Месечни архиви: August 2017

Energy efficiency and reducing consumption [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Alex Benjamin Wilson,

Greater energy efficiency can help to reduce the bills that consumers pay for their heating and electricity, and contributes to the fight against climate change because lower energy consumption leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency can also foster greater energy security in the EU, by reducing the need for energy imports (mainly fossil fuels) from outside the bloc.

EU framework for energy efficiency

green globe

© lassedesignen / Fotolia

The EU and its Member States have committed to an improvement of at least 20 % in energy efficiency by 2020. The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012) sets an overall limit on EU energy consumption by 2020 (1 086 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in final energy; 1 483 Mtoe in primary energy) as well as national targets. The European Commission’s second report on the state of the energy union (2017) suggests the EU is on track to meet its goal – in 2014 final energy consumption was already 2.2 % below the 2020 limit. The Commission has proposed a binding 30 % improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. The Parliament has called for a more ambitious but still binding target of 40 % improvement by 2030.

Ecodesign and energy labelling

One of the ways in which the EU seeks to improve energy efficiency is by encouraging the manufacture and purchase of ever more efficient household appliances. Stringent ecodesign requirements ensure only the most efficient appliances are sold on the EU market, while compulsory energy labelling helps to inform consumers about the energy consumption of individual products. The Commission has prepared a 2016-2019 ecodesign work-plan, including a list of new product groups to be covered by EU legislation. In 2015 the Commission issued a legislative proposal to revise the framework for energy labelling, in order to improve consumer awareness and market monitoring of real energy consumption. On 21 March 2017, agreement was reached between the Council and the Parliament on this regulation, which should be adopted in the coming months.

Energy performance of buildings

There is great potential for buildings in the EU to become more energy efficient. This would reduce energy consumption and combat energy poverty, a social problem exacerbated by inefficient housing stock. Buildings absorb 40 % of final energy consumption in the EU, however 75 % of the existing building stock is energy inefficient and less than 1 % is renovated each year. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010) obliges Member States to ensure that from 2021, all new or heavily renovated buildings are nearly Zero Energy Buildings (nZEB). As part of its clean energy package, the Commission proposed several improvements to the Buildings Directive and has introduced a ‘smart finance for smart buildings initiative’, in order to better concentrate EU funding on building renovations that can improve energy efficiency and/or allow self-generation and consumption of renewable energy sources, making use of the latest technologies.

Competitive markets and smart metering

The EU single market in energy is designed to foster competition and ensure that national energy markets are better interconnected. The European Council has set minimum electricity interconnection targets for EU Member States (10 % by 2020, 15 % by 2030). The empowerment of consumers is crucial for a well-functioning market, and with this in mind EU legislation has enshrined several rights for energy consumers. Energy efficiency can be improved by smoothing out supply and demand over time, the reduction in ‘demand peaks’ also helps to lower the operating costs for the energy grid and the financial burden on consumers. Yet to be empowered, consumers must be aware of their consumption levels and benefit financially from adjusting their energy use to variable pricing (‘demand response’). EU legislation encourages Member States to deploy widely gas and electricity smart meters that provide accurate and (almost) real-time data on energy consumption.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/18/energy-efficiency-and-reducing-consumption-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

Organoids: a new technology which could change our lives

By Mihalis Kritikos.


© Ociacia / Shutterstock.com

Organoids are artificially grown organs that mimic the properties of real organs, providing new possibilities for treating diseases, drug development, and personalised and regenerative medicine.

Organoids are small clusters of human cells, grown in a laboratory environment to form three-dimensional structures that mimic the functionalities of real organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs. Organoids are either generated from resident progenitors in adult organs; or derived from one or a few cells from a tissue, embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells, which can self-organise in three-dimensional culture owing to their self-renewal and differentiation capacities. These cell clusters are often grown in specially fabricated micro-containers that help the cells to arrange themselves, much as they would in an organ inside the human body. They closely resemble in vivo human tissue and possess the genetic characteristics of the people from whom they are taken, and so respond to drugs as the corresponding organ of the person in question would. These organ-like structures, which can be stored in biobanks, are not just a powerful tool to promote better understanding of the fundamental processes governing organ development in the human body, but also promise direct benefits for patient treatment and drug development.

Potential impacts and developments

As one of the most accessible and physiologically relevant models for studying the dynamics of stem cells in a controlled environment, organoids are expected to advance our understanding of tissue renewal, stem cell/niche functions and tissue responses to drugs, mutation or damage, as well as unlocking the mysteries of several brain diseases and neurological disorders. The blossoming of a technology that allows scientists to grow matter resembling brains, as well as livers, kidneys, intestines, and many other body parts, is seen as an important avenue to reconstituting organ functions ex vivo. Other possibilities include providing a sound model for preclinical screenings, targeted and personalised therapies, regenerative medicine applications, drug discovery and environmental toxicology testing.

The progress in generating organoids has extended organoid applications from a basic research tool to a translational platform with a wide range of downstream functions and uses that animal testing cannot offer, and could even revolutionise the drug discovery process. For instance, mini-guts can serve as a personalised drug-testing tool for cystic fibrosis (CF), whilst researchers are beginning to use brain organoids as accurate models for the study of a wide range of diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

Furthermore, liver-based cell organoids could form a complement to current organ transplantation to restore liver function of patients with metabolic liver disease and to serve as a model for metastasis growth, and for testing tumour cell response to current and newly discovered drugs. Pancreas organoids derived from adult pancreas stem cells are one of the most promising technologies for cellular and regenerative therapy. These ‘intestinoids’ already permit novel drug testing for cystic fibrosis and bowel cancer. Recently, scientists set up the world’s first ‘living biobank‘ to store patients’ tumours, and used the tissue to identify the most promising drugs for each person’s disease, while other scientists are making progress in creating larger assemblies of nerve cells, moving towards creating brain-sized organoids. In the near future, organoids will begin to enter routine medical use, as a way to shed light on diseases caused during embryonic development, or potentially as transplants to replace human patients’ diseased or failing natural organs. Organoids are also used to study what goes wrong, such as in neurons derived directly from patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alongside the benefits organoids could provide in terms of helping researchers to understand how real organs develop, and what can go wrong with that process, the scaling-up of organoids into reproducible and user-friendly systems and commercial manufacturing entails safety and ethical risks, given that culture methods are still in their infancy. Personalised organoids may facilitate the deployment of personalised medical trials, which may in turn pose new risks, and affordability concerns.

Similar conflicts may arise when considering the type of tissue generated. The closer scientists come to making a human brain, the greater the ethical issues. The concepts of human integrity in this context could be placed under significant threat.

Anticipatory law making

Although many of these technologies are still relatively new and require further validation and characterisation, the fact that organoids derived today from living tissues cultivated from participants’ stem cells may be stored for a very long/virtually infinite period of time underlines the urgency to deal with these issues now. Privacy requirements; terms and conditions of inclusion of participants in research/clinical trial settings; storage and use of organoids; and dissemination of results including incidental findings, all require attention. Informed consent is a major issue regarding inclusion of participants and the collection of their stem cells from residual tissue. Organoid biobanking also requires the development of tailor-made informed consent procedures that address the challenges associated with the fact that organoids are actually living mini-organs that could be used for a wide range of purposes, as well as the lack of an EU-wide legal framework on biobanks.

The use of organoids may complement or even reduce animal testing and the involvement of humans in an experimental setting, which may in turn trigger the modification of the existing medicinal testing, clinical trial and chemicals’ authorisation framework.

Another central issue is the question about ownership and commodification of bodily material, as well as how true to life an in vitro model of human development needs to be in order to be both scientifically valuable and ethically acceptable. As interest in organoid technology grows, the commercial development of more standardised, validated organoid culture media will also be valuable in ensuring that the organoid system becomes accessible to a wide range of academic and clinical scientists, thereby helping to maximise its potential.

This post is part of a series based on the EPRS publication ‘Ten more technologies which could change our lives‘, which draws attention to ten specific technologies and promotes further reflection about other innovations, in a follow-up to the 2015 ground-breaking publication ‘Ten technologies which could change our lives – potential impacts and policy implications‘. The publications explore the promises and potential negative consequences of these new technologies, and the role that the European Parliament as co-legislator could, and should, play in shaping these developments. The publications feed into the work and priorities of the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and parliamentary committees.

Tell us what other important technological developments you see that might have a significant impact on the way we live in the future, and that would require European policy-makers’ attention, by leaving a comment below or completing our feedback questionnaire.

To keep up-to-date with STOA activities, follow our website, the EPRS blog, Twitter, You tube and Think Tank website.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/17/organoids-a-new-technology-which-could-change-our-lives/

Framework for energy efficiency labelling [EU legislation in progress]

Written by Alex Wilson (5th edition),

Framework for energy efficiency labelling

© Benjamin LEFEBVRE / Fotolia

In July 2015, the Commission proposed a new regulation on energy efficiency labelling as part of its summer energy package. 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. The rescaling of different types of household products would be done through delegated acts from the Commission. 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 both producers and consumers, acting as a disincentive to greater energy efficiency.

The Council adopted a general approach in November 2015. The Parliament approved a series of legislative amendments in July 2016. After several trilogue meetings, a provisional agreement was reached in March 2017. The agreed text was subsequently approved by the Parliament on 13 June and by the Council on 26 June 2017.



Stage: adoption

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/16/framework-for-energy-efficiency-labelling-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Europe leading the way in global climate action [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Gregor Erbach,

EU climate and energy policies have performed well: carbon emissions have fallen significantly while the economy has continued to grow. Europe is on track to meet or even exceed its 2020 climate and energy targets. Having been key actors in concluding the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the EU and its Member States are now taking further steps to fulfil their pledges made ahead of the Paris conference.

EU climate policies: ambitions and achievements

climate change word cloud on blackboard

© Marek / Fotolia

The EU has pursued climate policies since the 1990s, starting with energy efficiency labelling and standards. These policies were strengthened after the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits developed countries to reducing their carbon emissions. In 2005, the EU introduced the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the world’s first and biggest carbon market. Furthermore, it set concrete targets for 2020: a 20 % reduction of carbon emissions compared to 1990 levels, a 20 % share of renewable energy sources and a 20 % improvement in energy efficiency. To achieve them, the EU adopted legislation in numerous areas, such as emissions trading, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency targets and energy labels and standards, and introduced the rule that at least 20 % of its budget would be dedicated to climate action, including research. Thanks to these measures, the EU has reduced its carbon emissions by 23 % since 1990, while its economy has grown by 46 %.

While the EU is fully on track to meeting or exceeding its targets for 2020, other regions have been less effective. Several countries have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol or weakened their climate policies. At the same time, emissions in many developing countries have grown rapidly, driven by strong economic growth.

The Paris Agreement: a global framework for climate action

After many years of difficult negotiations, in 2015 a new agreement on climate change was concluded at the 21st UN climate change conference (COP21) in Paris. The Paris Agreement was the first at which all countries, including developing ones, made commitments. The EU, together with the ‘high ambition coalition’ of 35 countries, played a leading role in raising the level of the goals set in the agreement. Ahead of COP21, the EU submitted its pledge, a 40 % reduction of EU carbon emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Putting the Paris Agreement into action

The EU is currently in the process of a complete overhaul of its climate and energy policy to achieve its 40 % emissions reduction target under the Paris Agreement, as well as its 2030 targets of a 27 % share of renewables and an improvement in energy efficiency of at least 27 %. The Commission has made a number of legislative proposals to pave the way for the transition towards a low-carbon economy, on topics such as reforming the ETS, effort sharing, land use and forestry, energy efficiency, buildings and the electricity market. The Commission’s proposals are now being discussed and amended by the European Parliament and Member States.

The case for raising the level of ambition

The UN Environment Programme’s latest emissions gap report finds that the current pledges are not sufficient to limit the global temperature rise to the agreed 20C, let alone to 1.5oC. The Paris Agreement includes a mechanism for reviewing the pledges every five years, starting in 2018. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for greater ambition, such as a 40 % improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. In the context of the ETS reform, the European Parliament has urged more emission allowances to be removed from the market, the inclusion of the shipping and aviation sectors, and called for periodic reviews of the level of ambition in line with the five-yearly review cycle of the Paris Agreement.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/16/europe-leading-the-way-in-global-climate-action-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

New laws needed for robots [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Rafał Mańko,

The European Parliament has recently called upon the Commission to table a legislative proposal laying down a set of civil law rules on robotics and artificial intelligence. These should address such issues as liability for damages caused by a robot, as well as establish a European agency for robotics and artificial intelligence.

Growing numbers of robots

Robot and human hand-shake

Shutterstock / Willyam Bradberry

Between 2010 and 2014, the average increase in sales of robots stood at 17 % per year, and in 2014 sales rose by 29 %. The main drivers of the growth are automotive parts suppliers as well as the electrical and electronics industries. In January 2015, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee established a working group on legal questions related to the development of robotics and artificial intelligence in the EU, with a focus on civil law aspects. The group held 10 meetings between May 2015 and September 2016, and heard advice from a number of stakeholders, scientists and lawyers. In June 2016, the EPRS Scientific Foresight Unit published an expert study on the Ethical Aspects of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). CPS are intelligent robotics systems, linked with the Internet of Things, or technical systems of networked computers, robots and artificial intelligence that interact with the physical world. Examples include automated cars and drones, as well as robots used in healthcare, as aids for disabled people and in agriculture. The study drew attention to possible risks from the development of robotics, including such aspects as employment, privacy protection, safety and civil liability.

Parliament’s resolution

On 16 February 2017 Parliament adopted a resolution formally requesting the Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal establishing civil law rules on robotics and artificial intelligence, governing in particular questions of liability and ethics of robotics.

Registering smart robots

The resolution proposes to introduce a system of registration for ‘smart robots’, that is, those which have autonomy through the use of sensors and/or interconnectivity with the environment, which have at least a minor physical support, which adapt their behaviour and actions to the environment and which cannot be defined as having ‘life’ in the biological sense. The system of registration of advanced robots would be managed by an EU agency for robotics and artificial intelligence. This agency would also provide technical, ethical and regulatory expertise on robotics.

Liability for damages caused by robots

As regards liability for damage caused by robots, the resolution suggests that liability could either be based on strict liability (no fault required) or on a risk-management approach (liability of a person who was able to minimise the risks). Liability should be proportionate to the actual level of instructions given to the robot and to its degree of autonomy. Rules on liability could be complemented by a compulsory insurance scheme for robot users, and a compensation fund to pay out in cases where no insurance policy covered the risk.

Codes of conduct

The resolution proposes, as an annex, two draft codes of conduct – a Code of Ethical Conduct for Robotics Engineers and a Code for Research Ethics Committees. The first code puts forward four ethical principles in robotics engineering: 1) beneficence (robots should act in the best interests of humans); 2) non-maleficence (robots should not harm humans); 3) autonomy (human interaction with robots should be voluntary); 4) justice (the benefits of robotics should be distributed fairly).

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/14/new-laws-needed-for-robots-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

Driving safely in Europe [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Sarah Sheil with Amalie Bjornavold,


© vege / Fotolia

European roads are the safest in the world, and the introduction of the new harmonised European driving licence is helping to consolidate this trend. In addition to ensuring freedom of movement for the EU’s 300 million drivers – given that the new licences are recognised throughout Europe – they also reinforce their security and safety. The introduction of minimum requirements to obtain and keep a licence contributes to keeping unsafe drivers off the road. And thanks to the standardised credit-card style format, the risk of counterfeiting has been significantly reduced.

Standardisation of European driving licences

In January 2013, the new European driving licence was introduced, thanks to the adoption of the EU Driving Licence Directive (2006/126/EC) and its transposition by Member States in 2011. The 170 different formats of driving licences previously used are gradually being replaced with the harmonised licence. Given that a driving licence can in some cases also be used as an identification document, the new credit-card style licence includes a microchip equipped with anti-fraud technology. Communication between national authorities has improved through regular consultation within the RESPER network, where national authorities can exchange information and gain a better overview of individuals whose licences have been withdrawn, suspended or restricted. In turn, authorities can better detect driving licence falsification. Directive 2015/413 also facilitates the cross-border exchange of information on road safety-related traffic offences.

On the road to safer travel

Along with related measures, the standardisation of driving licences will positively affect road safety in Europe. Even though the number of deaths on European roads has drastically decreased – by 43 % between 2001 and 2010, and a further 19 % from 2010 onwards – there were still 25 500 road deaths in 2016 and 135 000 injuries. A 2011 European Commission transport white paper set the goal of zero victims of road accidents by 2050 and fatalities halved by 2020. The new driving licence rules enhance the safety of drivers, as they better protect vulnerable users. This is particularly the case for young motorcycle riders, whose access to motorbikes and powered two-wheelers will depend on their experience with less powerful machines, such as mopeds. Moreover, unless an individual’s driving licence was issued before 2013, both motorcyclists and car drivers will need to renew it every 10 or 15 years, depending on the Member State in which it was issued. Drivers of buses and lorries will hold licences valid for up to five years, and will need to undergo a medical examination to renew it.

EU action on road safety

The EU faces significant challenges in improving road safety, from ageing populations to the surge in the use of potentially distracting electronic devices on the road, but it also has opportunities through possibilities offered by new technologies such as self-driving systems. To monitor progress, the European Road Safety Observatory (ERSO) was set up to coordinate all EU activities in the fields of road accident and injury data collection. Within the EU, road safety is a shared competence, which means that the enforcement of traffic rules and education for road users are largely dealt with by Member States. EU intervention mostly focuses on the safety of road networks, training of professional drivers, the technical condition of vehicles, transport of dangerous goods, and harmonisation of vehicles in areas such as use of seat belts and speed limitation devices. In reaching the goal of zero road accidents by 2050, further action is still needed, though, through a combination of actions at local, national and EU level.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/11/driving-safely-in-europe-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

Intelligent urban transport systems: a new technology which could change our lives

By Christian Kurrer, with James Tarlton

Intelligent urban transport systems

© Fuyu liu / Shutterstock.com

Can information technology contribute to alleviating traffic gridlock in our increasingly congested urban areas?

Over 70 % of all Europeans live in cities, and as this percentage continues to increase, cities become even more congested. Inhabitants suffer from increasingly poor air quality and more noise, as their cities become generally less liveable.

The recent car emissions controversy has drawn considerable attention to the problem of air pollution generated by private car traffic. The row revealed that efforts to reduce air pollution in Europe through stricter emissions regulations are largely ineffective. There is some, justified, expectation that a switch from gasoline to electric vehicles will have a significant impact on pollution levels, but the introduction of electric cars will still take years, and switching to electric vehicles alone will do little to solve the worsening congestion problems.

In recent years, we have therefore seen a renewed interest in the possibilities of intelligent transport system (ITS) solutions.

Potential impacts and developments

Numerous initiatives are under way to investigate how ITS can contribute to making traffic flow smoother and therefore more efficient. Many possibilities arise from the fact that cars are becoming ever more intelligent and increasingly communicate with their immediate environment. Already today, cars can adapt their speeds to the car driving in front, and future interaction with intelligent traffic signals will cut delays and fuel consumption. Cars will be able to book a parking spot at their destination in advance. Currently, satellite navigation systems can optimise routes accounting for the actual traffic situation, but future systems could communicate with each other through a central computer to optimise the overall set of routes that all vehicles should take, avoiding situations where too many drivers want to switch at the same time to the same seemingly faster route around a bottleneck.

All of these technological options would certainly allow more efficient management of current traffic levels. The question is, however, whether this will actually translate into less congestion in urban areas, or whether encouraging even more users to commute to work using their personal car would balance out the increases in fluidity.

Allowing more private passenger traffic to reach city centres smoothly, at the same time, would raise the problem of where to park all these cars. We would not gain much if traffic became smoother, but parking spaces increasingly difficult to find.

Anticipatory policy-making

Solving traffic gridlock in urban areas might require more than just increasing the traffic flow at individual intersections. It might require a more fundamental reassessment of how we want to meet our mobility needs in the future, make use of public spaces, and organise our urban lives.

One option could be to aim at an intelligent traffic system giving absolute priority to surface-bound public transport such as buses or trams. Traffic signals along roads employed by public transport could be programmed in such a way that buses would never have to stop for a red light, nor for cars blocking the road. A major drawback of public bus services today is that their effective travelling speed in urban areas rarely exceeds 15 km/h, and that their frequent stops at bus stops mean that they move even slower than private cars.

With ITS, we could drastically change this situation, potentially even doubling the effective travelling speeds of buses, which also means that the same number of buses and drivers could transport twice as many passengers.

In other words, the most effective way to faster, more fuel-efficient passenger car traffic might actually be an investment in the attractiveness of public transport. In addition to speed, the price of public transport is also a key aspect influencing individuals’ transport choices. Many people find the price of a single ride ticket too expensive for occasional use, or find tariff structures too confusing to understand. Public transport authorities perhaps focus too much effort today in selling and controlling tickets, with ever more high-tech access control systems, rather than actually transporting their passengers. A bus driver, who stops at a bus stop for a minute to sell a single-ride ticket for €2, while 60 passengers wait in the back, is a macro-economic nonsense.

If efficient public transport is considered to be a public necessity, we may need to think more fundamentally about who should pay for it, and how. Perhaps one might simply consider switching over to providing public transport for free as a rule, the same way in which we switched over to free public education decades ago. At the same time, we could re-assess whether cities should continue to provide free on-street parking spaces for residents. Charging residents for on-street parking could raise the necessary funds to make public transport free for all. Disincentivising parking of private cars on public roads could also make more public space available for even smoother public transport services. In addition, instead of using increasingly sophisticated machines to sell and control tickets for people who travel to town by bus, we could use all of this technical ingenuity to install systems that control and charge motorists who drive to cities in personal cars, providing additional funds to improve public transport.

Furthermore, besides focusing on the technical infrastructure, other options at the user level could make our transport system more intelligent. Daily commuters fill the streets at present, often travelling more or less similar routes in separate cars. ITS systems that would make spontaneous identification of options for ride sharing easier could reduce the need to use individual cars most of the time.

Many options exist therefore to make our traffic system more intelligent. Modern information technology offers tremendous opportunities in this field, but we will still need human ingenuity and imagination to harness its full potential.

This post is part of a series based on the EPRS publication ‘Ten more technologies which could change our lives‘, which draws attention to ten specific technologies and promotes further reflection about other innovations, in a follow-up to the 2015 ground-breaking publication ‘Ten technologies which could change our lives – potential impacts and policy implications‘. The publications explore the promises and potential negative consequences of these new technologies, and the role that the European Parliament as co-legislator could, and should, play in shaping these developments. The publications feed into the work and priorities of the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and parliamentary committees.

Tell us what other important technological developments you see that might have a significant impact on the way we live in the future, and that would require European policy-makers’ attention, by leaving a comment below or completing our feedback questionnaire.

To keep up-to-date with STOA activities, follow our website, the EPRS blog, Twitter, You tube and Think Tank website.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/10/intelligent-urban-transport-systems-a-new-technology-which-could-change-our-lives/

Europe’s emergency telephone number: 112 [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Sarah Sheil with Amalie Bjornavold,

112 emergency

© georgejmclittle / Fotolia

EU citizenship has made it much easier to live, work and travel across the European Union. As a consequence of this heightened mobility, a common emergency number was introduced by the EU as a safety net – capable of reaching police, ambulance and fire brigade services free of charge, wherever you are on the continent. Even though 255 million mobile emergency calls are made each year, only 48 % of travellers are currently aware that 112 exists.


The intention behind creating a single European emergency number was to ensure that urgent help is accessible to anyone, regardless of where they might find themselves in Europe. From being accustomed to learning a new number wherever they went, travellers now only need to remember one: 112. Furthermore, a distinct feature of 112 is that the operator will be able to speak in several languages – the language of the country, and neighbouring countries, and English, and French or German in most cases. Significant challenges remain, though, especially with regard to the lack of awareness of its existence and location accuracy, given that each year, approximately 300 000 callers are unable to locate where they are. While emergency operators see the address at which a fixed phone is registered, with mobile phones, only the closest network antenna of the caller is identified, with the coverage area largely dependent on how densely populated the area is, sometimes causing difficulties in finding the victim.

Implementing the single European emergency number

112 was first standardised in 1972 with a recommendation by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications, and further in the EU by the adoption of a Council Decision introducing it in 1991. Since then, 112 has grown to either replace national emergency numbers (in eight EU Member States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Sweden) or operate alongside them. The 2002 Universal Service Directive provided detailed requirements for Member States on the implementation of the emergency number. All are required to ensure that both fixed and mobile phone users can reach 112 free of charge; that they are handled irrespective of whether other emergency numbers in the country exist; that operators can establish the location of callers, and that awareness-raising activities are performed – such as celebrating 112 day on 11 February each year. Since the adoption of the 2009 Roaming Regulation, mobile network operators are required to send a text message to inform travellers of 112 when they arrive in a new country. Although developments are under way, locating victims can still be difficult. The Universal Service Directive was updated in 2009 to encourage the use of new technologies in improving location services. An example of this in practice is the adoption of the 2015 eCall Regulation, requiring all new vehicles to be equipped with eCall technology as of April 2018. eCall will automatically dial 112 and locate the vehicle’s whereabouts should the caller be unconscious. This is expected to reduce emergency response times by up to 50 % in rural areas, and 40 % in urban areas. Support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML), a technology installed in mobile phones that allows emergency operators to track a caller’s location, is also growing. The Help 112 project, funded by the Commission, is facilitating the deployment of AML. The Commission is monitoring the correct implementation of EU law on 112, and can take legal action if necessary.

What to do in an emergency

In calling the emergency operator for urgent help, one must immediately provide information on what has happened, where you are, and what kind of help you need from what kind of service – whether it is the police, the fire brigade or an ambulance. One should never hang up until the operator tells you to do so. Nor should 112 ever be used for non-emergencies – to ask for directions, information or road conditions, for instance.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/09/europes-emergency-telephone-number-112-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

Roam like at home as of summer 2017 [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Mar Negreiro,

Smartphone - Roaming Worldwide

© beugdesign / Fotolia

From 15 June 2017 on, using your mobile phone anywhere in the EU will cost you the same as at home. The long-awaited end to roaming charges within the EU was agreed upon by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament two years ago. The Parliament played a crucial role in making this happen on time, and with cheaper wholesale data caps – the amounts telephone companies can charge each other to connect users outside their home networks – meaning you will have access to larger amounts of data when using your mobile phone while travelling in the EU.

A clear success story for the digital single market

Abolishing roaming charges has been a major priority for achieving the digital single market. Accordingly, since 2007 retail roaming charges for calls, text messages and data have been reduced by more than 90 % through a series of EU regulations. In 2015, the Council and the Parliament agreed on abolishing roaming charges altogether as from 15 June 2017.

Thereafter, the ‘roam-like-at-home’ (RLAH) system will become a reality for all Europeans travelling within the EU. Users will not need to do anything to access the RLAH system, as it will be included in all mobile contracts offering roaming services. This will put an end to an era of bills, which, because they were unpredictable or at times excessive, had prompted many Europeans to switch off their mobiles while abroad and use Wi-Fi or other affordable solutions instead. The number of people using their mobile phones while travelling to another Member State is expected to rise, to both individuals’ and companies’ benefit.

What these developments mean is that as of mid-June, Europeans will pay the same domestic prices when using their mobile devices anywhere in the EU. However, they could still face certain limits to the data volumes they can use compared to at home, because of the rules on ‘fair use’. These rules allow operators to safeguard the RLAH system against abusive or anomalous usage, for example by discouraging ‘permanent roamers’ – using a SIM card from a Member State perceived to have cheaper domestic tariffs while never or rarely being present in that country – and averting price hikes on domestic markets. Not only persons who are travelling, but also those with stable links to the Member State of the operator, such as cross-border commuters, posted workers and Erasmus students, will be able to use their mobile device in another Member State just as they would at home. Providers can ask their customers to provide proof of residence or of other such stable links to the Member State in question.

The European Parliament’s role

The European Parliament has played a crucial role in making this to happen. First, it voted in 2013 to end mobile phone roaming fees, and then found an agreement with Council to do this from 15 June 2017. Second, it played a key role in lowering considerably the wholesale roaming data caps, as a prerequisite for introducing RLAH in June 2017. As a result, consumers will benefit from larger amounts of mobile data when travelling in the EU. Third, it has also played a role in improving the ‘fair use’ rules as proposed by the European Commission, which envisaged restricting RLAH to 90 days per year per citizen. Following criticism from consumers and MEPs, these were withdrawn and replaced by roam like at home with no travel time limits, as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Parliament in his State of the Union 2016 speech.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/07/roam-like-at-home-as-of-summer-2017-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/

Remember, you have the right to be forgotten [What is Europe doing for its citizens?]

Written by Shara Monteleone,

Increasing use of digital technologies in almost every daily activity and the related flow of data have made access to and availability of personal data easier for companies, governments and citizens. In particular online, finding information about a fact or a person has become unprecedentedly easy.

Data protection as a fundamental right

US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

© Michael Brown / Fotolia

Any information relating to a person identified or identifiable (even indirectly) is personal data. Most Europeans use the internet to read news, join social networks, and shop, sharing data in the process. However, the majority are concerned about data being collected or used without their knowledge. Losing control of our data is one of the three main challenges of the web according to its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. Keeping control of our data means keeping control over our lives. In the EU, data protection is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, along with the right to privacy. EU law, as a consequence, regulates data processing, striking a balance between data protection and other rights or interests (e.g. freedom of expression, public security), and sets strict conditions under which data may be processed.

The ‘right to be forgotten’

Data protection should be effective, as judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU have underlined. In the landmark Google Spain case, legitimate grounds relating to a particular individual situation were recognised as justifying objections to data processing. In that case, a Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja, gained the right to have personal data deleted from search engines, following a complaint that an old (solved) debt problem continued to affect his reputation as it still appeared online in links to newspaper pages from 1998. The Court confirmed that search engine activities amount to data processing, and are thus subject to the 1995 Data Protection Directive, and that a search engine is a ‘data controller’ with the obligation to ensure protection.

The Court stressed that the data subject had the right ‘at a certain point in time’ to request that the information no longer be made available, over-riding not only the economic interest of a search engine, but also the interest of the general public to have access to that information. Google would thus now be obliged to delete links to third-party webpages related to a person from the list of search results, even when publication on these webpages is lawful. However, it made clear that, in other circumstances, the interest of the general public to have access to information may be preponderant. The Court thus contributed to defining rights now included in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, to be fully applicable from May 2018. This strengthens citizens’ rights, through, for instance, a clear and affirmative consent requirement and increased transparency obligations on how data are used. Building on existing doctrine on le droit à l’oubli and the right to delete, it includes the ‘right to be forgotten’: unless there are legitimate grounds for retaining data, e.g. press freedom or for archiving purposes, individuals may have their data deleted.

Nevertheless, an individual’s right to be forgotten is not absolute, as confirmed by the Court in a recent ruling (Manni case) which sought a fair balance between this and other individuals’ right to access data in a public register (namely a companies’ register). This third-party right to access data on public registers can only be limited if, on a case-by-case basis, legitimate and over-riding reasons to hide or erase personal data exist.

Issues may arise with regard to third parties’ interest in keeping and accessing information (e.g. for historical purposes) and freedom of expression. However, the EU approach does not necessarily see these rights as excluding each other; rather, data protection and privacy are instrumental for other rights. As the European Data Protection Supervisor recently affirmed, data protection and privacy and other rights and freedoms under EU law are interdependent. The UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci, sees privacy as an enabling right, or foundation, supporting other rights.

This note has been prepared by EPRS for the European Parliament’s Open Days in May 2017.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/08/04/remember-you-have-the-right-to-be-forgotten-what-is-europe-doing-for-its-citizens/