EU news focus

What has Europe done for you? 13-19 January 2014

EU News Focus

Dear readers, we launch today a new version of our weekly newsletter, more focused on pan-European topics and on the EU institutions’ work. On the path towards the European elections in May 2014, we want to show what the EU does for its citizens, for you!

In this week’s edition, you will particularly read about how the EU institutions act to fight unemployment, better protect workers, ensure taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently, and make the financial system safer.

European Parliament

2 resolutions on increasing social protection

The first resolution regards the need to grant more resources to labour inspections. The purpose is to tackle challenges such as undeclared work, violations of rules on working conditions, social dumping and false self-employment (see below). According to one German social-democrat MEP, undeclared work represents 18.8% of EU GDP. So, tackling this issue would improve the fairness of the tax systems and of competition, and the tax revenues. To improve cross-border monitoring, the MEPs called for the creation of “a European platform for labour inspectors monitoring undeclared work” and for measures improving the exchange of data between Member States, e.g., by creating a European social security card.

The second resolution is about increasing the protection for self-employed workers, who represent 15% of the jobs in Europe. Indeed, while those workers may enjoy more flexibility in working time and organisation, they can also be victims of abuses by employers who want to circumvent social protection rules which are applicable to employees, e.g. social contributions, so that social dumping may arise. Moreover, they may be disadvantaged in matters of unemployment and pension schemes. The EP called for a clearer definition of false self-employment and harsher sanctions against employers violating the rules. Moreover, MEPs suggest an increased coordination between Member States to prevent social dumping.

More efficient public procurement to optimise the spending of taxpayers’ money

These new rules will allow public entities purchasing goods, services or works to take into account not only the lowest price as award criterion, but also, e.g., quality and sustainability, so as to improve the value for money of public expenditure. Moreover rules introduced on the awarding of concessions contracts will allow for fairer and more transparent competition. In addition, it will become easier for SMEs to participate in public procurement procedures. Public procurement expenditure represents around 18% of EU GDP. Therefore, it is important to make the best use of this money. Finally, contracts above a certain value will be opened to bids from non-EU firms only if their home countries allow EU firms to compete for a public procurement contract as well.

If you want to read more about the European Parliament’s activity each week, click here.

European Commission

The Commission proposes to improve EURES to fight unemployment

EURES is a pan-European job search network which aims at helping unemployed in one Member State to find a job matching their skills and experience in another Member State. The idea behind this network is that unemployed people in a Member State with high unemployment would have more chances to find a new job if they also access job offers available in Member States where unemployment is lower. Indeed, part of the solution to the Eurozone problems probably lies in managing to increase workers’ mobility (currently only 3.1% of the EU workforce). To achieve that, the Commission wants EURES to increase the number of vacancies listed on the website and to attract more jobseekers, so that employers would have access to a bigger pool of CVs (which also is important, as statistics show that there were 2 million vacancies in the first term of 2013). The network should also become more efficient, e.g., by carrying out some automatic matching of vacancies and CVs. In addition, support to facilitate mobility would be provided. Finally, coordination between Member States should be improved, so that mobility would become integrated in the employment policies.

The EU invests in education: launch of the Erasmus+ programme

The new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, Erasmus+, was launched this week in Athens (Greece). The aim is to enable over 4 million people (i.e., +/- double the current number) to study, train, gain experience or volunteer abroad by providing them with some financial support. The budget of Erasmus+ has been increased by 40% compared to that of the former programmes in the past year, to reflect this new ambition: it now reaches €14.7 billion to be spent between 2014 and 2020. International experience is supposed to increase the employability and mobility of young and future workers. This will help addressing the pressing problem of high youth unemployment, especially in crisis-ridden countries.

If you want to know more about the Commission’s action, click here.

Council / European Council

An inter-institutional agreement for safer financial markets

The Council, the Commission and the EP agreed on new rules for markets in financial instruments (MiFID II directive). The purpose of these updated rules is to continue on the path towards a more transparent and safer financial system, to increase financial stability and reduce the risks of a renewal of the 2008 crisis. Investors shall be better informed and protected, rules on speculation on food raw materials should be made tougher, and high frequency trading will be regulated. Technical details will have to be discussed by the ESMA, the European Securities and Market Authority.

More information about the Council’s work can be found here; for the European Council, click here).

Court of Justice of the European Union

About the concept of being a “dependant of an EU citizen” (case C-423/12, Reyes)

According to the Court, “to be regarded as a dependant of an EU citizen, a descendant who is over 21 years old and a third-country national, does not have to establish that he has tried all possible means to support himself”, i.e. this descendant does not need to prove “that he has tried without success to find employment or to obtain subsistence support in his country of origin”. An over-21 year old descendant of an EU citizen needs to show that he is dependent on that EU citizen to benefit from the right of free movement as a member of the family of that EU citizen. In that case, the fact that the mother of the claimant had sent money for years to contribute to the education and other expenditures of her daughter (the non-EU claimant, descendant of an EU citizen – the mother had acquired the German citizenship) proved that the claimant was dependent on her mother.

If you are interested in learning about more European Court’s judgments, click here.

Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

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