No more costly and bureaucratic stamps for public documents – European Commission acts to slash red tape in al l Member States
Source: European Commission
Today the European Commission is proposing to slash red tape for citizens and businesses by doing away with bureaucratic rubber-stamping exercises currently required to get public documents like your birth certificate recognised as authentic in another EU Member State. Currently, citizens who move to another Member State have to spend a lot of time and money in order to demonstrate that their public documents (such as birth or marriage certificates) issued by their Member State of origin are authentic. This involves the so-called ‘Apostille’ certificate which is used by public authorities in other states as proof that public documents, or the signatures of national officials on documents, are genuine. Businesses operating across EU borders in the EU’s Single Market are also affected. For instance, they will often be required to produce a number of certified public documents in order to prove their legal status when operating cross-border. These requirements date from an era when countries would only trust a public document if it came from the foreign office of another country. However, just as we trust in each other’s court judgements, we should be able to trust a Member State’s Registry Office issuing birth certificates, without needing their foreign office, justice ministry, or other authorities to vouch for them. Today, the European Commission is therefore proposing to scrap the ‘Apostille’ stamp and a further series of arcane administrative requirements for certifying public documents for people living and working in other Member States.
Under the Commission’s proposals, adopted today, citizens and businesses would no longer have to provide costly ‘legalised’ versions or ‘certified’ translations of official documents when, for example, registering a house or company, getting married, or requesting a residence card. Twelve categories of public documents1 would automatically be exempted from formalities such as ‘Apostille’ and ‘legalisation’ – which are currently required for around 1.4 million documents within the EU each year. Abolishing these requirements will save citizens and businesses in the EU up to 330 million euro, not counting the saved time and inconvenience that is avoided.
The new rules will not, however, have any impact on the recognition of the content or the effects of the documents concerned. The new rules will only help prove the authenticity of the public document, for example whether a signature is authentic and the capacity in which the public office holder is signing. This will have to be mutually accepted between Member States without any additional certification requirements.
The Commission is also proposing a further simplification tool: optional multilingual standardised forms in all EU official languages that citizens and businesses could request instead of and under the same conditions as national public documents concerning birth, death, marriage, registered partnership and legal status and representation of a company or other undertaking (see Annex for examples). This would particularly help to save on translation costs, since the attraction of such an option is that it frees citizens and businesses from having to worry about translations. The design of these forms has taken inspiration from specific international conventions2.
The proposal also provides for safeguards against fraud. If a national authority has reasonable doubt about a particular document, Member States will be able to check its authenticity with the issuing authorities through the existing Internal Market Information System (IMI).
Source: European Commission
The European Commission today took the first step towards developing a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies. It adopted a Green Paper which launches a public consultation on the content of the 2030 framework. The Commission also published a Consultative Communication on the future of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Europe, aimed at initiating a debate on the options available to ensure its timely development. Finally, the Commission adopted a report assessing Member States’ progress towards their 2020 renewable energy targets and reports on the sustainability of biofuels and bioliquids consumed in the EU.
Source: European Commission
First, the EU is supporting open science. Because I know that we can advance these goals through our policies and platforms. And because I know that our society and our future are best served through science that is faster, better and more open.
Second, while we can offer support from the EU, the tools to make science more open and effective don’t lie with us: they lie in your hands, with scientists themselves.
My third point is that this needs to have a global dimension.
Source: European Commission
The Commission is today able to report about some success in its strategy to fight global trade barriers. The efforts of the European Commission to fight protectionism over the last year bear fruit and could create better trade and investment conditions for EU companies. Yet the struggle against protectionism continues. The resistance of Europe’s strategic partners to the plea for open markets comes into the limelight in the European Commission’s third annual Trade and Investment Barriers Report published today. In particular, China, India, Mercosur and Russia do not escape criticism.
According to the report, the European Commission in 2012 achieved progress towards eliminating some of the most trade distortive barriers hindering global activities of EU companies:
- The EU victory in the WTO case against China on access to raw materials brings to an end a fundamental disadvantage affecting the competitiveness of the European industries;
- Many years of difficult negotiations over the Russian accession to the WTO resulted last year in the significant lowering of import duties;
- EU trade diplomacy made progress toward the opening of the Indian market to EU telecommunication equipment, tyres and steel products. The bilateral discussions conducted with Japan are making it easier for EU producers of liquor, beef meat and processed foods to respond to the Japanese appetite.
Yet not all of the 25 key trade and investment barriers identified by the European Commission last year could be satisfactorily addressed. Several long-standing obstacles, together with a number of new trade-distortive measures taken by our partners in 2012, still stand in the way of European companies looking for markets outside the EU.
Source: European Commission
The European Commission welcomes the final approval by the EU’s Council of Ministers of new rules for motorcycles and other light vehicles. The fitting of advanced braking systems will now become obligatory for two-wheel motorcycles and automatic "switching-on" of headlamps will be mandatory for all light vehicles. L-category vehicle is the family name for such light vehicles and they include engine powered bicycles, mopeds, motorcycles with and without a side-car, tricycles, quads and quadri-mobile vehicles. The Regulation also sets ambitious emission lowering requirements for these vehicles.
By introducing enhanced market surveillance requirements, a level playing field will be created for all L-category vehicle manufacturers in a sector where presence of non-compliant products may cause significant safety risks and environmental threats. In addition, the Commission proposes to radically simplify its current set of laws for light vehicles and reduce them from fifteen Directives to five Regulations. The entire package would be applicable as of 1 January 2016, offering sufficient lead-time for the industry to adapt to the new set of rules.
Although EU leads in energy efficiency and foreign investment, Industrial performance across Member States is not balanced
Source: European Commission
Today the European Commission released a substantial set of proposals to boost industry. It consists of the following three documents: an Industry Communication calling for short term focussed investment in key industry sectors with high growth prospects; the 2012 Scoreboard on the Member States industrial competitiveness performance; and also the 2012 European Competitiveness Report, which identifies opportunities to make European industries more competitive.
According to the scoreboard, several Member States have made good progress in strengthening industry’s sustainability, improving support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and reforming public administration. The scoreboard highlights a continued shift towards a more knowledge-based economy, with increased labour productivity and highly-skilled labour. Most of the countries have engaged in reforms to improve business prospects and strengthen their competitiveness.
However, convergence between more and less innovative countries seems to have slowed down in recent years. The innovation gap between Member States risks widening due to the different ways they have responded to the economic crisis. Significant challenges remain in promoting private research and enhancing competition in network industries (energy, telecommunication, and transport). Access to finance has worsened in the majority of Member States, particularly for SMEs.
The annual European Competitiveness Report is designed to contribute to the analysis underpinning the EU’s promotion of competitiveness. Among its key finding, the drop in domestic demand which cannot be fully offset by demand from third counties, the EU leadership in Energy efficiency and in capacity to attract foreign direct investment.
Customs action to tackle fakes – Frequently Asked Questions
Source: European Commission
What measures are in place at EU level to protect IPR?
Customs enforcement: in May 2011 the Commission proposed a new regulation that strengthens the provisions concerning the customs enforcement of IPR. This proposal was part of a comprehensive package of IPR measures aimed at modernising the legal framework in which IPR operate today (see IP 11/630, MEMO 11/327).
Patent protection: the Commission already launched proposals in April for a unitary patent protection under enhanced cooperation (see IP/11/470), so that innovators can protect their inventions at an affordable cost with a single patent covering the entire EU territory with minimum translation costs and without needing to validate that patent at a national level as they currently have to do. Today, obtaining a patent in Europe costs ten times more than one in the US. This situation discourages research, development and innovation, and undermines Europe’s competitiveness. Meanwhile, work continues on the creation of a unified and specialised patent court for the classical European patents and the future European patents with unitary effect. This would considerably reduce litigation costs and the time it takes to resolve patent disputes. It would also increase legal certainty for business. At the European Council, the issue of the seat of the central division of the patent court was finally agreed, but the terms of the informal trialogue agreement with the EP were unfortunately altered. The Commission hopes that a deal can finally be reached early in the autumn.
Trade marks: trade mark registration in the EU has been harmonised in Member States for almost 20 years and the Community trade mark was established 15 years ago. However, there is an increasing demand for more streamlined, effective and consistent registration systems. The Commission intends to present proposals in 2012 to modernise the trade mark system both at EU and national levels and adapt it to the internet era.
IPR violations: the Commission is set to intensify its efforts in this area. Firstly, the Commission has reinforced the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, which it launched in 2009, by entrusting its tasks to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). This allows the Observatory to benefit from OHIM’s intellectual property expertise and strong record of delivery in trademarks and designs. Secondly, there is an on-going assessment of the IPR Enforcement Directive (see IP/04/540), to help improve the current enforcement system in the EU. The Directive provides for civil law measures allowing right holders to enforce their intellectual property rights.
In addition to these measures, the Commission supports businesses in the protection and enforcement of their IPR: With projects like the Transatlantic IPR Portal or support offered directly to EU SMEs so they know about IPR challenges before they expand their business (China IPR SME Helpdesk, EU IPR Helpdesk).
A European Commission report published today shows that thanks to the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) many food safety risks have been averted or mitigated and safety controls ensure our food is safe. RASFF plays a key role in ensuring safety from “farm to fork”, by triggering a rapid reaction when a food safety risk is detected. All members of the RASFF system1 are swiftly informed of serious risks found in food or feed so that together they can react to food safety threats in a coordinated way to protect the health of EU citizens.John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, said: “European consumers enjoy the highest food safety standards in the world. The EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed is a key tool as it allows risks to be identified and removed from the European market. RASFF reinforces the confidence of our consumers in our food and feed safety system. In 2011, we dealt with a number of important crises such as the effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident, the dioxin and the E. coli crisis. The EU managed to tackle them and the lessons we all learnt will no doubt guide us to do even better in the future.”
EU — Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Microsoft to investigate possible non-compliance with browser choice commitments
The European Commission has opened proceedings against Microsoft in order to investigate whether the company has failed to comply with its 2009 commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.
On the basis of information it has received, the Commission believes that Microsoft may have failed to roll out the choice screen with Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. This is despite the fact that, in December 2011, Microsoft indicated in its annual compliance report to the Commission that it was in compliance with its commitments. From February 2011 until today, millions of Windows users in the EU may have not seen the choice screen. Microsoft has recently acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.
“We take compliance with our decisions very seriously. And I trusted the company’s reports were accurate. But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action. If following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions”, said Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the Commission in charge of competition policy.
Knowledge, responsibility, engagement: the EU outlines its policy for the Arctic
Source: European Commission
The European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have today outlined the way forward for the EU’s constructive engagement in the Arctic. The Arctic region is a vital component of the Earth’s environment. Climate change in the Arctic is advancing dramatically, with change visible on a yearly basis, impacting significantly on its ecosystem and the livelihood of its inhabitants. At the same time, rapidly retreating sea ice alongside technological progress are opening up new economic opportunities in the region such as shipping, mining, energy extraction and fishing. While beneficial for the global economy, these activities also call for a prudent and sustainable approach: further repercussions for the fragile Arctic can be expected if top environmental standards are not met.
Summarised in three words, ”knowledge, responsibility, engagement”, the strategy adopted today contains a set of tangible actions that contribute to research and sustainable development in the region and promote environmentally friendly technologies that could be used for sustainable shipping and mining. It also underlines the EU’s activities in the Arctic since 2008. For example, the EU has made a contribution of 20 million EUR per year in Arctic research over the last decade and has invested more than 1.14 billion EUR in the sustainable development of the region since 2007.
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission stated: “With the actions presented today, we want to show the world that the EU is serious about its commitments towards the Arctic region. Developments in the Arctic add further urgency to our work to combat global climate change, and are of increasing strategic, economic and environmental importance to the European Union. The EU wants to make a positive contribution to the cooperation between the Arctic states and take into account the needs of indigenous and local communities inhabiting Arctic areas”.
Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said: “The Arctic is rapidly going through important changes, allowing for new economic activity in a fragile part of the world. There are environmental challenges and opportunities that require global attention and the EU can help substantially: in research, funding, combating global warming and developing greener technologies. This is what the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy is all about, to contribute to common solutions for the sustainable management of the seas.”
The HLY (Healthy Life Years) indicates how long people can expect to live without disability. It has been computed annually for each Member State of the European Union since 2005. These figures are released in the framework of the first annual meeting of the European Joint Action on Healthy Life Years (EHLEIS), organized in Paris on April 19, 2012 (ASIEM, 6 rue Albert de Lapparent, from 1:30pm) by the French Ministry of Health. The European Joint Action on Healthy Life Years (EHLEIS) is led by FRANCE, and coordinated by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).In 2009 men in the European Union (EU27) could expect 61.3 Healthy Life Years (HLY), representing almost 80% of their life expectancy (LE) at birth of 76.7 years. Women could expect 62 HLY, 75% of their life expectancy (LE) at birth of 82.6 years in 2009.
The first successful non-regenerative organ transplantation took place in 1954 when Dr. Joseph E. Murray transplanted a kidney from Ronald Herrick to Mr. Herrick’s identical twin Richard, who had been diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. That time the initial ethical dilemma was whether a healthy donor can be operated in order to save the life of the sick brother. That time it was a miracle that without the use of immunosuppressive drugs, Richard survived with his transplanted kidney for more than eight years. Since then transplantation has become a gradually developing technology. The type and number of transplantable organs have increased, especially since the last decade of the 20th century. By the twenty first century in developed countries the number of available organs, infrastructural, and budgetary means could not keep pace with the increased technological capacity for transplantation. National waiting lists have become full and long, and the number of people who died while waiting in the line has also increased. The other important element that created tension between developed and less developed countries is the globalization, Europeanization and mobilization. Patients no longer feel bound to the capacity of one health care sector. It is easier to travel and it is no longer regarded as an exceptional luxury to seek health care beyond the national frontiers. At the EU level, the European Commission has urged of addressing ethical and legal issues concerning organ transplantation. One of the most important legal instruments was adopted in 2010, the Directive 2010/45/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on standards of quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation. During this short term project in our work package we attempted to map and to analyze laws, practices, cases, problems with regard the violation of organ transplantation laws. From the minor violation of selecting donor for the recipient to major and severe forms of violation of human rights, such as organ trafficking cases were collected and analyzed. In our small group of this half of the work package we also examined selected laws and practices in order to de-velop some recommendation which may serve for legislation, ethics committees and further research. Our principle methods to this study were legal methods of analysis which were ac-companied with policy analysis, field work, interviews and finally recommendations. We presented our ideas in several conferences, at the workshops of the EULOD Project held in Rot-terdam, Sofia, Munich and in Berlin. We are grateful for the comments that helped us to re-fine methods and arguments.This report is written by researchers working under the Coordination Action on ‘Living Organ Donation in Europe’ (EULOD), funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Commission. The first section of this report explores the existing international legal framework to fight against organ trade and trafficking, discussing legal concepts and definitions. The second part analyzes the adopted legislative measures in some selected European countries: Hungary, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania, and Serbia. The third section presents case studies on illegal organ trade and trafficking. The fourth and final part presents recommendations to improve the effectiveness of efforts to halt organ trade and trafficking.
Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism
Source: European Commission
ESTABLISHING THE EUROPEAN STABILITY MECHANISM
BETWEEN The Kingdom of Belgium, THE Federal Republic of Germany,
THE REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA, Ireland, THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC,
THE Kingdom of Spain, THE French Republic,
THE Italian Republic, THE Republic of Cyprus,
THE Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Malta,
THE Kingdom of the Netherlands, THE Republic of Austria,
THE Portuguese Republic, THe Republic of Slovenia,
THE Slovak Republic, THE Republic of Finland
THE CONTRACTING PARTIES, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Estonia, Ireland, the Hellenic Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Malta, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Austria, the Portuguese Republic, the Republic of Slovenia, the Slovak Republic and the Republic of Finland (the “euro area Member States” or “ESM Members”);
COMMITTED TO ensuring the financial stability of the euro area;
Euro coin counterfeiting in 2011
Source: European Commission
he number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation has decreased by 15%, down to 157 000 coins compared to 186 000 the year before. The 2-euro denomination remains by far the most counterfeited euro coin, representing almost two thirds of all counterfeit euro coins detected. The low levels of counterfeit euro coins are the result of the combined efforts of the Member States, the Commission/OLAF (the EU’s anti-fraud office) and the other European institutions.
The overall number of counterfeit coins is very small by comparison to the total number of around 16 billion genuine euro coins put into circulation of the three highest denominations (50c, 1€, 2€). This corresponds to 1 counterfeit for every 100 000 genuine coins.
Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner responsible for Anti-Fraud said: “Shopkeepers, small businesses and citizens are particularly at risk of receiving fake coins and notes. Fighting counterfeit money is therefore crucial to protect honest taxpayers. I am very happy that the euro is well protected through the work of OLAF. We will continue our efforts to detect illegal money and root out these illegal activities across Europe.”
Since the first demonstrations in Tunisia in December 2010, a wave of popular discontent has shaken the Arab world, with people calling for dignity, democracy, and social justice. Despite the unexpected magnitude of these uprisings, the EU has been quick to recognise the challenges of the political and economic transition faced by the region as a whole. It has also recognised the need to adopt a new approach to relations with its Southern neighbours.
The EU has engaged politically with a wide range of government, opposition, parliamentary and civil society interlocutors in the region through visits from the President of the Commission, the President of Parliament, the HR/VP and several Commissioners.
The EU’s strategic response to the Arab Spring came as early as 8 March 2011, with the joint communication of the High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP) Catherine Ashton and the Commission proposing “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean”. This communication stresses the need for the EU to support wholeheartedly the demand for political participation, dignity, freedom and employment opportunities, and sets out an approach based on the respect of universal values and shared interests. It also proposes the “more for more” principle, under which increased support in terms of financial assistance, enhanced mobility, and access to the EU Single Market is to be made available, on the basis of mutual accountability, to those partner countries most advanced in the consolidation of reforms. This approach was further elaborated in another joint communication on 25 May which initiated the launch of “a new response to a changing Neighbourhood”.
The EU is committed both in the short and long term to help its partners address in particular two main challenges:
- First, to build “deep democracy”, i.e. not only writing democratic constitutions and conducting free and fair elections, but creating and sustaining an independent judiciary, a thriving free press, a dynamic civil society and all other characteristics of a mature functioning democracy.
- Second, to ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development, without which democracy will not take root. A particular challenge is to ensure strong job creation.
While recognising a number of challenges that are common to all partner countries, the EU will support each country on a differentiated basis, thus ensuring individual needs and priorities are accounted for. EU support focuses on the “3 Ms”: Money, Mobility and Markets.
1 January 2002 marked the introduction of euro notes and coins in the European Union, ushering in an unprecedented alignment of monetary policies and closer cooperation between countries of the euro area. Whilst the euro and Economic and Monetary Union provided a sound basis for economic progress, the banking crisis of 2008 and its consequences have tested the system to the full. The success of the euro has proven to be dependent on sound and sustainable public finances and robust macroeconomic policies. The basis for recovery already exists with the recently strengthened EU rules on economic governance and surveillance. It is being further reinforced through a ‘Fiscal Compact’ agreed by EU leaders in the pursuit of budgetary discipline and reinforced economic policy coordination and governance throughout the eurozone.
In the pre-crisis period, the euro area as a whole benefitted from macroeconomic stability with stable inflation, low interest rates, an exceptionally long period of economic growth and a stronger internal market. The 332 million people who use the euro no longer have to pay extra costs to exchange currencies and there is more transparency in cross-border transactions, enabling consumers to compare prices between one eurozone country and another.
European Commission Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn, said, “against the backdrop of today’s economic fragility, this is an opportune moment to recall the fundamental principles on which the euro was built and bring about a return to a Europe of strength and opportunity. We have the bricks and mortar; we have the manpower. We now look forward to political will, strong determination and swift action to restore economic growth, and create more jobs and restore confidence in investors and the public.”
“Better Airports” Package Launched
Source: European Union
The European Commission today announced a comprehensive package of measures to help increase the capacity of Europe’s airports, reduce delays and improve the quality of services offered to passengers. The measures address the quality of services passengers and airlines receive on the ground before they take off and after they land (for example, baggage handling, check-in, refuelling), the transparency of decisions on airport noise, as well as the efficiency of the complex network of take-off and landing slots that make up every journey.
Vice President Siim Kallas, European Commissioner responsible for Transport said: ‘Europe’s airports are facing a capacity crunch. If business and the travelling public are to take best advantage of the air network, we have to act now. 70% of all delays to flights are already caused by problems on the ground not in the air. On present trends, nineteen key European airports will be full to bursting by 2030. The resulting congestion could mean delays for half of all flights across the network. The status quo is not an option for airports in Europe. Faced with intense global competition, if we do not change the way we do business, we may not be doing business at all.”
The package consists of a policy summary document and three legislative measures, on slots, ground-handling and noise.