Tag Archives: Green paper

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social dialogue and employee participation

Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue in an enlarged Europe

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission. Partnership for change in an enlarged Europe – Enhancing the contribution of European social dialogue [COM(2004) 557 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The European social model places great emphasis on the need for social dialogue. The purpose of this Communication is to promote awareness and understanding of the results of the European social dialogue, to improve their impact and to promote further developments based on effective interaction between different levels of industrial relations.

In addition, the enlargement of the EU also presents a challenge for the European social dialogue. Partnership will be of particular importance in managing the impact of continuing restructuring in these countries. Enlargement will also challenge the technical capacity of the European social partner organisations in the new Member States.

Following the Communications in 1998 on “Adapting and promoting the Social Dialogue at Community level” and in 2002 on “The European social dialogue, a force for innovation and change”, and against the backdrop of the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy, the Commission feels that it is a good time to take stock of the European social dialogue.

The main challenge ahead is to improve quality in work with a view to positively managing all dimensions of economic, social and environmental change in order to ensure sustainable development and social cohesion. The Commission calls on the European and national social partners to take part in a genuine partnership for change by stepping up their efforts to address the issues identified below:

  • improving adaptability through flexibility and security in the employment relationship;
  • investing in human capital and job quality through increased investment in health and safety at work and offering appropriate access to training;
  • attracting more people to the labour market in view of the future decline in the working age population.

If the European social partners are to make an effective contribution to achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, good interaction between the different levels of industrial relations is essential. The Commission urges the social partners and Member States to work together to reinforce the administrative capacities of national social partner organisations, for example through the possibilities provided by the structural funds – in particular the European Social Fund (ESF).

The results of the European social dialogue could therefore be improved by enhancing the synergies between the various sectors as well as between the European cross-industry and sectoral levels. For example, in the area of lifelong learning, some sectors (postal services, banking, cleaning industry) have referred to the cross-industry framework of actions.

The Commission also feels that the social partners could explore possible ways in which the European social dialogue and European works councils (EWCs) could complement one another. Increasingly, the range of issues being considered within EWCs is expanding beyond the core issues of company performance and employment to embrace subjects with a strong European dimension such as health and safety, equal opportunities, training and mobility, corporate social responsibility and environmental issues.

The Commission’s role in supporting social dialogue

According to Article 138(1), the Commission has the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Community level. It must therefore take any relevant measure to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties. The Commission encourages the social partners to make use of the possibility for certain issues to be fleshed out through negotiations at all relevant levels and to step up support for the European social dialogue structures in the context of enlargement.

It is however important to note that, as the social partners are autonomous and social dialogue in the EU is based on the freedom of the right to association, capacity-building is essentially a bottom-up process depending on the efforts of the social partners themselves.

In order to identify the social partners to be consulted under Article 138 of the EC Treaty, the Commission carries out representativeness studies on the European organisations. It proposes that these studies should be carried out by the Dublin Foundation’s European Industrial Relations Observatory.

The Commission will raise the profile of the European social dialogue and assist the social partners in following up their texts by:

  • exploring ways of promoting the sharing of experience on follow-up practices;
  • providing support for the social partners which will be accessible on the social dialogue website;
  • reinforcing financial support for joint follow-up actions;
  • organising national seminars in each Member State in order to raise awareness of the importance of the European social dialogue for national industrial relations.

The Commission considers there to be a need for a framework to help improve the consistency of the social dialogue outcomes and to improve transparency. It will examine the possibility of drawing up a more extensive framework.

Background

The European social dialogue has evolved since it was introduced in 1985, and it is now well-established. Quantitatively, the work of the various social dialogue committees has resulted in the adoption of more than 300 joint texts by the social partners and they have undertaken many joint transnational projects. In qualitative terms, there has been a shift towards greater autonomy. This is reflected by the increasing adoption by the social partners of ‘new generation’ texts, characterised by the fact that they are to be followed up by the social partners themselves.

This evolution of the social dialogue is consistent with the Commission’s efforts to improve European governance. The social dialogue is a pioneering example of improved consultation and the application of subsidiarity in practice.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Improving quality in work: a review of recent progress [COM(2003) 728 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Document by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs. Recent developments in the European inter-professional social dialogue 2002-03 [ ].

Conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes

Conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes (Green Paper)

What happens when, say, a Franco-Estonian couple living in Spain separate and questions arise regarding their immovable property located in Germany? The European Commission is launching this Green Paper with a view to resolving the conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes, including jurisdiction of courts and mutual recognition of decisions taken in different Member States. The Green Paper is concerned with “traditional” marriages and other forms of union involving no matrimonial link and takes due account of the new social circumstances in the Member States.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Green Paper of 17 July 2006 on conflict of laws in matters concerning matrimonial property regimes, including the question of jurisdiction and mutual recognition [COM(2006) 400 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

With this Green Paper, the Commission launched a consultation exercise on the difficulties facing married and unmarried couples at European level. The Green Paper addresses the questions that arise in connection with determination of the law applicable to property and the ways in which the recognition and enforcement of court decisions can be facilitated. The consultation exercise closed on 30 November 2006.

Resolving conflicts of law: the law applicable to matrimonial property regimes

Only scattered rules exist at Community level and these are either not applicable or incomplete and so do not resolve the practical or legal difficulties that arise when a couple’s property is to be distributed and/or managed. Where there is no Community rule, the national law of the Member States applies to matrimonial property regimes (in cases involving a national connection: a German couple married in Germany and living there) or private international law applies (in cases involving connections with abroad: the above couple possesses immovable property in France and in the United States).

The Commission would like to introduce rules of a universal nature enabling either the law of a Member State or the law of a third country to be applicable. This involves the identification of connecting factors, the issue of the choice by the spouses of their matrimonial regime and the rules on jurisdiction.

  • Identification of connecting factors. First, determination of the law applicable presupposes the identification of connecting factors. The Commission examines the nature of the connecting factors and their order of priority, as well as the use of different criteria for different aspects of the situation (“dépeçage”). It stresses that a solution is needed in cases where connecting factors designated by the conflict rule (such as residence) have changed or moved with the passage of time.
  • Choice of matrimonial property regime by the spouses. Most Member States allow spouses to choose the law applicable to the matrimonial property regime. The Commission would like to know whether this choice should be retained in a future Community instrument and, if so, which connecting factors must be taken into consideration in order to allow spouses to choose the matrimonial property regime.
  • Determining the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities. The Member States have adopted a wide variety of criteria to determine international jurisdiction as regards matrimonial property regimes. At Community level, Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility has to be complied with. The Commission wonders whether the court with jurisdiction under this Regulation has to be the same when it comes to ruling on the liquidation of the matrimonial property in the event of divorce, separation or succession. Failing that, what other solutions are possible? In addition, given the importance of the functions exercised by non-judicial authorities such as notaries and advocates, the Commission would like to settle the question of their powers and facilitate recognition of the acts established by them. Lastly, the Commission takes the view that uniform rules on the applicable law and jurisdiction will enhance mutual trust between Member States so that intermediate measures for the recognition and enforcement of judgments can be dispensed with.

According to the Commission, it would be worth improving the publicity of matrimonial property regimes in the European Union in order to guarantee legal certainty for all parties concerned, in particular creditors.

Taking account of social circumstances: other forms of union

The steady increase in the number of unmarried couples, whether in registered partnerships or in de facto unions, is reflected in the corresponding increase in the number of legal situations facing them.

Registered partnerships. The Commission looks at the need for specific rules of conflict for registered partnerships: Does the law applicable have to be the law of the place at which the partnership is registered or some other law? Will the designated law govern all the matters at issue or will other criteria such as the law of the place at which the property is located have to be taken into account? The Commission raises the question of the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities in the matter but also that of the recognition and enforcement of decisions relating to registered partnerships.

De facto unions. As with registered partnerships, the Commission examines the specific conflict rules for de facto unions, i.e. non-formalised cohabitation, and wonders whether there should at least be specific rules for the effects of separation of such unions in relation to third parties. Lastly, the Commission looks at the specific rules on jurisdiction and the recognition of property relationships resulting from de facto unions.

The consultation exercise closed on 30 November 2006. The replies received by national governments and parliaments from local and regional authorities and from other entities such as associations of legal professions and universities may be consulted on the website of the European Commission, Directorate-General (DG) for Justice, Freedom and Security, along with a summary of the replies (pdf ).

Background

The adoption of a European instrument relating to matrimonial property regimes was among the priorities identified in the 1998 Vienna Action Plan. This Green Paper forms part of the objectives of the Hague Programme, adopted by the European Council on 4 and 5 November 2004.

 

Green Paper on maintenance obligations

Green Paper on maintenance obligations

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper on maintenance obligations

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Green Paper on maintenance obligations

The European Union (EU) wishes to standardise legislation and procedures concerning maintenance obligations. To this end, the Commission has adopted a green paper that looks at the problem of settling cross-border disputes in this area. It launches a debate on how to develop Community law on the basis of current developments in international private law.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Green Paper of 15 April 2004 on maintenance obligations [COM(2004) 254 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Under international private law, disputes relating to maintenance obligations * are mainly governed by the Hague Conventions. These conventions lay down the conflict-of-law rules that determine the law applicable to the settlement of an international dispute, as well as the rules on the recognition and enforcement of judgments. However, these provisions are incomplete, they lack uniformity and they are binding only on the signatory states.

Under current Community law, maintenance obligations are governed by Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. This regulation lays down rules that are favourable towards maintenance creditors as regards determining the court that has jurisdiction and establishes a simplified mechanism for enforcing judgments.

Nevertheless, there remain differences between the legal systems of the European Union (EU) Member States. This is particularly detrimental to maintenance creditors. Cross-border procedures create difficulties for the mutual recognition and enforcement of court judgments.

In order to provide minimum guarantees for European citizens, the Commission has attempted to establish simplified rules of procedure. It is pursuing this objective as part of the project to construct an area of freedom, justice and security.

However, not all obstacles to the free movement of judgments have been removed by Community legislation, which means that many practical problems remain that prevent the proper settlement of maintenance claims.

The Commission is therefore presenting this green paper to launch a debate on the legal instruments applicable to maintenance obligations.

The adoption of common standards at Community level would be a step towards greater legal certainty. Thus, the green paper proposes to define the scope of a future Community legal instrument. The principal topics for discussion are:

  • unification of the rules on conflict of laws with a view to strengthening legal certainty;
  • automatic recognition of the enforceability of foreign judgments by abolishing the intermediate exequatur* procedures as the basis for effective enforcement of court judgments;
  • approximation of procedural rules and the establishment of tools to facilitate the enforcement of judgments;
  • strengthening of judicial cooperation in civil matters, both within the EU and vis-à-vis third countries.

Background

The Amsterdam Treaty provides for the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice within the EU.

Starting from this basis, the Tampere European Council of 15-16 October 1999 adopted a programme of measures for implementing the principle of mutual recognition of decisions in civil and commercial matters. This programme sets the EU objectives for guaranteeing equal access to justice for all European citizens and freedom to exercise their rights.

Community law thus provides for mechanisms that facilitate the settlement of cross-border disputes. However, in the field of maintenance obligations, the fact that there are so many legal sources can hinder the recognition and enforcement of judgments.

Recourse to private international law must be possible in cases where one of the parties is a third-country national.

In order to standardise the texts applicable under private international law, a single convention is being drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, drawing on the most effective aspects of the existing conventions. This should lead to the extension and simplification of the law applicable to maintenance obligations under private international law. The Commission will take account of the outcome of this work in its future proposals.

Key terms used in the act
  • Maintenance obligations: all maintenance payments in the context of family relationships. Essentially it means maintenance paid to children by their parents (usually following the separation of the holders of parental responsibility) and sums paid by a spouse following divorce as part of the obligation to maintain the duty of assistance.
  • Exequatur: a special procedure carried out in the Member State that recognises a judgment, before that judgment is enforced. The purpose of the procedure is to give a foreign judgment the same effects as a national judgment.

Related Acts

COMMUNITY LAW

Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 of 18 December 2008 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations [Official Journal L 7 of 10.1.2009].
As a follow-up to the green paper, this regulation provides for the effective recovery of cross-border maintenance claims arising from family relationships. It establishes provisions on jurisdiction and applicable law for disputes concerning maintenance obligations. For the recognition, enforceability and enforcement of decisions on maintenance obligations, different provisions are set out for Member States regardless of whether they are bound by the 2007 Hague Protocol on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations. The regulation also provides for the access to justice of the parties involved in disputes, as well as for the designation of central authorities in Member States to assist in the application of this regulation. Finally, it replaces the provisions concerning maintenance obligations of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters.

Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters [OJ L 12 of 16.1.2001].

This regulation aims to replace the 1968 Brussels Convention (as amended by other conventions) with a Community instrument without changing its scope. The 1968 Convention covers all areas of civil and commercial law, except those expressly excluded from its application: the status or legal capacity of natural persons, rights in property arising out of a matrimonial relationship, wills and succession, bankruptcy, social security and arbitration. The regulation lays down provisions concerning general , special and some exclusive jurisdiction, as well as jurisdiction in matters relating to insurance, consumer contracts and individual contracts of employment. It also contains rules on prorogation, examination, admissibility, lis pendens and related actions, as well as provisional and protective measures. Furthermore, it contains provisions on questions related to the recognition and enforcement of judgments, authentic instruments and court settlements, general, transitional and final provisions, and relations with other instruments.

INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE LAW

Hague Protocol on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations (2007).

Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance (2007).

Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations (1973).

Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations (1973).

Hague Convention Concerning the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations Towards Children (1958).

Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations Towards Children (1956).

New York Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, concluded in the UN (1956).

Green Paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity

Green Paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Public health > Health determinants: lifestyle

Green Paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity

Through this Green paper on promoting healthy diets and physical activity, the Commission intends to trigger debate on initiatives geared towards preventing obesity. The primary objective is to create conditions under which the best practices can be adopted throughout Europe.
At present, in the EU countries, up to 27% of the male population and 38% of females, including more than 3 million children, suffer from obesity.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 8 December 2005 “Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases” [COM(2005) 637 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity are the leading causes of avoidable illness and premature death in Europe, and the rising incidence of obesity is a major public health concern for the countries of the European Union (EU).

In its conclusions of 3 June 2005, the Council called on the Member States and the Commission to devise and implement initiatives aimed at promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

Furthermore, the Council stressed that many factors have to be taken into account when addressing the problem of obesity. It accordingly called for the development of strategies entailing a multi-stakeholder approach with action being taken at local, regional, national and European levels.

Objectives of the Green Paper

The Green Paper invites contributions from interested parties on a wide range of topics relating to nutrition and physical activity. The aim is to gather information with a view to giving a European dimension to the battle against obesity, in terms of support for and coordination of the existing national measures.

COMMUNITY-LEVEL STRUCTURES AND INSTRUMENTS

A number of instruments and structures are geared to combating obesity at European level.

European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

Launched in March 2005, the Platform is designed to establish a common forum for action in the fight against obesity. It brings together all the relevant players at European level who are willing to enter into binding commitments to tackle overweight and obesity issues.

European Network on Nutrition and Physical Activity

The purpose of the Network set up in 2003 is to advise the Commission on the development of Community activities to improve nutrition, to reduce and prevent diet-related diseases, to promote physical activity and to combat obesity.

Health across EU policies

Preventing overweight and obesity entails an integrated approach to better health through other Community policies (e.g. consumer, social, agriculture, environment, education policies) providing active support.

The Public Health Action Programme

Nutrition-related aspects and the problem of obesity crop up in various strands of the Action Programme, particularly from the point of view of information (collection of data on the epidemiology of obesity and on behavioural issues) and health determinants (support for projects aimed at promoting physical exercise and healthy eating habits).

The Commission’s proposal for a new programme on health and consumer protection also places emphasis on promotion and prevention in the area of nutrition and physical activity.

Questions

On the subject of existing Community-level structures and instruments, the Green Paper invites the interested parties to respond to a series of questions focusing on:

  • the specific contribution which EU policies could make towards the promotion of healthy diets and physical activity;
  • the type of Community or national measures which could help to improve the attractiveness, availability, accessibility and affordability of fruit and vegetables;
  • the way in which the Public Health Action Programme could help to raise awareness of the potential which healthy eating habits and physical activity have for reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

AREAS FOR ACTION

Efforts to promote healthy diets and physical activity and to combat obesity are likely to be spread across many areas. For each area concerned, the Commission is seeking the views of interested parties by asking a number of specific questions.

Consumer information and advertising

Consumer policy aims to empower people to make informed choices about their diet, and clear information about the nutritional content of products is a necessary element of this approach.

The Commission has accordingly presented a proposal for a regulation aimed at harmonising the rules concerning nutritional and health claims. The Commission is also considering amending the current rules on nutrition labelling.

As regards advertising and marketing, steps have to be taken to ensure that consumers are not misled and, in particular, that the credulity and lack of media savvy among vulnerable consumers (especially children) are not exploited.

In this field, self-regulation of the industry may provide a valid solution, as it has a number of advantages over external regulation, mainly in terms of speed and flexibility.

Questions. The questions raised in this Green Paper deal mainly with:

  • the major nutrients and categories of products to be considered when providing nutritional information to consumers;
  • voluntary codes (self-regulation), their effectiveness, and alternatives to be considered if self-regulation fails;
  • the measures to be taken to ensure that that children’s credulity and lack of media savvy are not exploited by advertising and marketing techniques.

Consumer education

People need to be better informed about the factors which play a role in causing obesity, with particular reference to:

  • the relationship between diet and health;
  • energy intake and output;
  • diets which lower the risk of chronic diseases;
  • healthy food choices.

In this connection, simple and clear messages need to be developed and disseminated through various media channels and in forms appropriate to local culture, age and gender.

Questions. With a view to identifying best practices, the participants are invited to respond to questions on the following matters:

  • ways of helping consumers to make fully informed choices;
  • the contribution of public-private partnerships towards consumer education;
  • the key messages which need to be conveyed to consumers in respect of diet and physical activity, how to deliver them and who should be responsible for this.

Focusing on children and young people

The eating habits which are developed during childhood and adolescence are often the precursor of health problems occurring in adulthood.
Schools can provide an environment which helps to steer children towards healthy habits and behavioural patterns. They are particularly well placed to promote health and to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.

Although the measures applied within schools come under the competence of the Member States, the Community can make a contribution by helping to identify and spread best practices.

Questions. The areas concerned are:

  • improvement of the nutritional value of school meals and ways of informing parents about how to improve the nutritional value of meals at home;
  • good practice regarding the provision of regular physical activity in schools;
  • good practice in encouraging school pupils to make healthy dietary choices;
  • the role of the media, health services, civil society and sectors of industry in supporting health education efforts made by schools.

The workplace

Like schools, the workplace can also provide a suitable environment for encouraging healthy eating and physical exercise (meal choices offered by canteens, availability of facilities for participating in physical activity, etc.)

Questions. The questions deal with:

  • the way in which employers can offer balanced meal choices in workplace canteens and improve the nutritional value of canteen meals;
  • measures which would encourage and facilitate the taking of physical activity during breaks and on the way to and from work.

The health professionals’ role

Health professionals have a major role to play in improving patients’ understanding of the relationship between diet, physical activity and health, and in bringing about the necessary lifestyle changes.

Questions. In this area, the Commission is seeking the views of the interested parties on the measures needed to boost the promotion of healthy diets and physical activity in health services.

Linkage with other policies

Transport and urban planning policies have a role to play in encouraging physical activity. They can help to make physical activity a more integral part of people’s daily lives by, for example, ensuring that walking and cycling are easy and safe, or by promoting non-motorised modes of transport.

Questions. The questions have to do with:

  • the way in which public policies can help to ensure that physical activity becomes an integral part of daily life;
  • the measures needed to foster the creation of environments that are conducive to physical activity.

Socio-economic inequalities

Social status, income and level of education are the main determinants as regards the food which people choose to eat and the extent to which they engage in physical activity.

Questions. The questions focus on:

  • the measures which could promote healthy eating and physical activity among population groups and households of certain lower-level socio-economic categories;
  • how to address the “clustering of bad habits” that is frequently seen in certain socio-economic groups?

A comprehensive and integrated approach

A consistent and comprehensive approach towards diet and physical activity involves taking account of these aspects in all relevant policies at local, regional, national and European levels, creating supportive environments, and devising and using appropriate tools for assessing the impact of other policies on nutritional health and physical activity.

Questions. The questions relate to:

  • the identification of the most important elements of an integrated and comprehensive approach towards encouraging physical activity and healthy eating;
  • the input at the national and Community levels.

NEXT STEPS

The organisations concerned are invited to submit their replies by 15 March 2006 at the latest. The Commission departments will then conduct an analysis of the contributions received, which will be summarised in a report due to be published in June 2006.

In the light of the results of the consultation process, the Commission will consider the measures to be proposed and the instruments needed for implementing them.

Related Acts

Conclusions of the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs of 3 June 2005, “Obesity, nutrition and physical activity” [Not published in the Official Journal].

of 14 December 2000 on health and nutrition [Official Journal C 20 of 23.01.2001].

Green Paper on Mental Health

Green Paper on Mental Health

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper on Mental Health

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Public health > Health determinants: lifestyle

Green Paper on Mental Health

With this Green Paper, the Commission is launching a wide debate on mental health. The idea is to hold a public consultation on how to improve the management of mental illness and promote mental well-being in the European Union.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Green Paper of 14 October 2005 – “Improving the mental health of the population – Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union” [COM(2005) 484 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Current situation

Mental health is a growing challenge for the European Union (EU). It is estimated that mental health problems affect more than one in four adults in Europe and are the cause of the majority of the 58 000 annual deaths from suicide, an act which takes more lives than road traffic accidents.

The most common forms of mental ill health * are anxiety disorders and depression. According to some studies, by the year 2020 depression may be the highest ranking cause of disease in the developed world.

3.Stigmatisation is still a real problem for those suffering from mental illness. People with mental ill health or disability meet fear and prejudice from others, which increases personal suffering and social exclusion.

In economic terms, mental ill health costs the EU the equivalent of 3 to 4% of GDP because of lost productivity and additional burdens on the health, social, educational and justice systems.

There are significant inequalities between Member States in relation to mental health *. Suicide rates, for example, range from 3.6 per 100 000 population in Greece to 44 per 100 000 in Lithuania, the highest in the world. In addition, the number of involuntary placements in psychiatric institutions is 40 times higher in Finland than in Portugal.

The need for an EU strategy on mental health

Establishing a strategy on mental health at EU level would add value by:

  • creating a framework for exchange and cooperation between Member States;
  • helping to increase the coherence of actions in different policy sectors;
  • opening up a platform for involving stakeholders in building solutions.

The Commission proposes that an EU strategy could focus on the following aspects:

  • promoting the mental health of all;
  • addressing mental ill health through preventive action;
  • improving the quality of life of people with mental ill health or disability through social inclusion and the protection of their rights and dignity;
  • developing a mental health information, research and knowledge system for the EU.

Three areas of action envisaged

The Green Paper proposes three main areas of action at EU level:

  1. Creating a Dialogue with Member States on Mental Health.
    One objective is to identify priorities for an action plan on mental health. This dialogue should also consider the need for the two proposed Council Recommendations on the promotion of mental health and the reduction of depression and suicidal behaviour.
  2. Launching an EU Platform on Mental Health.
    The Platform would bring together a wide range of stakeholders in order to develop recommendations for action and examine ways of promoting the social inclusion of people with mental ill health and disability.
  3. Building up mental health information resources at EU level by developing an indicator system that would include information on mental health and its determinants and impact.

Next steps

All interested citizens, parties and organisations are invited to share their comments on this Green Paper.

In late 2006 the Commission will present its analysis of the responses received together with, if appropriate, its proposals for a strategy on mental health for the EU.

Background

The Green Paper is part of the Commission’s response to the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Mental Health held in Helsinki in January 2005. The Conference created strong political commitment for mental health and established a framework for comprehensive action. It invited the European Commission to contribute to implementing this framework for action. This Green Paper is an initial response to that invitation.

Key terms used in the act

The WHO describes mental health as: “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Mental ill health includes mental health problems and strain, impaired functioning associated with stress, symptoms of dementia and diagnosable mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression.

Related Acts

Council conclusions of 3 June 2005 on a Community action in the field of mental health [Not published in the Official Journal].
In these conclusions, the Council calls on the Member States and the Commission to take measures to provide information on mental health, promote its importance and pre-empt mental disorders.

Conclusions of the “Employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs” Council of 2 and 3 June 2003 on combating stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health.
In these conclusions, the Council stresses the impact of problems associated with stigma and discrimination in relation to mental illness. The Council thus calls for specific measures to improve social inclusion and to tackle discrimination and stigma.

Council conclusions of 15 November 2001 on combating stress and depression-related problems [Official Journal C 6 of 09.01.2002].
In these conclusions, the Council calls for the implementation of actions to prevent stress and depression-related problems and to promote mental health.

Council resolution of 18 November 1999 on the promotion of mental health [Official Journal C 86 of 24.03.2000].

The European Research Area : new perspectives

The European Research Area : new perspectives

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The European Research Area : new perspectives

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > European Strategy for Growth > Growth and jobs

The European Research Area (ERA): new perspectives

In January 2000, the European Commission launched the idea of a European Research Area, combining a European “internal market” for research, truly coordinated activities, programmes and national and regional policies at European level, and initiatives designed and funded by the Union. This provided the basis for a genuine European knowledge society. Seven years later, the time has come to inject a new dynamic into the project. With this green paper, the first stage of the relaunch, the Commission is submitting its new ideas for meeting the challenges and problems still posed by the fragmentation of research, the weakness of investments and the progressive internationalisation of science and technology.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 4 April 2007 on “The European Research Area: New Perspectives” [COM(2007) 161 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Without better production and better use of knowledge, the European Union (EU) will be unable to achieve its economic, social and environmental objectives, which would signal a serious failure of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Seven years after launching the concept of a “European Research Area”, the Commission aims to open up new perspectives to build on the progress achieved thus far.

Keen to involve all European research contributors, it is submitting its ideas for public consultation via this Green Paper.

The European Research Area (ERA)

The ERA combines three concepts:

  • a European “internal market” for research where researchers, technologies and knowledge circulate freely;
  • effective European-level coordination of national and regional research activities, programmes and policies;
  • initiatives implemented and funded at European level.

The ERA should have the following features:

  • an adequate flow of competent researchers with high levels of mobility between institutions, disciplines, sectors and countries;
  • world-class research infrastructures, integrated, networked and accessible to research teams from across Europe and the world through new generations of electronic communications infrastructures;
  • excellent research institutions engaged in effective public-private cooperation and partnerships through “virtual research communities”;
  • effective knowledge-sharing, notably between public research, industry and the general public;
  • well-coordinated research programmes and priorities;
  • a wide opening to the world, with special emphasis on neighbouring countries and a strong commitment to addressing global challenges with Europe’s partners.

Principles of the ERA

Three main principles cut across all dimensions of the ERA:

  • European research policy should be deeply rooted in European society;
  • the right balance must be found between competition and cooperation;
  • full benefit should be derived from Europe’s diversity which has been enriched by successive EU enlargements.

Achievements of the ERA thus far

Since its inception at the European Council of Lisbon in March 2000, the concept of the ERA has become a reference for European research policy, generating a number of initiatives.

Successive EU Research Framework Programmes have actively supported the creation of the ERA. The current (7th) programme has laid the foundations for two important projects: the creation of the European Research Council and a European Institute of Technology.

The European Technology Platforms (pdf ) and the “ERA-NET” scheme have helped to improve the coordination of research activities and programmes.

The “open method of coordination” and the use of guidelines and recommendations stimulate debate and reform in all the Member States.

The EU has also adopted:

  • a “broad-based innovation strategy” which will improve the framework conditions for research and innovation;

  • a new Community framework for state aid for research, development and innovation;
  • guidance for a more effective use of tax incentives for R&D.

A European patent strategy is being proposed to overcome the deadlock on the Community patent.

Initiatives have been launched to stimulate the emergence of pilot markets in growth sectors from a technological standpoint.

EU cohesion policy and its financial instruments – the Structural Funds – give strong priority to the development of research and innovation capacities, particularly in less developed regions.

Towards making the ERA a reality

Building on the progress made thus far, there is still work to be done to achieve a fully-fledged ERA:

  • pursuing a career as a researcher in Europe remains something of an assault course: researchers must overcome numerous legal and practical obstacles which still hinder professional development, particularly in terms of mobility between institutions, sectors and countries;
  • companies are still finding it difficult to establish partnerships with universities, particularly foreign establishments;
  • national and regional funding lacks coordination and will remain broadly ineffective without a genuine European perspective and transnational coherence;
  • the results of research could be used far more effectively;
  • the fragmentation of public research continues to render Europe unattractive to investors (the private sector is supposed to contribute up to two thirds of the objective of 3% of GDP set aside for research).

Background

This Green Paper launched a wide consultation which closed in December 2007. The information collected was used to launch concrete actions to develop the ERA the implementation of which started in 2008.

Related Acts

Results of the public consultation on the Green Paper “The European research Area : New perspectives” of 2 April 2008 (pdf ).
This report highlights the necessity to undertake new action at national and/or European level in order to fully exploit Europe’s potential research capacity and to make the ERA a reality. Respondents consider that the sharing of knowledge, research infrastructures, international cooperation, programming and the mobility of researchers should be among the priorities of the EU. They also consider that the role of the private sector should be taken into account even further due to its links with innovation and education policy. Even if few request strict legislation, many are favourable to the idea of legislative action to improve the careers and mobility of researchers or to establish a legal framework for European research infrastructures. Respondents approve Community instruments aimed at promoting the ERA, such as financial incentives, budgetary increases (the 7th Framework Programme has a total budget of EUR 54 billion), guidelines, etc.

Following this consultation, five initiatives concerning the ERA came to fruition in 2008:

  • a Recommendation for the management of intellectual property by public research organisations;
  • a Partnership for researchers;
  • a legal framework applicable to pan-European research infrastructures;
  • Joint Programming in Research;
  • a strategic framework for international science and technology cooperation.

In addition to the above initiatives, the Council has decided to reinforce the dimension of the ERA through the launch of the new cycle (2008-2010) of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. In their programmes for national reform, the Member States are invited to define policies which will contribute to the development of the ERA.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, to the European Parliament, to the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 18 January 2000: “Towards a European Research Area” [COM(2000) 6 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Atypical acts

Atypical acts

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Atypical acts

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Institutional affairs > The decision-making process and the work of the institutions

Atypical acts

INTRODUCTION

Atypical acts are acts adopted by the institutions of the European Union (EU). These acts are described as “atypical” because they are not part of the nomenclature of legal acts provided for by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (Articles 288 to 292).

There is therefore a wide variety of atypical acts. Some are provided for by other provisions of the founding Treaties of the EU, while others have been developed by institutional practice.

Atypical acts are differentiated by their application, which is generally political. However, some may be binding, but this remains limited to the EU’s institutional framework.

Atypical acts provided for by the Treaties

The EU institutions’ Rules of Procedure are atypical acts. The founding Treaties provide that the EU institutions shall adopt their own Rules of Procedure.

The Rules of Procedure lay down the organisation, operation and internal rules of procedure of the EU institutions. They have binding effect only for the institution concerned.

The founding Treaties also provide for other types of act adopted in the context of political dialogue between the EU institutions. These acts are essentially intended to facilitate work and cooperation between the institutions. For example, in the context of the procedure for the adoption of international agreements, the Council must send negotiating guidelines to the Commission for the negotiation of the agreements.

The institutions may also go further by organising their cooperation by means of interinstitutional agreements. These types of agreement are also atypical acts. They may have binding effect, but only for the institutions which have signed the agreement.

Atypical acts not provided for by the Treaties

Each of the EU institutions has developed a series of instruments in the context of its own activity.

For example, the European Parliament expresses some of its political positions at international level by means of resolutions or declarations. Similarly, the Council regularly adopts conclusions, resolutions or guidelines following its meetings. These acts essentially express the institutions’ opinion on certain European or international issues. They have general application but do not have binding effect.

The Commission also adopts several atypical acts which are specific to it. These are communications, which generally present new policy programmes. The Commission also adopts green papers which are intended to launch public consultations on certain European issues. It uses these to gather the necessary information before drawing up a legislative proposal. Following the results of the green papers, the Commission sometimes adopts white papers setting out detailed proposals for European action.