July-December 2014: Italian Presidency of the European Union Council

  • 29 June 2014

The 1st of July, will start the Italian Presidency of the EU Council. Council is the legislative body that brings together the ministers of the member states, organized into different committees. The Council shall decide (increasingly after the Treaty of Lisbon (2008) with the European Parliament, acting like a two-chamber system) about laws proposed by the European Commission. The government Renzi will be responsible about coordinating the functioning of the EU Council in its various formations and propose agenda items.

The Presidency of the European Union Council is succession from three nations, who hold the presidency for six months each. Presidency of the Council of the EU determines the agenda for the meetings and it preside them (all, with the exception of Foreign Affairs, chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs). The last three Countries that have alternated in the presidency of the Council in the 18 months between 2013 and 2014 were Ireland, Lithuania and Greece. The next trio, instead, will be formed by Italy, Latvia and Luxembourg.

The priorities of Italy in the eleventh round of his presidency of the EU Council (from 1959 to now) will be: growth, employment, immigration. In particular, Europe will focus on greater flexibility on budget constraints to encourage economic growth; UE will create new jobs-especially for young people-and it will have to cope with the migration flows to the continent in a more supportive.

The Italian Presidency of the EU Council seems particularly delicate, especially after the victory of Euro-skeptic parties in the last European election (made in the last May). Europe wants therefore to focus on the political and economic relaunch. In addition, from July to November, there will be the complicated renewal of the vertices of European parliament, the Council and the Commission. The EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, said that “the way in which Italy will handle this presidency is crucial to have a smooth transition and to avoid any interruption in the very important work that Europe is doing now”.

This semester will also be a half and save money: Italy plans to spend 68 million Euros to the organization, a limited expense compared to 170 million last semester guide to French and a little taller than the amount set aside from Lithuania and Greece, the last two countries to preside over the Council, who have spent respectively 62 and 50 million.


The statistic data released by Eurostat on the eve of the Italian semester show a complex situation, but not a disaster in our country. Italy, in fact, is the 12% of the European Union, at least as regards GDP (1,560 billion euro) and the population (59.7 million inhabitants) and is perfectly average for a number of important economic parameters.  But public debt is the negative exception. Italy is also perfectly in line as regards GDP per capita: € 25,600 is our year compared to a European average of 25,700 €. The rate of investment in relation to GDP is almost identical: 19.6% in Italy, 19.1% in the EU. The major differences are about public finances and taxation: the Italian debt is 132.6% of GDP (EU average 87.1%), while the tax burden is 44% against a 39.4% Union. Moreover, the Italian hourly cost of labor is 28.1 euro, while the European average is 23.7 and the employment rate is only 59.8% of the active population, while the EU is 68, 3%. Italy also has a problem as regards investment in research and development: we absorb only 1, 27% ​​of GDP, compared with 2.07% of the European average. Data on the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion are also very reassuring (from us 29.9% against a European average of 24.8%), while the fertility rate is 1.43 children per woman (1.58 in Europe). Fortunately, the average life expectancy is 82.4 years, compared to 80.3 of European Union. Italians are also confirmed as strong savers: our families are able to put aside 12.9% of their income, 2 points higher than the rest of Europe (which is much more indebted to us, both private).



Albania: officially European Union candidate country

  • 28 June 2014

The leaders of the EU member states have finally approved the decision -taken by the General Affairs Council EU on June 24 in Luxembourg- to nominate officially Albania as EU candidate country.

This decision comes after the negative assessments of last December 2013 and of 2010. Albania, in fact, had been recognized as a potential candidate since 2003, with the other countries of the Western Balkans. In April of 2009, at the same time of the Association Agreement, Tirana has applied for EU membership. The EU Commission has therefore given its green light to the status of candidate country with a favourable report in October of 2013, a judgment confirmed in recent days after a further assessment required by EU leaders in December 2013.

Up to now doubts were related to issues of public policy -that had caused the violent clashes in 2011 between demonstrators and police in Tirana and Durres-and the historic opposition of countries such as France, Germany and Britain.

The granting of the status of candidate country, however, does not automatically guarantee entry to Albania in the European Union as a Member State. With this decision, in fact, it’s just opens a long and tortuous negotiation process. The Commission has recommended granting the status to Albania to encourage the progress made by the small Balkan country in the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well as the establishment of the rule of law.

Albania is now faced with the challenge of responding convincingly to all the recommendations raised by the Commission’s report last June 4.

“The status of candidate country does not imply the opening of accession negotiations, but the recognition of the work done and an incentive for the future,” said Stefan Fule, European Commissioner for Enlargement.

The most urgent issues in Albania are: the reform of public administration, the judiciary, the fight against organized crime and corruption, protection of human rights and anti-discrimination policies.

The Council is also expected that Albania intensify its efforts to reduce migratory pressure on the EU to address the issue of false asylum seekers, and calls on the Commission to strict monitoring on the implementation of reforms in the country. Finally, with regard to domestic policy, reiterates its call to a dynamic dialogue between government and opposition.

Photovoltaic: growth prospects in MENA region

  • 24 June 2014

MENA Countries decided to invest, until 2020, 50 million of dollar in photovoltaic energy – the most renewable resource that abounds in this region-will reach $ 50 billion by 2020. This data are in Mesia Report (Mesia is an association of solar industries in the Middle East). This report also states that -in the next six years- 37GW of green energy projects will be commissioned to North Africa and  Middle East, and of these, one-third (12-15 GW) will be in solar field.

Photovoltaic energy, in fact, in the Middle East and North Africa has significant potential still “unexploited” – it says a study published by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), which analyzes the global outlook for the sector until 2018. The current situation in Europe is characterized by a decrease in the number of new plants (after the boom of 2011 that saw the protagonists in particular Italy and Germany). In the countries of the MENA region is the opposite, even though, by now, there are lower percentages compared to those of the old continent, the trend is the growth.

The PV market of the MENA countries, which today corresponds to 2-4% of the global market, it should go to represent 7-10% by 2018. Instead in Europe, growth will be slower and especially below the previous expectations, coming in four years at 25% (compared to today’s 21%).

The opposite trend between the two shores of the Mediterranean is evident also from the point of view of system installations: in 2011 Europe had the 74% of new installations of photovoltaic systems in the world; in 2012 there were the 55% and only the 29% in 2013. Percentage of European plants will decrease by 50-51% of today to 36-37% in 2018. Mena region could instead achieve the 5% (starting from 1- 3% in 2014).

The World Energy Congress implemented a plan, with a margin of forecast up to 2035, which underline the shift in demand towards energy non-OECD countries, with emphasis on how the Middle East will take a central role in deployment of renewable energy in the MENA region.

Specifically, Saudi Arabia has begun the most important country in Arabian Peninsula for size and investment:  the country wants develop 54.1 GW (the equivalent of fifty atomic power plants) of renewable energy by 2030, of which 41 GW of solar energy exploitation, 16 GW guaranteed by photovoltaic and 25 GW by solar thermal power. The remaining GW will be insured through wind and geothermal energy.

The official position of the Saudi Kingdom about the new energy strategy is to preserve as long as possible the internal reserves, but not because the fear of their exhaustion: in fact, the domestic demand for electricity will be triple over the next 20 years and for that reason it’s necessary to make a transition to a balanced energy mix, strengthening the ability of Saudi Arabia to meet the future demand of international oil prices. Renewable energy -by 2030- should cover at least a third of the local energy needs, compared to the current 1%. So, if the Saudi monarchy is not able to implement the ambitious energy strategy, it is destined in 2030 to burn 850 million barrels per year (as much as 30% of its production). This situation will remove Saudi Arabia from exports and weakening its role at the international level and weight. Saudi government, to develop the energy plan and its projects, planned investments of more than $ 100 billion: the first tenders were launched in mid-2013, for the construction of 1100 MW of solar and 900 MW of solar thermal power.

In the region: Kuwait, however, is engaged in a multi technological energy park. Qatar looks to polysilicones to power the air conditioning systems of the stadiums during the World Cup of Soccer. Oman uses the solar technologies in the extraction process of oil.

The United Arab Emirates, already pioneers in the industry with the ambitious project of Masdar City (the town eco-friendly with zero emissions, fully powered by clean technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal; with green buildings and sustainable public transport; which arise mainly offices of companies in the green economy, local and international), have budgeted investments of over $ 100 billion in various projects for alternative energy by 2020: new photovoltaic plants in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and the largest desalination plant in the world powered by solar, Ras al Khaimah.

The energy policy of the UAE main challenge is the supply diversification: the goal is to produce 2,500 MW from renewable sources, while 5.4 MW will be achieved by peaceful nuclear energy program. UAE also planned investments to reduce the energy deficit, with projects made ​​with the programs of development and assistance to developing countries to implement modern energy acts to reduce about 30% of the national consumption by 2030, bringing so the net more than 1000 MW of solar power. The country has, in fact, committed to producing 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Even Jordan and Morocco are particularly involved in the development of the renewable energy sector within their energy plans. With the help of foreign investment (Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union), the two monarchies have begun, with relevant legislative and regulatory reform, strategic plans for the development of renewable energy.

Jordan imports as much as 96% of its energy need and, with the increase of population (mainly due to the huge influx of Syrian refugees in the past two years), also the Kingdom energy need is increased and, as a consequence, government expanded expenditure in energy sector. The emergence of energy in the items of the state budget has deep roots, dating back to 2007 and to the worldwide surge in the prices of imported oil. The new Energy Strategy Plan aims at a different distribution of the energy mix, acting as a principal objective in the reduction of dependence on imported oil and natural gas and to promote the use of renewable energy, oil shale and nuclear power. The strategic plan developed for renewable energy, and the contribution of non-conventional energy in the energy mix Jordanian could steps from 1% in 2007 to 7% by 2015 and 10% by 2020: the generation of electricity from renewable sources will consist of 600-1000 MW from wind energy, solar energy, and 30-50 MW 300-600 MW from the combustion of waste.

Morocco, however, dependences totally to imported hydrocarbons – that are about the 95% of the national energy demand. The country wants to reduce this dependence and reduce also its domestic electricity demand, so it has invested heavily in renewable energy projects, particularly in solar and wind, (as demonstrated by the projects in the cities of Salé and Ouarzazate). The government, in fact, has the ambitious goal to cover -by 2020- the 42% of its needs through renewable energy. Finally there is Desertec – a Morocco plan for the construction of several solar and wind power – which -by 2050- should produce about 15-20% of European electricity demand and a significant portion of the demand local power. The program, however, has slowed down considerably due to the political turmoil of the area, to the rising construction costs, and to the EU decision, which has cut the budget for the financing of the network infrastructure, and finally, Desertec Foundation (the soul of the civil project) left the consortium DII (Desertec Industrial Initiative).



EUSAIR – EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region. The new Adriatic and Ionian Macro-Region

  • 19 June 2014

On 18 June 2014, the European Commission has officially launched a new EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region in the form of a communication and an action plan to help its 70 million citizens to benefit from closer cooperation in areas such as the promotion of the maritime economy, protection of the marine environment, the successful completion of the connections in the field of transport and energy and the promotion of sustainable tourism.

The strategy will also offer candidates and potential candidates a unique opportunity to collaborate with Member States, in particular by contributing to the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union.

This is the first “EU macro-regional strategy” with such a large number of extra-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia) who collaborated with EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia).

The strategy is primarily concerned with the opportunities of the maritime economy:

  • “blue growth”;
  • connectivity land-sea;
  • connectivity of energy;
  • environmental protection and sustainable tourism

These are expected to play a crucial role in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in the region.

The starting point is the Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea, adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2012 and now incorporated into the strategy.

Each element of the action plan has been coordinated by a pair of countries (EU Member State and a non-EU country):

  • Greece and Montenegro on the “blue growth”
  • Italy and Serbia on the theme “Connecting the region” (networks of transport and energy),
  • Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the “environmental quality”
  • Croatia and Albania on “sustainable tourism”.

There are also cross-cutting issues: capacity building and research, innovation and small and medium-sized enterprises, climate change mitigation and adaptation to them, as well as the risk management of disasters.

The strategy therefore offers the candidate countries and potential candidates a unique opportunity to collaborate with Member States, in particular by contributing to the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union. This is the first “EU macro-regional strategy” with such a large number of countries extra-EU who cooperated with EU Member States.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “Working together to tackle common challenges and promote the potential shared is a very logical choice. The Adriatic-Ionian macro-regional strategy will be the third European Union. There is a teaching that the participating countries should learn from the strategies of the Baltic Sea and the Danube: the importance of focusing on a few priority with a strong political leadership to hack really. In addition, in a region which in recent years has seen some of the most serious conflicts in Europe, the strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian region, with the cooperation between EU and non-EU neighboring countries, could play an important role in helping the ‘integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union. ”

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “The challenges we face in the Adriatic Sea and Ionian coasts are not specific to a single country: overfishing, pollution, traffic congestion, public transport links and seasonal tourism: the only sensible way to deal with these issues is the unity and coherence. Since there is a potential for growth in many of these areas, the Action Plan for the Danube region Adriatic – Ionian can help bring the region out of the crisis, and transmit the economy back on track.



Green Energy Incentives in Turkey and the opportunities for Italian companies

  • 11 June 2014

Turkey has decided to continue its path towards renewable energy incentives. The Turkish government, in fact, is planning an incentive scheme for projects focusing on energy savings that would generate annual savings of 15 billion Turkish liras (€ 5.15 million euro). Energy Minister Yildiz said that an efficient energy policy could lead to a saving of 65 billion Turkish Liras (22.3 million euro) by 2023. This decision will pave the way for a series of investments that affect industrial complexes especially for the poorest regions of the East and Southeast Turkish, where Kurdish separatist movements have been active for decades. The incentives are available for companies that will initiate energy investments are able to lead to a saving of 20% for a period of at least five years for its manufacturing plants that consume at least 500 tons of fuel. The incentives will also apply to investments worth at least 50 million Turkish liras (17.2 million euro) to help you save energy through waste heat, the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and underground storage facilities.

Turkey is one of the Mediterranean countries who understood the enormous potential of photovoltaic in an area such as the Mediterranean. The photovoltaic sector in Turkey, in fact, is an incentive since February 2012.

The threshold of stimulation, however, is different from what it was in Italy: in fact does not exist in Turkey today is a limit, a maximum threshold of capacity eligible. Everyone can make a plant taking advantage of the incentives provided the installation is kept below the threshold of 500 kW (about 7000 square meters of occupied area). Who wants to invest in a PV system, therefore, has fertile soil, even from abroad, and if you stay under the threshold of 500 kW is also facilitated by the point of view of ease of obtaining permits.

These incentives are particularly interesting for a country like Italy, which, trying to recover from the crisis, trying to internationalize with the know-how acquired over the years. Exports and the internationalization of companies are now opportunities to revive the fortunes of a country as ours, and to bring back the real economy in Italy. The photovoltaic sector contributes, and can contribute in a decisive way, the recovery of the Italian economy.

With the contraction of the domestic market Italian photovoltaic companies are moving towards new shores: 18% of those active in the segments modules, inverters and development facilities in late 2013 resulted in more than 10% of its sales abroad.

The Solar Energy Report Energy & Strategy Group of the Polytechnic in Milan conducted an analysis on the markets most popular and the most attractive. This analysis shows that, with the contraction of the domestic market-from 2012 – Italian photovoltaic companies are moving to other countries, the strong technological and managerial know-how developed in recent years: 36% of companies producing inverters are internationalized, while 15% of companies who design and develop systems, the vast majority of companies in the sector is being worked on foreign markets, preferring to neighboring countries such as Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Turkey and Israel .

The most attractive countries for the photovoltaic industry are those of the Mediterranean (Middle East and North Africa), characterized by a chain still being set up, in which the producer of technology of our country will be able to find their space also facilitated by geographical proximity. Other markets with high potential and – simultaneously – with a high degree of attractiveness are those in South America (Brazil, Chile and Mexico all) and South-East Asia (Thailand and Taiwan), which are the new frontiers for the international market.

In the next two years is expected, as well as a strengthening of the presence of Italian companies in foreign markets already served, and an expansion of the international coverage, primarily thanks to the companies of the areas “EPC” and “Drive.” In particular, the new markets to which Italian firms show a greater openness are those of countries with high attractiveness as North Africa, Central and South America and South East Asia.

“In approaching these new markets, the Italian businesses have the unique opportunity to be in front of a chain still embryonic, or even non-existent, allowing you to have more market space unattended,” explain the authors of the report.

Opportunities that Italian companies are proving able to perceive, but to seize them must overcome a number of barriers: for example, the widespread difficulty in raising funds and competing with players U.S., Spanish and German and Asian countries, which have a net organizational and commercial already established and scalable.

Finally, in many markets – such as those in Asia – you have to deal with the existence of cultural barriers but also regulatory gaps and infrastructure involving a difficult in emulation facility of the “Italian model”, requiring a logic of co-operation with multiple actors – especially local players and institutions – rather than focusing on mere provision of technology.