Tag Archives: Integration

Transport and the environment

Transport and the environment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Transport and the environment

Topics

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

Transport > Transport energy and the environment

Transport and the environment

Document or Iniciative

Council report of 6 October 1999 to the European Council of Helsinki on the strategy on the integration of environment and sustainable development into transport policy.

Summary

This Council strategy defines the objectives of action by the European Union (EU) and the Member States to minimise the environmental impact of transport. It aims to ensure that environmental questions are taken into account when drawing up and implementing transport policy in the sectors concerned.

The strategy recognises the positive results of certain measures already taken at EU level, but underlines that further progress is required in the following areas:

  • avoidance and/or elimination of the negative effects of traffic growth, particularly through land use measures and infrastructure charging;
  • promotion of public transport, inter modal and combined transport and environmentally less harmful modes (e.g. railways and inland waterway);
  • further research and technological development, in particular to reduce CO2 emissions and noise;
  • raising of awareness among the public, vehicle drivers and the industry of how to reduce the environmental impact of transport, e.g. through indicators and vehicle standardisation.

The strategy calls on Member States to take these measures at national level and within the framework of international organisations. The Commission is invited to gather and disseminate information (including indicators) in these areas, present proposals on pricing and emission standards and encourage the transport sector in various ways.

A number of measures preceded and followed this strategy in various transport sectors: road, rail, maritime and air transport.

Infrastructure charging

It is possible to make users bear certain environmental costs resulting from their use of transport, particularly where they use transport infrastructures (“polluter pays” principle). This taking account of external environmental costs in infrastructure charging is authorised by two sectoral Directives. There is, however, no common legislative framework for all transport modes that would propose a common methodology and timetable in order to avoid distortions of competition.

As regards the transport of goods by road, Directive 1999/62/EC provides a common framework for fixing user charges for motorway infrastructures or those with similar characteristics. The Directive does not provide for charging for environmental costs in addition to the infrastructure cost per se. It does however allow charges to be varied to take account of levels of pollution from heavy goods vehicles and the time of day. The proposed revision of this Directive will be adopted soon and will allow Member States to apply tolls and user charges on all other roads. The principal changes are as follows:

  • application of the Directive to vehicles over 3.5 tonnes from 2012, where currently it applies only to vehicles over 12 tonnes;
  • greater scope for varying tolls on the basis of environmental criteria (to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles) and time of day (to discourage traffic during peak hours and thus reduce jams);
  • variation of tolls on the basis of vehicle emission classes will be compulsory after 2010, with possible derogations;
  • possibility of introducing a increased toll on certain trans-European corridors in mountain areas to allow cross-financing of alternative transport infrastructures.

For rail transport, Directive 2001/14/EC allows the variation of charges on the basis of revenue neutrality but does not make it compulsory to charge for environmental costs in addition to infrastructure costs and these are not charged to the railway operators. Few infrastructure managers apply such variation in practice.

Proposals concerning charging for port and airport infrastructures, as well as a framework communication, are contained in the Commission work programme for 2006.

Road transport

The adoption since 1970 of a number of Directives relating to emissions from motor vehicles, whether light vehicles (cars, light commercial vehicles) or heavy vehicles (lorries, buses) has had the effect of gradually reducing emissions of gases and particles as well as, to some extent, the noise from the vehicles used. The reductions in atmospheric emissions laid down by EURO I to V concern four main pollutants: carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particles and hydrocarbons.

As regards CO2, the Community objective is to achieve an average emission level from new vehicles of 120 g CO2/km. Europe has a three-pronged approach in this connection:

  • voluntary commitments by the automobile industry under which European (ACEA), Japanese (JAMA) and Korean (KAMA) car makers have undertaken to reduce average emissions from new vehicles by 25% between 1995 and 2008-2009 (from 186 g CO2/km in 1995 to 140 g CO2/km in 2008-2009). Compliance with these commitments is the subject of annual reports by the Commission;
  • better information for consumers on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions;
  • introduction of fiscal measures to promote the purchase of less polluting vehicles.

Moreover, the standards relating to transport fuel quality have been significantly improved, in particular as regards their sulphur content. The EU has also established an indicative percentage of biofuels to replace diesel or petrol for transport purposes in each Member State (2% in 2005 and 5.75% in 2010).

Directive 1999/30/EC lays down limit values for NOx, SO2, particles and lead and alert thresholds for SO2 and NOx in ambient air. Member States must ensure that up-to-date information on the concentrations of these substances is regularly made available to the public. The limit values for NOx were due to be reached in 2001, those concerning SO2 and the EU10 in 2005 and those concerning NO2 and lead in 2010.

Non-road land transport

Polluting emissions from railway transport are regulated by the Directive on non-road mobile machinery.

Under Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system, the technical specifications for interoperability (TSI) on high-speed rolling stock lay down noise limits. Following its amendment in 2004, Directive 2001/16/EC does the same for the trans-European conventional rail system.

Maritime and inland waterway transport

The EU has adopted a strategy to reduce the atmospheric emissions of seagoing ships. It has also put in place a raft of measures on maritime safety in order to prevent further ecological disasters like the Erika or Prestige. These measures concern among other things the prevention of pollution caused by ships, mechanisms for cooperation in the event of marine pollution and the possibility of criminal sanctions against those responsible for marine pollution.

Polluting emissions from inland waterway vessels are regulated by the Directive on non-road mobile machinery.

Air transport

In a communication on air transport and the environment, the Commission identified the pillars of a strategy for incorporating environmental concerns in air transport policy: improving technical environmental standards relating to noise and atmospheric emissions; strengthening economic incentives; helping airports in their environmental efforts; promoting research and development in the long term.

As regards noise, the EU has adopted rules on noise management in Community airports. These rules are based in particular on decisions taken within the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). They include a ban on access to European airports for the noisiest aircraft and aircraft construction standards.

In its communication on aviation and climate change, the Commission weighs up the options for reducing the impact of the aviation sector on climate change. Apart from pursuing the possibilities available in relation to research, air traffic management and energy taxation, it also proposes to incorporate the air transport sector into the Community greenhouse gas emissions trading system.

Transport and noise

Under Directive 2002/49/EC, Member States have to map ambient noise levels from major transport infrastructures and urban transport in agglomerations. They must also draw up ambient noise management plans aimed at reducing harmful exposure and protecting quiet areas. Community legislation does not define limit values for ambient noise and leaves Member States and the competent authorities in question to decide how to protect against noise.

Context

The growth in vehicle numbers and use is a threat to the environment and the health of European citizens.

The European Environment Agency measures, analyses and, under the TERM (Transport & Environment Reporting Mechanism), regularly reports on the environmental impact of transport. The Agency underlines the risks of the EU failing to meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The thematic strategy on atmospheric pollution fixes targets for the reduction of certain pollutants and reinforces the legislative framework to combat atmospheric pollution using a two-pronged approach: improving Community environmental legislation and including air quality considerations in related policies. As provided for in the strategy, the Commission has proposed a new “EURO V” standard to reduce polluting emissions from light motor vehicles and in particular reduce emissions from vehicles with diesel engines by 80%. The strategy also envisages a number of measures to reduce emissions of SO2 and NOx from ships (these emissions are forecast to exceed emissions from land sources by 2020).

The proposal for a Directive on energy end use efficiency and energy services underlines the important role of fuels and the transport sector in relation to energy efficiency and energy saving. It lays down a number of measures to this end.

The thematic strategy on the urban environment underlines the need to introduce plans for the sustainable urban transport of persons and goods, including environmental requirements, and linked to policies on optimum land use. It announces the distribution by the Commission of a practical guide for urban authorities to help them introduce such plans and disseminate good practice.

The formulation of this strategy was requested by the Vienna European Council (December 1998). There were calls for other strategies in the various sectors of Community action at that European Council and the Cologne European Council (June 1999). The European Council in Cardiff (June 1998) laid the foundations for coordinated action at Community level on the integration of environmental requirements in European Union policies.

Related Acts


Decision No 1753/2000/EC

of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 2000 establishing a scheme to monitor the average specific emissions of CO2 from new passenger cars [Official Journal L 202, 10.8.2000].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, of 31 March 1998, on Transport and CO2: developing a Community approach [

COM(98) 204

– Not published in the Official Journal].

Industry and environment

Industry and environment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Industry and environment

Topics

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

Enterprise > Interaction between enterprise policy and other policies

Industry and environment

Document or Iniciative

Conclusions of the Council of 14 and 15 May 2001 on “A strategy for integrating sustainable development in the European Union’s enterprise policy” for the Gothenburg European Council.

Conclusions of the Council of 6 and 7 June 2002 on enterprise policy and sustainable development.

Summary

The activities carried out by businesses can exert considerable pressure on the environment. European legislation lays down rules aimed at preventing pollution and repairing the damage companies cause to the environment. It also contains measures aimed at promoting the development of environmentally friendly industrial activities.

The European Union’s objective is to separate the economic development of businesses from the environmental damage that their activities cause, by ensuring a high level of environmental protection without compromising business competitiveness.

Preventing pollution and repairing damage to the environment

Article 174 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) sets out the basic principles of Community action on the environment, in particular the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle. These general principles are implemented by specific legislation applicable to industrial activities in Europe.

Under Article 6 of the EC Treaty environmental protection requirements must be integrated into Community policies, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development.

By adopting the strategy for sustainable development at the Gothenburg European Council in 2001, the EU made the simultaneous pursuit of environmental objectives and the integration of the environment into economic and social objectives one of its priorities.

European legislation on the environment sets limits on the amount of polluting substances discharged by industry into the air or water.

In order to prevent or minimise pollutants being released into the air, water and soil as well as waste, in particular from industrial plants, the IPPC Directive also establishes a procedure for authorising activities with a high pollution potential and sets minimum requirements to be included in all permits, particularly in terms of pollutants released.

In addition, the EIA Directive (SK) (SL) (FI) requires an environmental impact assessment to be carried out on certain public and private projects before they can be approved. This is the case in particular for projects involving dangerous industrial plants such as oil refineries or chemical facilities.

The environmental liability of companies is covered specifically in Directive 2004/35/EC, with a view to preventing and repairing damage to the environment. This liability regime applies to some explicitly listed occupational activities as well as other occupational activities when the operator is guilty of error or negligence.

Companies whose activities involve hazardous substances are also subject to certain specific obligations in order to prevent accidents and limit their consequences.

European legislation also sets out detailed rules for the management of waste produced by businesses, both for “traditional” waste (recycling, landfill, incineration, etc.) and for certain specific types of waste (radioactive substances and waste, plastics, waste resulting from certain industrial activities).

Waste management is increasingly seen as a stage in the life cycle of resources and products. Thematic strategies on preventing and recycling waste and on the sustainable use of natural resources adopted in 2005 focus mainly on the ways of promoting more sustainable waste management, reducing the amount of waste produced, minimising the environmental impact of waste and reducing the use of resources. This global, life cycle-based approach obliges businesses to manage their resources and products in a more sustainable way.

Promoting environmentally-friendly activities

The Council stated in its conclusions of May 2001 that an effective strategy for integrating sustainable development into industrial policy cannot be based on legislation alone, but that a large part of this work must be stem from market-based and voluntary approaches. It reiterated that integrating sustainable development is a challenge, but at the same time an opportunity to stimulate innovation and create new economic prospects and a competitive advantage for European businesses.

The EU has instruments that favour the development of environmentally friendly economic activities. The aim is to boost the competitiveness of businesses that meet environmental standards or help improve the environment. These instruments include incentives and measures aimed at facilitating business activities.

Among these incentives, the EU offers businesses numerous funding possibilities in the form of co-financing or loans through various financial instruments and programmes, such as LIFE or the successive research and technical development framework programmes, or through other financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) or the European Structural Funds.

Other incentives focus on improving businesses’ visibility and image. The main examples are the Ecolabel, the Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and certain one-off events such as the European Business Awards for the Environment.

European action also aims to facilitate businesses’ activities, in particular by spreading best practice resulting from instruments such as the IPPC Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, integrated product policy, European standardisation, or the Best project. The integrated product policy is the main policy for promoting sustainable production and consumption. The Commission and the national and local public authorities must act as catalysts by fostering dialogue and coordinating the spread of knowledge and best practices.

The EU has also developed instruments to improve the regulatory and management frameworks in which businesses develop. These include the action plan in favour of ecotechnologies, the EMAS system and the promotion of voluntary agreements between businesses.

Voluntary initiatives taken by businesses as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices play an important role in integrating social and environmental concerns into business strategies and action. These initiatives demonstrate the business sector’s commitment to sustainable development, innovation and competitiveness.

Background

The Vienna European Council (December 1998) asked the Industry Council to define a strategy aimed at integrating environmental issues and sustainable development into enterprise policy.

The Cardiff European Council (June 1998) laid the foundations for coordinated action at Community level to integrate environmental requirements into the Union’s policies.

The Sixth Environment Action Programme, adopted in September 2002, reaffirmed the importance of the principle of integration and laid the foundations needed to create the horizontal thematic strategies which required by the various economic and political actors.

Related Acts

Commission working document of 1 June 2004 – Integrating environmental considerations into other policy areas – a stocktaking of the Cardiff process [COM(2004) 394 final – Official Journal C 49 of 26.02.2006].
In this document the Commission stresses the substantial positive achievements made as a result of measures to integrate environmental considerations into industrial activities. These measures have contributed to an overall reduction of carbon dioxide produced by European industries. They have also made it possible to break the link between industrial activities and emissions of atmospheric pollutants (acidifying gas and ozone precursors in particular), and to some extent between energy production and the use of raw materials. However, despite this progress the Commission indicates that industrial production processes still account for a considerable share of all pollution in Europe. Industry generates 21% of EU greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of pollution (such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, nutrients, etc.).

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 on industrial policy in an enlarged Europe [COM(2002) 714 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 15 May 2001 – A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development (Commission’s proposal to the Gothenburg European Council) [COM(2001) 264 – Not published in the Official Journal].
The EU has formulated a long-term strategy to dovetail the policies for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development, its goal being sustainable improvement of the well-being and standard of living of current and future generations. A review of this strategy was launched in 2005.

Council report of 9 November 1999 on the integration of sustainable development in the Union’s industrial policy, written for the Helsinki European Council.
In this report the Council points out that the integration of environmental considerations into industrial policy is based on certain essential principles, namely the importance of competitiveness as a key aspect of industrial policy in the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development, the satisfactory cost/efficiency ratio of policies and business measures, the promotion of voluntary action between parties involved, and the specific features and interests of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Conclusions of the Council of 29 April 1999 on integrating the environment and sustainable development into the industrial policy of the EU.

 

A comprehensive European migration policy

A comprehensive European migration policy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about A comprehensive European migration policy

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 > Free movement of persons asylum and immigration

A comprehensive European migration policy

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 4 May 2011 – Communication on migration [COM(2011) 248 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Arab spring revolutions in 2011 resulted in a large influx of immigrants from the Southern Mediterranean, who entered the European Union (EU) illegally via the Italian and Maltese coasts. The EU took emergency measures in order to respond to this situation. However, these events have demonstrated the limited resources of the EU in immigration matters and the need for greater solidarity between the Member States in this area.

Therefore, the Commission presents initiatives aimed at establishing a comprehensive European migration policy which is better able to meet the challenges presented by migration. This policy must respect the European tradition of asylum and protection, while preventing illegal border crossings.

Several aspects of migration are addressed:

  • Crossing the borders

The EU’s external border controls must be effective and must enable a high level of security to be maintained while also facilitating the passage of persons authorised to enter the EU. The Commission intends to strengthen the existing common rules. In particular, it envisages creating a European system of border guards. It also insists on improving cooperation between national authorities and the exchange of operational information in the case of incidents at external borders, specifically via the EUROSUR system. The operational capacities of the Frontex agency must also be strengthened.

An evaluation of Member States’ application of the Schengen rules must be undertaken at EU level, with the participation of experts from Member States and Frontex, led by the Commission. The latter also intends to establish a mechanism allowing for a decision, at European level, defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce border controls at internal borders.

Lastly, to prevent irregular immigration, the Commission stresses the need for a balanced and effective European return policy (returning illegal immigrants who do not need international protection to their countries). It requires that all Member States transpose into their national law the Return Directive on common standards and procedures for returning illegal immigrants, and the Directive on sanctions against the employment of person staying illegally. Lastly, it recognises the effectiveness of readmission agreements with third countries, but also believes that the latter must be considered within the framework of the EU’s overall relations with the countries concerned and accompanied by incentives that help the countries to implement them.

  • Moving and living in the Schengen area

The Commission advocates better organised mobility based on cooperation (between the European agencies Frontex and Europol, and between customs authorities and national police authorities), and on new technologies. In particular, a European entry-exit system would enable data on border crossings by third country citizens to be made available to the authorities. In addition, a registered traveller programme would enable automated border control for frequent travellers.

Visa policy is also an important instrument in terms of mobility. In order to avoid abuse of visa liberalisation systems, the Commission proposes the introduction of a safeguard clause which would enable the temporary re-introduction of visa requirements for citizens from a third country benefiting from this system.

At the same time, the Union recognises that migrants constitute an indispensible workforce for the EU, both in terms of responding to labour shortages in certain areas, and in terms of providing a highly qualified workforce. It is therefore important to recognise their qualifications and to facilitate administrative procedures. The Commission hopes to make progress on the draft single permit authorising foreigners to live and work in a Member State and calls on the EU countries to transpose into their national law the Directive on the European Blue Card which facilitates the recruitment of highly qualified persons. It has also put forward proposals on seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees. In order to provide migrants with clear and practical information, the Commission will launch an EU immigration portal this year.

Lastly, the integration of migrants into European society must respect the balance between the rights of the migrants and the law and culture of the receiving country. It requires efforts on the part of both migrants and receiving countries. Successful integration is essential for maximising the economic, social and cultural advantages of immigration, for individuals as well as societies. In July 2011, the Commission presented a European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals.

  • Common European Asylum System

The establishment of a Common European Asylum System must be completed by 2012. It aims to reduce the divergences between EU countries in the outcomes of asylum applications, and to ensure a common set of rights and procedures, as well as compliance with the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees. The European Asylum Support Office will strengthen cooperation in this area.

The Commission insists that the resettlement of refugees (permanent resettlement in a Member State of a refugee who has obtained protection in a third country) must become an integral part of European Asylum Policy.

  • Relations with third countries

Issues relating to migration must be integrated into the EU’s overall external relations. A better balance must be found between organising legal migration, combating irregular migration and maximising the mutual benefits of migration for development. The human dimension must also be strengthened through a migrant-centred approach.

With regard to the Southern Mediterranean countries, the Union has proposed a structured dialogue on migration with the aim of establishing mobility partnerships to facilitate access by their citizens to EU territory in exchange for their collaboration in managing migration flows. The Commission will also revise its Neighbourhood Policy with these countries.

Closer practical cooperation

Closer practical cooperation

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Closer practical cooperation

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 > Free movement of persons asylum and immigration

Closer practical cooperation

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on strengthened practical cooperation – New structures, new approaches: improving the quality of decision making in the common European asylum system [COM(2006) 67 – not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission feels that practical cooperation will enable asylum services to become familiar with the practices of others and to develop closer working relations. The main goal is to improve convergence in decision-making in this area.

The European Union (EU) aims to provide asylum authorities with a “common tool box”. The Commission feels that, through using the same tools and applying the same safeguards, Member States will also build trust and confidence in each others’ systems and achieve greater consistency in practice.

Such trust and confidence is needed if we are to establish a Single Procedure. The Commission’s Single Procedure Communication proposed a range of actions which could be taken to enable greater convergence between Member States and ensure that all applications for protection in the EU are covered by the same procedural guarantees. Single Procedure activities should be aimed at:

  • identifying where changes need to be made in Member States’ administrative practice in order to implement the first-stage instruments;
  • assessing how the quality and efficiency of asylum systems can be improved through including all possible grounds for protection in one decision;
  • identifying best practice in managing resources in a Single Procedure.

The Commission’s intention is to improve the collection and processing of Country of Origin Information (COI) as this is central to the asylum decisions taken by Member States. COI enables the asylum authorities of Member States to verify statements made by applicants concerning their need for protection and to establish whether the applicant should benefit from international protection.

In order to enhance cooperation between Member States’ asylum authorities, the Commission proposes to:

  • establish common guidelines on the production of COI;
  • establish a “common portal” to Member States’ COI databases;
  • find a pragmatic solution to the translation difficulties facing Member States in dealing with COI from different sources.

The result of these activities should lead in the longer term to the future development of an EU COI database.

The Commission also intends to propose the establishment of an asylum cooperation network which it would manage itself. The aim of such a network will be to:

  • improve convergence in asylum policies;
  • contribute to the harmonised implementation of the first stage of the Common European Asylum System;
  • lay the foundations for the establishment of a fully fledged Common European Asylum System.

It will provide a systematic basis for exchanging information, promoting best practice and establishing a repository of expertise.

The Hague Programme says that the structures involved in practical cooperation should be transformed into a European support office for all forms of cooperation between Member States relating to the Common European Asylum System.

At this stage the Commission feels that the European support office could be given a technical support function for the operation of the COI “common portal” and an EU COI database. It could also incorporate a training facility on all aspects related to the application of the Common European Asylum System. The office would also coordinate responses to particular pressure situations.

As practical cooperation expands, demands relating to the coordination of Member States’ activities may exceed the capacity of the future asylum cooperation network. The Commission considers that cooperation activities will soon acquire a critical mass, requiring a more structured devolution of technical functions. The Commission will report early in 2008 on the progress achieved. On the basis of this report, a feasibility study will be carried out on the establishment of a European support office.

In addition to the specific mandate of the asylum cooperation network, some asylum activities could be carried out by the Commission, making use of the advice of expert groups such as the Eurasil network.

The Commission also points out that asylum burdens could be felt disproportionately by a few Member States. While the Temporary Protection Directive provides for solidarity between Member States in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons, it does not provide an adequate response to the kind of particular pressure on asylum services and reception capacities experienced by Member States.

To improve this situation, the Commission proposes:

  • amending the European Refugee Fund so that Member States can quickly access funds for emergency actions;
  • streamlining the procedure contained in the ARGO programme enabling quicker access to funding for urgent actions;
  • setting up expert teams to address reception and processing issues for sudden arrivals of large numbers at the external border of the EU.

Longer-term options include a comprehensive assessment of particular pressure situations which have occurred in the past and the setting up of a network of Member State information officers in selected third countries.

The Commission also proposes to focus on training of asylum service personnel. The agreement of key principles of good practice for administrative acts such as interviewing and decision making would provide a firm basis for the development of a European curriculum leading to even greater convergence in practice and administrative methods.

The first wave of practical cooperation will encourage Member States to present projects together with other like-minded Member States. The Commission feels that such actions must be supported, but points out that existing financial opportunities, through the ARGO Programme and the Community Actions of the European Refugee Fund, do not provide the flexibility or increased funding needed. To address this shortfall, the Commission therefore intends to make proposals to amend the ERF and the ARGO Programme to ensure that delivery of the Hague priorities can be supported.

Background

With the adoption on 1 December 2005 of the Asylum Procedures Directive, the first phase of the Common European Asylum System was completed. The deadline set by the Hague Programme for the completion of the second phase of the establishment of the Common European Asylum System – establishing a common asylum procedure – is 2010.

In this programme, the European Council also called for the establishment of appropriate structures involving the national asylum services of the Member States with a view to facilitating practical cooperation. Such cooperation constitutes a common approach through administrative consistency and the sharing of expertise, resources and knowledge. The Hague Programme says that these structures should be transformed into a European support office for all forms of cooperation between Member States relating to the Common European Asylum System.

 

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

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 > Social measures for target groups: disability and old age

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan (2004-2010)

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication of 30 October 2003, Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan [COM(2003) 650 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The proposed action plan, covering the period from 2004 to 2010, seeks to set out a sustainable and operational approach to disability issues in the enlarged Europe. It has three central objectives:

  • to implement fully the Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation;
  • to reinforce mainstreaming of disability issues in the relevant Community policies;
  • to improve accessibility for all.

POLICY CONTEXT

The overall Community approach: objectives and means

The main purpose of the action plan is to recognise and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Moreover, the Charter of Fundamental Rights specifically protects the rights of people with disabilities, and its incorporation into the future Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe will be a major advance.

In accordance with the Commission’s communication of May 2000 “Towards a barrier-free Europe for people with disabilities”, the environmental, technical and legal obstacles to the effective participation of people with disabilities in a knowledge-based economy and society must be removed.

Facts and trends

The definitions and criteria applying to disability are currently laid down in national legislation and differ from one Member State to another.

According to the results of surveys carried out in 2001 at EU level, 14.5% of the population of the 15 Member States (with the exception of Sweden) of working age (16 to 64) reported some form of disability.
In the case of the ten new acceding States, this percentage amounts to 25%.
These results also highlight the fact that there is a correlation between ageing and disability. Owing to the ageing of the population and improvements in health care, the number of people with disabilities in the European Union is increasing and will continue to do so.
A further point to note is that only 42% of people with disabilities are employed (compared to almost 65% of non-disabled people), and 52% of people with disabilities are economically inactive (compared to 28% of non-disabled people).
The conclusion to be drawn is that people with disabilities, while experiencing difficulties in finding work, are a source of untapped potential for the development of economic growth.

Main Community-level achievements

In November 2000, the Council adopted Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting all discrimination, whether direct or indirect, based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, as regards access to employment. Where disability is concerned, this Directive recognises that the failure to provide “reasonable accommodation” in the workplace can constitute discrimination.

The Community action programme to combat discrimination (2001-06) aims to support the Member States in their fight against discrimination, including disability-related aspects.

The Commission supports international efforts geared to ensuring that fundamental rights are enjoyed fully and equally by people with disabilities. The Commission thus backs the United Nations Convention for promoting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities (see communication entitled ” Towards a United Nations legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities “).

With a view to facilitating the free movement of people with disabilities, the Commission has already undertaken to reduce the number of disability benefits that are not exportable from one Member State to another (proposed amendment of Regulation (EEC) No 883/2004 on social security schemes).

First phase of the action plan (2004-2005)

The first phase of this action plan, covering a two-year period (2004-05), will concentrate on creating the conditions necessary to promote the employment of people with disabilities, granting them appropriate autonomy in this regard.
The priority action areas come under four headings:

  • Access to, and remaining in, employment

Directive 2000/78/EC requires certain Member States to alter their existing rules considerably. It has huge implications for employers – public and private – and their employment practices as regards people with disabilities. Effective application of this Directive depends on the key players being made aware of their duties and responsibilities.

The main European Social Fund programmes and the Community initiative EQUAL finance a wide range of measures aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the labour market, while taking innovative approaches to specific aspects of such integration.

The Commission has also taken action in the field of competition policy with the adoption, in November 2002, of a Regulation on State aid for employment, allowing the Member States to finance up to 60% of annual wage costs and social security contributions when companies recruit disabled workers. Aid may also be granted to compensate for reduced productivity or to adapt premises.

As regards health and safety at work, Directive 89/654/EC concerning minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace provides that “workplaces must be accommodated to take account, where required, of the needs of disabled workers”.

  • Lifelong learning

The use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) providing on-line instruction or “eLearning” can be one way of overcoming the barriers to education, training and learning on a lifelong basis that are faced by people with disabilities. The Commission’s proposed eLearning programme therefore refers expressly to the needs of people with disabilities, as do the action plans on language learning and linguistic diversity, and on skills and mobility.

The Commission will have to pursue various lines of action in the fields of education, training and youth:

  • give high priority to promoting exchanges of good practice and identifying factors of success (or failure) in relation to the integration of people with disabilities, in connection with the implementation of the work programme on the objectives of education and training syatems;
  • pay particular attention, in terms of the design and implementation of the future eLearning action programme (2004-06), to the special needs of people with disabilities;
  • include people with disabilities as a target group in the PLOTEUS information system;
  • pay particular attention to projects involving people with disabilities in the Socrates, Leonardo and Youth programmes;
  • monitor the e-accessibility of websites and media products for lifelong learning.

On the research front, the Commission will disseminate and exploit the results of studies forming part of the Sixth Framework Research Programme (6FP).

  • Harnessing the potential of new technologies

Activities relating to accessibility, under the e-Europe 2002 action plan, gave some good results and ought to be followed up. Further to the W3C/WAI initiative, the Member States have adopted accessibility guidelines for public websites. The Council also adopted a resolution on e-accessibility in December 2002.

The eEurope 2005 action plan will seek to ensure that people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups can participate in and have equal access to major innovations in on-line public services, covering e-government, e-learning and e-health, and also to create a dynamic, accessible e-business environment.

  • Accessibility to the public built environment

The design and construction of buildings in compliance with the principle of universal design (“design-for-all”) ought to be stepped up so that people with disabilities are guaranteed better and effective access to the workplace.

The availability of accessible cultural and leisure facilities is also essential for improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. The Council recognised this in its resolution of 6 May 2003 on accessibility of cultural infrastructure and cultural activities for people with disabilities. Likewise, in its resolution of 21 May 2002 on the future of European tourism, the Council called on the Commission, the Member States and other interested parties to step up their efforts to facilitate accessibility to tourist sites for people with disabilities.

Moreover, in its White Paper entitled “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide”, the Commission advocates greater use of accessible public transport.

The Commission ought to take further action in the following areas:

  • promotion of European standards in relation to all aspects of the built environment, including the planning, design, construction and use of buildings;
  • promotion of better education on accessibility issues in schools and among professionals;
  • incorporation of accessibility provisions in public procurement policies, taking this dimension into account also in the allocation of the Structural Funds;
  • encouragement for the development of studies into the accessibility of tourist sites and infrastructure, and of urban transport systems.

Second phase of the action plan (2006-2007)

The second phase of the action plan, covering a two-year period (2006-07), will focus on active inclusion and autonomy (right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community). It proposes four priorities:

  • Encouraging activity
  • Promoting access to quality support and care services
  • Fostering accessibility of goods and services for all
  • Increasing the EU’s analytical capacity

MONITORING AND FOLLOW-UP STRUCTURE

Improving executive capacity

The Commission’s Inter-service Group dealing with disability issues is responsible for advancing the action plan and monitoring the mainstreaming activities of the various Commission departments. It also has to give a progress report to the Equal Opportunities Group of Commissioners.

The European High-Level Group for matters relating to disability (expert group chaired by the Commission, bringing together specialists from the Member States) has the task of developing greater interaction between national policies.

The Union will step up its cooperation with organisations such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the European Standards Organisations (e.g. CEN), the European Special Needs Education Agency and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, so as to build mutually rewarding relationships and to benefit from their expertise and their think-tank work.

Strengthening governance

The Commission proposes to enhance its cooperation with the representatives of associations for people with disabilities, in particular with the European Disability Forum. It also wants the High-Level Group to conduct exchanges of views more frequently with civil society. The social partners should, moreover, be invited to make a full contribution to the promotion of equality for people with disabilities.

The Commission will encourage inter-institutional cooperation amongst EU institutions and bodies, in particular with the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and its Disability Intergroup.

Commission report on the situation of people with disabilities

The Commission’s report on people with disabilities should draw specific attention to the efforts made under Community policies to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Key contributions from the Member States will set out their achievements, particularly as regards mainstreaming disability issues in all relevant national policies. The Commission is to compile public reports every two years, in line with a structure established with the Member States and representatives of people with disabilities.

 

Environmental integration in external relations

Environmental integration in external relations

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Environmental integration in external relations

Topics

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

Environment > Environment: cooperation with third countries

Environmental integration in external relations

Document or Iniciative

Council strategy of 11 March 2002 at the European Council in Barcelona on environmental integration in the external policies of the General Affairs Council.

Summary

This strategy drawn up by the Council defines the objectives of action by the European Union (EU) and the Member States to ensure that environmental questions are taken into account when EU external policies are drawn up and implemented.

Its purpose is not to redefine or restate the core objectives of EU international environment policy, but to identify ways of pursuing these objectives in the conduct of external relations.

Environmental questions should be tackled in regular dialogues with third countries so as to establish a common approach to the environmental priorities to be set. With industrialised countries, the issues considered should be those which are the subject of international conventions or protocols or which have been discussed in multilateral fora. With developing countries, environmental concerns should be included in cooperation instruments and programmes.

In cross-cutting areas, the key objectives are as follows:

  • to support improvements in human rights, democratisation and governance, thus contributing also to environmental ends;
  • to ensure that environmental factors are fully addressed in conflict prevention activities, working to reduce tensions over access to and use of natural resources;
  • to promote the environmental dimension in all areas of post-conflict reconstruction.

Trade negotiations and relations must also take account of environmental concerns and the relationships between the international trading system and environmental agreements must be clarified. Corporate social responsibility should be encouraged at international level, as well as technical assistance, transfers of clean technology and the carrying out of impact assessments.

The international institutional framework should be improved, in particular by systematically integrating environmental considerations into the international institutions’ activities. Moreover, there should be greater cohesion between bilateral and multilateral discussions and between the various international organisations.

Context

The development of this strategy was requested by the European Council in Göteborg (June 2001). The European Council in Cardiff (June 1998) established the bases for coordinated action at Community level to integrate environmental considerations in EU policies.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 13 February 2002 – Towards a global partnership for sustainable development [

COM(2002) 82 final

– Not published in the Official Journal].


Regulation (EC) No 2493/2000

of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 November 2000 on measures to promote the full integration of the environmental dimension in the development process of developing countries [Official Journal L 288 of 15.11.2000].

Communication from the Commission of 15 May 2000 – Integrating environment and sustainable development into economic and development cooperation policy – Elements of a comprehensive strategy [

COM(2000) 264

– Not published in the Official Journal].