The Year of Combatting Poverty and Social Exclusion (launching in Madrid on 21 January under the slogan “Stop Poverty Now”
EUROPEAN COMMISSIONERS STILL NOT CONFIRMED
The intensive three-hour-long European Parliament Hearings for European Commissioners are in full swing and Parliament is expected to vote on them on 26 January. However there are some misgivings. In particular the Bulgarian nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, put up a very poor showing at her Hearing and Parliament is very unhappy about supporting her. This is in part due to demonstrable lack of knowledge about her brief, but also to allegations of corruption against both herself and her husband. Some have suggested it is regrettable that the incumbent Bulgarian Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, was unable to be given a second term – she had been nominated as European Commissioner of the Year in 2008 due to her work on consumer rights and the digital economy. However with a change of government in Bulgaria that was not to be. There are two problems – the first is that a Bulgarian substitute would be unlikely to be female and the number of women Commissioners is seen as important. The second is that a new nominee would also have to face a Hearing which would undoubtedly put back the date for the acceptance vote and possibly the starting date for the new Commission.
There are difficulties for Parliament in attempting to exert pressure for a change as it only has the power to reject the Commission en bloc, though in 2004 the Italian nominee forced out. The Maltese and Lithuanian nominees have also faced criticism.
Meanwhile, no new initiatives are emerging– the EU is in continued paralysis.
Spain has taken up the rotating Presidency of the EU from January to the end of June. The priorities are to support equality and job creation and combat the economic crisis, and the accession applications of Croatia and Turkey. The work programme also lists as a priority innovation and research, including promoting the European Research Area. The Spanish government is notable for its high number of female Ministers, although the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the Foreign Minister,
Miguel Angel Moratinos are the two most likely to be seen in action in the European Parliament.
ESSEN CAPITAL OF CULTURE
President Barroso was in Essen on, 9 January 2010 for the inauguration of "'Essen for the Ruhr", European Capital of Culture 2010. German President Horst Köhler also attended the event. A two-day cultural festival open to the public rounded off the opening celebrations at the Zollverein industrial complex, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. "Essen for the Ruhr" is one of the three European Capitals of Culture in 2010, together with the cities of Istanbul (Turkey) and Pécs (Hungary).
President Barroso said: "Essen and the entire Ruhr Basin, with its old heavy-industry complexes, remind us of the beginnings of the European integration project: half a century ago, the first steps were taken towards the creation of the European Union, in the form of peaceful cross-border cooperation in the coal and steel sectors. The Ruhr Basin was therefore one of the starting points for our European project. Today, the region is successfully undergoing fundamental change, without losing any of its character.
"The European Capital of Culture title acts as a catalyst for change, not only in Essen, but also in Pécs and Istanbul. Without culture, Europe and its citizens would lack the inspiration, creativity and spirit of innovation they need for their joint project. I wish to congratulate all those who contribute their vision and energy to the European Capitals of Culture. The European Capital of Culture, which started 25 years ago, is still a flagship initiative of the European Union which succeeds thanks to the commitment of citizens."
The official opening of Pécs 2010 will take place on 10 January, and Istanbul will inaugurate its programme on 16 January.
Next year, Turku (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia) will be European Capitals of Culture, followed by Guimarães (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia) in 2012, and Marseilles (France) and Košice (Slovakia) in 2013.
The European Union is providing the "Essen for the Ruhr" initiative with financial support to the value of € 1.5 million (the value of the Melina Mercouri Prize awarded as part of the European Culture programme) and € 69 million (funds made available via the European Regional Development Fund).
Essen (Ruhr), European Capital of Culture 2010 website:
Official Journal C311 /24 of 19 December 2009 published a call under the Civil Protection fund, for grants with the aim of identifying projects on preparedness and prevention. The deadline is 31 March 2010 and the guide for applications can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/funding/intro_en.htm
SOIL PROTECTION DIRECTIVE
This directive is not surfacing any time soon. It was blocked before making progress by France, Germany and the UK. Commission officials are unhappy about the watered-down draft. However the word is that the Spanish Presidency is likely to give it higher priority, so watch for further news.
BALTIC SEA REGION INTERREG
Third call for applications opened on 4 January and closes on 22 March. For all information see http://eu.baltic.net/3rd_call_4_Jan_22_March.6934.html?
Lead partner seminar 27-28 January Rostock. http://eu.baltic.net/LP_seminar.8444.html
CENTRAL REGION INTERREG
National seminar for project development, Prague, 1-2 February. See www.central2013.eu
Conference on EU strategy for Danube region 1-2 February, Ulm. See http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/cooperation/danube/conference/ulm_en.htm
SOUTH EAST EUROPE INTERREG
Second call closed. It is still possible to post partner search ideas on www.southeast-europe.net