Tag Archives: report

Impact Assessments Work

The European Court of Auditors has issued a report on the use of impact assessments prepared by the Commission for the decision-making process of the EU institutions. The main conclusion is that impact assessments have become an integral element of the Commission’s policy development and have been used by the Commission to design its initiatives better. The Commission’s impact assessments are systematically transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council to support legislative decision-making and users in both institutions find them helpful when considering the Commission’s proposals. However, the Commission’s impact assessments were not updated as the legislative procedure progressed and the European Parliament and Council rarely performed impact assessments on their own amendments. This is a very important observation since Commission proposals sometimes go through significant transformation in the legislative process.

Is the Emissions Trading Scheme Working? Report Says No

The European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the flagship initiative for curbing carbon emissions in the European Union. A new report says that the ETS is in danger not only of failing the objective for which it was set up – to secure reductions in emissions, but that it could become an environmental hindrance.

The environmental campaigning organization, Sandbag, claims that Phase II of the ETS will result in only 0,3% of reduced carbon emissions. The report blames the poor results on the free awarding of a billion surplus permits to industry and to combustion plant involved in manufacturing. According to the report the largest share of the industrial surpluses accrued to the cement and steel industries, the two sectors which have lobbied most aggressively to weaken the ambition of the scheme and to be afforded special protections from carbon prices which might harm their competitiveness. The report claims that there were distortions of competition on sectoral level: Heidelberg Cement has had a fivefold allocation advantage over its European competitors in the cement industry, while Salzgitter has had fourfold advantage against its European steel competitors. The most important recommendation of the report is to adjust Phase III caps to reflect historic emissions and to avoid contaminating the next phase with the over-allocation of the current one.

Report: Security Threats Come Mainly from Abroad

Statewatch has published a restricted access report by EUROPOL, EUROJUST and FRONTEX on the state of internal security in the European Union. A selection of the findings (I have underlined some sections):

  • The affluent consumer base and open business environment of the EU makes the region particularly vulnerable;
  • Organised crime is growing in scale and sophistication;
  • The number of terrorist attacks in the EU is declining but both violent separatist groups and Islamist extremists remain active and pose a clear threat to internal security;
  • Most threats to internal security are generated outside the EU. Africa, South Asia, the Former Soviet Union, and the Western Balkans carry particular significance;
  • Key hubs in and around the external border of the EU have developed as the principal staging posts for the inward flow of illicit goods and people;
  • Border security is compromised by groups exploiting vulnerabilities in the transport sector;
  • The threat from cyber crime is multi-dimensional, targeting citizens, businesses, and governments at a rapidly growing rate;
  • European citizens and businesses are increasingly exposed to systematic violence and corruption at the hands of organised crime groups, terrorist groups, and, increasingly, street gangs.

Committee of the Regions 2009 Ageing Report

The 2009 Ageing Report of the Committee of the Regions provides some interesting proposals for managing the ageing of populations in the European Union. The topic is very important given the fact that 9 out of the 10 countries with the oldest population in the world are EU Member States.

The report proposes three main priorities:

(1) healthy ageing;

(2) labour market participation and productivity; and

(3) access to services and facilities.

The idea is to merge those priorities in the Europe 2020 strategy.

2010 Reports for Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism

The European Commission has published its progress reports for Bulgaria and Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). The reports monitor the progress of the two Member states on progress with judicial reform, the fight against corruption and, concerning Bulgaria, the fight against organized crime.

Both reports say that further assistance and monitoring by the Commission is needed to support the reform processes in Bulgaria and Romania until all benchmarks are fulfilled and the CVM can be repealed. In other words the monitoring will continue for an undetermined period of time.

The reports for both countries are quite critical. For Bulgaria the report seems to underscore the fact that noisy police actions do not necessarily transform into successful convictions. For Romania the main criticism is directed against the new amendments of the law on the National Integrity Agency.

The report on Bulgaria notes a strong reform momentum which has been established in Bulgaria since the Commission’s last annual report in July 2009. The Commission believes that there is strong political will in the Bulgarian government to achieve a deep and lasting reform of the judiciary. According to the report Bulgaria has adopted important reforms of its penal procedures. Bulgaria has increased its efforts to fight against high-level corruption. Bulgaria has also stepped up efforts by carrying out a number of police raids on organised crime groups although little judicial follow-up to these raids has been reported. However, the report notes that the judicial process in Bulgaria lacks initiative and professional capacity. Complex investigations show a lack of direction and purpose, procedures are too formal and too long and often fail in court. The implementation of the conflict of interest law is insufficiently effective. Shortcomings in the implementation of public procurement procedures are widespread.

The Commission points to important shortcomings in Romania’s efforts to achieve progress under the CVM. Romania did not show sufficient political commitment to support and provide direction to the reform process and demonstrated a degree of unwillingness within the leadership of the judiciary to cooperate and take responsibility. Judicial reform has shown important progress with Parliamentary adoption of the Civil and Criminal Procedural Codes. The National Integrity Agency (ANI) was able to demonstrate a further consolidation of its capacity and track record regarding the identification of unjustified wealth, incompatibilities and conflicts of interest. However, the amendments to the law on the National Integrity Agency voted on 30 June 2010 represent a serious step back.

The EU Retail Market Monitoring Report

The Retail Market Monitoring Report is out now, published by the Commission. The report considers all economic, social, environmental and consumer impacts of the retail sector in the European Union by accounting for the linkages that the retail sector has with its upstream and downstream markets.

The main findings:

  • Malfunctioning of commercial property markets;
  • Limited take-off of e-commerce;
  • Insufficient development of commercial communications and independent services providing information on prices and quality;
  • The number of small local grocery shops fell by 3.7% between 2004 and 2009;
  • Lack of rules or insufficient enforcement addressing unfair commercial practices ;
  • Difficulties in their cross-border use because of varying rules;
  • Negative impact of the informal economy on working conditions;
  • Lack of information to consumers as regards social performance of businesses in the retail sector;
  • Mismatch between the needs of businesses and the skills of employees in the retail sector;
  • High energy consumption;
  • High production of waste;
  • Significant contribution to the volume of traffic and congestion due to transport of goods;
  • Insufficient account taken of environmental costs in the supply;
  • Lack of a common method to evaluate environmental impact of products and services.

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.