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					   HOUSES OF THE OIREACHTAS




Recent Developments in the European Parliament
                 and the EU




        Bulletin No. 21 : 26 February 2010




   Prepared by the Oireachtas EU Liaison Office, Brussels
         Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: 26 February 2010
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Contents                                                                                        Page




European Parliament – Political and Legislative Highlights ..............….......... 3
      Parliament approves new Commission …………. ............…..................... 3
      European Parliament rejects SWIFT agreement with the US..................... 3
      European Parliament to seek increased budget for additional staff ............ 4
      Draft legislation to combat late payments ……………............................... 4
      Amendments proposed to Maternity Leave Directive ……........................ 5
      Transport Commissioner addresses the EP on body scanners ..................... 6
      Agriculture Committee calls for compulsory food labelling …………..… 7


Inter-Parliamentary Activities …………………………………... ..................... 7
       Upcoming inter-parliamentary events .......................................................... 7


European Commission News …………….......................………………………. 8
      Commission approval for NAMA ……………………………….............. 8
      New logo to be displayed on all organic products .............. ...................... 8
      Commission issues opinion on Iceland's accession ……………………... 9
      Commission criticised by Ombudsman on fishing quotas ……………... 9
      The European Citizens' Initiative - Ombudsman's view ............................. 9
      Commission creates two new DGs for Energy and Climate Action………. 10
      Commission appoints new Head of Delegation in Washington to replace
      John Bruton ……………………………………………………………… 11
      Commission to hold public consultation on Capital Requirements Directive 11


European Council / Presidency News …………………………….........………. 12
      Results of informal EU Summit and ECOFIN ............................................ 12
      Forthcoming Council meetings.................................................... …..……. 13




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         Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: 26 February 2010
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         Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU


1. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT – POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE
   HIGHLIGHTS

   Parliament approves new European Commission
   The European Parliament has approved the new European Commission by 488
   votes to 137, with 72 abstentions. The vote, at the Parliaments plenary session in
   Strasbourg, took the form of a single ballot on the whole College of
   Commissioners. The new Commission will stay in office until 31 October 2014.
   By way of comparison, the first Barroso Commission was voted into office in
   November 2004 by 449 votes to 149, with 82 abstentions. Ahead of the vote, the
   EPP, S&D and ALDE groups announced that they would vote in favour of the
   college of Commissioners. The Greens, GUE/NGL and EFD groups said they
   would vote against the new college and the ECR group announced it would
   abstain. The vote completes a process that began in September when Mr. Barroso
   won parliamentary support for a second term. The new Commission was supposed
   to take office in November 2009 but the appointment was held up by delayed
   ratification of the Lisbon treaty and by the withdrawal of the Bulgarian candidate
   after her confirmation hearing in January. Rumiana Jeleva was replaced by World
   Bank vice-president Kristalina Georgieva.

   Prior to the vote on the Commission, the Parliament also approved a set of key
   principles to be implemented in the cooperation agreement governing relations
   between the EP and the Commission. Commission President Barroso endorsed
   Parliaments demands, reflecting the new position of Parliament under the Lisbon
   Treaty. Parliament and the Commission are currently revising the Framework
   Agreement that defines relations between the two institutions, including their
   political responsibilities, the flow of information and legislative coordination. The
   negotiators of the two institutions agreed on a set of key principles in late January.
   The second stage of the negotiations, starting immediately after the Commission
   takes office, should lead by May-June 2010 to a new agreement that will be
   adopted by the plenary.


   European Parliament rejects SWIFT agreement with the US
   As anticipated, the European Parliament at its recent plenary session in Strasbourg
   refused to give its consent to the EU's interim agreement on banking data transfers
   to the USA via the SWIFT network, amid concerns for privacy, proportionality
   and reciprocity. This move renders the text signed between the US and the 27 EU
   Member states legally void. The resolution rejecting the agreement was approved
   by 378 votes to 196. A proposal by the EPP and ECR groups to postpone the vote
   was narrowly rejected.

   Parliament's resolution also asks the Commission and the Council to initiate work
   on a long-term agreement with the USA on this issue, but reiterates that any new
   agreement must comply with Lisbon Treaty requirements, and in particular the
   Charter of Fundamental Rights. Following the rejection by Parliament, the
   European Commission wrote to EP President Jerzy Buzek, stating that it is to


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         Recent Developments in the European Parliament and the EU: 26 February 2010
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   adopt draft negotiation guidelines for a long term agreement in the coming weeks.
   The guidelines will address the European Parliament’s and Council's concerns and
   ensure the utmost respect for privacy and data protection.

   In order to continue sharing financial data for the purpose of fighting terrorism,
   the EU and the United States can still rely on a Mutual Legal Assistance
   agreement allowing for exchange of data within the framework of EU member
   states national law.


   European Parliament to seek increased budget for additional staff
   The European Parliament is to seek funding for 150 new posts and an increase in
   the budget provision for the hiring of assistants for MEPs. Due to Parliament's
   increased powers and tasks under the Lisbon Treaty, extra staff are needed in
   Parliament's political groups, its administration, and to work with MEPs. The
   total cost would be €13.4 million, which represents 0.8% of Parliament's total
   2010 budget of €1.6 billion. By way of compensation, Parliament has decided to
   cut its internal reserve for buildings by €4 million, thus enabling it to stay within
   its self-imposed margin of 20% of the total EU administrative budget.

   The increased funding would provide for hiring an additional 75 civil servants
   and adding 75 posts to the staff of the political groups. The budget for hiring
   assistants, which is handled by Parliament's administrative services and not paid to
   MEPs themselves, would be raised by €1,500 per month per MEP. MEPs, who
   are currently are allowed €17,540 a month to pay for assistants, will therefore be
   able to employ more or better-qualified staff. Seventy of the 75 new civil servants
   will be used to reinforce staff on the parliamentary committees, where all
   legislation is examined before going to plenary. They will help address
   Parliament's new responsibilities, e.g. in the agriculture, justice and home affairs,
   financial and economic fields. The remaining five staff would be hired to step up
   co-operation with national parliaments, which have a more important role under
   the Lisbon treaty.

   The European Commission, which is the only EU institution allowed to propose
   amending budgets, is expected to table a proposal to amend Parliament's budget
   for 2010. This proposal could then be approved by the Council and Parliament in
   April.


   Draft legislation to combat late payments
   Following last month's meeting with representatives of national parliaments, the
   European Parliament's Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer
   Protection has published its draft report on the Commission's proposal for
   combating late payments in commercial transactions [Proposal for a Directive on
   combating late payment in commercial transactions COM 2009 126]. This first
   version of the parliamentary report on the issue of late payments is the product of
   several months of work and consultation with experts, both sides of industry and
   national parliamentarians. The late payment of bills is a frequent cause of the
   cashflow problems suffered by thousands of firms. According to studies by the
   European Commission, in some Member States the public authorities are the


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   worst payers. For this reason the draft legislation differentiates between the
   private and public sectors. The Committee recognises that there is a justification
   for distinguishing between private companies and public authorities in this matter.
   However, the penalties imposed on late payers should be the same for all and not
   discriminate against public bodies. Another change made to the draft legislation is
   to the level of penalties. Instead of 5% of the sum due, as proposed by the
   European Commission when late payment interest is payable, the Committee calls
   for a sliding scale under which the debtor would pay 2% of the sum due as soon as
   interest becomes payable, then 4% of the sum from the forty-fifth day following
   this date and, lastly, 5% from the sixtieth day. The penalty should not exceed
   €50,000.

   The draft directive does not propose setting payment deadlines for private firms
   but it does for public authorities. However, the derogations envisaged in the draft
   proposal lack legal clarity and a 30-day payment deadline should be the basic
   principle for public bodies. Any derogations should be carefully defined and
   should remain the exception. However, the idea of a 60-day payment deadline for
   public bodies in genuinely justified cases and for public authorities operating in
   the health sector is supported. The draft parliamentary report also proposes the
   introduction of staggered payments, which are already used in the construction
   industry. The definition of public authorities is also broadened, to include public
   undertakings of general interest (for example, water, energy, transport and postal
   bodies).

   Members of the EP Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, which
   is responsible for the passage of this legislation through Parliament, have until 2
   March to table amendments to the draft report. The Committee vote will take
   place in April and the plenary vote in May


   Amendments proposed to Maternity Leave Directive
    The European Parliament's Women's Right Committee has finalised its report on
   the Commission's proposed "maternity Leave" directive (Proposal for a directive
   of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive
   92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the
   safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently
   given birth or are breastfeeding COM 2008 637). The draft report focuses on key
   issues , such as the extension of the maternity leave, the level of payment and the
   inclusion of paternity leave. The draft legislation seeks to lay down minimum
   rules at EU level. Member States may introduce or keep existing rules that are
   more favourable to workers than those laid down in the directive.

   The Committee has proposes that the minimum maternity leave in the EU should
   be extended from 14 to 20 weeks (6 weeks of which must be taken after
   childbirth) and be fully paid, Workers on maternity leave must be paid their full
   salary, which must be 100% of their last monthly salary or their average monthly
   salary. In its draft proposal, the European Commission had recommended the
   principle of full payment. However, it did not propose making full payment
   mandatory but simply said it should not be below the rate of sick-leave payments.



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   An entitlement to paid paternity leave was also recommended. Fathers should
   have the right to fully paid paternity leave of at least two weeks within the period
   of maternity leave. So far, there is no legislation at EU level on paternity leave.

   This legislation on maternity and paternity leave should also apply to parents who
   adopt a child of less than 12 months old. Furthermore, fully paid additional
   maternity leave should be granted in specific situations such as premature
   childbirth, children with disabilities, mothers with disabilities, teenage mothers,
   multiple birth, and births occurring within 18 months of previous births.

   The Women's Rights Committee adopted amendments to ban the dismissal of
   pregnant workers from the beginning of a pregnancy to at least 6 months
   following the end of the maternity leave. Dismissal during that period must be
   formally justified in writing. After maternity leave, women must be entitled to
   return to their jobs or to "equivalent posts", i.e. a position with the same pay,
   professional category and duties as before. The committee adds that workers must
   not be obliged to perform night work or work overtime during the 10 weeks prior
   to childbirth, during the remainder of the pregnancy in case of health problem of
   the mother or the unborn child and during the entire period of breastfeeding.
   Workers wishing to be exempted from night work must inform their employer and
   submit a medical certificate.

   Parliament as a whole is expected to vote on the draft legislation at its March
   plenary session, but a first reading agreement with the Council is unlikely.


   Transport Commissioner addresses the European Parliament on body scanners
   The EU Transport Commissioner, Siim Kallas recently addressed the European
   Parliament on the use of body scanning technology in airport security, as part of a
   broader debate on counter-terrorism strategies. In setting out the timetable for the
   debate on the regulation of body scanning technology, the Commissioner
   underlined that to fight terrorism which targeted civil aviation, a variety of
   combined and coordinated measures were needed. These included intelligence,
   profiling, different search methods and international cooperation. He said that
   questions relating to the added-value of body scanning technology to airport
   security, as well as health and privacy issues, needed to be looked at very
   seriously.

   The safety and security of passengers is the major priority for the Commissioner.
   The travelling public, the media and aviation stakeholders all legitimately ask
   whether the existing security arrangements are good enough or whether further
   action needs to be taken. The Commissioner planned to discuss the regulation of
   body scanning technology with transport ministers and will present in April a
   detailed report to the European Parliament on the use of body scanning
   technology, examining security, as well as health and privacy issues. This report
   should provide a sound basis for a decision on whether to move ahead with EU-
   wide regulation on the use of body scanning technology, or to leave the regulation
   of the use of this technology in airport security to be decided at national level, as
   is currently the case.



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   Agriculture Committee calls for compulsory food labelling
   Plans for an EU food quality policy to boost competitiveness and add value to the
   economies of Europe's regions are set out in report by the Parliament's Agriculture
   Committee, which forms part of Parliament's wider discussion on the future aims
   of the Common Agricultural Policy and responds to the Commission's
   communication on EU quality policy. The Committee's view is that compulsory
   labelling of farm produce can ensure that consumers are fully informed on food
   quality and so boost agricultural competitiveness. Protecting EU geographical
   indications and traditional specialities from counterfeiting are also vital to
   promote and defend EU food high quality standards. The Agriculture Committee
   agreed on the need to keep the current system of geographical indications in place,
   and in particular its two main tools - the protected designation of origin (PDO)
   and the protected geographical indication (PGI). The Committee also calls for
   rules to introduce "place of farming" labelling for primary products such as
   vegetables. This should be done without creating any excessive costs and by
   investigating alternatives to traditional labelling, such as bar codes or web sites.
   Supplementary information should be made voluntary to avoid overloading labels
   and thus confusing consumers. The Commission is also asked to study various
   options for introducing new information tools, including new EU quality and
   organic logos.


2. INTER-PARLIAMENTARY ACTIVITIES

   Upcoming Inter-Parliamentary Events
    Meeting of EU Secretaries General, 7/8 March, Swedish Parliament,
      Stockholm.
    Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality - meeting with
      representatives from national parliaments on the occasion of the International
      Women's Day "Elimination of violence against women", 16 March, European
      Parliament, Brussels.
    Debate in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs with the
      participation of National Parliaments on 1) the post-crisis strategy for growth
      and jobs and 2) modernisation of the global financial architecture, 16/17
      March, European Parliament, Brussels.
    Meeting of Science and Innovation Committee Chairpersons, 25 March,
      Spanish Senate, Madrid.
    Meeting of Finance Committee Chairpersons, 15 April, Spanish Congress of
      Deputies, Madrid.
    Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection Inter-Parliamentary
      Meeting with the EU National Parliaments on "Transposition of the Services
      Directive", 27 April, European Parliament, Brussels.
    Meeting of Equality Committee Chairpersons, 29 April, Spanish Senate,
      Madrid.




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4. EUROPEAN COMMISSION DEVELOPMENTS

   The outgoing Commission was in a so-called 'caretaker' role until the end of its
   mandate on 9 February and therefore no major political initiatives or proposals
   were adopted before the end of its mandate. The new Commission took office on
   10 February following the vote of consent by the European Parliament.

   Commission approval for NAMA
   The European Commission has approved the establishment of Ireland's National
   Asset Management Agency (NAMA). The Commission is satisfied that the
   impaired asset relief scheme for financial institutions is in line with its guidelines
   on impaired asset relief for banks, which allows state aid to remedy a serious
   disturbance in a Member State's economy. The Commission's view was that
   Ireland's financial sector has been one of the most affected by the global financial
   crisis in Europe and the burst of the Irish real estate bubble compounded the
   problems. This impaired asset measure, which is specifically targeted at real estate
   assets, is an important step towards the overall restructuring of the Irish banking
   sector and its return to a normal and responsible functioning of the market.

   The purpose of NAMA is to restore stability to the Irish banking system by
   allowing participating financial institutions to sell to the agency assets whose
   declining and uncertain value is preventing the long-term shoring-up of the
   financial institutions' capital and, therefore, the return to a normally functioning
   financial market. The Commission has found that the scheme and intended
   operations of NAMA are in compliance with the guidelines set out in the
   Commission's Communication on the treatment of impaired assets as regards
   disclosure and ex ante transparency, eligibility of institutions and assets and the
   alignment of banks' incentives with public policy objectives. In particular, the
   Commission has found that the scheme includes an adequate burden sharing
   mechanism through the payment of a transfer price which is no greater than the
   assets' long-term economic value, and the inclusion of an adequate remuneration
   for the state in the rate used to discount the assets' long term economic cash flows.

   The Commission's approval concerns only the NAMA scheme and the
   Commission will assess the compatibility (and, in particular, the actual transfer
   price) of the transferred assets when they are separately notified by the Irish
   government. These individual reviews will include a claw back mechanism in case
   of excess payments. Finally, the Commission has accepted a number of
   commitments from the Irish government to ensure that NAMA, whilst it performs
   its goal of maximising the recovery value of the purchased assets, does not lead to
   distortions of competition through the use of some of the specific powers, rights
   and exemptions granted in the NAMA legislation. The Commission will also
   review individual restructuring plans to ensure that the participation of the
   financial institutions in this measure is followed up with appropriate restructuring
   measures to promote the return of those institutions to long term viability.


   New logo to be displayed on all organic products
   The European Commission has announced a new logo that will be shown on all
   pre-packaged organic products sold in Europe. The logo was the result of a pan-


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   European contest open to art and design students. The winning logo, a green leaf
   incorporating the 12 stars of the EU flag, was designed by a student from
   Germany. From 1st July 2010, the organic logo of the EU will be obligatory on all
   pre-packaged organic products that have been produced in any of the EU Member
   States and meet the necessary standards. It will be optional for imported products.
   Other private, regional or national logos will be allowed to appear alongside the
   EU label. The organic farming regulation will be amended in the coming weeks to
   introduce the new logo into one of the annexes.


   Commission issues opinion on Iceland's accession
   The European Commission has issued its opinion recommending the opening of
   accession negotiations with Iceland following the country's application for EU
   membership. In the opinion, the Commission acknowledges Iceland's adherence to
   the common values of the EU, such as democracy, rule of law and respect for
   human rights, but also identifies challenges to be addressed prior to accession. The
   Commission's opinion is an important step in the accession process and provides
   guidance to Iceland in its efforts to become an EU member. To become a member
   of the EU, an applicant country must meet the political and economic criteria laid
   down by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 and adopt the entire body
   of EU law, the "acquis". Through its participation in the European Economic Area
   (EEA), Iceland has already taken on a considerable part of the acquis. As an EEA
   member Iceland has participated in the single market for more than 15 years. The
   Commission's report identifies areas where the Icelandic authorities need to make
   serious efforts to achieve full alignment with EU law, in particular fisheries,
   agriculture and rural development, environment, free movement of capital and
   financial services.

   Iceland submitted its application for EU membership in July 2009 to the Council,
   which then asked the Commission to provide an opinion on the application. As the
   basis of its opinion, the Commission sent a 350 page questionnaire on all EU-
   relevant policy areas to the Icelandic authorities. Based on full and detailed
   answers from Iceland and additional information from EU Member States,
   international organisations and local and international non-governmental
   organisations, the Commission has drawn up a thorough analysis of Iceland's
   current situation and medium-term prospects.

   Following the recommendation by the Commission, it is now a matter for the
   Council to decide on the opening of accession negotiations with Iceland.


   Commission criticised by Ombudsman on fishing quotas
   The European Ombudsman has criticised the Commission for an administrative
   error concerning fishing quotas in the West of Scotland. This followed a
   complaint from a Scottish fishermen's association. The association alleged that the
   Commission had erroneously interchanged data in two columns of a table
   contained in a document that served as a basis for the relevant Council Regulation.
   The mistake led to a 10 % reduction in the fishing days allocated for the relevant
   category of vessels the West of Scotland. According to the association, the
   reduction in the number of fishing days should instead have been applied to the


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   North Sea. After his investigation into the complaint, the Ombudsman concluded
   that the Commission had indeed made an administrative mistake in the relevant
   document. The Ombudsman urged the Commission to correct its error, pointing
   out that the mistake might have knock-on effects for subsequent years. The
   Commission, however, refused to accept the Ombudsman's recommendation. In
   its opinion, the Commission explained that it had checked the figures and insisted
   that no mistake had been made. It further explained that the reduction had been
   discussed and approved by the Member States. The Ombudsman has asked the
   Commission to inform him by 30 June 2010 of any action it has taken in relation
   to his findings.


   The European Citizens' Initiative - Ombudsman's view
   The European Ombudsman has called on the Commission to ensure that the
   Citizens Initiative works in the most transparent and citizen-friendly way possible
   and facilitate the exercise of this new right by all citizens. As the Commission’s
   future role could give rise to complaints about maladministration, the Ombudsman
   has contributed his views on how the Citizens Initiative should work in practice -

      Registration of an initiative (which should occur before the collection of
       signatures begins) should not become a bureaucratic or political hurdle. In
       particular, the admissibility of a citizens’ initiative should not be a condition
       for registering it.
      To avoid time and effort being spent collecting signatures in vain, the
       Commission should, following its registration, issue an opinion as to whether
       an initiative is admissible.
      Organisers of initiatives should have to provide information about funding and
       participating organisations.
      A six-month deadline by which the Commission should examine a citizens'
       initiative is reasonable. Furthermore, where the Commission decides to present
       a legislative proposal, it should set itself a deadline by which it will do so.
      To facilitate effective supervision, the Commission should present its legal
       conclusions concerning the admissibility of an initiative, which could then be
       examined by the Ombudsman. These should be separate from its political
       conclusions regarding the substance of an initiative, which should be for
       Parliament to deal with.

   The public consultation on the Citizens Initiative ended on 31 January 2010. The
   Commission is now considering the responses received, following which it will
   make a proposal for the adoption of a Regulation on the procedures and conditions
   for the citizens' initiative. The Commission hopes to have the system in operation
   in early 2011.


   Commission creates two new Directorates-General for Energy and Climate
   Action
   The European Commission has implemented the organisational consequences
   following the allocation of new portfolios to Commissioners. Two new
   Directorates-General have been created - DG Energy (ENER) and DG Climate
   Action (CLIM). The Energy DG consists of the departments in the former


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   Transport and Energy DG dealing with energy issues and of the Task Force
   Energy which will be transferred from the External Relations DG. The
   departments responsible for transport policy will remain in the renamed Mobility
   and Transport DG (MOVE). The Climate Action DG will be created from the
   relevant activities in DG Environment, the activities in the External Relations DG
   related to international negotiations on climate change and the activities in the
   Enterprise and Industry DG related to climate change.

   To advance the Commission's strategic approach on research, a task force, to be
   chaired by the Secretary-General, has been set up. This will launch a strategic
   reflection at Commission level on the evolution of the research budget, the degree
   of externalisation in the management of research programmes and the links
   between research and other policies in organisational terms.


   Commission appoints new Head of EU Delegation in Washington to replace
   John Bruton
   The European Commission has appoint Mr. João Vale de Almeida as the Head of
   the EU Delegation to the United States. The position has been vacant since the
   departure of the former Head of Delegation, John Bruton, at the end of October
   2009. The decision was taken at the first meeting of the new College. Mr. de
   Almeida is a Portuguese national and a EU official for 27 years. He was appointed
   Director General for External Relations in June 2009 and served as Head of
   Cabinet of President Barroso for the entirety of his first mandate as President of
   the Commission.

   The decision by the Commission to appoint one of its own staff to the top position
   in Washington has caused some disquiet in political circles, as it appears that
   Member States were not consulted prior to the appointment. The Swedish Foreign
   Minister in particular complained that the Commission should have consulted
   widely before making such a senior appointment. Such was the case in 2004 when
   former Taoiseach John Bruton was appointed to the position, following agreement
   that the EU needed a senior political figure as representative in Washington.


   Commission to hold public consultation changes to Capital Requirements
   Directive
   The European Commission has launched a public consultation on further possible
   changes to the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), aimed at strengthening the
   resilience of the banking sector and the financial system as a whole. The purpose
   of the CRD is to ensure the financial soundness of banks and investment firms.
   Together they stipulate how much of their own financial resources banks and
   investment firms must have in order to cover their risks and protect depositors.
   The proposed changes relate to seven specific policy areas, most of which reflect
   commitments made by G20 leaders at summits in London and Pittsburgh during
   2009.

   The seven areas of potential action are as follows:




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      Liquidity standards: Introducing liquidity standards that include a liquidity
       coverage ratio requirement underpinned by a longer-term structural liquidity
       ratio.
      Definition of capital: Raising the quality, consistency and transparency of the
       capital base.
      Leverage ratio: Introducing a leverage ratio as a supplementary measure to the
       Basel II risk-based framework based on appropriate review and calibration.
      Counterparty credit risk: Strengthening the capital requirements for
       counterparty credit risk exposures arising from derivatives, repos and
       securities financing activities.
      Countercyclical measures: A countercyclical capital framework will contribute
       to a more stable banking system, which will help dampen, instead of amplify,
       economic and financial shocks.
      Systemically important financial institutions: appropriate measures to deal
       with the risk posed by such institutions.
      Single rule book in banking: areas where more stringent requirements might
       be necessary and the appropriate prudential treatment of real estate lending.

   All interested stakeholders are invited to reply to the consultation by 16 April
   2010. In the second half of 2010 the Commission intends to publish a legislative
   proposal dealing with some or all of the areas discussed in this and previous
   consultations. Any such proposal will be developed in the light of both responses
   to the consultations and an impact assessment examining the anticipated effects of
   options for achieving the outlined policy objectives. In this respect, the
   Commission has also invited the Committee of the European Banking Supervisors
   (CEBS) to carry out a European Quantitative Impact Study to aid the assessment
   of the aggregate effect of the proposed revisions.


5. European Council

   Results of informal EU Summit and ECOFIN
   The informal meeting of EU leaders on 11 March focussed largely on the financial
   crisis and in particular the situation in Greece. While noting that all Euro area
   members must conduct sound national policies in line with the agreed rules and
   have a shared responsibility for the economic and financial stability in the area,
   the summit expressed its full support for the efforts of the Greek government. The
   meeting called on the Greeks to implement measures in a rigorous and determined
   manner to effectively reduce their budgetary deficit by 4% in 2010. The Ecofin
   Council was requested to formally adopt recommendations to Greece based on the
   Commission's proposal and the additional measures Greece has announced. The
   Commission will closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations in
   liaison with the ECB and will propose needed additional measures, drawing on the
   expertise of the IMF. A first assessment will be done in March. Stressing that the
   Greek government had not requested any financial support, EU leaders
   nonetheless stated that Euro area Member states would take determined and
   coordinated action, if needed, to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a
   whole.




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   The ECOFIN meeting, at the request of the informal European Council, focused
   on the situation regarding the government deficit and debt in Greece. Greece has
   been the subject of an excessive deficit procedure since April 2009, when the
   Council also issued a recommendation on corrective action to be taken. In
   December 2009, the Council stated in a decision that Greece had failed to comply
   with its recommendation. Greece's government deficit for 2009 is put at 12.7% of
   GDP. Its government debt at the end of 2009 is estimated to have been in excess
   of 113% of GDP, well above the 60% reference value for debt. Shortcomings in
   Greece's public finance statistics have been a recurrent issue, prompting repeated
   calls by the Council on the Greek authorities, including in its April 2009
   recommendation, to improve the collection and processing of its statistical data. In
   October 2009, Greece announced further substantial revisions of government
   deficit and debt data for previous years. The revised data has not been validated by
   Eurostat.

   Greece's updated stability programme sets 2012 as the date for reducing the deficit
   below the 3% reference value. It sets a target of 8.7% of GDP for its 2010
   budgetary deficit, which represents a 4% reduction from the estimated 12.7%
   deficit for 2009. In its decision, the Council accepted this schedule. It called on
   Greece to ensure a budgetary adjustment of at least 4% of GDP in 2010 and to
   bring its deficit back under 3% in 2012 at the latest. The Council also asked
   Greece to present a report by 16 March 2010 setting out the timetable for
   implementing budgetary target measures for 2010, and another by 15 May
   outlining the policy measures needed to comply with the Council's decision.
   Quarterly reports should be submitted thereafter. The Council also found that that
   Greece's policies were not in line with the country-specific recommendation it
   issued under the broad economic policy guidelines. In that recommendation, it had
   noted that it was imperative to intensify efforts to address the macro-economic
   imbalances and structural weaknesses of the Greek economy. The Council
   therefore called on Greece to design and implement as soon as possible, starting in
   2010, a bold and comprehensive structural reform package. It sets out specific
   measures, covering wages, pension reform, healthcare reforms, public
   administrations, the product market, the business environment, productivity and
   employment growth.


   Spanish Presidency: forthcoming Council and Ministerial Meetings

   March 1-2:         Competitiveness
   March 3-4:         Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
   March 11-12:       Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
   March 15:          Environment
   March 16:          ECOFIN


___________________________________________________________________________________
Prepared by the Oireachtas EU Liaison Office, Brussels
Contact: John Hamilton
Phone: 0032 2 2842038
Mobile: 0032 474 289925
Email: john.hamilton@europarl.europa.eu



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