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Recent Developments in the EP EU


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Recent Developments in the European Parliament
                 and the EU

      Bulletin No. 3: November 17 - 30 2008

   Prepared by the Oireachtas EU Liaison Office, Brussels
        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

Contents                                                                                              Page

Lisbon Treaty ......... ………………………………………….......................…...                                          3
      Sweden Ratifies Lisbon Treaty ................................................. .............          3
      Czech Court Ruling on Lisbon Treaty...................................................                 3
      Germany and Poland ............................................................................        3
      EP Constitutional Affairs Committee Resolution ................. .............                         4

European Parliament – Political and Legislative Highlights ..............…..........                         4
      Debate on the Financial Crisis...................................................................      4
      Passenger Name Record Proposal ............................................................            6
      Public Access to EU Documents ............................................................             7
      Equal Pay Legislation to be Revised ............................................................       8
      Resolution on Cluster Munitions ............................................................           8

Inter-Parliamentary Activities …………………………………... .....................                                        9
       New Speaker appointed in Lithuania ......... ........................................                 9
       Joint Parliamentary Meeting on Energy and Sustainable Development.......                              9
       Upcoming inter-parliamentary events ..........................................................        10

European Commission News …………….......................……………………….                                              10
      Proposal for Fishing Quotas............................. ........................ …….                  10
      Economic Recovery Plan............ ............................................................        11
      State Aid approved for Belgian Banks.......................................................            12
      New rules for duty free imports ............................................................           13
      EU Immigration......................... ............................................................   13
      "Europeana" Digital Library Launched ....................................................              14

European Council / Presidency News …………………………….........……….                                                  15
      CAP Health Check Agreement.................................. ........................ …….              15
      School Fruit Scheme.............................................. ........................ …….         15
      Welsh Language officially recognised...................... ........................ …….                16

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

       Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU

                              November 17 - 30 2008


   Sweden ratifies Lisbon Treaty
   The Swedish Parliament on 20 November ratified the Lisbon Treaty by a large
   majority. The opposition Left Party and Green Party had unsuccessfully tried to
   build a blocking minority to put off ratification for one year, citing concerns about
   Sweden's collective labour agreements and transfer of sovereignty. The opposition
   wanted a legally-binding exemption for their country's collective bargaining
   model. Swedish collective labour agreements - in which workers' groups agree
   pay with employers - came to the fore in a European Court of Justice verdict in
   2007. The court ruled in favour of Latvian company clearing the way for cheap
   eastern European labour to enter Sweden. Supporters of the treaty argued that the
   Treaty would result in a more democratic and transparent EU, with greater law-
   making powers being given to the European Parliament. Sweden would also have
   more seats in the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty, compared to the
   existing Nice Treaty provisions.

   Czech Court Ruling on Lisbon Treaty
   The Czech Republic's Constitutional Court has cleared the way for the country's
   parliament to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Republic, which takes over the
   presidency of the European Union in the new year, is the last country to attempt to
   ratify the Treaty. The lower house of parliament approved the Treaty, but the
   upper house, the Senate, sent the Treaty to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on
   its compatibility with the Czech constitution. The Court, which had been
   considering the matter for several months, ruled unanimously that the Treaty was
   in line with the country's constitution as it did not change the fundamental
   direction of the EU, nor did it harm the sovereignty of the member states.
   However, the court pointed out that it not analyse the Treaty as a whole, but
   limited its consideration to the specific issues raised by the Czech Senate earlier
   this year. This has led to speculation that opponents of the Treaty may try to delay
   ratification by raising other issues of constitutional concern.

   Germany and Poland
   In Germany, while parliamentary ratification has been completed, formal
   ratification requires the signature of the President, which has been withheld
   pending a ruling from the Constitutional Court on its compatibility with
   Germany's constitution. In Poland, the parliament approved the treaty in April,
   but President Kaczynski has yet to give his final signature and has cited that it
   would be pointless to do so before a solution to the Irish no vote is found.

             Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

        EP's Constitutional Affairs Committee adopts resolution on Lisbon Treaty
        The European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee has adopted a
        resolution calling on the December European Council to reach an agreement
        allowing Ireland to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in spring 2009. In essence, the
        resolution calls for the Treaty to be ratified before the 2009 European Parliament
        elections. The resolution was adopted by 16 votes in favour and 6 against. Irish
        MEPs Brian Crowley and Kathy Sinnott voted against the motion. An amendment
        calling on Ireland to come forward with proposals which would determine the
        nature of Irelands future membership of the EU and at the same time and allow
        other members states to proceed to deepen their integration received little support.

        A majority of Committee members expressed the conviction that the Irish
        concerns which had prompted the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty can be met
        without amending the text. They also called on the Irish Government to put
        forward proposals to resume ratification. According to Committee Chairman,
        German MEP Jo Leinen, who recently appeared before the Oireachtas Sub-
        Committee on Ireland's Future in the European Union, "There is no plausible
        reason why a second referendum in Ireland should be easier to win after the
        European Parliament elections then before."

        The Committee also called on Sweden and the Czech Republic to complete their
        ratification procedures before the end of 2008. An amendment warning that the
        Czech Presidency of the EU would not have credibility unless its own ratification
        procedures were complete was not supported. Committee members also pointed
        out that if the Treaty is not ratified before the European elections, this would
        affect the composition of the new Parliament and European Commission, the
        appointment of the Union's High Representative for foreign policy and the
        application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. In the new Commission, under
        the current rules (i.e. the Nice Treaty), the number of Commissioners would be
        less than the number of Member States, whereas the Lisbon Treaty would allow
        this reduction to be reviewed or postponed until 2014.

        Looking ahead to the next European Council in December, the Committee called
        on the 27 heads of state and government to reach an agreement allowing the Irish
        government to resume the procedure for ratifying the new Treaty in spring 2009,
        and to ratify the text before the European Parliament elections in June.

        The text approved by the Committee will be put to a vote at the next European
        Parliament plenary session, just before the December European Council.


        European Parliament debates the Financial Crisis
        During its recent plenary session, the European Parliament debated the financial
        and economic crisis in the light of the Washington G20 summit. For the Council,
        France's European Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet said that the effects of the
        crisis on economies were now showing clearly, with many countries having
        entered recession. Facing a slowdown that was quite exceptional since 1929, the

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   French Presidency had made it a priority to agree a recovery package. Member
   States had provided interbank loan guarantees and recapitalised banks. Effective
   joint action had also been seen at the G20 summit with Commission President
   Barroso and Council President Sarkozy working closely together. The conclusions
   of the summit focused, as the EU had proposed, on accountability and
   responsibility as key factors for the world financial system. The leaders had
   adopted principles such as reform of credit rating agencies, the regulation of all
   the financial industry and the link between remuneration policies and avoiding
   excessive risk. Mr. Jouyet said that the French presidency would promote unity in
   Europe to forward common ambitions. The Czech presidency would continue this
   work. On fiscal matters, Mr. Jouyet welcomed the ECB rate cuts and said that
   Member States should use any freedom of movement within the Stability and
   Growth Pact to try to reverse the downturn in the economy. The Council would
   be working closely with the Commission to do everything possible to ensure
   national initiatives are closely harmonised and work in conjunction with one

   Commission President José Manuel Barroso reminded MEPs that the political
   initiative for global reform of the financial system came from Europe, saying that
   the first meeting of G20 heads of state and government marked a new era in
   collective steering of the global economic crisis and has made people realize that a
   global approach was needed. The President said that in Washington, it had been
   understood that all economies are interdependent. The EU response now needed
   to be timely, targeted and temporary and should include measures to help adapt
   some sectors of our economies to fight against climate change so that this fight is
   not seen as running counter to economic growth. Referring to the 2009 legislative
   programme, Mr Barroso stressed that the focus of action needed to be on
   preventing damage from lack of growth and employment while, at the same time,
   looking at reforms to prepare for the post-crisis period. A recovery programme
   would, therefore, be tabled by the European Commission.

   During the debate, MEPs stressed the need for regulatory reform, in particular of
   credit rating agencies, private equity and hedge funds as well as the importance of
   boosting lending to small business. Other groups criticised speculators and the
   European Commission for its role in inciting the crisis by concentrating too much
   on industry's concerns.

   Irish MEP Brian Crowley believed that the bottom line in the crisis was that the
   EU, US, India and China must work together to ensure common rules and
   standards to govern the global financial markets for the future. There should, he
   said, be no excuses for those who indulged in the reckless lending and dubious
   practices which caused the crisis. The biggest danger today, he said, is that banks
   are not lending to small and medium-sized enterprises to allow them to grow and
   to take opportunities. For the future, the EU must invest in research and
   development to find new ways to solve our problems.

   Kathy Sinnott MEP said that while the crisis has hit different countries around
   Europe in different ways, one thing was certain - the financial institutions in all
   countries to some degree or another have bought toxic US mortgage debts based
   on subprime lending. It seemed to Mrs. Sinnott that there must have been

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   wholesale misrepresentation of the quality of the debt and she questioned what
   investigations had been undertaken by the Commission, and if any recourse in law
   was available against the rating agencies for those who have suffered from their

   Proinsias De Rossa MEP said that this crisis was allowed to develop because
   governments everywhere abandoned their responsibility to sufficiently govern the
   economy, including banks. Most of those in power had ignored history and
   accepted the ideology that the market is a self-balancing natural phenomenon and
   government has no role in interfering with it. The real victims of this inaction
   were working people, who are losing their jobs, families who are losing their
   homes and those who are poor already, who are losing their savings and pensions.
   It will happen again unless a new economic framework is designed which will
   ensure that banks and industries serve society and enable governments to govern
   in the public interest.

   Mairead McGuinness MEP expressed the view that excessive regulation was as
   bad as none whatsoever and warned that a balanced approach was required. An
   immediate solution was required to the current situation whereby business, farms
   and households who cannot get access to even small amounts of credit.

   European Parliament critical of "Passenger Name Record (PNR)" proposal
   Echoing concerns expressed by the Oireachtas European Scrutiny Committee, the
   European Parliament at its November plenary session has come out against the
   Commission's proposal to collect air passenger records for law enforcement
   purposes. It feels that that the measure could pose a threat to privacy, is not
   justified legally, and questionable in terms of effectiveness in the fight against
   terrorism. The Parliament has requested evidence that such a system would be
   useful at EU level and has deferred a formal vote on the text until many concerns
   have been addressed. Under the current treaty arrangements, the Council must
   consult with the Parliament on justice measures, but is not obliged to take account
   of Parliament's views.

   The draft proposal requires that air carriers would collect PNR data for all in and
   outbound EU flights and make it available to specialized national units carrying
   out risk assessments and law enforcement and counter terrorism missions.

   The Parliament questions the conditions which could make this proposal
   necessary and underline that same or better results could be obtained by
   improving the mutual legal assistance between law enforcements authorities. The
   proportionality of the measure is also questioned as the proposal would give
   authorities warrantless access to all data while its added value for law
   enforcements purposes has not been proved, as there is no evidence that PNR data
   is useful for massive profiling or "data mining" in order to seek potential terrorists.
   Another concern related to privacy and data protection The Parliament strongly
   feels that the adoption of an adequate data protection framework is a precondition
   for any EU PNR scheme, whereby sensitive data should be used only on a case by
   case basis, in the context of a regular investigation. MEPs also say the proposal

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   would also create a burden for air carriers, and that they should not be required to
   collect additional data or be made responsible to verify the records.

   Ireland broadly supports the proposed use of PNR data. However, during
   discussions at Council Ireland’s position is that there should be a limit on the data
   to be collected in order to retain proportionality. On the issue of data retention.
   Ireland wishes to ensure that the period of retention is proportionate to the purpose
   sought to be achieved and is strongly against the 5 years specified in the draft

   Public Access to EU Documents
   The EP Civil Liberties Committee in a report on public access to documents of the
   European Parliament, the Council and the Commission has urged the EU
   institutions to do more to open up their documents to the public. In the light of a
   recent judgment by the Court of Justice, the Committee calls on the Council to
   hold all its debates in public and on Parliament to publish more information on its
   Members' activities.

   The Committee believes that the EU and its Member States has moved towards
   recognising a genuine right of access to documents of the institutions and it points
   out that the rate of refusals to allow access is falling. However, shortcomings have
   emerged in the implementation of the regulation, owing to differing
   interpretations. The Committee calls on the institutions to take fresh measures to
   improve transparency, arguing that this is a condition of their legality, their
   legitimacy and their accountability. However, it has said that accessing
   information relating to the EU institutions still remains an obstacle-strewn path for
   ordinary citizens. An inter-institutional search engine should be introduced,
   together with "a single EU register / portal" for information and documents. The
   institutions are urged to improve transparency of the procedures for comitology
   and for agreements thrashed out at first-reading of the co-decision procedure
   through "trialogues".

   The Committee stresses that the European institutions have a duty to ensure that
   their activities are publicised, a principle underscored by the European Court of
   Justice in a judgment delivered on 1 July this year in a case brought by former
   MEP Maurizio Turco. The Luxembourg-based judges took the view that opinions
   of the Council's legal service relating to any piece of legislation should be made
   public. They also set limits to the grounds for refusing access to a document.
    According to the Committee, this "historic" ruling requires the Council to ensure
   that all its documents and information are in the public domain, including the
   identity of members of national delegations and working parties.

   In addition, the Committee argues that Parliament must take the lead on
   transparency and should embark on a special action plan ahead of the 2009
   elections, with more information on MEPs' activities, their attendance at
   parliamentary meetings - in absolute, relative and percentage terms - and on their
   allowances and expenses.

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   This report of the Committee comes under the own initiative procedure . It does
   not refer specifically to the Commission proposal on public access to documents
   (COM 2008(229), but it does indicate the direction of the Committees thinking on
   this proposal, on which it will formally comment soon under the co-decision

   Following concerns expressed by the Finnish parliament, the recent COSAC
   meeting expressed its concerns about the Commission proposal, which should not
   limit the access to documents in comparison with the current situation . The
   European Parliament and the Council were invited to guarantee a full public
   access to European documents, according to the transparency principle.

   Equal Pay Legislation to be revised
   The European Parliament has adopted a legislative initiative report recommending
   a revision of existing legislation on equal pay.

   In the European Union, women earn on average 15% less and up to 25 % less in
   the private sector. In spite of the legislation in force for more than thirty years, the
   pay gap between women and men has been persistent, still varying between 4 and
   25 % among the Member States . The report suggests the introduction of
   obligatory regular pay audits for enterprises and the publication of their results.
   Recommendations also include a clear definition of concepts such as gender pay
   gap and direct and indirect discrimination as well as establishing job evaluations
   complying with the principle of equality between men and women available for all

   The whole problem of pays gap could not be solved by legislation alone and the
   Commission and Member States should reinforce the existing legislation with
   appropriate types of sanctions. The Committee proposes to conduct a study on the
   possibility and effectiveness of launching sanctions such as penalties including the
   compensation of victims, administrative fines, disqualification from benefits and
   subsidies for employers and the publication of offenders. Equality bodies should
   also play a special role by influencing more effectively and more independently
   the application of gender equality legislation.

   The report was adopted under a special procedure (rule 39 of the rules of
   procedure) whereby the European Parliament calls on the Commission to bring
   forward a legislative proposal. The Parliament requests the Commission to submit
   to Parliament by 31 December 2009, a legislative proposal on the revision of the
   existing legislation.

   Parliament adopts resolution on cluster bomb ban
   In a resolution on the Convention of Cluster Munitions (CCM) , the European
   Parliament calls on all EU members to sign, ratify and implement the CCM at the
   earliest opportunity. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by 107
   countries in Dublin in May and is a pact to outlaw the use, production, transfer
   and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The charity Handicap International estimates
   that 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians of whom 27% are children.

             Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

        Cluster bombs were used in the recent conflict in Georgia and by the Israeli army
        in Lebanon in 2006.

        Parliament requests that Member States not use, invest in, stockpile, produce,
        transfer or export cluster munitions until the CCM has entered into force. Member
        States which have used cluster munitions are called on to provide assistance to
        affected populations and to provide technical and financial assistance for the
        clearance and destruction of cluster munitions remnants. The Parliament also
        urges the Commission to increase financial assistance through all available
        instruments to communities and individuals affected by unexploded cluster
        munitions. Member States are also requested to refrain from taking action which
        might circumvent or jeopardise the CCM and its provisions.

        The Convention will open for signature at a ceremony in Oslo on 3 December.
        The Irish Government is committed to promoting its earliest possible entry into
        force and, as a demonstration of that commitment, has given priority to the early
        publication and enactment of the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines
        Bill. Ireland has been actively promoting signature of the Convention through
        participation at regional conferences, bilateral and multilateral channels and
        support for NGO activities. As of now, the hope is that over 100 States will sign
        on December 3.

        Three of the largest producers of cluster bombs, the US, China and Russia - have
        not adopted the Convention.


        New Speaker appointed in Lithuanian Seimas
        Following elections in October, the Lithuanian Parliament, the Seimas, on 17
        November elected Mr. Arunas Valinskas as the new Speaker . Mr. Valinskas is the
        leader of the Rising Nation Party, which is in the coalition with the Lithuanian
        Christian Democrats, the Liberals Movement and Liberal and Centre Union. Mr.
        Valinskas, who holds a master's degree in law, was previously a TV show host
        and producer.

        Joint Parliamentary Meeting on Energy and Sustainable Development
        On 20/21 November in Strasbourg, the European Parliament in conjunction with
        the French Presidency hosted a two-day inter-parliamentary meeting on the
        subject of energy and sustainable development. The Oireachtas was represented
        by a delegation from the Climate Change Committee. Among the key issues
        discussed were ways to secure Europe's future energy supply, the promotion of
        energy innovation and the EU's role in international climate negotiations.

        The European Parliament will vote on the EU's climate change package at its
        plenary session in December. European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering
        stressed that it was important that Europe agrees on a common position ahead of
        next years Copenhagen conference, if Europe is to show an example of the rest of
        the world. On behalf of the French Presidency, the President of the French

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   National Assembly Bernard Accoyer said that energy and sustainable
   development was one of the major priorities of the French presidency and
   probably the most difficult one. However, he was confident that the European
   Council on 11 and 12 December would reach agreement on the climate package
   in spite of the present economic situation.

   There was a consensus at the conference that EU has to take the lead at
   international level and demonstrate the political courage to pursue the adoption
   of the climate change package. However, there was a recognition that the EU
   needed to reduce emissions without externalizing the lions share to developing
   countries. This would require considerable investment in research and
   development. A key requirement was the avoidance of carbon leakage, with a
   shift of jobs and environmental pollution to other parts of the world.

   Energy security was a common concern with many speakers advocating a
   fundamental reform of the EUs energy supply, to stop the unhealthy dependency
   on distant or single energy sources. Several speakers cautioned that Russia was
   using its energy wealth as a political weapon in eastern Europe. Russia currently
   provides a quarter of the EU's coal, a third of its oil and almost half of its gas.

   Upcoming Inter-Parliamentary Events

      Joint Committee Meeting on Culture and Education, European Parliament,
       Brussels, 8 December.
      Forum on Judicial Cooperation in Civil Matters, 2 December, European
       Parliament, Brussels.
      Meeting of Secretaries-General, Paris, 14/15 December.


   Commission publishes proposals for fishing quotas for 2009
   The European Commission has tabled its fishing quota proposals for 2009 for the
   main stocks in the North-East Atlantic, including the North Sea, taking account of
   the latest scientific advice on the state of fish stocks. Evidence shows that most
   stocks of fish continued to be overfished in 2008. Consequently, in order to build
   a healthy industry for the future, a short term reduction in fishing effort is
   proposed by the Commission. For some endangered fish stocks, a zero quota is
   proposed. For other stocks, a gradual approach is proposed, changing quotas by
   15% or less each year. This will provide some stability for fishermen while
   maintaining movement towards more ecologically sustainable fisheries. European
   Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg has stated that there has been so much
   overfishing over many years that the balance of the marine ecosystems on which
   EU fisheries depend is seriously disturbed. To nurture them back to their former
   productivity will mean fishing less so that fish stocks have a chance to recover.
   The Commissioner acknowledged that this would be hard on the fleets affected,
   but there is no other choice, if the ecological basis is to be restored for a truly
   viable European fishing industry.

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   The highlights of the Commission's proposal include:
    For whitefish stocks:
      In the area west of Scotland, the stocks of cod, haddock and whiting are
      overfished and catches have fallen steeply over the last ten years. The
      Commission is proposing to give a “breathing space” to these stocks so they
      can rebuild. This means stopping targeted fishing of these species and bringing
      in new kinds of fishing gear that let these fish escape while enabling fishermen
      to continue catching the prawns and anglerfish that are the most valuable parts
      of the fishery. Levels of cod stocks are still very low in most areas, though
      there is an intake of young fish in the North Sea that must be protected so they
      can spawn. The Commission has proposed improvements to its recovery plan
      and, following that new plan, is proposing 25% reductions in both quotas and
      fishing intensity on those stocks.
    For herring:
      A substantial reduction in herring quotas is needed in order to prevent the
      further decline of stock. For the West Scotland stock the Commission is
      therefore proposing a 25% reduction in quotas.
    For North Sea sole:
      The North Sea sole stock is managed under a long-term management plan,
      which this year points to a 7% increase in the quotas

   The Commission's proposal will be debated by the Council of Fisheries Ministers
   when they meet on 17-19 December so that they can apply from 1 January 2009.

   European Commission launches Economic Recovery Plan
   The European Commission has presented a recovery plan to drive Europe's
   recovery from the current economic crisis. The plan is based on two main
   elements - short-term measures to boost demand, avoid job losses and help restore
   confidence and "smart investment" to yield higher growth and sustainable
   prosperity in the longer-term. The plan calls for a fiscal stimulus of around €200
   billion or 1.5% of EU GDP, within both national budgets (around €170 billion,
   1.2% of GDP) and EU and European Investment Bank budgets (around €30
   billion, 0.3% of GDP).

   The Commission claims that the Recovery Plan will reinforce and accelerate
   reforms already underway under the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Strategy, as it puts
   forward concrete steps to promote entrepreneurship, research and innovation,
   including in the car and construction industries. Member States who launch
   stimulus packages will benefit in two ways - they will stimulate demand in their
   own economies, and they will stimulate demand in other Member States so giving
   a major boost to their own exporters. Co-ordinated action will generate multiplier
   effects and avoid the problems which can result from a piecemeal approach.

   As part of the EU's contribution to this stimulus, the plan proposes accelerating
   payments of up to € 6.3 billion under the structural and social funds. To improve
   energy interconnections and broadband infrastructure, the Commission will
   provide a further € 5 billion for the period 2009-10. The European Investment
   Bank will increase its yearly interventions in the EU by some €15 billion in 2009

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   with a similar figure in 2010. To create demand for labour the plan invites
   Member States to consider reducing employers' social charges on lower incomes
   and calls on the Council to adopt, before the 2009 Spring European Council, the
   proposed Directive to make permanent reduced VAT rates for labour-intensive

   The Recovery Plan includes detailed proposals for partnerships between the public
   sector – using Community, EIB and national funding - and private sectors to boost
   clean technologies through support for innovation. These include a European
   green cars initiative with combined funding of at least €5 billion, a European
   energy-efficient buildings initiative worth €1 billion; and a "factories of the
   future" initiative estimated at €1.2 billion. The plan will build on the Small
   Business Act to provide further help for all SMEs, including removing the
   requirement on micro-enterprises to prepare annual accounts, easing access to
   public procurement and ensuring public authorities pay invoices within one

   The Commission is asking the European Council on 11-12 December to endorse
   the Recovery Plan and show determination to act together in a closely coordinated
   way. The Irish Governments response to the plan has been muted. While the
   Government has welcomed the plan, Minister Lenihan has stated his view that
   enough was already being done in Ireland.

   Commission approves state aid for Fortis Bank and Dexia Group
   The European Commission has approved, under EC Treaty state aid rules, the
   Belgian state guarantee mechanism for Fortis Bank. The Commission found the
   aid to be in line with its Guidance Communication on state aid to overcome the
   current financial crisis. The aid was necessary to ensure the viability of Fortis
   Bank and thereby avoid a serious disturbance in the Belgian economy. The state
   guarantee is aimed at tackling the liquidity problems of Fortis Bank, created by
   the drying up of the wholesale loans market and aggravated by the distrust in
   Fortis Bank resulting from its recent difficulties. The state guarantee will restore
   the access of Fortis Bank to short and medium-term wholesale funding. Fortis
   Bank will pay a significant guarantee fee, which will increase in proportion to the
   guaranteed debt.

   In a separate development, the Commission approved a state guarantee for the
   Dexia financial group following the crisis in the Belgian financial market. The aid,
   to be provided jointly by Belgium, France and Luxembourg, is to be granted to
   ensure the group's survival, to restore investor confidence and to encourage inter-
   bank lending. Given Dexia's size, market share and the prevailing financial crisis,
   the group's collapse would have given rise to a systemic risk. The collapse of the
   bank would have had a snowball effect on the Belgian banking sector and,
   consequently, on the entire Belgian economy. The Commission has decided that
   the measure constituted an appropriate, necessary and proportionate means of
   remedying a serious disturbance in the Belgian economy and was compatible
   with the EU rules on state aid. According to the Commission, the solution found
   for Dexia demonstrated that cross-border cooperation is possible .

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   Dexia is a financial group active in the banking and insurance sectors. The parent
   company, Dexia SA, is a limited company incorporated in Belgium and listed on
   the Paris and Brussels stock exchanges. Its market capitalisation was €11.7 billion.
   Dexia specialises in loans to local authorities but also has 5.5 million private
   customers, 4 million of whom are in Belgium.

   Commission announces new rules for duty free imports
   From 1 December 2008, new rules on tax and duty free imports will enter into
   force. The revised rules will benefit travellers and at the same time, Member
   States will avoid the administrative costs currently involved in collecting small
   amounts of duties and taxes. The previous rules have been in place since 1969 and
   had become outdated. Travellers will benefit from a nearly doubled monetary
   threshold and more generously calculated limits for certain drinks when importing
   goods in their personal luggage into the EU.

   From 1 December 2008 onwards, the new rules will:
       Increase the current monetary threshold from € 175 to € 430 for air and sea
         travellers and to € 300 for land and inland waterways travellers. The lower
         threshold for the latter takes account of the special situation of Member
         States that have land borders with countries where prices are significantly
         lower than in the EU.
       Abolish the quantitative limits on perfume, eau de toilette, coffee and tea
         (which means that such items will come under the monetary threshold).
       Increase the quantitative limit for still wine from 2 to 4 litres.
       Introduce a quantitative limit of 16 litres for beer imports
       For tobacco products, Member States will have the option of reducing the
         quantitative limits on (e.g. for cigarettes: from 200 to 40) in support of
         health policies.

   The rules also apply if travellers come from territories where EU rules on VAT
   and excise do not apply, e.g. the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands and

   Immigration in the EU
   Eurostat, the EU Statistical Office has published information on immigration
   trends in the EU. The figures show that in 2006 (the most recent year for which
   information is available), about three million foreign immigrants settled in an EU
   country. These immigrants can be divided into two groups based on their
   citizenship - citizens of EU Member states (1.2 million persons) and non-EU
   citizens (1.8 million).
   The largest foreign immigrant groups were citizens of Poland (about 290,000
   persons), Romania (about 230,000), Morocco (about 140,000), the United
   Kingdom, Ukraine and China (each about 100, 00) and Germany (about 90,000).

   The largest number of foreign immigrants was recorded in Spain (803,000
   persons), Germany (558,500) and the United Kingdom (451 700), who together
   received 60% of all foreign immigrants in the EU. However, when compared with
   the population in the Member State of destination, the highest rate of foreign

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   immigration in the EU was recorded in Luxembourg (28.8 foreign immigrants per
   1,000 inhabitants), followed by Ireland (19.6), Cyprus (18.7), Spain (18.1) and
   Austria (10.3). The EU average is 6.2 foreign immigrants per 1,000 inhabitants.
   Countries with less than 1 foreign immigrant per 1,000 inhabitants include Poland,
   Romania, Lithuania and Latvia.

   In seven Member States a majority of the foreign immigrants were EU citizens.
   These Member States were Luxembourg (84%), Ireland (77%), Germany (57%),
   Hungary and Slovakia (both 54%), Austria (53%) and Belgium (51% in 2003).

   In 17 Member States, a majority of the foreign immigrants were non-EU27
   citizens. The highest shares of immigrants from non-EU27 countries were
   registered in Slovenia (90%), Romania (86%), Portugal (84%) and the Czech
   Republic (83%).

   "Europeana", Europe's Digital Library Launched
   The European Commission has launched "Europeana", a multimedia online library
   opens to the public. Internet users around the world will have access to more than
   two million books, maps, recordings, photographs, archival documents, paintings
   and films from national libraries and cultural institutions of the EU's 27 Member
   States. It will provide free and fast access to Europe's greatest collections and
   masterpieces in a single virtual library through a web portal available in all EU
   languages. Europeana makes it possible to search and browse the digitised
   collections of Europe's libraries, archives and museums all at once. This means
   users can explore themes without searching for and visiting multiple sites and

   Europeana was initiated by the Commission in 2005 and brought to fruition in
   close cooperation with national libraries and other cultural bodies of the Member
   States as well as with the strong support of the European Parliament. Europeana is
   run by the European Digital Library Foundation, which brings together Europe's
   major associations of libraries, archives, museums, audiovisual archives and
   cultural institutions. Europeana is hosted by the Dutch national library, the
   Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Over 1,000 cultural organisations from across Europe
   have provided material for Europeana. Europe’s museums, including the Louvre
   in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, have supplied digitised paintings
   and objects from their collections. State archives have made important national
   documents available, and France's Institut National de l’Audiovisuel supplied
   80,000 broadcasts recording the 20 th century, right back to early footage shot on
   the battlefields of France in 1914.

   Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media has praised
   Europeana as a strong demonstration of the fact that culture is at the heart of
   European integration. She has called on Europe's cultural institutions, publishing
   houses and technology companies to fill Europeana with further content in digital
   The Europeana site is temporarily inaccessible due to overwhelming interest
   after its launch (10 million hits per hour). A more robust version is under
   development and will available by mid-December.

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008


   Agreement reached on CAP Health Check
   The Agriculture and Fisheries Council reached political agreement on the CAP
   Health Check proposal, which pursues three essential objectives: to improve the
   single payment scheme, to modernise agricultural market management tools, and
   to respond to the new challenges of climate change, bio-energy production, water
   management and the preservation of biodiversity. Among a range of measures, the
   agreement abolishes arable set-aside, increases milk quotas gradually leading up
   to their abolition in 2015, and increases modulation, whereby direct payments to
   farmers are reduced and the money transferred to the Rural Development Fund.

   The main elements of the agreement are as follows -

   Phasing out milk quotas: As milk quotas will expire by April 2015 a 'soft landing'
   is ensured by increasing quotas by 1% every year between 2009 and 2014. The
   Commission will assess the situation in the sector in June 2010 and 2012.
   Decoupling of support: The CAP reform "decoupled" direct aid to farmers i.e.
   payments were no longer linked to the production of a specific product. However,
   some Member States chose to maintain some "coupled" – i.e. production-linked -
   payments. These remaining coupled payments will now be decoupled and moved
   into the Single Payment Scheme, with the exception of suckler cow, goat and
   sheep premia, where Member States may maintain current levels of coupled
   Assistance to sectors with special problems (so-called 'Article 68' measures):
   Member States may retain by sector 10 % of their national budget ceilings for
   direct payments for use for environmental measures or to improve the quality of
   agricultural products or their marketing. This support may also be used to
   compensate for specific disadvantages in the dairy sector, the beef and veal sector,
   the sheepmeat and goatmeat sector, in areas which are either economically
   vulnerable or environmentally sensitive.
   Extending SAPS: EU members applying the simplified Single Area Payment
   Scheme will be allowed to continue to do so until 2013, instead of being forced
   into the Single Payment Scheme by 2010.
   Using currently unspent money: Member States applying the Single Payment
   Scheme will be allowed either to use currently unused money from their national
   envelope for Article 68 measures, or to transfer it into the Rural Development
   Additional Modulation: All farmers receiving more than €5,000 in direct aid have
   their payments reduced by 5 % and the money transferred into the Rural
   Development budget. This rate will be increased to 10 % by 2012. An additional
   cut of 4 % will be made on payments above €300,000 a year. The funding
   obtained this way may be used by Member States to reinforce programmes in the
   fields of climate change, renewable energy, water management, biodiversity,
   innovation linked to the previous four points and for accompanying measures in
   the dairy sector. This transferred money will be co-financed by the EU at a rate of
   75 % and 90 % in convergence regions where average GDP is lower.
   Investment aid for young farmers: Investment aid for young farmers under Rural
   Development will be increased from €55,000 to €70,000.

        Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: Nov 17 - 30, 2008

   Abolition of set-aside: The requirement for arable farmers to leave 10 % of their
   land fallow is abolished. This will allow them to maximise their production
   Cross Compliance: Aid to farmers is linked to the respect of environmental,
   animal welfare and food quality standards. Farmers who do not respect the rules
   face cuts in their support. This so-called Cross Compliance will be simplified, by
   withdrawing standards that are not relevant or linked to farmer responsibility.
   New requirements will be added to retain the environmental benefits of set-aside
   and improve water management.

   Agreement reached on School Fruit Scheme
   The Council reached political agreement on a proposal to allow the co-financing
   of programmes to supply fruit and vegetables, free of charge, to children in
   educational establishments. The programme is intended to encourage a lasting
   increase in the proportion of fruit and vegetables in children's diets, at the age
   when they are developing their eating habits, and thus to contribute to the fight
   against obesity. Children aged 6 to 10 are the main target of the programme, but
   the Member States may extend supply to creches, other pre-school establishments,
   and primary and secondary schools. Member States may choose from fresh or
   processed fruit or vegetables, including bananas, depending on objective criteria
   which include which fruit are in season, the availability of products, or
   environmental concerns. In this respect, the Member States may give preference to
   products of Community origin. The implementing rules will exclude certain
   products from the scheme, e.g. those with high added sugar or fat content.

   The Community aid is fixed at EUR 90 million per school year. The aid cannot
   exceed 50 % of the costs of supply. Given the limited budget, the Member States
   may call for contributions from the private sector. Finally, any national
   programme already in place will not be eligible, unless the Member State
   concerned wishes to extend the programme in question or to increase its
   effectiveness. The indicative annual allocation for Ireland is €851.

   The programme will apply with effect from the 2009/2010 school year and the
   Commission will present a report on its implementation to the Council and the
   Parliament by 31 August 2012.

   Welsh Language Officially Recognised
   Welsh has been recognised as an EU "co-official" or minority language. It was
   interpreted for the first time in November when Welsh Heritage Minister Alun
   Ffred Jones spoke it while representing Britain at a meeting of European culture
   ministers. The move follows years of campaigning for Welsh to be recognised in
   the EU. Welsh will not be added to the list of the EU's 23 official languages, but it
   will mean speeches can be given in Welsh and translated. The Welsh Assembly
   has worked closely with the UK Government to negotiate a series of agreements
   to facilitate the use of Welsh at the EU Institutions. The first agreement, with the
   Council of Ministers, was reached in July 2008 A further agreement along similar
   lines is due to be signed with the Committee of the Regions. The extra costs of
   translation are being borne by the Welsh Assembly..


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