Tag Archives: Public awareness

European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

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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 inclusion and the fight against poverty

European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010)

The fight against poverty and social exclusion is a primary objective of the European Union (EU) and its Member States. A significant part of the European population is in a situation of poverty and lacks access to basic services. The launch of a European Year dedicated to this objective is intended to give a new impetus to the process of social inclusion.

Document or Iniciative

Decision No 1098/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010) (Text with EEA relevance).

Summary

On the occasion of the European Year 2010, the European Union (EU) reaffirms its commitment to the fight against poverty and social exclusion. It promotes a social model contributing to the welfare of individuals, their participation in society and the economic development of Europe.

The fight against poverty and social exclusion is linked to a series of socioeconomic and cultural factors which call for multidimensional strategies of national, regional and local dimension. It requires the participation of public authorities and individuals alike.

Objectives and beneficiaries

This initiative aims at informing European citizens but also to give a voice to people in a situation of poverty and social exclusion.

In accordance with the European principles of solidarity and social justice, the Year will have four guiding principles.

Recognition of the fundamental right of people in a situation of poverty to live in dignity and to play a full part in society. In particular, the aim is to guarantee access to resources, social services, culture and leisure.

Promotion of social cohesion,in the form of actions to enhance quality of life, social welfare, equal opportunities and sustainable development, by promoting an employment market that is open to all and the principle of equality in education and training. In particular, these actions will target victims of discrimination, people with disabilities, children and situations of family poverty, vulnerable groups or groups in a situation of extreme poverty.

Shared responsibility and collective and individual participation, to expand the role of all public or private actors in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

Commitment and political action by the Member States and the EU, and the intensification of actions taken at all levels of authority. In this respect, the potential of the open method of coordination (OMC[m1]) introduced by the EU in 2000 in the fields of social protection and inclusion must be better exploited.

Actions and procedure

This initiative will give rise to actions launched at Community and national level. They will take the form of public awareness campaigns, innovative and creative initiatives, or meetings, discussions and studies. A committee of representatives of the Member States will support the Commission in the implementation of the European Year.

The Member States shall carry out these actions through national programmes adapting the Community guidelines to the challenges and priorities of each country. Each Member State shall appoint a body to prepare and implement these programmes. Those bodies will cooperate with civil society, the social partners, and regional and local authorities.

These objectives should be pursued both within the EU and beyond its borders. The initiative is open to participation by European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States, candidate countries for EU accession and third countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Context

The building of a society which is founded on social inclusion and on reducing poverty is one of the essential priorities of the EU. At the Lisbon summit in 2000 the Member States committed themselves to making progress towards the elimination of poverty in Europe by 2010.

Carried out in the context of the process of social inclusion, their actions require the wider participation of all the actors involved.

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision 1098/2008/EC

27.11.2008

OJ L 298 of 7.11.2008

Passenger car related taxes

Passenger car related taxes

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Passenger car related taxes

Topics

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

Environment > Air pollution

Passenger car related taxes

Proposal

Proposal for a Council Directive of 5 July 2005 on passenger car related taxes [COM(2005) 261 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

This proposal for a directive aims to improve the functioning of the internal market and reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars. By restructuring European Union (EU) countries’ systems for taxing passenger cars the proposal for a directive aims to remove fiscal obstacles to the free movement of passenger cars from one EU country to another.

Regarding taxes on passenger cars, the Commission proposes measures such as:

  • phasing out car registration taxes (RT) over a transitional period of five to ten years;
  • establishing a system for reimbursing registration taxes for passenger cars registered in one EU country and then exported or permanently transferred to another EU country;
  • introducing an element linked to CO2 emissions into the tax base of annual circulation tax (ACT) and registration taxes.

Registration taxes

Under the current situation, RTs can lead to double taxation in cases where citizens move their permanent residence from one EU country to another or when a second-hand car is brought in from another EU country. Since these taxes can therefore create obstacles to the free movement of citizens as well as lead to a fragmentation of the market for used cars, it is proposed to phase them out.

Gradually abolishing RT over a transitional period of five to ten years will give those EU countries which are currently applying high RTs sufficient time to restructure their tax system and will also give holders of used cars protection against any immediate loss of their commercial value.

Refunding registration taxes

The purpose of establishing a system for refunding some of the RTs charged when registering any passenger car which is to be exported or permanently transferred to another EU country is to avoid double taxation in the interim period until RTs will be phased out. Moreover, clear rules are established for the calculation of the residual value of the RT to be refunded in the above cases.

Minimum tax revenue in terms of CO2 emissions

A link between CO2 emissions and the tax bases for RT and ACT is introduced based on the CO2 emissions per kilometre of each passenger car.

The total tax revenue generated by the CO2-related element of the annual circulation and registration taxes should be at least:

  • 25% on 31 December 2008;
  • 50% on 31 December 2010.

Background

The fact that there are differing systems for taxing passenger cars in the EU results in tax obstacles (such as double taxation) and impedes the smooth functioning of the internal market. The purpose of the measures put forward in this proposal for a directive is to remove tax obstacles to the cross-border transfer of cars. The new structure approximates the systems for taxing passenger cars applied by the EU countries but does not harmonise taxation levels in EU countries or oblige them to introduce new taxes.

Use of the tax system to promote fuel-efficient cars is one of the three pillars of the strategy for reducing CO2 emissions adopted by the EU in 1995. The other two pillars are consumer information, achieved by means of labels showing a vehicle’s CO2 emissions, and a voluntary commitment by automobile manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions.

References

Proposal Official Journal Procedure

COM(2005) 261

Consultation CNS/2005/0130

Related Acts

Council Directive 2009/55/EC of 25 May 2009 on tax exemptions applicable to the permanent introduction from a Member State of the personal property of individuals [Official Journal L 145 of 10.6.2009].


Regulation (EC) No 715/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2007 on type approval of motor vehicles with respect to emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 5 and Euro 6) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information [Official Journal L 171 of 29.6.2007].
See consolidated version .

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 7 February 2007 – Results of the review of the Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles [COM(2007) 19 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission finds that, despite the progress made on achieving the voluntary target of 140 g of CO2/km by 2008-09, the target of 120 g of CO2/km that the EU has set itself will not be achieved by 2012 without additional measures. In order to achieve this target, the Commission proposes mandatory reductions of CO2 emissions to 130 g of CO2/km by means of better engine technologies (to be achieved by the automobile manufacturers) and a further reduction of 10 g of CO2/km through other technological improvements (tyre pressure monitoring systems, more effective air-conditioning systems, etc.) and an increased use of biofuels. Furthermore, the Commission intends to promote the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles, particularly by improving vehicle labelling and by introducing legislation that would enable car tax systems in the EU countries to take account of CO2 emissions.

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 6 September 2002. Taxation of passenger cars in the European Union – options for action at national and Community levels [COM(2002) 431 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication forms the basis for the proposed directive.

Community strategy on health and safety at work

Community strategy on health and safety at work

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Community strategy on health and safety at work

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 > Health hygiene and safety at work

Community strategy on health and safety at work (2002-2006)

The aim of this strategy is to facilitate the application of existing health and safety at work legislation and to come up with new ideas for the period in question. It is based on an inventory of the current situation, on the basis of which the Commission reiterates the three prerequisites for a safe and healthy workplace: consolidating risk prevention culture, better application of existing law and a global approach to well-being at work. To meet these conditions, the Community strategy proposes three main approaches: adapting the legal framework, support for innovative approaches (formulation of best practices, social dialogue, corporate social responsibility) and finally the mainstreaming of health and safety at work in other Community policies.

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication of 11 March 2002 on a Community strategy on health and safety at work (2002-2006) [COM(2002) 118 – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

1. The Lisbon European Council highlighted the fact that Europe is currently experiencing the transition to a knowledge economy characterised by profound changes in the composition of the active population, forms of employment and risks at the workplace. Identifying the various trends helps to better define the problems for which the health and safety at work strategy will have to provide solutions.

ADAPTING TO CHANGES IN THE WORLD OF WORK

Trends in the active population: feminisation and ageing

2. Trends in the active population call for a global approach to the quality of employment, taking into account the specific situation of different age brackets and the gender dimension.

3. For example, the steady rise in the numbers of women whose work calls for specific measures in some areas: women are not susceptible to the same types of occupational diseases as men and have different types of industrial accidents. The differences between the sexes must be better taken into account in the legislation. To this end, action must be taken with regard to the ergonomics of workstations, and physiological and psychological differences must be taken on board in the organisation of work.

4. By the same token, older workers (50 years plus) tend to have more serious industrial accidents leading to higher mortality, as they tend to be over-represented in the more dangerous manual occupations.

Diversification of forms of employment

5. The increase in temporary contracts and unconventional hours (shift or night work) are factors that increase the dangers to which workers are exposed. These workers are often poorly trained, sometimes demotivated because of the unstable nature of their contract and suffering from psychosomatic problems caused by their working hours. New forms of employment, such as teleworking, lead to the appearance of new problems of which more account must be taken.

The changing nature of the risks

6. Changes in work organisation (target-driven approaches and greater flexibility) have a profound effect on health at work and on the well-being of workers in general. Problems such as stress, depression, violence, harassment and intimidation at work are rising fast and, by 1999, already accounted for 18% of all work-related health problems. Strategies to prevent these new social risks should also incorporate the incidence of addictions, in particular alcoholism and drug addiction, on accident frequency.

THREE PREREQUISITES FOR A HIGH QUALITY WORKING ENVIRONMENT

A global approach to well-being at work

7. The Community’s health and safety at work policy should promote real well-being at work, be it physical, emotional or social, which is more than merely the absence of occupational accidents or diseases. To this end, the following additional measures must be taken:

  • continuing reduction in industrial accidents and occupational diseases (quantifiable objectives should be set at Community and national level);
  • prevention of social and emotional problems (stress, harassment at work, depression, anxiety and addiction);
  • better prevention of occupational diseases, in particular the diseases linked to asbestos, hearing loss and musculoskeletal complaints;
  • more consideration of demographic trends in occupational risks, accidents and diseases (older workers and protection of young people at work);
  • gender mainstreaming in risk assessment, prevention measures and compensation arrangements;
  • more consideration of changes in the forms of work and work organisation (temporary and unconventional work);
  • taking on board the specific problems of SMEs, micro-enterprises and self-employed workers.

A real culture of prevention

8. Improving knowledge of risks involves:

  • education and training (raising awareness in schools’ programmes, teaching in vocational programmes and in the context of continuing vocational training);
  • raising employers’ awareness of the issues involved in creating a well managed working environment;
  • anticipating new and emerging risks, whether linked to technological innovations or social trends (creation of a risk observatory within the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work).

This Agency should play a key role in these awareness-raising and anticipation activities.

Better application of existing law

9. The proper application of Community law is a prerequisite for improving the quality of the working environment. The Commission, in conjunction with the social partners, will accordingly be drafting guides to applying the relevant directives which will take into account the diversity of companies and sectors of activity. Moreover, the Commission will be developing activities to encourage, through close collaboration between the national authorities, the correct and equivalent implementation of the directives. In this context, the development of joint inspection objectives and joint methods of assessment for the national inspection systems must be promoted, and the inspections carried out by the inspectorates in the Member States must lead to uniform penalties which are dissuasive, proportionate and effectively applied.

A GLOBAL APPROACH COMBINING LEGAL INSTRUMENTS AND PARTNERSHIPS

10. Promoting a high-quality work environment, taking on board the three dimensions above, calls for a global approach based on all the available mechanisms.

Adapting the legal and institutional framework:

  • adapting existing directives to scientific developments and technological progress;
  • analysing the national reports on the application of the directives in order to identify the difficulties faced by the various actors in the implementation of the legislation;
  • new provisions, including extending the scope of the Directive on carcinogens, creating a new legislative framework on the ergonomics of workstations, a communication on musculoskeletal disorders and new legislation on emerging risks (inter alia, bullying and violence at work);
  • streamlining the legal framework: codifying the existing directives and drafting a single implementation report to replace the specific reports provided for in the various directives;
  • merger of the Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work and the Safety and Health Commission for the Mining and Other Extractive Industries.

Support for innovative approaches:

  • Benchmarking and the identification of best practices should:

    – promote convergence in the Member States, with the setting of national objectives to cut accidents, occupational diseases and lost days as a result of accidents or illnesses;
    – lead to a better definition of emerging phenomena such as stress-related complaints and illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders;
    – develop knowledge of and monitor the economic and social costs of accidents and occupational diseases.

  • Voluntary agreements concluded by the social partners

    Social dialogue and action by the inter-professional and sectoral social partners are good ways of tackling the specific risks and problems of particular occupations and sectors. They often lead to the drafting of good practices, codes of conduct or even framework agreements.

  • The social responsibility of businesses and competitiveness

    Many companies consider creating a safe and healthy working environment to be an important criterion in their choice of subcontractors and the marketing of their products. Health and safety at work is being included ever more often in voluntary certification and labelling initiatives. A healthy working environment is part of a global approach to managing quality which leads to better performance and competitiveness. The relationship between health and safety at work and competitiveness is more complicated than just the cost of complying with certain standards. In fact, the absence of a policy can lead to a loss of productivity which is far worse in terms of cost.

  • Economic incentives

    The fixing of insurance premiums for companies on the basis of their accident frequency represents a real financial incentive. This practice should be applied more systematically.

Mainstreaming of health and safety at work in other Community policies

11. Well-being at work cannot be achieved exclusively through health and safety policy. It is closely linked to other Community policies, such as the European Employment Strategy, public health policy, the placing on the market of work equipment and chemical products and other protection policies based on prevention (e.g. in transport, fishing, the environment).

THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION TO HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK

Preparation for enlargement

12. The following measures should be applied in order to ensure the application of the acquis:

  • stepping up the technical assistance programmes and exchanges of experiences based on partnership and twinning formulas;
  • stepping up social dialogue;
  • promoting the collection and analysis of data on occupational accidents and diseases.

Development of international cooperation

13. Linking the activities of the Commission with those of other international organisations (e.g. the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation) is vital, especially in fields such as combating child labour and the impact of alcohol and drug addiction on health and safety at work.
As part of the Council’s work, this coordination has led to the adoption, in the context of International Labour Conferences, of an agreement and a recommendation on the safety and health of workers in mining and in agriculture, a protocol and a recommendation on the recording and declaration of industrial accidents and occupational diseases, including the revision of the schedule of occupational diseases, and the adoption of a resolution on safety and health at work.

Cooperation with third countries, particularly those around the Mediterranean, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) countries and the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) is essential to ensure that minimum standards are respected.
Finally, the cooperation and exchanges of experiences in the field of health and safety at work developed as part of the transatlantic pact with the United States should be stepped up.

CONTEXT

14. This Strategy succeeds the 1995 Commission Communication on a Community Programme concerning safety, hygiene and heath at work (1996-2000).
At that time, the focus was on the following points:

  • the establishment and operation of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao;
  • the correct transposition of the various directives and their practical application (assessment reports, monitoring of the labour inspectorate);
  • creating a safety culture in the business sector;
  • developing the link with employability (the quality of employees’ work depends largely on their working conditions).

Key terms used in the act

  • In 1998, 5500 workers died as a result of an occupational accident, and 4.8 million accidents led to more than three days’ absence from work. Compared to the situation in 1994, the frequency of occupational accidents has dropped by almost 10%.
  • Fishing, agriculture, building, health care and social services had rates more than 30% above the average.
  • The extractive industries, manufacturing, transport and hospitality had rates more than 15% above the average


Another Normative about Community strategy on health and safety at work

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 > Health hygiene and safety at work

Community strategy on health and safety at work (2007-2012)

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 21 February 2007, entitled ‘Improving quality and productivity at work: Community strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work’ [COM(2007) 62 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Good health at work helps improve public health in general and also the productivity and competitiveness of businesses. Furthermore, workplace problems of health and safety exact a high cost for social protection systems and therefore workers need to be provided with suitable working conditions if their general wellbeing is to be enhanced.

The Community’s current strategy on workplace health and safety is a continuation of its strategy for 2002-2006. The previous strategy has already borne fruit: workplace accidents have been markedly fewer in number. The new 2007-2012 strategy, which is even more ambitious, is focusing on achieving a 25 % reduction in the total incidence rate of accidents at work and, in order to achieve its goal, the Commission has established six intermediate objectives, which are summarised below.

Putting in place a modern and effective legislative framework

There are sometimes serious shortcomings in the application of Community legislation on workplace health and safety. The Commission will ensure that Community directives are transposed properly (if necessary, infringement proceedings will be launched). The Commission also draws the attention of the Member States to their obligation to implement Community legislation, for which they have several methods at their disposal, e.g. training, dissemination of information, involvement of labour inspectors or use of economic incentives.

Community legislation should not only be more effectively implemented but also be applied in a uniform manner in all the Member States in order to guarantee equivalent levels of protection to all European workers. At Community level, the Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee (SLIC) will be working to develop mechanisms whereby common solutions can be found to problems specific to several Member States. The Committee will also be responsible for promoting cooperation between labour inspectorates.

In terms of worker protection, it is also essential to adapt the legal framework to changes in the world of work and to the latest technical advances. The Commission proposes to examine, for example, the possibility of launching initiatives to assess the musculo-skeletal risks involved in certain occupations and to investigate areas where carcinogens might be in use.

When all is said and done, any adaptation of the legal framework must also make that framework less complex and more effective. The Commission emphasises that simplified legislation should not lead to a reduction in existing levels of protection.

Encouraging the development and implementation of national strategies

The Commission invites the Member States to define and to adopt national strategies that are coherent with Community strategy and to establish quantitative objectives to be achieved within that context. The Commission proposes that the Member States pay particular attention to four areas:

  • prevention and health surveillance;
  • rehabilitation and reintegration of workers;
  • responses to social and demographic change (the ageing of the population, younger workers);
  • coordination between, on the one hand, policies on health and safety at work and, on the other, policies on public health, regional development and social cohesion, public procurement, employment and restructuring.

Promoting changes in behaviour

Changes in behaviour should be encouraged at all levels from primary school through to the world of work. The Commission calls upon the Member States to make wider use of the potential offered by the European Social Fund and other Community funds with a view to incorporating health and safety into education and training programmes. The raising of awareness within companies can be promoted through direct or indirect financial incentives, such as reductions in social contributions or insurance premiums, or increases in economic aid.

Confronting new and increasing risks

It is essential to step up scientific research in order to be able to anticipate, identify and respond to new workplace health and safety risks. At Community level, research in the areas of workplace health and safety is supported by the 7th framework programme for research and technological development. At national level, the Commission encourages Member States to coordinate their research programmes.

Depression is, at the present time, an increasingly important cause of incapacity for work. Mental health should be promoted in the workplace, e.g. by stepping up initiatives aimed at preventing violence and harassment in the workplace or combating stress.

Improving measurement of progress made

The Commission will ensure that statistics and information on national strategies are collected and that qualitative indicators are developed to enhance knowledge of progress achieved in the areas of health and safety at work.

Promoting health and safety at international level

The European Union is seeking to raise labour standards worldwide and will endeavour to increase its cooperation with third countries and with international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) or the World Health Organisation (WHO). For example, it aims to promote implementation of the global strategy on occupational safety and health , adopted by the ILO in 2003, ratification of the promotional framework for occupational safety and health convention , adopted in 2006, and the banning of asbestos.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 8 November 2007 transmitting the European framework agreement on harassment and violence at work [COM(2007) 686 final [Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication relates to the European framework agreement on harassment and violence at work. It is the third autonomous agreement of its type, negotiated by the European cross-industry social partners. Its objective is to prevent and, where necessary, manage problems of bullying, harassment and physical violence in the workplace. Such situations are roundly condemned by the social partners, which call upon European companies to adopt a policy of zero tolerance.
The European framework agreement on harassment and violence at work was signed on 26 April 2007 by the ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP.

Environment and health strategy

Environment and health strategy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Environment and health strategy

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

Public health > Health determinants: environment

Environment and health strategy

Document or Iniciative

European environment and health strategy of 11 June 2003 [COM(2003) 338 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Key elements and implementation of the strategy

The objective of this strategy is to integrate the information on the state of the environment, the ecosystem and human health. The ultimate objective is to establish a framework to help produce a better understanding of the cause-and-effect relationships between the environment and health and to make available the information needed to develop an integrated Community policy. Other objectives of the strategy are to identify and reduce any new health threats caused by environmental factors and to strengthen the Union’s capacity for policymaking in this area. As the acronym indicates, the strategy is based on science, focuses on children, aims at raising awareness, uses legal instruments and includes continuous evaluation.

The plan is to implement the strategy incrementally in successive cycles. The first cycle, from 2004 to 2010, will focus on the link between environmental factors and:

  • childhood respiratory diseases, asthma and allergies;
  • neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • childhood cancer;
  • disruption of the endocrine system (glands which secrete hormones).

The strategy will pave the way for a Community information system for assessing the overall impact of the environment on human health and the cause-and-effect links and for developing an integrated policy on the environment and health. In the first cycle three pilot projects will be launched to develop a method for putting in place a European system for integrated environment and health monitoring. These projects will focus on three priority pollutants for which data collection and monitoring are already well underway: dioxins, heavy metals and endocrine disrupters. The possibility of developing a harmonised European bio-monitoring system for children will also be considered during the first cycle.

Other research activities will be undertaken in order to gain a better understanding of environment and health issues.

Additional efforts will be made to reduce exposure to environmental hazards. These will concentrate on air quality, heavy metals, electromagnetic fields and a healthy urban environment in particular.

Implementation of this strategy will demand full stakeholder involvement. The Commission will set up technical working groups plus a consultative group on environment and health. Three regional conferences were planned up to 2004. In spring 2004 a major stakeholder conference was held to define the action plan for 2004-2010, which set out the goals and action for the first cycle as the Commission’s contribution to the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest held in June 2004.

Previous activities on environment and health

Hitherto the political responses on environment and health have taken no account of the interaction between the two. Nevertheless, the Union has already put in place legislation on health hazards, such as chemicals, endocrine disrupters, pesticides, air and water pollution, noise, waste, industrial accidents and ionising radiation.

A Community action programme on public health, covering the period 2003-2008, has been under way since 1 January 2003. Other activities are in progress on tobacco control, food safety, electromagnetic fields, radiation protection and health impact assessment.

Research on the environment and health has been included in the European Framework Programmes for research and development activities since 1995.

The Community also has a strategy on health and safety at work.

The Union is participating in international activities such as the European Charter on Environment and Health and the “Healthy Environment for Children” project, both in collaboration with the World Health Organisation. It is also helping with the preparations for the next pan-European Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, which will be held in Budapest.

RELATED ACTS

Communication of 9June 2004 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee – “The European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010” [

COM(2004) 416

final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010 is designed to reduce the burden of disease caused by environmental pollution. The added value of the action plan is that it will improve information and understanding and step up coordination between the health, environment and research sectors.

The plan provides for 13 actions geared towards the following objectives:

  • better information on the environment-health link;
  • stepping up research activity in Europe, particularly on the four priority health effects: asthma/allergies, neurodevelopmental disorders, cancer and endocrine disruption;
  • setting up mechanisms to improve risk assessment, as well as a system for early detection of emerging issues such as the effects of climate change on health;
  • drawing conclusions from the improved information and action, via awareness-raising campaigns, better risk communication, and training and educational activities.

Internal Market Problem Solving System

Internal Market Problem Solving System

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Internal Market Problem Solving System

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

Internal market > Internal market: general framework

Internal Market Problem Solving System (SOLVIT network)

Document or Iniciative

Commission Recommendation of 7 December 2001 on principles for using “SOLVIT” – the Internal Market Problem Solving Network [Official Journal L 331 of 15.12.2001].

Summary

SOLVIT is an online network which helps find out-of-court (informal) solutions to complaints by consumers and businesses regarding the incorrect application of internal-market laws by public authorities.

By way of example, the network might find solutions to cross-border problems in the European Union (EU) relating to employment, the recognition of university qualifications, car registration, business start-ups or the supply of goods and services. It operates in all EU Member States, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

How the SOLVIT network works

With EU enlargement on 1 May 2004, the number of centres in the SOLVIT network went up to 28. SOLVIT centres are part of the public authorities of the member country in which they are located. They are interconnected by a central database boasting a high level of transparency, which makes it possible to monitor the network’s performance and results. Since 2003, organisations representing consumers or businesses have been able to submit their cases online.

This problem-solving network is free of charge and takes an informal, customer-oriented approach. If a SOLVIT centre regards the complaint received from a consumer or business as justified, it accepts it and forwards it to the SOLVIT centre in the country where the problem has arisen. A solution can then be found within a ten-week deadline.

The solutions proposed are not binding. In any case, if customers do not consider the proposal to be acceptable, they may request that the dispute be resolved through the courts. The Member State concerned is responsible for settling the dispute. If the Member State does not take action, the Commission reserves the right to initiate proceedings.

Quality of the SOLVIT network

Based on past experience and the smooth functioning of the network, the Commission and the SOLVIT centres have developed common quality standards with the aim of:

  • ensuring that all European citizens and businesses have access to a high-quality service in their country of residence and in the country in which the problem has arisen;
  • guaranteeing that all SOLVIT centres are committed to working with the Commission to achieve a high-quality service;
  • ensuring that the quality and performance of the SOLVIT service will not deteriorate with the expansion of the network and an increase in the number of cases submitted;
  • working with a completely transparent database that allows all parties involved to monitor the network’s quality and efficiency;
  • emphasising that SOLVIT is a new approach that combines the handling of complaints with administrative cooperation.

The Commission carries out regular inspections of the centres to check the quality of the solutions they are providing and the performance of the network.

Other systems for the informal resolution of disputes (between consumers and businesses):

The other out-of-court systems for settling cross-border disputes between consumers and businesses are:

  • the FIN-NET network, which helps consumers quickly resolve problems in the cross-border financial services sector. For further information, see the Internal Market Directorate-General’s website pages on the FIN-NET network.
  • European Consumer Centres Network (Réseau CEC or ECC-Net for settling cross-border consumer disputes.

The Commission has also participated in the launch of the ECODIR electronic platform for the settlement of consumption-related disputes.

Related Acts

Commission working document of 27 September 2005 on the internal market problem-solving system (SOLVIT network) [SEC(2005) 543 – not published in the Official Journal]

The Commission wishes to improve the SOLVIT services in view of enlargement and the network’s success. In 2004, the SOLVIT network registered a 73 % increase in the number of cases handled in comparison with 2003. This increase was accompanied by an overall improvement in performance. The period for accepting or rejecting cases was, for instance, reduced to less than one week, and the dispute settlement rate rose to 80 %.

Furthermore, beyond the normal scope of the network, the SOLVIT Plus service is encouraging the Ministries concerned to make legislative changes.

Council conclusions on the SOLVIT network. Internal Market Council – 1 March 2002 [Not published in the Official Journal]

In its conclusions, the Council endorsed the Commission’s recommendation of 7 December 2001 laying down the principles for using the SOLVIT network.

A Small Business Act for European SMEs

A Small Business Act for European SMEs

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about A Small Business Act for European SMEs

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Enterprise > Business environment

A “Small Business Act” for European SMEs

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 25 June 2008 entitled “Think Small First” – A “Small Business Act” for Europe [COM(2008) 394 Final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The initiative called “Small Business Act” (SBA) for Europe aims to create favourable conditions for the growth and sustainable competitiveness of European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Community and national policies should take better account of the role of SMEs in economic growth and job creation.

The SBA is founded on ten principles aimed at framing national and Community policy-making, as well as practical measures for implementing them.

The development of an entrepreneur-friendly environment in order to facilitate the creation of SMEs, by women and immigrants in particular, and to encourage business transfers, specifically of family businesses.

In particular, the Commission shall promote a business culture through networking of enterprises and exchanges of experience. Member States must take measures in the fields of education, training, taxation and support for entrepreneurs.

Support for honest entrepreneurs who wish to start up their business again after bankruptcy.

The Commission encourages the development of a “second chance policy”. This requires Member States to put in place support schemes and to limit the length of liquidation procedures following non-fraudulent bankruptcy.

Designing rules according to the “Think Small First” principle.

Before adopting new rules, the Commission and Member States should evaluate their impact using an “SME test” and carry out consultations with stakeholders. Specific measures should be provided for small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of information and reporting.

Adapting public administrations to the needs of SMEs and eliminating administrative barriers.

Member States should make greater use of simplified procedures, e-government and one-stop-shop systems. They are committed to accelerating procedures for setting up businesses and starting up business operations.

Adapting public policy tools in terms of awarding public procurement contracts and allocating State Aid.

In particular, the Commission shall present a code of best practicefor public procurement contracting authorities and a vade-mecum on State Aid for SMEs. Member States should adopt specific measures for SMEs and better inform them of existing options.

Access to different types of finance, such as risk capital, micro-credit and mezzanine credit.

The Commission must create favourable conditions for investment, particularly at cross-border level. Member States must launch new incentive programmes, whilst also exploiting opportunities offered by Community funds, such as the Competitiveness ad Innovation Framework

Programme 2007-2013 (CIP), cohesion policy programmes and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

Adapting the Single Market Policy to SMEs and improving its governance and visibility.

The Commission must ensure that SMEs benefit from the opportunities offered by the common market, particularly through patent and Community trade mark systems. In addition, Member States must ensure compliance with the mutual recognition principle and the smooth running of the SOLVIT network.

Increasing SMEs potential for innovation, research and development, in particular by ensuring that entrepreneurs and their personnel obtain necessary qualifications, regrouping businesses in clusters and coordinating national initiatives.

The Commission must support the participation of SMEs in Community programmes, such as the Leonardo Da Vinci programme for the mobility of apprentices and the Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7). The Commission must facilitate access for SMEs to State Aid.

Turning environmental challenges into opportunities, regarding the production and marketing of goods and services

In particular, the Commission must facilitate access to the Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS). Member States should encourage SMEs to develop new environmentally-friendly products and services and to adopt new eco-efficient management systems.

Opening SMEs up to external markets.

SMEs must be better supported in order to overcome exchange barriers with third countries and in particular with emerging markets. To this end, the Commission will establish European Business Centres at international level, starting with China and India, and will support the opening up of private and public procurement markets in third countries.

Legislative proposals

The SBA also provides a set of new legislative provisions which respond to the needs of SMEs. These proposals concern the opportunities offered to SMEs in terms of State Aid compatible with the common market, the Statute for a European Private Company (SPE), the reduction of certain VAT rates, the simplification and harmonisation of the rules on invoicing and the reduction of late payments.

Context

The business environment for SMEs has improved, particularly through the establishment of European policy tools, such as the modern policy for SMEs and the European Charter for Small Enterprises. However, an appropriate political response must be provided with regard to new economic developments, in particular in view of the global financial crisis and its impact on the real economy.

The Small Business Act was officially adopted in the conclusions of the Competitiveness Council of 1 and 2 December 2008.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Review of the “Small Business Act” for Europe [COM(2011) 78 final – Not published in the Official Journal].