Category Archives: Telecommunications

Proposals for the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020

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.

 

 

Two Important Strategies for the Sustainable Development of the European Union

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.

 

 

The Report of the Reflection Group for the Future of the EU

The European Council in December 2007 decided to establish a ‘reflection group’ of no more than nine people, selected from across the Union on the basis of merit, to identify the key issues which the European Union is likely to face in the future and how these might be addressed.

Now the group, led by Felipe González, has issued its report “PROJECT EUROPE 2030: Challenges and Opportunities” (via Ralph Grahn).

There are some concrete proposals that I find interesting:

Economy:

  • Further developing the internal market, e.g. in the area of services;
  • Social security rights should, once and for all, be readily transportable between Member States;
  • Extension of the availability of e-infrastructure to houses, schools and businesses;
  • Development of healthcare, well-being and age-related industries and services;
  • Giving leadership for economic coordination to the European Council;
  • Reinforcing procedures for supervision of national budgets to ensure transparency as well as the sustainability of public finances.

Education and Innovation:

  • Developing flexible and open curricula capable of nurturing curiosity and creativity among children;
  • Building a network of top-level higher education establishments able to rival the best in the world;
  • Ensuring that universities have greater exposure to the real economy in Europe and the rest of the world;
  • More funding is needed for applied research that would benefit SMEs.

Demographic Challenges:

  • Family-friendly policies aimed at stabilising or increasing fertility levels should be put in place;
  • Provide the conditions in which people, in particular women with young children, and older workers, can remain in the workforce;
  • Removing the legal, administrative and cultural barriers to promote greater intra-EU labour mobility;
  • Retirement should become an option for individuals rather than an obligation;
  • A common immigration policy for the EU should set out a specific medium- to long-term strategy for targeting skilled immigrants;
  • A common approach to irregular immigrants.

Energy Security and Climate Change:

  • The headline target for energy efficiency should be raised to 50 per cent by 2030, from the currently agreed 20 per cent by 2020;
  • Move away from oil as the primary source of fuel for transport by encouraging bio-fuel standards and electric and hybrid vehicles;
  • Develop intelligent energy networks (smart grids);
  • Recourse to nuclear energy;
  • Develop unconventional energy sources such as tight gas and shale oil.
  • Internal and External Security:
  • Increasing the powers of existing agencies and instruments, such as Europol, Eurojust, the Situation Centre, Frontex and the Counter-Terrorism Coordinator;
  • Create a European civil reserve team of specially trained units ready to be deployed at short notice;
  • Develop a more integrated external border management system;
  • Agree on a workable strategic concept for the EU defence.

Foreign Relations and Enlargement:

  • Build a global economic strategy that takes into account the euro as the world’s second reserve currency;
  • Stay open to potential new members from Europe;
  • Develop an enhanced role in stabilising its immediate surroundings by building on the existing ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’, ‘Eastern Partnership’ and ‘Union for the Mediterranean’;
  • Manage a strategic co-existence, modernisation and region-building policy with Russia;
  • Pull the EU’s diplomatic, military, trade, and development policies together with the external dimensions of its common economic policies;
  • Develop an EU approach to global governance reform.

The European Citizens:

  • More transparency and accuracy in the way we communicate EU policy-making;
  • Avoid rhetoric and explain in plain language how EU adds value to its citizens’ lives;
  • Encouraging Member States to grant voting rights in national elections to nationals of other Member States after a certain period of residence and tax payments;
  • “Europeanising” European Parliament elections through the introduction of cross-border lists;
  • Create a specific administrative instrument that would provide proof of European citizenship for individuals to use on a voluntary basis in order to access residence, employment and social security rights;
  • Establish a system for evaluating the impact of EU law.

EU Achievements in 2009

The European Commission has issued its annual multimedia yearbook presenting some of the European Union’s most important achievements of the past year.

The main achievements according to the Commission are:

Paving the way towards economic recovery – The EU and its Member States have mobilised huge resources to put the economy back on its feet and to protect the citizens.

Staying in touch for less – Europeans can stay in touch via mobile phone more easily and more cheaply, thanks to the EU’s efforts to ensure cheaper costs and connections.

Pooling resources to fight dementia – the EU’s €2 billion ‘innovative medicines initiative’ brings together industry and academia to ensure the rapid transition from new science to new medicines.

Tackling climate change – The EU has made it possible to prevent 32 million tonnes of CO2 emissions at the flick of a light switch.

Fighting hunger in the world’s poorest countries – As its €1 billion Food Facility clearly showed in 2009, the EU is tackling poverty and hunger across the globe.

Caring for the environment – To keep the environment as clean as possible, the EU has brought in new rules to cut down on harmful pollutants from petrol or pesticides.

Rebuilding Europe when disaster strikes – EU countries have acted rapidly to support one another, by sending aid to areas affected by natural disasters, as was the case for the Abruzzo earthquake in 2009.

Giving bank customers value for money – The EU created the single market for the benefit of citizens as well as companies; now it is making sure that banks give their customers a fair deal.

Protecting animals on land and in the oceans – the EU has made it illegal to put seal products on the market and proposed a new action plan to save sharks.

Keeping online shopping hassle-free – the EU has cracked-down on websites that were not giving consumers the rights they are entitled to under EU laws.

The Bulgarian Interface for Abuse of Human Rights

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.

Council Conclusions on Swine Flu

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.

ECJ: On-Line Gambling Restrictions Are Justified

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

New EU Roaming Rules

Some popular EU legislation- the new EU roaming rules:

  • Limit for the consumer price for sending a text message while abroad to €0.11 (excl. VAT );
  • Mobile roaming calls caps – €0.43 for calls made and €0.19 for calls received abroad;
  • Per-second billing after 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received abroad;
  • New wholesale cap for surfing the web of €1 per MB downloaded.

European Parliament blocks Telecom Legislation

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?

Knowledge4Innovation: EU Loses Billions in Duplicating Existing Research

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.