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The EU in brief
EU strategy for the Baltic sea
To “Save the sea”, Connect the Region" and "Increase Prosperity" are the objectives of the new EU Strategy for the Baltic sea, presented a few days ago by the EU Commission. The strategy of the Executive regarding this macro-region follows the indications of the EU Parliament and Council, as well as the EU Council of Ministers conclusion of November 15 2011 putting it on a firm footing to prepare the 2014-2020 programming period. The aim of the Strategy is to increase the impact of EU funds to reach common goals in this area of Northern Europe, whilst promoting cooperation between all countries bordering on the sea (many of which EU Member States) and their relations with the rest of the EU. Commissioner for Regional Development Johannes Hahn, commented: "the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is yielding results, but this pioneer macro regional strategy is also teaching us valuable lessons for the future. The purpose is to step up the impact of the strategy” on economic and social life and on the environment. Operative proposals include those dedicated to Baltic sea navigation, protection of the sea environment, trade, and initiatives for greater interconnection of the energy market.
Court of auditors on SMEs and food aid spending
“The effectiveness and efficiency of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) spending on financial instruments for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were hampered by the regulatory framework being inappropriate for the different types of financial instruments used”. The European Court of auditors released a special report on EU spending for SMEs, criticising various aspects, and notably that spending on financial instruments “do not benefit SMEs as much as intended”. SMEs, the Court of Auditors declare in a release, “are the backbone of the EU’s economy”. The Court of Auditors, with seat in Luxembourg, pointed out: “There were widespread delays in the funds reaching the recipient SMEs and the supported actions were ineffective in leveraging in private investment”. Moreover, “some recipient SMEs were charged unjustified management fees by the financial intermediaries used”. Thus the Court delivered a set of recommendations, in particular to provide “a reliable and technically robust monitoring and evaluation system”. The Court of Auditors also evaluated – with a special report – the effectiveness of European Union development aid for food security in sub-Saharan Africa, establishing whether this aid is relevant to “the countries’ needs and priorities and whether EU interventions are effective”. The Court focused on direct support to development with reference to the three dimensions of food security i.e. food availability, access to food and food utilisation (nutrition). The Court concluded that “EU development aid for food security in sub-Saharan Africa is mostly effective and makes an important contribution to achieving food security”. However, having identified scope for significant improvement in several areas suggests solutions to boost effectiveness which include the creation of a “permanent instrument to address the consequences of potential future food-crises in developing countries”, greater cooperation with recipient countries, the creation of “measurable” indicators.
Commission: consultation on shadow banking
After having adopted a set of measures to redress the financial and banking system, for the EU “it is urgent to look in detail at the system of credit intermediation that involves non-bank entities and activities”, the so-called “shadow banking”, an “expanding activity occurring outside the regulated sector”. “Within the financial system, shadow-banking” that includes insurance and reinsurance undertakings which issue or guarantee credit products, “act as important sources of funding or provide products with deposit-like characteristics. However, it represents a potential threat to long-term financial stability”. Thus with the Green Paper the Commission decided to launch a public consultation that will last until June 1. All stakeholders all invited to signal weaknesses, propose legislative or procedural amendments, so as to prevent this sector from being hit by a crisis. EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "The European Union has shown global leadership in implementing ambitious reforms in the area of financial regulation, in particular for banks. What we do not want is for financial activities and entities to circumvent existing and foreseen rules, allowing new sources of risk to accumulate in the financial sector”. For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/bank/shadow_banking/index_en.htm[>>].