Месечни архиви: March 2016

Quantum Technologies or how microscopic things can change our lives

Written by Nera Kuljanic and Sarah McCormack,

Quantum Technologies or how microscopic things can change our lives

Shutterstock / welcomia

Over the past 15 years the EU has been supporting research into quantum technologies. With a number of research projects being funded under the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU aims to stimulate interactions and collaborations amongst individuals and groups in Europe working in the field. Through the early investment into this field Europe is set to become one of the world leaders in quantum-enabled innovation, as there is ample evidence that we are able to transfer quantum technologies into commercial products for a rapidly growing market.

A workshop on quantum technologies will be hosted by the EP’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel on Wednesday 6 April 2016. It will examine key advances in this field in recent years and look ahead to the upcoming research challenges. The options for the economic and industrial exploitation of quantum technologies will be explored, as well as the balance between fundamental and applied research. Scientists will come together and discuss how and why quantum technologies could change the way we sense, compute and communicate. Industry representatives and entrepreneurs will speak on the disruptive potential of quantum technologies and how to get the most out of the market.

This event will address the need for creating a comprehensive European synergy on quantum research and innovation, a requirement for the advancement in this field. It will be chaired by the STOA Chair Paul Rübig and participants will be welcomed by Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.

What do quantum technologies do?

A large number of devices in our everyday lives are already based upon quantum physics, such as the GPS, lasers and transistors, explained Professor Serge Haroche, 2012 Nobel Prize winner, during his keynote speech at the STOA Annual Lecture in 2015. Quantum technologies provide new methods of computation algorithms, drawing upon quantum principles, which are unseen in classical analogues. Quantum technologies can create enhanced simulation capabilities (such as computers up to one million times faster than today), but also form the basis for producing incredibly sensitive and accurate clocks, and extremely accurate sensors. They also pave the way for more secure communications through potentially ‘unbreakable’ cryptography. Future performance of industrial applications will be defined by quantum limits.

How to make the most of this technology?

Henk Kamp, Minister for Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, representing the Council Presidency, will present a vision for quantum technologies in Europe. This is in line with the upcoming presentation of the ‘Quantum Manifesto’ which will describe a roadmap for preserving European leadership in quantum technologies, at a high-level conference taking place on 17 and 18 May 2016 in Amsterdam during the Dutch EU Presidency. He will set the stage for three keynote speeches, which will look into various aspects of quantum technologies. The scientific perspective will be addressed by Alain Aspect from the Institut d’Optique in Paris. A representative from industries currently heavily involved in the use of quantum technology will talk on the industry perspective. From QuTech, a Dutch quantum institute, Leo Kouwenhoven, a world leading expert in electronic properties of nanostructures and a recipient of the highest scientific award in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize, will focus on the engineering perspective of quantum technologies.

A panel made up of, but not limited to, MEPs Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen, STOA Panel member, and experts in this field, such as Kai Bongs, from the UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors & Metrology, and Tommaso Calarco, from the Center for Integrated Quantum Science and Technology (ISQT) in Ulm, will discuss the substantial economic and societal impact that these technologies will invariably have. As quantum technologies are set to be invested in and are likely to become commercialised soon, this workshop will offer an opportunity to look at the effects they may have on a large scale.

Vladimir Šucha, Director-General of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA First Vice-Chair, will close the workshop.

With quantum technologies expected to enable innovations which could offer ways of addressing global challenges facing the world today, the STOA workshop on 6 April is a place to be in order to discover where we are at in the research and how far we could go in the years to come.

To register for the event please click here.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/18/quantum-technologies-or-how-microscopic-things-can-change-our-lives/

New radio frequencies for mobile internet services [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Marcin Szczepański (1st edition),

New radio frequencies for mobile internet services

© hin255 / Fotolia

While radio spectrum management is predominantly a national competence, EU policy plays an increasingly important role in its coordination and harmonisation. The EU actively seeks ways to harmonise use of the different bands of the spectrum to meet the ever-growing demand for wireless mobile broadband. Nevertheless, spectrum allocation in the EU remains fragmented and varies among the Member States.

Following developments in the international framework, as well as the considerations of high-level expert groups and a public consultation, the Commission adopted a long-term strategy for use of the 470-790 MHz frequency band. The strategy proposes to repurpose the 694-790 MHz band, to use it for wireless broadband rather than television broadcasting. The latter is to have priority in the 470-694 MHz band.

Initial reactions to the proposal underline that it may have positive consequences in terms of quality and coverage of wireless internet, but may also lead to substantial costs for some parties, such as the broadcasting industry and consumers, who would need to adapt to the new technology.

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Timeline

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/18/new-radio-frequencies-for-mobile-internet-services-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Occupational pensions: Revision of the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision Directive (IORP II) [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by David Eatock (2nd edition),

Retirement Fund

© woodsy / Fotolia

In 2014, the European Commission proposed a revision (‘IORP II’) of the existing Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) Directive of 2003, which covers certain occupational pension savings. These are overwhelmingly in the United Kingdom (55.9% of IORP assets) and the Netherlands (30.7%). The proposed revision aims to improve the governance, risk management, transparency and information provision of IORPs and help increase cross-border IORP activity, strengthening the single market. The proposal did not include new prudential rules (i.e. capital requirements) for IORPs following a long and controversial debate.

Stakeholders have in general welcomed the focus of the proposal and the lack of new prudential rules, but feel the revision is overly detailed and prescriptive and does not respect national competences, nor reflect the variety of IORPs and their position as social (not just financial) entities. Following the vote on a mandate in Parliament’s ECON Committee trilogue discussion are now under way with the Council.

 

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Organic farming legislation

 

 

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/18/occupational-pensions-revision-of-the-institutions-for-occupational-retirement-provision-directive-iorp-ii/

The European Research Area: Evolving concept, implementation challenges

Written by Vincent Reillon,

 Documents :  The European Research Area: Evolving concept, implementation challenges

© Atlantis / Fotolia

In 1972, the Commission proposed the first guidelines for a Community policy on research and innovation with two dimensions: Member State cooperation in tackling common issues, and national research policy coordination. The former dimension was implemented gradually and led to the adoption of the first framework programme for Community research in 1983. To implement the latter dimension, the European Commission proposed the creation of an ‘effective single area for European science’ in 1973.

However, it took almost 30 years, until 2000, for the European Commission to propose the concept of a ‘European Research Area’ (ERA), subsequently endorsed by the European institutions. The ERA concept is based on the idea that a gain in efficiency can be obtained if isolated national research systems become more interoperable, allowing for better flows of knowledge, technology and people among them and creating a more integrated European system for research.

Between 2000 and 2004, the Commission developed the concept, to promote ERA implementation. In 2008, the Council of the European Union became more involved through the launch of the ‘Ljubljana process’, including the definition of a 2020 ERA Vision. In 2012, the European stakeholders – organisations funding and performing research, universities, and similar bodies – were integrated in the process. The Council’s 2015 publication of an ‘ERA Roadmap’ aims to increase Member State participation, as they are expected to implement the necessary reforms to establish the ERA, but are considered to have been the partners least involved to date.

The activities developed at European level under the ERA concept led to more national research system integration, coordination and interoperability in Europe, especially on the issues of research infrastructures, researchers’ careers and mobility, joint programming of research programmes and public-private partnerships.

However, strong barriers to reaching an optimal situation remain. Firstly, the division of research competences between European, national and regional level has not been clearly defined. Secondly, national research system diversity and the gap between the leading regions in research and innovation and those lagging behind induce tensions in the distribution of resources and on setting the right balance between competition and cooperation. Moreover, the application of the principle of using cooperation tools to foster national research policy coordination has added complexity and brought about fragmentation of the framework programme for research.

The use of legislation to enforce ERA implementation, a possibility offered by the Lisbon Treaty since 2009, has so far met strong opposition from the Council. This option is also complicated, given that neither the European research system that would emerge from the application of the ERA concept, nor the path that should be taken to reach this situation, have yet been agreed between the European institutions, the Member States and the stakeholders. The future of ERA implies intensified discussions between all these players to design a coherent European research system, to define its structure and its governance, and to agree on common objectives.

For the full version of this in-depth Analysis on ‘The European Research Area: Evolving concept, implementation challenges‘ in PDF.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/17/the-european-research-area-evolving-concept-implementation-challenges/

How the EU budget is spent: Health Programme

Written by Matthew Parry and Nicole Scholz,

How the EU budget is spent: Health Programme

© maglara / Fotolia.

The European Union is legally obliged (Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) to ‘ensure a high level of human health protection’ when shaping and implementing its policies and activities. However, since public health policy remains a Member State competence, with individual EU countries bearing sole responsibility for defining their own health policy and organising and delivering health services and medical care, EU action can only complement, not replace, national public health policies. The TFEU also requires the EU to foster cooperation on public health policy between Member States, and with non-EU countries and international organisations. The Health Programme for 2014-2020 is the EU’s response to these requirements. Its €449 million seven-year budget, while relatively modest, represents a substantial increase on the €321.5 million financial envelope for the 2008-2013 Health Programme.

The programme has four objectives: 1) promote health, prevent disease, and foster supportive environments for healthy lifestyles; 2) protect citizens from serious cross-border health threats; 3) contribute to innovative, efficient and sustainable health systems; and 4) facilitate access to better and safer healthcare for EU citizens.

Health 2014-2020 puts greater emphasis on the link between a healthy population and economic growth than previous programmes, against the backdrop of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It also responds to current pressures on public finances amid sluggish economic growth in the EU, with a focus on cost-effective disease prevention. The Commission’s proposal (at the time) for a regulation on what it initially called the ‘Health for Growth Programme’ set out a number of ways in which the new programme would simplify and improve on its predecessors, in response to evaluations and audits of Public Health 2003-2007 and Health 2008-2013. Essentially, the third Health Programme aims to do fewer things better, focusing on EU added value and tangible results. New elements include progress indicators, better dissemination and communication of project results, as well as stronger incentives for lower-GNI Member States to participate in the programme, including preferential co-financing rates. The proposal also reflects the revised EU Financial Regulation, which is meant to streamline funding award procedures.

The programme has two main funding mechanisms: grants and public procurement. In 2014, Framework Partnership Agreements totalling €4.72 million were concluded for the period 2015-2017. Public procurement under the programme consists of calls for tender and framework contracts. In the 2014 call for tender, a total of €12.68 million was awarded.

Click here for the complete Briefing on ‘How the budget is spent: Health programme‘ in PDF.

Financial envelopes for the EU's public health programmes since 2003

Financial envelopes for the EU’s public health programmes since 2003

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/17/how-the-eu-budget-is-spent-health-programme/

Constitutional referendum in Senegal – Shorter presidential term: a half-kept promise

Written by Eric Pichon,

President Macky Sall decided to put constitutional changes to a referendum on 20 March 2016. The proposal includes a reduction of the presidential term length from seven to five years. Nevertheless President Sall, following the Constitutional Council’s opinion, declared the reduction could not apply to his current mandate: he would thus stay in office until 2019, contrary to a promise he made when he was elected. While Sall’s supporters hailed his sense of responsibility, opponents denounced this decision as a political manoeuvre to backtrack on his commitment.

Background: a referendum on the presidential term length and other provisions

Constitutional referendum in Senegal - Shorter presidential term: a half-kept promise

© European Union 2013 – EP

The reduction of the presidential term was one of Sall’s key promises in his presidential campaign in 2012. This was a clear break with the then President, Abdoulaye Wade. During Wade’s first term (2000-2007), a new Constitution was adopted in 2001, limiting the Head of State to two terms in office of no more than five years each. However, in 2008, during his second term (2007-2012), a constitutional revision reinstated the seven-year term. In 2012, the Constitutional Council allowed him to run for a new, third term, as the 2001 modifications only applied to his second mandate. His new candidacy triggered massive popular protests, reflecting wider distrust in a government perceived as corrupt. Wade lost the election to Sall, who, once in office, pledged again to end his mandate in 2017 instead of 2019. A National Commission for Institutional Reform (CNRI) was set up in 2013 and proposed a far-reaching overhaul of the Constitution in 2014, which did not receive the support of the government. A more modest Constitutional revision proposal was submitted to the Constitutional Council in January 2016.

It comprised 15 points, including:

– A five-year term for the President of the Republic, applicable to the current mandate;

– The above provision would not be subject to revision in the future (‘eternity clause‘), nor would the existing ones on: the republican form and secularism of the state; election of the President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage; or the limit of two successive terms in office for the President of the Republic;

– The creation of a consultative assembly to represent local authorities (‘Haut Conseil des collectivités territoriales’);

– Strengthening of the National Assembly (‘Assemblée nationale’), with a stronger role for the opposition; the Assembly would receive two additional members to represent the Senegalese abroad; it would also select two members of the Constitutional Council, in addition to the five nominated by the President of the Republic.

The Constitutional Council decided that the reduction to five years, if adopted, could not apply to the current mandate, for the sake of the stability of institutions.

Sall declared he would abide by the Council’s recommendation, and announced a referendum will take place on 20 March 2016. Voters will either approve or reject the revision package as a whole.

The Constitutional bill which will be submitted to the referendum takes on board the Constitutional Council’s remarks. In addition, the ‘eternity clause’ will not apply to state secularism, contrary to the first draft – this provision will thus remain subject to revision. This change was not suggested by the Constitutional Council but by religious leaders, who would otherwise have advised a ‘No’ vote. Secularism is a sensitive topic in the country: although it has been mentioned in all Senegalese constitutions since independence, it is often questioned by religious leaders, but they could not have it removed from the Constitution in 2001. Religious concerns influence many voters in political consultations, as religious congregations are very influential, in particular through controlling their own education sector. Over 90% of Senegalese are Muslim; Sufi brotherhoods are still the main platform for the dissemination of Islam in Senegal, but their relationship to the state is challenged by the rise of Salafism.


In the ‘Mo Ibrahim Index’, Senegal ranks 10th of 54 African countries for its ‘Security and Rule of law’, and ninth for overall governance.

Senegal’s President currently chairs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Among ECOWAS member states, Senegal has the longest presidential term; it is six years in Liberia, four in Ghana and Nigeria, and five in all 11 other member states. In addition, most ECOWAS member states’ constitutions provide for a limit of two terms, or at least to two successive terms, except for the Gambia and Togo.

Although some of the longest serving presidents in the world are from sub-Saharan Africa, and despite the fact some countries modified (Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville) or bypassed (Burundi) constitutional limits in 2015, a majority of sub-Saharan African presidents have been in office for less than ten years. Polls show popular support for term limits is very strong in Africa. Some analysts, however, think that they should not be an end per se: according to them, fair elections and a strong constitutional system are better democratisation benchmarks.


National reactions

Sall’s declaration triggered legal discussions: according to him and his supporters, the President is bound by the Council’s statement, as the Constitution provides that ‘The decisions of the Constitutional Council are not susceptible to any way (voie) of recourse. They impose themselves on the public powers …’.

For opponents, Sall’s decision to stay in office until 2019 clearly betrayed his pledge – a Wax waxeet (‘I told it, I withdrew it’ in wolof). They argue the Council’s comment is not a decision, but a simple opinion in the framework of the consultative process before submitting a Constitutional bill to a referendum: therefore, President Sall had the option not to follow this opinion. Some argue that a simpler way of respecting his promise would have been to resign after five years.

Outlook

If the presidential poll is held in 2017, Sall’s re-election could be jeopardised. His government has delivered below expectations, the economic situation is still fragile and nearly half of the population faces poverty. Most leaders of the presidential coalition were defeated in the 2014 local elections: in particular the then Prime Minister could not take Dakar’s mayorship. By 2019, Sall could demonstrate more visible results from his flagship Plan Sénégal Emergent, launched in 2014 to improve infrastructure and the business environment, boosted by new funding from the EU and EU Member States, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and investments in private-public partnerships by Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, it would also give the opposition more time to regroup: parliamentary elections are still on the agenda for 2017, and the presidential coalition might lose its leading position. The current political unrest should not hinder the stability of the country, but could distract from more critical actions with which the European Union is concerned, namely the fight against terrorism (threats have arisen since Senegal decided to support Saudi intervention in Yemen) and the migratory challenge (each year thousands of Senegalese leave their country to go to Europe).


Senegal is part of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement and has signed the Economic Partnership Agreement between West Africa and the EU. A fisheries agreement compensates Senegal for allowing EU vessels to fish in Senegalese waters. The EU also supports better democratic governance in Senegal: in this framework, the European Parliament provides technical support to the National Assembly. Senegal is one of the focus countries of the ‘EU Strategy on the Gulf of Guinea‘ aimed at strengthening the security/development nexus in the region, in particular through the fight against piracy and organised crime. Senegal is considered by the EU as ‘a factor of stability in West Africa by its democratic tradition’, while Macky Sall, who visited the European Parliament in 2013 and 2015, declared the EU was ‘a source of inspiration and hope’.


Read the complete At a Glance on ‘Constitutional referendum in Senegal – Shorter presidential term: a half-kept promise‘ in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/17/constitutional-referendum-in-senegal-shorter-presidential-term-a-half-kept-promise/

Integrating migrants and their children through education

Written by Denise Chircop,

Migrants’ life stories reveal different levels of difficulty or ease in the process of integration. The key importance of education as a means of integration is widely acknowledged. For a number of years, the European Parliament has called for tangible commitments and proposed practical measures to integrate migrants and their children through education, training and the recognition of skills.

Immigrant profiles

Integrating migrants and their children through education

© Kzenon / Fotolia

Immigrants do not fit neatly into a single profile, and many who live for some time in another country are not consistently classified as migrants. The parameters can vary depending on who is using the term. For statistical purposes, Eurostat includes anyone who changes their usual country of residence for at least 12 months, and sets the distinction between recent and settled migrants at eight years of residence. Eurostat also distinguishes between different categories of migrants: ‘foreign born’ for those not born in their current country of residence; third-country nationals (TCNs), for those who are not citizens of a European Union Member State; and ‘second generation’ for those who live in the country in which they were born, but whose parents (either one or both) are foreign born. On the other hand, some researchers point out that the terms migrant or immigrant may also connote a lack of belonging. Some people could be defined as migrants on the basis of their physical appearance, their dress-code or the way they speak. Some individuals are treated as outsiders both where they reside and in their own or their parents’ country of origin. Others may be acknowledged as foreigners but without being thought of as migrants.

Educational outcomes

Eurostat, OECD and European Commission data indicate that foreign born and second generation young people are at greater risk of poverty, more likely to leave school early and to be out of employment, education or training, and are less likely to have mastered basic skills (literacy, maths and science) by age 15. This scenario is also linked to parents’ income and level of education. Girls tend to out-perform boys at school but they also seem more likely to lower their ambitions for the future. Educational performance has a direct impact on life chances. Identifying obstacles and supports to educational success is useful in developing strategies for integration through education.

A study funded by Horizon 2020 which was conducted in nine different EU Member States (CZ, DK, FR, DE, HU, RO, SK, SE, UK) on young second generation migrants, and another study on Kurdish young people in Sweden, reveal certain patterns. Migrant parents with a low level of education often opt for predominantly migrant neighbourhoods and schools, where they may feel more at ease. Conversely, ‘locals’ tend to transfer their children out of those schools. Teachers may encounter difficulties if they do not share common ground with students and their families, and may respond by lowering educational and disciplinary standards to achieve some success and to avoid constant confrontation. Schools can also have difficulties in securing the resources needed to provide quality teaching. Students tend to resent what they consider unfair treatment. Some ‘put up defences’ by emphasising their foreign identity or by behaving aggressively. Others try to ignore any evidence of stigmatisation or attempt to assimilate, possibly straining relationships with their family and community, who in turn may feel shunned. The studies suggest that combinations of these tensions contribute to lower educational achievement and increase the number of early school leavers.

However, best practices exist in all systems, and some features of education provision favour success. These include the control and assessment of the quality of what is taught; good initial and in-service teacher training on intercultural education; qualified early childhood education with support for learning both the native and host country language; avoidance of early selection; inclusive, cooperative and individualised teaching methods which avoid singling out; and research dissemination and dialogue with policy-makers. The availability of sustainable support in terms of information, guidance and counselling, study skills, peer networks, service-provider teams and finances favour completion through to the tertiary level. The recognition of existent knowledge, informal and non-formal learning, and access to apprenticeships, vocational education, dual systems, lifelong learning paths and permeability between systems all widen opportunities to gain skills needed on the labour market.

European-level tools

Although the education of migrants is the responsibility of Member States, the EU has a number of tools in place which make it possible to coordinate and support Member States’ activities. In 2008, a Commission communication already pointed out the importance of identifying the skill sets of immigrants and the need for training to fill in skills gaps, while the Council conclusions of 2009 on the education of children with a migrant background focused on policy responses to bolster educational achievement. The Strategic Framework for European Cooperation in Education and Training (ET 2020) identified two priorities, the teaching of the host country language, and mutual learning based on best practices in the education of migrants. The draft 2015 joint report on the implementation of ET 2020 prioritises access to good quality mainstream education and training for migrants, tackling discrimination, racism, segregation, bullying, violence and stereotypes, while facilitating language acquisition. Likewise the implementation report on the EU Youth Strategy draws attention to the accumulation of disadvantage by young people with a migrant background. This situation of young migrants is studied in detail in the accompanying document and the Youth Monitor, while the relative Council Work Plan specifies that an expert group is to define the role of youth work, informal and non-formal education to help redress the situation.

EU efforts aimed at improving education for active citizenship, intercultural understanding and the integration of young migrants were reinvigorated following the Paris Declaration (March 2015). The Commission has set up a European Policy Network on the education of children and young people with a migrant background, and set up a website on Integration. Erasmus+ prioritises these issues in its calls for projects, and Horizon 2020 funds research in the area. Yet a study published by the Parliament indicates that Country Specific Recommendations do not pay sufficient attention to sub-national realities and vulnerable groups such as migrants, while at the same time policies are evaluated in terms of cost-effectiveness and sustainability rather than merit and long-term impact. This does not provide a strong incentive for political commitment to push forward policy reforms to bring changes in line with political declarations.


European Parliament

In January 2016, the EP adopted a resolution on intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and education pointing out the importance of teaching intercultural dialogue which is an essential tool of conflict management and to develop a deeper sense of belonging. It identifies teachers, parents, NGOs and human rights organisations as key players and calls on the Commission and Council to adopt intercultural dialogue as a strong political objective. This position is reiterated in a report on learning EU at school adopted by the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), and due to be discussed in the April plenary session.

In 2011, the EP drew attention to the fact that early school leaving is particularly pronounced among children from migrant families, and proposed that they should be offered linguistic support. These concerns echo a resolution of 2009 in which the EP encouraged policies supporting multilingualism, and pointed out that migrant children need to learn the language of the host country. It stressed that measures for integration needed to avoid the creation of ghetto-type schools, by coordinating them with policies on the provision of childcare, housing, employment and health. Teachers need support in the form of specialist training, and schools with a high proportion of immigrant children have to be given the necessary resources. Counselling services can help youngsters deal with cultural differences while non-formal education and youth work are good tools to raise awareness of human rights and personal freedoms.

The CULT committee is currently discussing a draft report on the follow-up of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) in which it dedicates a chapter to the education of migrants. It suggests that education ministries and the Commission’s Education and Culture DG designate dedicated contact persons; it also calls for other measures that support teachers, facilitate integration, prevent radicalisation and validate qualifications.


Read the complete At a Glance on ‘Integrating migrants and their children through education‘ in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/16/integrating-migrants-and-their-children-through-education/

Outlook for the European Council of 17-18 March 2016

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Stanislas de Finance

The European Council of 17-18 March 2016 will discuss further steps to address the migration crisis, focusing on the follow-up to the 7 March meeting of the EU Heads of State or Government with Turkey and on reforming the EU’s existing framework for a common asylum policy. EU leaders will also discuss the priorities for the 2016 European Semester and endorse the 2016 Annual Growth Survey.

1.Migration

a) Follow-up to the 7 March 2016 meeting with Turkey

Outlook for the European Council of 17-18 March 2016

© viperagp / Fotolia

The main discussion on migration will represent a follow-up to the informal European Council and the informal meeting of the EU Heads of State or Government with Turkey of 7 March 2016, where EU leaders ‘agreed to work on the basis of the principles’ contained in the new proposals from the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, to address the migration issue. The overall decision on the proposals was postponed to the 17-18 March 2016 European Council and its President, Donald Tusk, was asked to work out the details with Turkey beforehand. Some of the aspects still to be clarified include: the legality of the return of all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands; acceleration of the implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmap; preparation for the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations; and the specific contributions of the EU and Member States to the additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians. Mr Davutoğlu is expected to meet again with EU leaders on 18 March, immediately after the European Council, to complete discussions between the EU and Turkey on the proposals.

The European Parliament’s plenary debate on 9 March showed that many political groups and individual MEPs have reservations about the results of the 7 March informal meeting with Turkey. Criticism was voiced of Turkey’s restrictions on freedom of the press, as well as on linking EU accession negotiations to Turkey’s role in solving the refugee crisis. These views were also relayed by the European Parliament’ President, Martin Schulz, to Mr Davutoğlu prior to the meeting of EU leaders with Turkey on 7 March.

b) Follow up to other earlier European Council meetings

Emergency Assistance Instrument

Following the European Council’s conclusions of 18-19 February 2016, when the Commission was tasked with making proposals to develop the EU’s capacity to provide humanitarian assistance internally (in cooperation with organisations such as the UN Refugee Agency), an ‘Emergency Assistance Instrument’ has been proposed by the Commission, and was welcomed by the 7 March European Council. On 9 March, the Council agreed on such an emergency support mechanism in response to the difficult humanitarian situation caused by the refugee crisis, notably in Greece. European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis informed the Parliament that the ‘Emergency Assistance Instrument’ will require an amending budget in 2016. The estimated needs for this instrument are €300 million in 2016, with a further €200 million in both 2017 and 2018. In addition, the Commission has adopted modifications to the work programmes for 2016, increasing the financing for emergency assistance under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) with an additional €275.5 million, bringing it to a total of €464 million for 2016.

Border and Coast Guard

EU leaders are also expected to further discuss the Commission’s proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard. The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs had its first exchange of views on this dossier on 29 February 2016. The Justice and Home Affairs Council of 10 March took stock of the negotiations on the subject, and hopes to reach an agreement by April 2016. The Council also welcomed the Turkish proposal and adopted conclusions on migrant smuggling.

Reform of the Dublin Regulation

It is expected that EU leaders will have a comprehensive debate on reforming the EU’s existing framework for a common asylum policy (the Dublin Regulation), building on the forthcoming Commission communication on ‘The Reform of the Dublin Regulation, based on the objective of solidarity and fair burden-sharing between Member States’, due to be adopted on 16 March. That same day, the Commission will also publish its ‘First Report on Relocation and Resettlement commitments’ which could also be addressed by EU leaders.

c) European Parliament’s involvement

The European Parliament will have a significant role to play with regard to visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals, since visa liberalisation – under Article 77(2) TFEU – is based on the ordinary legislative procedure. The Parliament will also be jointly responsible with the Council for amending the EU budget, both for the ‘Emergency Assistance Instrument’ and as concerns the additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians.

2.The European Semester/ Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness

EU leaders are expected to endorse the 2016 Annual Growth Survey (AGS) adopted by the European Commission in late November 2015 in the framework of the European Semester for fiscal and economic policy coordination. It highlights priorities to bolster economic recovery and employment across the EU for the coming year, which, similar to 2015, focus on a three-pillar strategy based on growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, boosting investment and the implementation of structural reforms. The European Council is also expected to review implementation of the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and to call for their implementation, in light of the late February 2016 Country Reports from the Commission. Overall, Member States made some progress in addressing the 2015 CSRs, but the Commission has repeatedly called on them to step up efforts to implement structural reforms to foster competitiveness and strengthen economic recovery. On 8 March, EU Finance Ministers argued that the level of implementation of the CSRs remained ‘poor’, as only 7% of them were substantially addressed last year, and over 50% remained unaddressed. The loss of momentum from Member States in meeting reform commitments has worsened over recent years – in line with EPRS findings – despite the 2015 Commission initiative to streamline and strengthen the Semester process. Member States, in close consultation with national parliaments and social partners, are expected to prepare and submit their Stability and Convergence Programmes and National Reform Programmes to the Commission by mid-April, taking into account the challenges identified in the 2016 Country Reports and the EU priorities set out in the 2016 AGS. Based on assessment of these programmes, the Commission will issue a new set of CSRs in May 2016, to be endorsed subsequently by the European Council in June and adopted by the Council in July 2016.

Single Market

The Netherlands Presidency is expected to report to the European Council on progress achieved and further steps planned in enhancing the Single Market. It is likely that the June 2016 European Council will discuss in more detail progress in implementation of the Single Market.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/16/outlook-for-the-european-council-of-17-18-march-2016/

EU policy for Roma inclusion

Written by Anita Orav,

EU policy for Roma inclusion

Photo © EU 2014 Source EP

Around 6 million Roma, or about half of the estimated Roma population in Europe, live in the European Union. Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary are the Member States with the highest percentages of Roma within their populations. International Roma Day, which falls on 8 April, provides an opportunity to discuss the situation of Roma, the largest ethnic minority in Europe.

EU framework Member States have the competence to define their policies in this area, while the EU acts as coordinator. European Commission In 2011, Member States were required to adopt national strategies for the years up to 2020, following common targets specified in the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Four key areas for measures were identified: education, employment, healthcare and housing. The national strategies were assessed by the Commission in 2012 and their implementation in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The EU provides funding for national inclusion measures through the European Structural and Investment Funds, with several areas also falling into the Europe’s 2020 strategy for Smart and Inclusive Growth. The Commission also recommends making full use of the National Roma Contact Points’ network and the annual European Platform for Roma Inclusion, which brings together the EU institutions, national government and international organisations with Roma civil society organisations, to foster successful inclusion at the grassroots level.

Roma Summits are organised by the European Commission regularly to provide a high-level forum to discuss Roma issues among the representatives of EU institutions, national governments and civil society organisations.

Council of the EU

The Council gave impetus for closer cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in its 2009 Conclusions on Inclusion of the Roma. In 2013, the Council adopted a Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States. European Parliament The European Parliament has expressed its views on the inclusion strategies as well as on the situation of Roma on several occasions, most recently in its resolutions of 12 December 2013 and 15 April 2015.

This is an updated version of a note published for the April 2015 plenary session.

 

Figure 1: Average estimates of Roma population in selected Member States (2012) In absolute figures (top graph) and as percentage of total population (lower graph)

Figure 1: Average estimates of Roma population in selected Member States (2012)
In absolute figures (top graph) and as percentage of total population (lower graph)

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/16/eu-policy-for-roma-inclusion/

Framework for energy efficiency labelling [EU legislation in progress]

Written by Alex Wilson (2nd edition),

Framework for energy efficiency labelling

© Benjamin LEFEBVRE / Fotolia

On 15 July 2015 the Commission proposed a new regulation on energy efficiency labelling as part of its summer energy package. The new regulation would contribute towards meeting the EU target of improving energy efficiency by 27% by 2030.

The proposed regulation seeks to restore the A-G scale for energy labelling; create a mechanism for rescaling products that can accommodate further improvements in energy efficiency; establish a product database on energy efficiency; and introduce a safeguard procedure to improve national market surveillance. Detailed legislation on energy labelling of household appliances would be adopted as delegated acts.

While the proposal is supported by consumer and environmental groups, industry groups are concerned that a major change in energy labelling could have a negative impact on producers and consumers and act as a disincentive to energy efficiency. The Parliament has in the past supported a closed A-G scale on energy labelling as a way to provide a stronger incentive for consumers to buy more efficient products.

Versions

Stage: Committee vote

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/16/framework-for-energy-efficiency-labelling-eu-legislation-in-progress/