Commission welcomes European Citizens’ Panel recommendations on energy efficiency

150 European citizens adopted 13 recommendations for the European Commission on energy efficiency during the final session of the European Citizens’ Panel on Energy Efficiency, which took place from 12th to 14th April in Brussels.

Using less energy, and using it wisely, is key for clean, secure and affordable energy and an important component of the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU Plan. Energy efficiency helps reduce overall energy consumption and is therefore central to achieving the EU’s climate ambition, while enhancing present and future energy security and affordability.

The Energy Efficiency Directive, recently strengthened as part of the Fit for 55 legislative package, established the ‘energy efficiency first’ as a fundamental principle of EU energy policy, giving it legal standing for the first time. It also significantly raised the EU’s ambition with new EU-level target to improve energy efficiency by 11.7% by 2030, with a stronger emphasis on people affected by energy poverty.

Since February 2024, citizens have gathered to discuss the challenges and benefits of energy efficiency, both in person and online.

The input gathered from both the Panel and the Citizens’ Engagement Platform will now feed into a Commission Recommendation on the “Energy Efficiency First” principle to be considered by the College of Commissioners and ultimately addressed to the Member States later this year.

The final recommendations encourage the Commission to focus in particular on:

  • Increasing the attractiveness of public transport for passengers
  • Delivering the most energy-efficient transport across Europe: Get goods off the road, get people out of planes, and introduce a ‘railway first principle’
  • Expanding the implementation of energy efficiency in buildings
  • Improving the state of skilled labour in the EU in the energy efficiency sector
  • Securing the future through education on green issues
  • Managing and monitoring the implementation of EU directives
  • Helping EU citizens to develop energy communities focused on energy efficiency by providing information and financial support
  • Financing a fair right to energy related home renovation
  • Achieving energy efficiency targets by strengthening everyone’s ability to act
  • Increasing energy independence and efficiency, becoming a global example
  • Developing energy-efficient communities for responsible consumption and increased local energy production
  • Empowering consumers to become energy efficient
  • Optimising and developing the grid system, from producer to the end-user, in favour of renewable energy sources

More information available here.

Commission allocates additional €10 million to support researchers from Ukraine under Horizon Europe

The Commission has topped up the budget of the MSCA4Ukraine initiative, set up to support researchers forced to flee Ukraine, with an additional €10 million. The scheme, set up under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) has supported displaced researchers since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

The extra funding will enable at least 50 additional researchers, including doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers, who were forced to flee Ukraine to continue their work safely on research projects at universities, companies, research centres and other institutions based in the EU and countries associated to Horizon Europe. It will also allow the researchers to access training, skills and career development opportunities. Specific support will be available for organisations hosting the researchers and those fellows relocating with their families.

Since its launch, the MSCA4Ukraine fellowship scheme has supported 125 displaced researchers from Ukraine, being trained and working in 21 countries.

Selected researchers will be able to start a new project or continue their previous work to pursue their research in any subject of their choosing, including on issues directly linked to helping Ukraine and its recovery. Current MSCA4Ukraine fellows are contributing to topics such as investigating war crimes in Ukraine or addressing the mental healthcare needs of displaced Ukrainian women.

The scheme is part of the wider EU support to Ukraine. Specifically in the domain of research and innovation, Ukraine participates in Horizon Europe and the Euratom programme without having to contribute financially. The EU has recently opened a Horizon Europe Office in Kyiv and set up a scheme to help Ukrainian deep-tech companies under the European Innovation Council (EIC).

It has also created a European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Community Hub in Ukraine, which will give Ukrainian innovators remaining in their home country access to partners, markets, testbeds, trainings and investment.

The next MSCA4Ukraine call is expected to be launched in May 2024, allowing selected researchers to start their fellowships by early 2025. The first step for researchers wishing to apply is to prepare an application together with their potential host organisation, who will then submit the proposal on the researcher’s behalf.

More information available here.

 

New Regulation on Geographical indication sees protection for craft and industrial projects

The EU has recently adopted a new Regulation on the protection of geographical indications (GI) for craft and industrial projects. Geographical indications (GIs) for craft and industrial (CI) products establish intellectual property rights protection for registered names of products whose quality, reputation or other characteristic are essentially attributable to their geographical origin. For example, products such as Murano glass, Donegal tweed, Solingen cutlery, or Bolesławiec ceramics. The new Regulation will come into effect on 1st December 2025.

The Regulation will be invaluable for a wide range of producers of products that have qualities linked to a specific area, such as jewellery, glass, shoes, textiles, porcelain, musical instruments and furniture. More than 800 products have been identified to qualify as geographical indications for CI products in the EU.

Once implemented, the new CIGIs Regulation will be a significant boost for producers of craft and industrial products. Its purpose is to assist them in preserving the heritage of locally sourced craft and industrial products, allowing them to compete in specific niche markets while maintaining their local knowledge and culture.  European craftsmanship can be found in great diversity in cities, provinces and regions across the EU. Whether Solingen cutlery from Germany, Bohemian crystal glass from the Czech Republic, Limoges porcelain from France, they are all emblems of centuries-old craft traditions and part of Europe’s cultural heritage.

The system will be managed by the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The Regulation provides that producer groups will be able to submit applications for protection for GIs for craft and industrial products.

Further information can be found here.  

Round up of CoR’s 157th Plenary

Coinciding with the 21st edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 157th Plenary session between the 9th and 11th of October. The session marked the penultimate Plenary of the year and featured strong Irish engagement over the course the three-day session, including the presentation and adoption of Irish Delegation member Cllr. Dan Boyle’s opinion on the European Consumers’ Protection Package.

The formal opening of the EWRC coincided with the start of the CoR Plenary and featured contributions from President of the European Committee of the Regions’ Vasco Alves Cordeiro, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, as well as Chair of the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament Younous Omarjee.

Day two began with statements on the on-going Israel/Palestine conflict. Following the statements, the Plenary session formally opened with a debate on a Health Union for Europe and its regions. This debate saw the first Irish intervention of the day when Cllr. Kate Feeney urged for a “Common [European] approach to mental health” and suggested that in order to achieve this “our cities and regions must be supported”.

Following the sessions opening debate there was a presentation of five opinions, including Irish Delegation Cllr. Dan Boyle’s European Consumers’ Protection Package. Cllr. Boyle’s opinion seeks to amend the European Commission’s proposals for a right to repair to include a local and regional perspective. The aim of the proposal is to ensure that consumers are empowered to make better informed decisions and play an active role in the ecological transition. Cllr. Boyle asserts in the opinion that granting consumers the right to repair would be instrumental in advancing Europe’s industrial transition and strengthening its resilience and open strategic autonomy.

The opinion was adopted with several amendments.

The afternoon saw several Irish Delegations interventions on the Plenary floor.

During the debate on “UNFCCC COP28: the role of subnational authorities in keeping climate ambition on track”, Cllr. Aoife Breslin intervened highlighting the value of clear and understandable language in discussions surrounding climate change, noting “there is an onus on us as local leaders to be concise and consistent in our language used when talking about the threat posed by climate change”.

Speaking during the debate on the “Review and proposal for the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027”, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy urged that any revision to the MFF would ensure that “funds are more accessible” to local and regional authorities.

Following voting on the five opinions the Plenary was presented a draft resolution on the SDGs in EU regions and cities in the aftermath of the EU Voluntary Review and 2023 UN discussions. During this debate Head of Delegation Cllr. Michael Murphy welcomed the resolution noting that it will act as a “milestone for future work”.

The final Irish intervention of the day came from Cllr. Kieran McCarthy speaking on the opinion “Mentoring: A Powerful and Meaningful Tool for the Europe of Tomorrow”. During the debate Cllr. McCarthy highlighted the work done by the Cork Enterprise Office and their mentoring programme, noting that the programme benefits from EU ERDF funding.

Cllr. McCarthy also intervened during the opening debate of day three, on “The State of Regions and Cities”. Cllr. McCarthy used his intervention to make an impassioned call for Europe to work with its local and regional authorities.

The final Irish intervention of the Plenary session was delivered by Cllr. Una Power, who speaking during the debate on the reconstruction of Ukraine and in the context of the #InternationalDayOfTheGirl urged that “women are considered in the reconstruction of Ukraine and it’s cities”.

The final Plenary session of the year is due to take place on 28th and 30th of November.

156th Plenary Session Roundup

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 156th plenary session on the 5th and 6th of July in the European Parliament’s Hemicycle. The session marked the fourth plenary of the year and the final meeting before the Summer recess. The session featured ten opinions and six debates.

Following President Vasco Alves Cordeiro formally opening the two-day session, the plenary began with a debate on the role of local and regional authorities in the defence of democracy. The debate was held in the context of a package of measures announced by Commission President aimed at defending democracy from covert foreign influence. This was followed by an opinion of a similar theme by rapporteur-general Gustaw Marek Brezezin on the role of local and regional authorities in countering disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference.

The key vote of day one was the proposal to allow certain meetings to be held remotely. This was on the context of the establishment of a new ad hoc committee.

From an Irish perspective the highlight of the day was Cllr Una Power’s opinion on ambient air quality, which was debated alongside Asa Agren Wikstrom’s Revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Following a close vote Cllr Power’s opinion was passed with a several amendments.

Day one was rounded out with discussions on two opinions, firstly Isolde Ries opinion on Critical Raw Materials and following this, Josef Frey’s opinion on the reform of the EU electricity market design, which seeks to speed up the clean energy transition.

Day two began with a Local Matters debate on sustainable mobility in local areas, a topic which drew support from across the house as representatives from the ECR, PES and the EPP spoke on the topic.

This was followed by a debate on the role of US and EU subnational governments with Robin Vos, President of the National Conference of State Legislature. Cllr. Emma Blain used the debate to thank President Vos for his engagement with the CoR as well as noting that she looks forward to welcoming him to Dublin in August.

The plenary was rounded out with debates on the EU Enlargement Package, fostering the potential synergies of EU Green Deal initiatives for regions and cities and a debate on the forthcoming Net Zero Industry Act.

The next plenary session will take place in conjunction with the week of cities and regions on the 10th and 11th of October.

Round up of CoR’s 155th Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 155th plenary session on the 24th and 25th of May. The session marked the third plenary of the year and the penultimate meeting before the summer recess. The session featured six opinions and five debates including a debate and opinion on the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

Following President Vasco Alves Cordeiro’s formal opening of the two-day session, the plenary began with a debate on ‘Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion at local and regional level’ in the context of May being EU diversity month. This was followed by an opinion from Italian CoR Member Michele Pais on interoperability across the Union. Interoperability being Member States’ ability to share citizens information across borders to allow for better access to public services across the EU.

Following the aforementioned debate on the Midterm review of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the subsequent vote on the opinion, the plenary adjourned for the evening.

The second day opened with a debate on zero long-term unemployment. This debate took place in the context that despite recent improvement in trends on the European labour market, long-term unemployment rates are still 36.2% on average in the EU-27 in 2021, according to OECD figures, with rates per Member State varying between 20% and 60%.

Day two’s key debate was Cllr. Joke Schauvliege’s opinion on the legislative framework for sustainable food systems. The framework looks at the challenges of sustainable food systems while recognising the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. The strategy also looks to contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the broad scope of the opinion it led to a wide-ranging debate on the floor, with three of four amendments proposed by Irish delegation members, thus ensuring that human health is protected within the framework.

The plenary session finished with two EU Local Matters on water scarcity and implementing REPowerEU. Followed by a final debate on a more resilient, more inclusive and more democratic Europe.

The next plenary session will take place on the 5th and 6th of July.

EU Funding Conference

On Wednesday 19th April 2023, the Irish Regions European Office (IREO), in conjunction with the three Regional Assemblies of Ireland and the Irish Delegation to the EU Committee of the Regions held an EU funding conference “Connecting, Communicating and Collaborating – Irish Regions Cooperating across the EU: How local authorities can engage in European Programmes”.  

This one-day national conference was attended by over 130 delegates and it aimed to communicate the opportunities for local government to participate in EU funding, particularly in the European Territorial Cooperation programmes, the Horizon Europe Missions and the LIFE programme.

Keynote speaker, Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Programme and Reform noted that “INTERREG and other EU programmes play an important role in supporting the process of creating links, exchanging views, understanding differences, working together, and promoting and maintaining peace”.

Cllr Michael Murphy, Member of Tipperary County Council and Head of the Irish Delegation to the Committee of the Regions called on Government to support a strategy to enhance the engagement of local councils in EU funding, by enhancing the support for the Irish Regions European Office in Brussels and funding an EU officer in each local authority in Ireland.

The conference featured nine different EU funding programmes and concurrent information sessions were held during the afternoon. These sessions informed and guided potential participants through the application process for the Northern Periphery and Artic Programme, the North West Europe Programme, the Atlantic Area programme, the URBACT, the ESPON and the INTERREG Europe programmes.  One to one sessions were also held on several of the Horizon Europe Missions and the LIFE programme for protecting the environment and combatting climate change.

One of the highlights of the day was the launch of the IREO and Regional Assemblies interactive map which provides details of all ETC projects for the 2014 – 2020 period and further details of this map can be found on the Regional Development Monitor website: https://rdm.geohive.ie/pages/our-regions-economy.

Presentations

Photo Gallery

 

Round up of CoR’s 154th Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 154th plenary session on the 15th and 16th March. The session marked the second plenary of the year and featured several debates on opinions and resolutions as well as a key vote on the CoR’s draft budget for 2024.

Opening the two-day session, CoR President Vasco Alves Cordeiro wished the Irish Delegation a happy Saint Patrick’s Day. Following the formal opening, the plenary began with a debate on harnessing talent in Europe’s Regions, this debate taking place in the context of the European Year of Skills. Other key highlights throughout the day included the CoR opinion on short-term rentals (Airbnbs) and the sustainable use of pesticides.

Day one also saw a crucial debate on the CoR’s draft budget for 2024, which was subsequently approved.

From an Irish perspective the highlight of the first day of the plenary session was Cllr. Aoife Breslin’s contribution to the EU Local Matters debate. Speaking under her proposed topic ‘Encouraging integration at local and regional level’, Cllr. Breslin noted that “it is crucial in order to ensure interaction on a local and regional level that there is engagement with local elected representatives establishing proper communication structures and investment”.

Day two of the March plenary session focused on two opinions, Amending the Directive on Asbestos and the European Media Freedom Act. Following the acceptance of these two opinions and a resolution on Harnessing Talent in the EU the CoR hosted a Cohesion Alliance event.

Speaking during the event, Irish Delegation Member Cllr. Una Power noted the importance of adjusting implementation of the Cohesion policy to our changing needs and political priorities.

The next plenary session will take place in May 2023.

Northern And Western Region Launches €217m Investment Programme With European Development Funding

The NWRA has launched a new six-year investment programme totaling €217m in European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) for Ireland’s Northern and Western region.

Speaking at the launch, which was hosted in the Portershed, Galway, Director of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA), David Minton, said the funds for the 2021 to 2027 programme would build on previous funding that has improved almost every aspect of life in the region.

Funding from the programme will be used for projects; to build the capacity of the new Atlantic Technological University, to support regional research, capacity building and innovation; to support regional industry with enhanced financial assistance through TU Gateways (Enterprise Ireland) and helping regional enterprises to pursue further commercialise products and services.

The scheme will include:

  • Delivery of a regional smart hub network for research, training, innovation, commercialisation
  • Underpinning the region’s existing enterprise ecosystem with training and innovation supports
  • Working with SEAI to ensure households get deep energy retrofits
  • Addressing the high rate of derelict and vacant properties in the region

To read the full programme click here.

Or to explore the fund more watch an explainer video here.

Building Europe – Call for Applications

The European Commission has launched a call for applications for local authorities wishing to become partners in communicating the EU as part of the “Building Europe with Local Councillors” network.

The aim of the partnership is to help and encourage local representatives to present EU policies, actions and initiatives objectively and in clear, understandable language to their constituents. The aim is to promote discussion and debate about these European policies, actions and initiatives at a grassroots, citizen level.

A local authority that chooses to take part in the “Building Europe with Local Councillors” network will appoint one locally elected councillor as a member of the network. The authority will also sign a declaration in which the local authority agrees to make the following commitments:

  • Engage regularly in discussions and debate with members of their constituency or local media about the general political initiatives and measures conducted by the EU.
  • Present EU policies, actions and initiatives objectively, based on accurate and trustworthy information.
  • Take part in the day-to-day operations of the network by participating in the online platform, attending seminars and visits offered by the European Commission.

In order to support the local councillors and their authorities in communicating Europe, the European Commission will provide:

  • Communication materials and a regular information updates to help them engage with citizens on EU issues.
  • Access to priority visits of the European Commission Visitors’ Centre in Brussels, physical or digital.
  • Access to an interactive platform to foster interaction with other members of the network.
  • Information about other EU initiatives dedicated to local councillors and local authorities, including in particular the activities of the Committee of the Regions and its Network of Regional and Local EU Councillors, and opportunities to follow and contribute to their activities.

If your local authority is interested in taking part, or wants to find out more click here.