves the way for the third instalment of €5.3 billion in European funding to Portugal in January 2012.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The EC has adopted a Quality Framework for Services of General Interest (SGI) in the EU.  They provide an essential safety net for citizens in areas such as health care, care for the elderly, child care, assistance to disabled persons and social housing.  They also have a key role to play in the knowledge economy in the area of schools, training centres and university.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The EC decided recently to extend the list of goods subject to export controls, to prevent their use for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  

Trade of certain anaesthetics, such as sodium thiopental, which can be used in lethal injections, to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, will be tightly controlled.  Furthermore, the scope of the EU regulation has been enlarged to include other products such as spike batons that previously were not prohibited.
Press release & links
 
NHS Confed: The NHS Confederation’s European Office has welcomed a number of proposals for rules governing the movement of health workers across the European Union, but says there are still issues that require further clarity to ensure the safety of patients is not put at risk..
 
The EC’s proposals for an updated Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications are intended to make it easier for people to use their skills & practise in other European countries by removing unnecessary obstacles & red tape.  The NHS Confed's EO has previously called for safeguards, including a European-wide alert system for regulators to warn each other if dangerous or fraudulent health workers try moving to another country to work.
Press release & links
 
Defra: The UK Government has recently secured a ‘victory’ for the fishing industry by stopping a massive cut in the number of days that fishermen are allowed to spend at sea

Fishermen in all countries will still face an expected reduction in the amount of time they are allowed to fish but a concession from the commission will allow the UK to develop more conservation measures and provide incentives for fishermen to take them up.
Press release & links
 
WWF: Recently the One Planet Economy Network EU project (OPEN:EU) launches a unique new tool for mapping ecological carbon and water footprint data across all the 27 EU member states.

The EUREAPA tool (EU Resource and Energy Analysis Programme Application), a decision making support tool, is now available for free online, aimed at EU & national government policy makers, NGOs and academics.  It is based on the integration of the Footprint Family of indicators with an economic model so that the impact of the EU’s trade on the environment can be demonstrated.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The EC has adopted a Decision establishing an eHealth Network, as foreseen by the Directive (2011/24/EU) on Patients' Rights in Cross-border Healthcare.  The Network will bring together the national authorities responsible for eHealth on a voluntary basis to work on common orientations for eHealth.  
 
The aim is to ensure EU wide interoperability of electronic health systems and wider use of eHealth. The eHealth Network is expected to translate the results of numerous research projects and pilot projects into real-life accessible services for European citizens.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The EC has adopted guidelines to help the insurance industry implement unisex pricing, after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that different premiums for men & women constitute sex discrimination.
Press release & links
 
Defra: It will be cheaper & easier to travel abroad with pets from 1 January 2012, when the UK harmonises its rules governing pet movement with the rest of Europe. 

The Pet Travel Scheme has been successfully operating across Europe since 2004, and will allow the UK to maintain high levels of protection against animal disease whilst bringing it into line with scientific advances and updating a system first devised in the 1800s.
Press release & links
 
EU News: Scientists & surgeons from France, Germany, UK and Switzerland have developed a ‘virtual liver’, using EU research funding, which will help surgeons better plan & carry out tumour operations and ensure quicker patient recovery.
 
The PASSPORT project (Patient-Specific Simulation and Pre-Operative Realistic Training) makes a uniquely accurate ‘virtual liver’ available to physicians based on medical images sent by the radiologist to a PASSPORT online service, which helps surgeons decide whether they should or not operate. Surgeons can now see more precisely where a tumour is and where they will have to operate to safely remove it.
Press release & links
 
EU News: From 1 January 2012, the European Commission gives citizens, businesses & non-governmental organisations at least 12 weeks to comment on plans for new policies & legislation, compared to 8 weeks previously.
 
The Commission has also introduced an alert service for upcoming initiatives: Organisations that sign up for the Transparency Register, can subscribe to this alert service to get early information on the roadmaps for new initiatives in their fields of interest about one year before there adoption.
Press release & links
 
EU News: As the working group drafting the ‘international agreement on a reinforced economic union’ reconvened on 6 January, European Parliament representatives Elmar Brok (EPP, DE), Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) stressed in their amendments that ‘all decisions must be based on normal EU procedure in order to ensure democratic accountability and Parliament’s legislative role are respected’. They also called for a roadmap with a view to introducing eurobonds.
 
The 3 MEPs also have serious doubts as regards the provisions enabling Member States to bring each other before the Court of Justice when failing to comply with budgetary discipline.  They question the compatibility of this article with the EU treaties and its proper functioning and asked for further clarification.
 
Finally, the EP representatives insist that the agreement enters into force after ratification by four fifths of the Eurozone members and that its provisions are brought within the framework of EU law as rapidly as possible. Member States shall propose to amend EU treaties to include the agreement within 5 years of it entering into force.  After 7 years the agreement will automatically expire.
Press release
 
DCMS: British people are being asked for their views on plans announced by the European Commission for a new £1.5bn Creative Europe programme. The programme, which was unveiled last month, would run from 2014 to 2020 to follow on from the current Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes – See ‘Consultations’ section for more information.
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