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EU — Technology And Education: Opportunities And Side-Effects

April 27, 2015 Comments off

Technology And Education: Opportunities And Side-Effects
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Technology arouses great expectations as far as its impact on learning and teaching is concerned; yet to date these are only partially satisfied. Although there has been huge public investment and progress has been made, the pace of integration of technology in education is slower than expected. This may be due to the fact that evidence of its benefits remains elusive. The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) study on Teaching and learning technology options, spotlights technology options for education in Europe, presenting both the opportunities and the risks involved. Lead Panel Member for the study is Paul RÜBIG, Chair of the STOA Panel.

Education technology encompasses a wide range of tools, services and methodologies that, when used correctly and in combination, help develop the potential of the education environment. The study identifies four underlying trends affecting this environment. Firstly, enabling technologies improve broadband internet access for European households and schools, thus promoting full and fair access to online educational resources. Secondly, cloud technologies, allow delivery of on-demand services through the network by third parties, encouraging information and content sharing, and collaborative working environments. Thirdly, mobile devices facilitate a more dynamic and user-friendly use of technology by shifting the focus from fixed connectivity, based on shared personal computers, towards mobile and multimedia personal connectivity. Lastly, technical support is a core issue for the long-term availability of technological improvements, which require constant maintenance.

Making the US federal budget: Process and hazards

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Making the US federal budget: Process and hazards
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

The federal budget makes up roughly half of all public spending in the US, with the rest spent at state and local level. The United States (US) Congress, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate, is responsible for passing the legislation that constitutes the budget, but the President also plays an important role, both in launching the process through a formal budget proposal and in bringing it to an end by signing appropriations, revenue and entitlement bills into law. While the budget process is formally set out in legislation, budget-making in practice can be quite different. The Constitution grants the ‘power of the purse’ to Congress, but it is ultimately the President who signs bills into law. This de facto division of powers between President and Congress, and within Congress between the House of Representatives and the Senate, poses specific challenges – not least when the House, the Senate and the Presidency are controlled by different parties. These challenges have been conspicuous in recent years, as lawmakers have struggled to follow the prescribed timetable, necessitating other procedures and stopgap measures to maintain funding for vital government functions. In addition, in response to mounting government debt and political deadlock, attempts have been made to bind future legislatures, by locking in budget cuts in a process known as ‘sequestration’. At times the key players have been unable to reach agreement, cutting off funding from parts of the government and putting the US at risk of a sovereign default.

Alcohol Policy In The EU – State Of Play March 2015

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Alcohol Policy In The EU – State Of Play March 2015
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

The 2006 EU Alcohol Strategy officially came to an end in December 2012. A report published in December 2012 evaluated the impact of this strategy and concluded that it was still very relevant and had brought about positive added value in terms of addressing alcohol-related harm.

Although the European Commission intended to present a new European Action Plan to reduce alcohol related harm for the period 2014-2017 , no new proposal has as yet been introduced. The Commission nevertheless proposed a new EU action plan on youth drinking and also included alcohol-harm preventive measures in its 2014-2020 Health Programme. Furthermore the Commission also undertook a study to examine the different practices related to labelling of alcoholic beverages.

Recently, the Latvian Presidency 2015 promised in its programme, as part of its health priorities , to “follow the work of the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action, and is in the process of developing a scoping paper on the vision of future actions to be taken in the area of an alcohol policy in the EU”.

By means of resolutions and questions, the European Parliament has repeatedly put pressure on the Commission to present a new European Action Plan since alcohol related harm is still a major public health concern across the EU.

EU — Radio Spectrum: A Key Resource For The Digital Single Market

April 20, 2015 Comments off

Radio Spectrum: A Key Resource For The Digital Single Market
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Radio spectrum refers to a specific range of frequencies of electromagnetic energy that is used to communicate information. Applications important for society such as radio and television broadcasting, civil aviation, satellites, defence and emergency services depend on specific allocations of radio frequency. Recently the demand for spectrum has increased dramatically, driven by growing quantities of data transmitted over the internet and rapidly increasing numbers of wireless devices, including smartphones and tablets, Wi-Fi networks and everyday objects connected to the internet.

Radio spectrum is a finite natural resource that needs to be managed to realise the maximum economic and social benefits. Countries have traditionally regulated radio spectrum within their territories. However despite the increasing involvement of the European Union (EU) in radio spectrum policy over the past 10 to 15 years, many observers feel that the management of radio spectrum in the EU is fragmented in ways which makes the internal market inefficient, restrains economic development, and hinders the achievement of certain goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

In 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation on electronic communications that among other measures, provided for greater coordination in spectrum management in the EU, but this has stalled in the face of opposition within the Council. In setting out his political priorities, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated that ambitious telecommunication reforms, to break down national silos in the management of radio spectrum, are an important step in the creation of a Digital Single Market. The Commission plans to propose a Digital Single Market package in May 2015, which may again address this issue.

Single European Sky

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Single European Sky
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

uilding on the achievements of the internal market and the need to cope with growth in air transport and congestion, the European Commission launched the Single European Sky (SES) initiative in 1999. Its core objective is to reform the architecture of air traffic control in the EU in order to meet future capacity and safety needs, through improving the overall performance of air traffic management and air navigation services.

Two SES packages have been adopted: SES I, which set the principal legal framework, and SES II, which aimed at tackling substantial air traffic growth, increasing safety, reducing costs and delays and the impact of air traffic on the environment. Nonetheless, European airspace remains heavily fragmented and SES is experiencing significant delays, in particular in terms of achievement of its performance goals and deployment of its basic elements such as ‘functional airspace blocks’.

In order to speed up its implementation, the Commission undertook a review of the SES legal framework, and in June 2013 presented an SES2+ package. While airline associations welcomed the initiative, trade unions have been much more critical on certain provisions. The European Parliament, which has underlined the need to push ahead with SES implementation, adopted its first reading position on the SES2+ package in March 2014. In December 2014, the outcome of the Transport Council somewhat reduced the ambitions of the Commission’s initial objectives. However, progress on SES2+ remains blocked over the disputed question of its application to Gibraltar airport. The adoption of the package still requires the approval of both the Council and the European Parliament.

‘Shift To Rail’ – Research For EU Rail Transport

April 7, 2015 Comments off

‘Shift To Rail’ – Research For EU Rail Transport
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

The EU is faced with major societal issues such as rising transport demand, traffic and road congestion, security of energy supply and cutting CO2 emissions. Greater reliance on rail transport and improvements to the sector’s competitiveness and resource-efficiency could help tackle these problems. To this end, a new EU initiative for a public-private partnership, the ‘Shift to Rail Joint Undertaking’ (S2R JU), was established in 2014 under the Horizon 2020 programme, in order to boost and coordinate research and innovation in rail products, processes and services.

Medicinal products in the European Union: The legal framework for medicines for human use

April 6, 2015 Comments off

Medicinal products in the European Union: The legal framework for medicines for human use
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

EU legislation on human medicines goes back 50 years. Its twofold aim is to safeguard public health without hindering development of the European pharmaceutical industry or trade in medicinal products. The regulatory framework is complex and covers the entire lifecycle of a medicine, from manufacture, to clinical trials, to marketing authorisation, to pharmacovigilance and patient information. Added to that, the principles of good manufacturing, distribution and pharmacovigilance practice contribute to increasing medicines’ safety. An emerging approach to granting early access to medicines – adaptive pathways – could prove its future merits for patients with a medical condition not adequately addressed by an existing therapy.

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