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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hungary and the EU Treaty, eHealth in EU, slovenian presidency, part funding and activists in EU

Hungary first country to ratify new EU Treaty

18 December 2007

With the ink on the new EU Treaty barely having dried after last week's signing ceremony by heads of state and government in Lisbon, Hungary is hoping to set an example of the swift ratification needed to implement the institutional reforms by January 2009.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the vote as an "expression of Hungarian support for a more effective, democratic and transparent and stronger EU". "It is an important first step in bringing the concrete benefits of the new Treaty into effect. I hope that other member states will follow the lead given by Hungary."

An overwhelming majority of 325 members of parliament voted in favour of the new EU Treaty, with only five opposed and 14 abstentions on Monday (17 December).

"Hungary is behind this new Treaty, which retains the virtues of the Constitution and is also in the interest of Hungary," Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said.

The Lisbon Treaty provides for an institutional overhaul after the draft EU Constitution was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. The reforms should streamline decision-making, slim down the institutions and create the new posts of a permanent EU president and a foreign representative.

So far, Ireland is the only country expected to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but pressure in the UK is mounting, with the Conservative opposition calling for a public vote. source

Slovenian Presidency wants further progress on Lisbon strategy

An update on the renewed Lisbon strategy on growth and jobs will be a key objective when Slovenia takes over the EU presidency from Portugal on 1 January 2008, according to Slovenian Minister Žiga Turk.

Slovenia will strive to initiate the next three-year cycle of the Lisbon strategy and adopt 'Integrated Guidelines' for economic reform until 2010 at the next EU Spring Council (13-14 March 2008), the government says.

"The very key to success is consistent continuation of the process and implementation of national reform programmes," the Slovenian government points out on its special webpage.

Although no major changes are expected under Slovenia's leadership, efforts will be made to increase research and development (R&D), support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create flexible labour markets, Slovenia's EU Ambassador Igor Sencar outlined at an EPC conference in Brussels this November.

In an interview in September, Sencar said that the presidency will be "a test of maturity" for his country.

Speaking at the annual SME day in Brussels on 5 June, the Slovenian growth minister Žiga Turk emphasised that "finance is not the biggest problem in Europe. It's the lack of risk-taking that is the main problem".

He added that education and promoting success stories was important and commented that less government interference would benefit SMEs.

Besides further promoting SMEs and simplifying Europe's regulatory environment, business federations such Eurochambres are urging the presidency to push forward with the key European patent system dossier with the aim of finally reaching an agreement. The aim is to achieve a more efficient, workable and business-oriented patent system, according to a Eurochambres dossier on the Slovenian Presidency.

Slovenia itself has reported remarkable progress on the implementation of the Lisbon strategy, according to the government's annual report published in October. Particular progress had been made in the areas of pension reform and measures favouring flexibility on the labour market, Minister Turk said in the latest issue of 'Most', the quarterly bulletin of the Slovenian Business & Research Association. In his words, the Slovenian state budget clearly reflected the development-oriented policy of his country.

"Deficit reduction and a decreased share of public spending in the country's GDP on the one hand, and an increased budget share dedicated to research are clear indicators for this positive trend," Turk said.

The Commission stated on 11 December in its strategic report on economic reform across Europe that the renewed Lisbon Strategy was working but further reforms were needed to succeed in a globalised age.

As a means of better communicating the Lisbon Strategy to citizens, member states should extend the usage of high-speed internet to 30% of the overall EU population by 2010 as proposed by the Commission on 11 December, Turk wrote on Blogactiv.

"This is the kind of goal-setting the internet generation understands," Turk said. source

Party funding reform aims to boost turnout in 2009 EU elections

19 December 2007

The EU institutions yesterday adopted a new regulation designed to raise the profile of European political parties, with a view to raising public awareness of European issues and improving voter turnout ahead of the next European Parliament elections in 2009.

The regulation on European political parties, signed by the presidents of the Commission and Parliament on 18 December, aims to improve the financial stability and flexibility of European parties and paves the way for the creation of European 'political foundations' to better communicate EU issues to citizens and foster pan-European debate.

The regulation builds upon the "Plan D" initiative on democracy, dialogue and debate launched by Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström in 2005, which aims to improve the communication of EU affairs to citizens.

The reforms set aside €10.6 million of EU funding for the election campaigns of ten different European-level political parties in 2008. An additional €5 million will be allocated to the new political foundations envisaged by the regulation.

The foundations, affiliated to EU-level political parties, are expected to contribute to the ideological debate over EU issues by engaging with civil society and academia. "European political foundations will play an important role in involving citizens in a permanent, genuine and informed political dialogue", Wallström said. source

Activists see new lobbying prospects in EU Treaty

14 December 2007

With national parliaments set to gain more powers to scrutinise EU laws, environmental NGOs are hoping that European capitals will offer a new battleground to defend their cause. But others warn that the new powers are essentially defensive and could lead to obstruction.


With new rights to scrutinise EU legislation, national parliaments are widely said to be the greatest winners of the new treaty (EurActiv 5/12/07).

A protocolword on the application of the subsidiarity principle, attached to the treaty, provides that any national parliament (or indeed chamber) may object to EU legislation "within eight weeks" of receiving a draft legislative act. It is then invited to send "a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity".

If all national parliaments - agreeing by a one third majority - support the initiative, "the draft must be reviewed" (Article 7). In case the Commission decides to maintain its proposal, the European Parliament or the Council can decide to scrap it (simple majority and 55% of votes required respectively). But the threshold is raised: it would then take a majority of national parliaments to ask the Council or European Parliament to effectively stop a Commission initiative.

The subsidiariy principleexternal was enshrined in the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. It ensures that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that EU action is justified only where no better alternatives are available at national or regional level. source

Brussels presses for progress on lead markets for eHealth

7 January 2008

The European Commission has called for quick action and strengthened national co-operation on lead market opportunities for eHealth in order to increase economic benefits and improve quality of health services.

Lead markets are high-growth potential markets for research and innovation-rich goods and services. EU initiatives focus on areas where public authorities can facilitate industry-led innovation by creating favourable legal and regulatory frameworks, setting standards, improving access to risk capital, providing support for research and acting as a launch customer.

eHealth has been identified as one of the areas in which an innovation-friendly market can be created for businesses to launch new products and services. eHealth stands for the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across the whole range of functions that affect the health sector - from the doctor to the hospital manager and from data processing to social security administrators and patients.

"The prospective return on investment of eHealth is relatively high when compared to the costs inherent in the health sector," argues a Commission report on accelerating the development of the eHealth market in EuropePdf external , published in late December 2007.

he recommendations, directed at industry, member states and other eHealth stakeholders, focus on four main obstacles to the development of the eHealth lead market, namely:

  • Reducing market fragmentation and lack of interoperability through pilot actions, benchmarking, standardisation and certification;
  • improving legal certainty and consumer acceptance by possibly adopting a legal initiative for eHealth and telemedicine as well as an initiative to enforce personal data protection legislation, disseminating best practice and guidelines;
  • optimising funding opportunities through strengthened national and community R&D co-operation on eHealth; and;
  • improving procurement by facilitating the expression of public demand through more innovation-friendly procurement activities and networking public procurers.

Just days before the publication of the report, the Commission adopted a new strategy on investing public money in high-risk technological research. The initiative seeks to clarify possible conflicts of this type of investment with EU state aid rules and procurement regulations and envisages flexibility for the member states to co-operate with suppliers across borders in risk-benefit sharing. source

My comment:Well, I agree more or less with all the news. It's kind of no comment comment. When something is positive you simply shouldn't spoil it with empty worlds.


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