EU Matters - Issue 2/2014

European Commission News

Commission President-Elect Juncker undertook a reshuffle of the Commission candidates following the outright rejection by the European Parliament of the Slovenian candidate for Vice President for Energy Union Alenka Bratušek.   The Hungarian nominee for the Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship portfolio Tibor Navracsics was not approved for that portfolio so the Citizenship element has been added to the Migration and Home Affairs portfolio instead.  A number of candidates, among them the UK nominee Lord Hill, were asked to respond to additional questions from their respective committees before final approval.

The Parliament voted on 22 October to elect the Commission (60% for, 30% against, 10% abstained) and it is expected to take office in November 2014.

In other news, one of the UK’s proposals for EU reform, a call to set up an independent body to scrutinise the impact of EU legislation before and after adoption, has been rejected by the Commission.  Juncker views that this function is already the role of the new Vice President for better regulation and that scrutiny by the European Parliament is sufficient.

European Parliament News

The Fisheries Committee is currently considering draft proposals on prohibition of driftnets.  The Committee also recently considered its report on the landing obligation aimed at eliminating discards.

The Committee on Transport and Tourism considered a number of proposals under the 4th Railway Package and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety considered a report by rapporteur Jim Nicholson MEP on novel foods (described as items which were not used as food in the EU until recently, e.g. chia seeds, stevia).

A debate on ‘Peace Talks in Northern Ireland’ is on the Order Paper for 12 November 2014.

Climate Change and Emissions

The European Council meets on 23 & 24 October to agree the Climate and Energy Framework 2030 which will include discussions on targets for energy efficiency and on which share of energy consumed in the EU should be from a renewable source in 2030.  There are reports of significant disagreement among Member States on the level of targets and also whether the targets should be binding or indicative.  In addition, the Irish Times reports that a draft copy of the conclusions states ‘multiple objectives of the agriculture and land use sector should be acknowledged’ in EU climate change policy and signals that fines on breaching targets due to agriculture emissions could be avoided. 

Cutting Red Tape for SMEs

The EU’s taskforce on administrative burdens has published its report following a 7 year inquiry.  Key recommendations include offsetting the burden of new legislation by repealing existing laws, seeking to exempt SMEs from EU obligations as far as possible, and establishing an independent impact assessment board to scrutinise Commission proposals – measures which could save businesses up to €41bn (£32bn) per year.  Given the Commission’s position on the impact assessment (see above) it remains to be seen what progress will be made on these issues.

Energy Costs & Subsidies in the EU

A new European Commission report reveals for the first time energy costs and subsidies across the 28 member states.  In 2012, the total value of public intervention in energy was €120-140bn with the largest amount going to renewables, in particular to solar (€14.7bn) and onshore wind (€10.1bn).  Among conventional power generation technologies, coal received the largest amount in subsidies with €10.1bn, followed by nuclear with €7bn. Sweden, Germany, the UK and Denmark are the countries with the highest degree of state intervention.

Accompanying documents also reveal that the UK is the second largest producer of natural gas in the EU behind the Netherlands and largest producer of crude oil.  Ireland and Greece pay the highest wholesale electricity prices in the EU.

Shift in Focus for Regional Aid

Johannes Hahn, the outgoing Commissioner for Regional Policy regards that his legacy is a shift in regional aid spending from traditional infrastructure projects to what he refers to as ‘real economy’ such as green economy and ICT projects.  Compared to the last budget cycle (2007-2013) there has been a 22% rise in spending to €125billion on projects such as research and innovation, ICT, small business and low carbon economy while spending on transport and major infrastructure has fallen by 21% to €60billion.

Impact of Cohesion Funding

The European Commission's DG Regio has launched a new website that aims to measure the impact of cohesion funding in each Member State.  Comparisons can be made between regions and further datasets will be added in the future.

UK ‘Traffic Light’ Labels Challenged

Following a complaint from Italy, the European Commission has ruled that the UK traffic light system of food labelling for fat, salt and sugar is ‘overly simplistic’.  Italy complained that the system discriminated against Italian products such as prosciutto and cheese.  The Commission has stated that the colour coding system could make the marketing of some foods more difficult and therefore have a negative effect on trade. The Commission has given the UK two months to respond.

European Entrepreneurial Region

Northern Ireland, Lisbon and Valencia have been selected as the winners of the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) for 2015. Their strategies to promote entrepreneurship and spread innovation among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were selected by a jury which included representatives of EU institutions as well as business associations.   The award was a result of a joint application by NILGA and Invest NI. 

Innovation in Sport

The EU has provided €2million funding to the research project ‘RePlay’ which uses motion capture cameras to film players of traditional sports, bringing together sport, cultural heritage, and cutting-edge technology. Project partners from the UK, Ireland, Spain, Greece and Switzerland are building a system that aims to preserve knowledge, help people learn and improve skills in traditional sports and educate future generations.  There are over 3,000 traditional sports in Europe.  Players of Gaelic games and Basque Pelota are being filmed in Oxford this month.

Report on Regulation of Pesticides

A report commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union, Crop Protection Association and Agricultural Industries Confederation has examined the economic impact of plant protection products (PPPs) on UK agriculture and the wider economy and expresses concern at what it refers to as an ‘overly precautionary EU regulation of pesticides used by farmers and growers in crop production’ which it claims could restrict food production in the future.    

European Social Fund Roadshows

The Department for Employment and Learning has planned a series of roadshows to publicise the forthcoming new European Social Fund (ESF) Programme 2014-2020 which opens for public calls in November 2014. The roadshows will provide information on the programme, its priority target sectors and the application process.  Any organisation either public (including local councils) or private which is legally formed and not for profit can apply for ESF.

Europe & Youth Unemployment

The Welsh Government EU Office has organised a forum on EU initiatives on youth unemployment ‘Europe Working for Wales: Successful approaches to combatting youth unemployment’ in Cardiff on 27 November 2014.  The event aims to take stock of previous initiatives and look to opportunities in future programmes. Contact Nia Lewis.

House Of Lords EU Committee

Current inquiries being undertaken by the House of Lords EU Committee and its Sub Committees:

  • EU Financial Regulatory Framework
  • Civil Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
  • The EU and Russia
  • EU Regional Marine Co-operation
  • The UK’s Opt-In and International Agreements
  • EU Alcohol Strategy

Inquiry reports recently published:

  • EU’s Contribution to Food Waste Prevention
  • Economic and Monetary Union: Implications for the UK
  • Youth Unemployment in the EU: A Scarred Generation?
  • Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership
  • European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Impact on Non-Participating Member States
  • UK’s 2014 Opt Out Decision (Protocol 36)
  • The Right to be Forgotten

House Of Commons European Scrutiny Committee (ESCOM)

ESCOM further considered the draft Ports Regulation this month. This draft Regulation seeks to establish a regulatory framework to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of EU ports.  The Committee considered the general approach text agreed at the October Transport Council and recommends that a debate on the floor of the House should be used to determine the approach the Government should take in the upcoming trilogue negotiations on this general approach.

Other EU documents reported on by ESCOM:

Business, Innovation and Skills: Establishing a European Research Area; Global Navigation Satellite System; Accession of the Seychelles to the World Trade Organisation; Undeclared work; Insolvency proceedings; Developing an EU Urban Agenda; Network Information Security across the EU; Reforms to the EU’s trade mark regime;

Cabinet Office: Interoperability as a means for modernising the public sector: the ISA2 programme;

Culture, Media and Sport; The Telecommunications Single Market;

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: EU-Russia: temporary exceptional support measures for agricultural producers; International Organisation for Vine and Wine; Conservation of wild migratory species;

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: European security and defence: following up the December 2013 European Defence Council; The EU and the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova; EU military operation in the Central African Republic; EU restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea; The EU and the Horn of Africa: Regional Maritime Capacity Building; Appointment of the EU Commission; EU Decentralised Agencies;

Home Office: The UK’s 2014 block opt-out decision; Combat terrorism; Forced labour;

HMRC: Customs;

International Development: Economic Partnership Agreement with the West Africa Region;

Justice: Hague Convention;

Transport: Maritime Surveillance;

Treasury: Financial services: supervision; Financial services: securities financing transactions; EU staff pensions; EU Solidarity Fund; Financial services: Long-term financing, including crowdfunding; Terrorist financing; Taxation;

Work and Pensions: UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Green Employment Initiative

Upcoming Events

Date

Name

Venue

Further details

29 October 2014

Conference: Coping with climate change in Ireland, Europe and the World

European Commission Representation in Ireland, Dublin

UFE Ireland

29-30 October 2014

eChallenges 2014 Conference &

Focus on Horizon 2020 Workshop - ICT

Hilton Hotel Templepatrick

InterTrade Ireland

4 November 2014

Focus on Horizon 2020 Workshop - Manufacturing & Transport

Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE), Belfast

InterTrade Ireland

14 November 2014

Opportunities for SMEs in Horizon 2020 workshop – focus on health

Corr’s Corner Hotel, Newtownabbey

Enterprise Europe Network

18 November 2014

Competitive enterprises, successful regions – the role of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and regional policy 2014-2020 

Committee of the Regions, Brussels

Committee of the Regions

20 November 2014

European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020 : the Role of Cities and Urban Development in the New Programmes

Committee of the Regions, Brussels

Committee of the Regions

26 November 2014

Information Seminar on Creative Europe – MEDIA programme – for film, TV, games and new media organisations

Belfast (venue tbc)

Arts Council

27 November 2014

Europe working for Wales: Successful approaches to combatting Youth Unemployment

 

Cardiff

Welsh Government EU Office

2 – 3 December 2014

URBACT European Exchange Programme for Urban Development - National Info Day

UK (venue tbc)

Dept. for Communities & Local Government

3 December 2014

‘Collaborate to Innovate’ Horizon 2020 Conference

Dublin Castle

InterTrade Ireland

11 December 2014

Rural Development Programmes 2014-2020: State of Programming and First Insights Concerning the Design of Programmes

Committee of the Regions, Brussels

(also live stream)

Committee of the Regions

Current European Commission Consultations

The list below shows a selection of open consultations. The full list of open Commission consultations is here.

Research and Technology, Internal Market, Energy, Employment and Social Affairs, Education, Economic and Financial Affairs, Communications Networks, Content & Technology, Climate Action:

05.05.2014 – 31.10.2014 Public consultation on the Europe 2020 strategy   More Information
Competition  
05.08.2014 – 04.11.2014 Consultation on the Review of the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation More Information
Consumers  
29.07.2014 – 30.11.2014 Green Paper on the Safety of Tourism Accommodation Services 
Enterprise:  
08.09.2014 – 15.12.2014 A strong European policy to support Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs 2015-2020 – Public consultation on the Small Business Act (SBA) More Information
14.10.2014 – 31.01.2015  Patents and Standards – A modern framework for standardisation involving intellectual property rights
Environment  
30.07.2014 – 07.11.2014 Consultation on policy options to optimise water reuse in the EU More Information
Internal Market:  
25.07.2014 – 31.10.2014 Public consultation on the Evaluation of the Commercial Agents Directive (86/653/EEC) More Information
15.07.2014 – 28.10.2014 Public consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication protection of the European Union to non-agricultural products – Making the most out of Europe’s traditional know-how More Information
08.09.2014 – 01.12.2014 Cross-border mergers and divisions More Information
Transport  
14.08.2014 – 24.10.2014 A policy initiative on opening the market for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS or civil drones) More Information

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