The Commission has published its proposals which will frame cohesion policy for 2014-2020. The first part of the proposal sets out common rules governing the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The second part sets out common rules governing the three main funds delivering the objectives of cohesion policy: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF).
When adopted, the legislation package will establish a common strategic framework for the ERDF, ESF, CF, the EAFRD and EMFF. A Partnership Contract will be agreed between the Commission and each EU Member State, bringing together all the country’s commitments to delivering European objectives and targets. Before funds are paid out, authorities will have to demonstrate that satisfactory strategic, regulatory and institutional frameworks are in place to ensure the funds are used effectively. The release of additional funds will be dependent on performance. Deficiencies in macroeconomic policy (excessive budget deficits, etc.) will lead to suspension of the cohesion financing. Procedures will be simplified and computerised where possible. Eligibility rules for EU funding instruments will be harmonised.
Posted in Agriculture and Fisheries, Budget and Finance, Energy, Enterprise, Environment, EU Reform, Institutional Affairs, Regional Policy, Telecommunications, Transport
Tagged 2014-2020, CF, cohesion policy, EAFRD, EMFF, ERDF, ESF, Europe 2020, legislation, proposal, regulation, structural funds
The European Commission has published in the recent days two communications that touch on important aspects of the sustainable economic development of the EU.
The first is a communication on renewable energy and the progress towards the 2020 targets. The communication presents an overview of the renewable energy industry in Europe, its prospects to 2020 and addresses the outstanding challenges for the development of the sector. The Commission points out that renewable energy constituting 62% of 2009 energy generation investments in the EU. Member States projections show that renewable energy will grow at a faster pace in the years up to 2020 than in the past. Combined Member States expect to more than double their total renewable energy consumption from 103 Mtoe in 2005 to 217 Mtoe in 2020. If all the production forecasts are fulfilled, the overall share of renewable energy in the EU will exceed the 20% target in 2020. The Commission suggests that whilst annual capital investment in renewable energy today averages €35bn, this would need to rapidly double to €70bn to ensure the EU achieves its goals.
The second is a communication on the commodity markets and raw materials. This communication was delayed due to the French request to include measures to improve the transparency of financial and commodity markets. The document makes an overview of developments on physical markets of oil, gas, electricity, agricultural commodities and raw materials. The Commission outlines the growing interdependency of financial and commodity markets and then outlines policy measures for the separate physical markets. The communication then outlines the Raw Materials Initiative and describes the 14 critical raw materials – those who have a particularly high risk of supply shortage and are particularly important for the value chain.
Posted in Agriculture and Fisheries, Budget and Finance, Energy, Enterprise, Environment, Foreign and Security Policy, Internal Market, Telecommunications, Transport
Tagged commodity markets, critical raw materials, Europe 2020, Financial Markets, renewable energy, strategy, sustainable development, targets
The Bulgarian Electronic Communications Act is about to be amended. The amendment will provide unlimited, direct access to the personal data of Bulgarian users of Internet and telecommunication services for the Ministry of Interior. This data will be supposedly used for investigating criminal activities and organized crime groups (OCGs).
On face value it would appear that this is a normal step in efforts to fight criminal activities that can otherwise benefit from the opportunities provided by the Internet and modern telecommunications. If one reads the motives of the Bulgarian government for the proposed amendment, one may as well say that there are enough procedural guarantees for the privacy of communications of Bulgarian citizens.
So why do I think this amendment is dangerous?
One reason only – institutional capacity. As we have seen during the last few years, both the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior and the State Agency “National Security” have misused their powers of access to special investigative techniques (SIT). In France, which has a population of nearly 60 million people, there are about 5 000 authorizations per year for the use of SIT, while in Bulgaria, with a population of 7.6 million, the authorizations are 10 000 per year. The collected data has “leaked” in numerous cases in the media. Many times the SITs have been used against political rivals or journalists.
The uncontrolled use of SITs threatens not only the human rights of individuals, but the political process as well. I should remind here that Bulgaria is still monitored under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism specifically due to the lack of institutional capacity of the law enforcement institutions.
Giving more powers to these institutions and the Ministry of the Interior in particular without a comprehensive reform will only exacerbate existing problems. I should probably remind the Government that even today the low-end corruption in the traffic police is still a major issue of huge proportions. How are we supposed to believe that our data are safe with the Ministry of Interior when we are witnessing acts of corruption on the streets every day?
The limitations of human rights are sometimes justified to maintain the public order. But the current approach (widespread use of SITs, higher sanctions for various crimes) is not functionally justified. It will not deliver measurable results and it will not improve the law enforcement success record.
The good news is that an impartial body – the European Commission, will continue to evaluate the Bulgarian efforts in fighting crime and may suggest corrections of policy should these be needed.
Posted in Bulgaria, Human Rights, Institutional Affairs, Justice and Internal Affairs, Procedural Law, Telecommunications
Tagged abuse, institutional capacity, interface, Internet, law enforcement, Ministry of Interior, organized crime groups, personal data, Telecommunications, unlimited access
The Council “Conclusions on Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 – a strategic approach” promptly remind that the preparations for, and response to, health risks in the EU falls within the competence of the Member States. However, some key issues are outlined:
- Availability of vaccines – the Conclusions encourage bundling of tender notices for those Member States with no current or with partial agreements with manufacturers (Bulgaria considers participating in such a bundle with the Baltic states and Malta);
- Vaccination strategy – the document urges the vaccination of priority groups;
- Information and communication to the public – the Conclusions recommend agreements among Member States on common key strategic lines of communication on important issues;
- Multi-sectoral pandemic preparedness – some priority sectors’ preparedness should be reviewed in the information and telecommunication, transport and energy sectors.
The Grand Chamber of European Court of Justice has ruled that some restrictions of on-line gambling by Member Sates are legitimate for the objective of combating fraud and crime
The European Parliament has introduced a new amendment on the reform package of EU telecommunications law, overriding the previously reached compromise.
It comes in defiance of a draft French law that persecutes Internet users who violate copyright laws by illegal sharing of content on the Internet. The amendment requires that “no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities (…) save when public security is threatened”.
This approach is contested by Member states and the whole package may fail.
Now I am wondering if this has anything to do with the row over the Working Time Directive?
Roland Strauss, executive director of Knowledge4Innovation, has told EurActiv in an interview that “billions of euro could be saved if knowledge that is already available was not created a second or third time”.
According to Strauss there are two opportunities to fight that: one is to use existing information that can come from patent offices, from sleeping pattens and, on the other side, better communication among research actors themselves. He says knowledge and innovation communities will be an important factor in determining EU research and innovation priorities.