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New report on state of EU Telecommunications markets

July 23, 2014 Comments off

New report on state of EU Telecommunications markets
Source: European Commission

Today the European Commission published a report on the telecommunications market and regulation in the EU. The report covers 2012 – 2013 years.

The main findings of the report:

  • Industry revenues again declined in 2013 but investment is beginning to grow;
  • Use of traditional telephony services is decreasing as internet (VoIP) services become increasingly popular;
  • Data traffic is growing quickly;
  • Mobile voice call and data prices are higher in the EU than in the US, while the usage of mobile is higher in the US, resulting in a higher ‘average revenue per user’ in the US.
  • Only Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Malta met the 2012 target for the authorisation of the specific spectrum bands. 21 Member States did eventually meet the target in 2013, but the delay in assignment of the 800 MHz band has significantly slowed the roll-out of 4G mobile across the EU.
  • The time needed to obtain permits to roll-out new networks ranges from a few days to years depending on where in the EU you are building the network. Most authorities still do not allow for electronic submission of requests.
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EU — Fighting fraud: Major progress in anti-fraud policy but Member States must do more to combat fraud

July 18, 2014 Comments off

Fighting fraud: Major progress in anti-fraud policy but Member States must do more to combat fraud
Source: European Commission

Member States must step up their work to prevent, detect and report fraud affecting EU funds, according to the Commission’s annual report on the protection of financial interests (PIF report). The report sets out detailed recommendations on areas that national authorities should particularly focus on in this respect. The report finds that detected fraud in EU spending accounts for less than 0.2% of all funds. Nevertheless, the Commission believes that greater efforts at national level both on combatting and detecting fraud should be deployed. The annual PIF report therefore recommends, amongst other things, that Member States review their controls to ensure they are risk-based and well-targeted.

On the positive side, the report notes that good progress is being made at national level to implement new rules and policies which will strengthen the fight against fraud in the years ahead. Moreover, at EU level, the past 5 years have seen major advances in shaping a stronger anti-fraud landscape. These initiatives can have a marked impact on fraud levels, once they are fully implemented.

In Pursuit of Health Equity: Comparing U.S. and EU Approaches to Eliminating Disparities

July 8, 2014 Comments off

In Pursuit of Health Equity: Comparing U.S. and EU Approaches to Eliminating Disparities
Source: Urban institute

Researchers compare and contrast the U.S. public policy approach to tackling the problem of health disparities with the European approach in this paper. They begin by providing an overview of the ways in which the issue of health disparities has been framed in American and European policy discourse. They next compare how health disparities have been addressed in policy statements produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union. In so doing, they seek to illuminate implicit choices that stand to have a bearing on the outcomes of these initiatives.

EU — Student support crucial for offsetting impact of university tuition fees, says report

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Student support crucial for offsetting impact of university tuition fees, says report
Source: European Commission

When balanced with student support, increased tuition fees do not have an overall negative impact on enrolments in higher education, even among students from lower socio-economic groups, unless the magnitude of change is exceptional. However increases in fees can result in falling enrolments among older students, according to an international study released by the European Commission today. The report underlines that grants and/or loans are crucial for offsetting negative consequences of fees or fee rises on university enrolments, particularly from vulnerable groups.

The Commission-funded study, carried out by independent researchers, analysed the impact of changes in student fees in nine countries with different models of funding over the past 15 years (Austria, Canada, UK-England, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and South Korea).

EU — Social entrepreneurship: new standard to measure social impact

June 27, 2014 Comments off

Social entrepreneurship: new standard to measure social impact
Source: European Commission

A new standard to allow social enterprises of all sizes to better measure and demonstrate their social impact and so help them in their discussions with partners, investors, and public sector funders has been published by the European Commission. The standard, featured in a report on social impact measurement, will help European social enterprises to benefit from funding via the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF) and the new Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI). The report has been endorsed by an expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES) set up by the Commission.

The report found that it was not possible to devise a rigid set of indicators in a top-down way to measure social impact in all cases. Instead, it proposes a standard for social impact measurement in five stages, which is flexible enough to be adapted to the needs of very different social enterprises.

The necessity for a standard for the measurement of social impact is important in terms of funding: the EaSI programme stipulates that social enterprises must demonstrate that they are focused on achieving measurable, positive social or societal impacts in order to benefit from support. The new EuSEFs (European Social Entrepreneurship Funds) also require social businesses seeking financing to measure their social impact.

The development of a standard should help to avoid the current duplication of costs due to the fact that there are different approaches, as well as encouraging best practice in the rapidly evolving field of social impact measurement.

EU – Employment: report shows lower skilled workers face increasing difficulties to find a job

June 25, 2014 Comments off

Employment: report shows lower skilled workers face increasing difficulties to find a job
Source: European Commission

Low-skilled workers encounter increasing difficulties to find a job, face lower job stability and are out-competed by medium-skilled workers even in elementary occupations. In contrast, job opportunities are growing in some high-skilled professions. These are the main findings of the European Vacancy and Recruitment Report 2014 published today. The report also highlights the increase in temporary and part-time work during the crisis and underlines the need to better support school-to-work transitions, to decrease segmentation of the labour markets and to up-skill jobseekers, particularly the low qualified.

EU — Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores
Source: European Commission

Europe’s brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx – at least one of these species can now be found in 21 EU Member States. After a lengthy period of decline their numbers are growing once more, but coexistence with man can be problematic. In an effort to solve the social and economic problems that sometimes result from this new expansion, the European Commission has launched a platform where farmers, conservationists, hunters, landowners and scientists can exchange ideas and best practices on sharing the same land with large carnivores.

The EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores will support constructive dialogue between key stakeholder organisations at the European level. Launching the platform, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “We need to treat our natural neighbours with respect – but we also need to heed the concerns of those whose lives are genuinely affected by their close proximity. My warm congratulations to the organisations that have worked together to set up this important platform, which represents a major step forward in efforts to address the issue of peaceful coexistence.”

The European Union is home to five species of large carnivores. All suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity, but increasing protection and public awareness about their vital role in healthy ecosystems have caused many populations to stabilize or increase, and to return to areas from which they had been absent for decades or even centuries.

While this recovery is seen by some as a great conservation success, it has not been without its opponents. The issue involves a diversity of stakeholders such as hunters, foresters, livestock producers, reindeer herders, landowners, rural communities, conservation organizations and the wider public. These groups are influenced by and perceive large carnivores in different ways, and in some cases these differences can be a source of conflict. The platform will facilitate exchanges of knowledge and promote ways and means to minimize, and wherever possible, find equitable solutions to these conflicts.

EU cultural diplomacy needs new impetus, says report

June 12, 2014 Comments off

EU cultural diplomacy needs new impetus, says report
Source: European Commission

The European Union and its Member States stand to gain a great deal by using the ‘soft power’ of cultural diplomacy, with benefits for the economy through increased market access for European cultural and creative industries, strengthened cultural diversity and the wider sharing of European values. This is the conclusion of a report published today by the European Commission following an initiative by the European Parliament.

“Cultural diplomacy gives us an opportunity to share our European culture and values such as human rights, diversity and equality with other countries,” said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. “It is also good for jobs and growth. I urge the future Commission and European Parliament to implement the report’s recommendations.”

EU — Building growth: Country-specific recommendations 2014

June 4, 2014 Comments off

Building growth: Country-specific recommendations 2014
Source: European Commission

The European Commission has today adopted a series of economic policy recommendations to individual Member States to strengthen the recovery that began a year ago. The recommendations are based on detailed analyses of each country’s situation and provide guidance on how to boost growth, increase competitiveness and create jobs in 2014-2015.

This year, the emphasis has shifted from addressing the urgent problems caused by the crisis to strengthening the conditions for sustainable growth and employment in a post-crisis economy. As part of today’s package, which marks the culmination of the fourth European Semester of economic policy coordination, the Commission has also adopted several decisions on Member States’ public finances under the Stability and Growth Pact. Taken together, they represent an ambitious set of reforms for the EU economy.

EU — MOOCs are in high demand, especially for web design, according to new EC study

May 28, 2014 Comments off

MOOCs are in high demand, especially for web design, according to new EC study
Source: European Commission

Key findings

  • MOOCs are a widely recognized learning opportunity – 3 in 4 respondents knew what a MOOC is and 64% claimed to have taken one
  • The web skill highest in demand among students was web design
  • IT professionals indicated that one of the difficulties of the current labour market is acquiring employees with domain-specific skills such as iOS, Android, and HTML5 experts. They ranked MOOCs alongside on-the-job training as the best approaches to develop such skills.

Mapping the European ICT Poles of Excellence: The Atlas of ICT Activity in Europe

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Mapping the European ICT Poles of Excellence: The Atlas of ICT Activity in Europe
Source: European Commission

The EIPE Atlas presents the results of the empirical mapping of ICT activity in Europe and the ranking of the top European NUTS 3 regions based on their performance in EIPE Composite Indicator (EIPE CI), together with the ranks for the individual 42 indicators which contributed to the building of the EIPE composite indicators. The report offers a snapshot of the performance of regions that are identified as the main locations of ICT activity in Europe. It is meant to provide a comprehensive picture of how ICT activity is distributed across Europe and where its main locations are. This information is expected to give a better overview of the European ICT landscape, activity and actors in each location and to reveal their strengths and weaknesses.

Frequently Asked Questions — Responsible sourcing of minerals originating conflict-affected and high-risk areas: towards an integrated EU approach

March 13, 2014 Comments off

Responsible sourcing of minerals originating conflict-affected and high-risk areas: towards an integrated EU approach
Source: European Commission

Profits from the extraction of and trade in minerals sourced from unstable regions affected by armed conflict can play a role in intensifying and perpetuating violent conflict. This can take various forms including where armed groups or their affiliates illegally control mines and mineral trading routes, use forced labour or commit other human rights abuses, or tax or extort money or minerals.

As a result, armed groups and security forces in conflict regions can finance their activities from the proceeds of mining and trading of minerals which later enter the global supply chain. Companies further down the production chain run the risk of supporting armed activities and have an interest in sourcing from such regions responsibly.

The best documented and known case relates to the problems in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the United Nations frequently reports on the devastating instability created by foreign and national armed groups generating revenues through their control over natural resources. The Heidelberg Institute for International Research estimates that, together, natural resources and conflict account for roughly 20% of global conflicts.

Under the US Dodd-Frank Act, section 1502, ‘conflict minerals’ are defined as minerals containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold originating in the DRC and the adjoining countries. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Due Diligence guidance is based on the same four minerals but is not geographically specific. The EU proposal uses the same basis as OECD.

Questions and Answers: What has the EU done for women? 50 years of EU action on Gender Equality for One Continent

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Questions and Answers: What has the EU done for women? 50 years of EU action on Gender Equality for One Continent
Source: European Commission

The Treaty of Rome in 1957 already included the principle of equal pay for equal work. (Article 119 EEC, then 141 EC, now Article 157 TFEU). The background to this provision was mainly economic: Member States and in particular France wanted to eliminate distortion of competition between businesses established in different Member States. As some EU countries (for example France) had adopted national provisions on equal pay for men and women much earlier, these countries were afraid that a cheap female workforce in other countries (for example from Germany) could put national businesses and the economy at a competitive disadvantage owing to lower labour costs.

In 1976, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided in the Defrenne case that Article 119 EEC had not only an economic but also a social aim. This judgment paved the way for modern European gender equality law. It has been followed by an impressive amount of case law.

With the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, the promotion of equality between men and women became one of the essential tasks of the European Community (Article 2 EC). Since 1999, the EU has had the competence to take further action to combat discrimination based on gender (Article 13(1) EC, now 19(1) TFEU). This Article provided a legal basis for the Directive on the principle of equal treatment between men and women in access to and the supply of goods and services (Directive 2004/113/EC).

EU gender equality is also an integral part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which prohibits discrimination on any grounds, including sex, (Article 21) and recognises the right to gender equality in all areas and the necessity of positive action for its promotion (Article 23).

Think Tank Review — December 2013

December 20, 2013 Comments off

Think Tank Review — December 2013 (PDF)
Source: Central Library of the General Secretariat of the EU Council

While EU leaders come to Brussels for the last European Council of the year, to discuss inter alia the Common Security and Defence Policy, contractual arrangements and solidarity mechanisms, voices in the think tank community turn again to the issue of differentiated integration and its impact on European governance and social model.

Our selection this month echoes the progress towards the Banking Union, with several papers in the Special Focus on aspects of resolution and deposit guarantee. It equally reflects an ongoing concern in think tanks on migration and asylum, and their relationship with the free movement of EU citizens. The planned discussion of defence at the European Council is reflected in several papers from Brussels, Spain, Finland, the UK and others on defence policy and the defence industry.

In our external relations sections, we feature several papers on EU-China relations, published in November in the aftermath of the Beijing summit. The Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius predictably attracted a lot of think tank attention from the region and overseas, as did the negotiations with Turkey.

Think Tank Review — November 2013

December 5, 2013 Comments off

Think Tank Review — November 2013 (PDF)
Source: Central Library of the General Secretariat of the EU Council

Welcome to issue 8 of the Think Tank Review compiled by the Council Library. It references papers published in October 2013. As usual, we provide the link to the full text and a short abstract.

What does the Commission mean by secure Cloud computing services in Europe?

October 15, 2013 Comments off

What does the Commission mean by secure Cloud computing services in Europe?
Source: European Commission

Europe should aim to be the world’s leading ‘trusted cloud region’.

Widespread adoption of cloud computing is essential for improving productivity levels in the European economy; but the spread of cloud could slow in light of recent revelations about PRISM and other surveillance programmes. These surveillance revelations have also led to calls for national or regional cloud computing initiatives.

This challenge must be addressed and also turned into a Europe-wide opportunity: for companies operating in Europe to offer the trusted cloud services that more and more users are demanding globally.

The Commission is strongly against a “Fortress Europe” approach to cloud computing. We need instead a single market for cloud computing. For example the proposal for the data protection regulation will provide a uniform legal base for the protection of personal data in Europe. The fundamental principle at stake is the need to look beyond borders when it comes to cloud computing. Separate initiatives or a Fortress Europe approach is not going to work.

Achieving this ambition is not a task for the European Commission alone, it begins the cloud providers themselves and includes all stakeholders: Member States, industry and individual users.

The Potential of Digital Games for Empowerment and Social Inclusion of Groups at Risk of Social and Economic Exclusion: Evidence and Opportunity for Policy

October 9, 2013 Comments off

The Potential of Digital Games for Empowerment and Social Inclusion of Groups at Risk of Social and Economic Exclusion: Evidence and Opportunity for Policy (PDF)
Source: European Commission (Joint Research Center, Institute for Prospective Technology Studies)

This report addresses the potential of digital games to support social inclusion and empowerment (DGEI). It is based on a range of theoretical and empirical data, brought together for the first time in this and associated reports. The aim of the report, commissioned by DG CNECT, is to provide a better understanding of the industrial, market, social opportunities and limitations of digital games for empowerment and as a tool for socio-economic inclusion of people at risk of exclusion (such as youth at risk, migrants, elderly people, the unemployed, and the low-educated). A review of the literature, 12 original short case studies, workshops, and contributions from experts and stakeholders were used to identify both opportunities and challenges for deployment of digital games and gaming in fields such as wellness and aging, education and employability of poor learners, improved quality of training and skill development in industry, and civic participation. It concludes that there is sufficient evidence and activity to foresee positive impacts in terms of social inclusion, public service improvement, and employment and growth, but significant activity is still required in research, innovation, and especially in practice, before clear conclusions on large scale impact could be drawn. The report finishes by suggesting a range of actions related to the video game and ‘serious game and gamification” industry, research, skills, and application sectors that could be taken by stakeholders and policy makers in order to exploit the opportunities of DGEI.

EU — Pilot and crew fatigue — frequently asked questions

October 4, 2013 Comments off

Pilot and crew fatigue — frequently asked questions
Source: European Commission

Europe has built up an impressive safety record over recent years, and last year became the safest region in the world to fly – with the lowest accident rate ever. This safety record is built on a combination of EU and national safety rules, including rules covering pilot and crew fatigue.

The EU current safety rules on pilot and crew fatigue were established in 2006 under Regulation (EC) No 1899/2006 (EU-OPS). These mandatory EU flight duty limitations and rest requirements (or “FTL”) for aircrew are usually referred to as “Subpart Q”). The aim is to ensure that flight and cabin crew members perform safety functions on board of aircraft at a proper level of alertness.

In a nutshell, the current EU rules require Member States, airlines and aircrew to ensure safe duty rosters. They cover, among other issues, flight duty limits per day, week, month and year, in addition to minimum rest per day and month depending on previous duties. The current rules leave a number of specific aspects of FTL to Member State discretion and most Member States have adopted national rules to address them.

The EU has one single aviation market, logically it should be governed by one common set of safety rules applicable to all operators. This work, to set EU-wide safety rules has been on-going since 2003, including for FTL.

EU Report: Trade protectionism still on rise across the world

September 5, 2013 Comments off

EU Report: Trade protectionism still on rise across the world
Source: European Commission

Main conclusions of the Report

  • There has been a sharp increase in the use of measures applied directly at the border, especially in the form of import duty hikes. Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Ukraine stand out for having applied the heaviest tariff increases.
  • Measures forcing the use of domestic goods and relocation of businesses have continued to spread, especially in government procurement markets. Brazil accounted for more than one-third of restrictions related to government procurement, followed by Argentina and India.
  • The EU’s partners have also continued applying stimulus measures, in particular supporting exports. Some of them took form of comprehensive, long-term and highly competition-distorting policy packages.
  • Some countries continue to shield some of their domestic industries from foreign competition to the disadvantage of their consumers and other industry sectors. Brazil and Indonesia provide the most striking examples of this approach.

Europeans seek ever more mobile bandwidth, but they worry about cost

August 13, 2013 Comments off

Europeans seek ever more mobile bandwidth, but they worry about cost
Source: European Commission

Europeans are increasingly eager for new technologies as shown by the latest EU-wide survey. While Europeans are open to the opportunities offered by new tools & services, as illustrated by the figures for new internet subscriptions and use of the internet for making voice calls, they still think twice before picking up the phone or going online because of the cost of these services.

Results of this survey were previewed earlier in July (see IP/13/660) in particular highlighting the fact that Internet speed is emerging as a top issue for internet users. 45% of European internet users would be willing to upgrade or change their internet packages for higher speed.

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