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A collection of links to web sites of the European Union institutions and other European business web sites.

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How digital is your country? - Digital Economy and Society Index 25 February 2015, 18:01 CET
There are plenty of digital opportunities waiting to be unlocked to benefit European citizens and companies. From shopping or studying online, to paying bills or using public services over the Internet – the Web is the answer, if the right conditions are in place. This is the conclusion of a new Digital Economy and Society Index developed by the European Commission and released today. Data shows that the picture of how digital countries are varies across the EU and that borders remain an obstacle to a fully-fledged Digital Single Market.

Capital Markets Union 18 February 2015, 14:08 CET
The Capital Markets Union (CMU) is a plan of the European Commission that aims to create deeper and more integrated capital markets in the 28 Member States of the EU. With the CMU, the Commission will explore ways of reducing fragmentation in financial markets, diversifying financing sources, strengthening cross border capital flows and improving access to finance for businesses, particularly SMEs. The CMU is a new frontier of Europe's single market. Its creation is a key element of the Investment Plan announced by the Juncker Commission in November 2014.

Winter Economic Forecast 2015: outlook improved but risks remain 05 February 2015, 12:42 CET
Growth this year is forecast to rise to 1.7% for the EU as a whole and to 1.3% for the euro area. In 2016, economic activity should grow by 2.1% and 1.9% respectively.

Statutory minimum wage levels in Europe in 2015 - Eurofound 03 February 2015, 23:50 CET
Most EU Member States have a statutory minimum wage, which sets the lowest legal amount of pay for all employees. Some Member States also have specific lower minimum levels for certain groups of workers, mainly younger ones. During the economic crisis, minimum wage levels have been mainly frozen, with only moderate increases in some countries. However, over the past two years, the minimum wage levels have begun to increase, and this first EU wide compilation of minimum wage levels in Europe in 2015 shows a marked change in trends. This article presents the most recent data on statutory minimum wages, applicable on 1 January 2015, and an overview of the discussions leading to the final settlements made in 2014.

Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 on OTC derivatives, central counterparties and trade repositories 03 February 2015, 15:27 CET
The EMIR Regulation, which entered into force on 16 August 2012, is designed to improve the stability of the over-the-counter (OTC) derivative markets throughout the EU. The Regulation requires standard derivative contracts to be cleared through central counterparties (CCPs) and establishes stringent organisational, business conduct and prudential requirements for these CCPs. It has also introduced an obligation to report derivative contracts to trade repositories. The Regulation, directly applicable and enforceable throughout the EU, will considerably increase financial stability and safety by preventing the situation where a collapse of one financial firm can cause the collapse of other financial firms. A specific exemption in the Regulation states that ‘pension scheme arrangements’ are exempt from the clearing obligation of certain derivatives until August 2015.

EU Transparency website 27 January 2015, 15:38 CET
Citizens expect the EU decision-making process to be as transparent and open as possible. The more open the process is, the easier it is to ensure balanced representation and avoid undue pressure and illegitimate or privileged access to information or to decision-makers. Transparency is also a key part of encouraging European citizens to participate more actively in the democratic life of the EU. The transparency register has been set up to answer core questions such as what interests are being pursued, by whom and with what budgets. The system is operated jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Joint bank sector letter against plans for FTT 23 January 2015, 13:03 CET
Joint European bank sector letter to EU Finance Ministers - signed by EBF as well as EACB, EAPB and ESBG - to oppose plans for a financial transaction tax.

European Year for Development 2015 15 January 2015, 16:37 CET
The European Year of Development 2015 is an opportunity to raise awareness of development across Europe, and to show European taxpayers know that every euro spent on development benefits both people living in some of the world's poorest countries, and EU citizens themselves. 2015 is a special year for development. It is the first ever European Year to deal with the European Union's external action and Europe’s role in the world. For development organisations all over Europe it is an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Europe's commitment to eradicating poverty worldwide and to inspire more Europeans to get engaged and involved in development. 2015 is also the year in which the Millennium Development Goals that the world agreed to reach in 2000, and in which the international community will agree on the future global framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

EU negotiating texts in TTIP 07 January 2015, 15:19 CET
The European Commission is negotiating TTIP as openly as possible. A final agreement would have 24 chapters, grouped together in 3 parts: Market access - Regulatory cooperation - Rules. As part of the Commission's latest transparency initiative, it is publishing: new 2-page factsheets, in plain language; negotiating texts we've given US negotiators: EU textual proposals on parts 2 and 3 of the TTIP – these set out how the Commission would want a final deal to read, line by line; EU position papers – what we want to achieve in a chapter.

European Commission Annual Working and Legislative Programme 12 December 2014, 15:50 CET
The European Commission's Annual Working and Legislative Programme presents the major political priorities of the Commission on the basis of, in particular, the Annual Policy Strategy Decision and it also identifies concrete actions either legislative or non legislative that translate these priorities into operational terms

ICT usage in enterprises in 2014 - Eurostat survey 09 December 2014, 23:05 CET
Instead of building their own IT infrastructure, enterprises have the possibility to access computing resources hosted by third parties on the internet. This shared pool of resources is most commonly known as "cloud computing". As cloud computing services are delivered on-line, enterprises must have internet access to be able to use them, which was the case in 2014 for almost all enterprises (97%) employing 10 persons or more in the EU28. Although the share of firms with internet access was at very similar high levels across Member States, only a fifth (19%) used cloud computing services in 2014.

EU Investment Offensive Website 09 December 2014, 15:58 CET
The European Commission's Investment Plan will unlock public and private investments in the real economy of at least EUR 315 billion over the next three years (2015-2017). President Juncker's major new initiative is aimed at getting Europe growing again and getting people back to work. Reasons for it are that Europe is facing an investment gap. Investment in the EU has dropped by more than 430 billion from a 2007 peak. Investment levels in the EU are EUR 270 billion to EUR 340 billion below historical sustainable norms. Weak investments hamper short term recovery and hurt long term growth.

Lithuania and the euro 01 December 2014, 23:14 CET
Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004 and is currently preparing to adopt the euro.

European arrest warrant 01 December 2014, 23:05 CET
The European arrest warrant adopted in 2002 replaces the extradition system by requiring each national judicial authority (the executing judicial authority) to recognise, ipso facto, and with a minimum of formalities, requests for the surrender of a person made by the judicial authority of another Member State (the issuing judicial authority). The framework decision entered into force on 1 January 2004 and replaced the existing texts in this area. However, Member States remain at liberty to apply and conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements insofar as such agreements help to simplify or facilitate the surrender procedures further. The application of such agreements should in no case affect relations with Member States that are not parties to them.

The EU Water Framework Directive - integrated river basin management for Europe 26 November 2014, 16:34 CET
The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), full title "Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy", sets the objectives for water protection in the European Union. The Directive was adopted on 23 October 2000, published in the Official Journal (OJ L 327) on 22 December 2000 and entered into force the same day.

Transparency Register 25 November 2014, 22:43 CET
The Transparency register provides EU citizens with information about who is engaged in activities aiming at influencing the EU decision-making process, which interests are being pursued and what level of resources are invested in these activities. It offers a single code of conduct, binding all organisations and self employed individuals which accept to “play by the rules” in full respect of ethical principles. A complaint and sanctions mechanism ensures the enforcement of the rules and to address suspected breaches of the code. The Transparency register has been set up and is operated by the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Causes of death in the EU28 in 2011 - 1 in 4 deaths caused by cancer in the EU28 - Lung cancer main fatal cancer 25 November 2014, 22:20 CET
In the EU28 in 2011, cancer was the cause of death for 1,281 million persons, responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths (26.3%). Over the past ten years, while the total number of deaths slightly decreased (-0.5%), the number of deaths due to cancer increased by 6.3% (from 1.206 million in 2002 to 1.281 million in 2011), at a slightly higher pace for females (+6.6%) than for males (+6.0%). However, the number of deaths due to cancer remained higher in 2011 among the male population (718,000 deaths due to cancer) than among the female population (563,000). In 2011, cancer represented 37.1% of all causes of death for the EU28 population aged less than 65, while this level was only 23.8% for the older population (those aged 65 years and over).

Horizon 2020 - the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation 25 November 2014, 15:32 CET
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) 07 January 2015, 16:16 CET
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. It aims to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US. On top of cutting tariffs across all sectors, the EU and the US want to tackle barriers behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures. These often cost unnecessary time and money for companies who want to sell their products on both markets. For example, when a car is approved as safe in the EU, it has to undergo a new approval procedure in the US even though the safety standards are similar. The TTIP negotiations will also look at opening both markets for services, investment, and public procurement. They could also shape global rules on trade.

European residential electricity prices increasing faster than prices in United States 18 November 2014, 18:27 CET
European residential electricity prices have historically exceeded U.S. prices, and the gap has widened in recent years. In 2013, average residential electricity rates in European Union (EU) countries were more than double rates in the United States. Regulatory structures—including taxes and other user fees, investment in renewable energy technologies, and the mix and cost of fuels—all influence electricity prices…In 2013, average EU residential prices were 0.20 euro per kilowatthour (euro/kWh), which translates to about 26.57 cents per kilowatt hour (cents/kWh), a 43% increase from the average 2006 price of 18.80 cents/kWh. In that same time, U.S. prices increased only 17%, from 10.40 cents/kWh to 12.12 cents/kWh - Today in Energy brief - posted 18 November 2014 on U.S. Energy Information Administration website

Autumn forecast 2014: Slow recovery with very low inflation 04 November 2014, 13:28 CET
The European Commission's autumn forecast projects weak economic growth for the rest of this year in both the EU and the euro area. In the course of 2015, a gradual strengthening of economic activity is expected and growth is projected to rise further in 2016. All EU countries are set to register positive growth in 2015 and 2016. This is also when the lagged impact of already implemented reforms should be felt more strongly.

VAT 30 October 2014, 13:25 CET
VAT in Europe - Key documents - How VAT works - Traders - Consumers - Control and Anti-Fraud - Conferences and other events - European Commission website

Smart Regulation 14 October 2014, 18:18 CET
To ensure that EU action is effective, the European Commission assesses the impact of policies, legislation, trade agreements and other measures at every stage - from planning to implementation and review. Before the EU takes action: The Commission publishes roadmaps describing planned initiatives; and Commission impact assessments examine potential economic, social and environmental consequences. After EU action: following implementation, initiatives are evaluated to check their performance; and REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme) identifies opportunities to reduce regulatory burdens and simplify existing laws.

High Level Group on Administrative Burdens 14 October 2014, 18:09 CET
The high-level group advises the European Commission on how to reduce administrative burdens linked to its legislation. Examples include recommendations concerning the facilitation of electronic invoicing and the exemption of micro enterprises from EU accounting rules.

European Parliament hearings of the Commissioners-designate 21 October 2014, 17:50 CET
The 27 candidates hoping to be part of the European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker start appearing at hearings at the European Parliament on 29 September. During the three-hour hearings EP committees will test the candidate commissioners' expertise and competences ahead of the EP voting on whether to approve the new Commission on 22 October. The hearings will be shown live on our website and can also be followed on various other platforms.