The SMEs access to bank loans continued to deteriorate in the euro area

The European Central Bank published the results of a survey which show that between April and September 2012, the SMEs access to bank loans continued to deteriorate. Moreover, the survey results point to somewhat higher rejection rates when applying for a loan. In addition, the EBRD showed how structural reforms have improved the environment for SMEs in Eastern partner countries.

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European Court of Auditors finds that EU assistance to Kosovo in the field of the rule of law is not effective

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has audited the EU’s assistance to Kosovo in the field of the rule of law. The result of this audit shows that the rule of law assistance to Kosovo was not sufficiently effective. Although the EU helped to build capacity, notably in the area of customs, assistance to the police and the judiciary has had only modest success.

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Lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi, two Iranian activists, winners of the Sakharov Prize

The European Parliament announced that this year's winners of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are two Iranian activists, lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi. In addition, an European Parliament delegation cancelled a visit to Iran after refusal Iranian authorities to meet Sakharov Prize winners.

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European Parliament backs the initiative to improve consular protection of EU citizens abroad

The European Parliament adopted in plenary session a position which calls on the diplomatic services of member states and the European Union delegations dependent of the European External Action Service, to ensure an effective protection of any EU citizen abroad. Recent emergencies have highlighted the need to strengthen this consular protection.

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New European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan concluded between the EU and the Palestinian Authority

The Action Plan which sets out the objectives of European Union and the Palestinian Authority bilateral relations for the next five years, was agreed in Jerusalem on 24 October. Catherine Ashton, stressed that this Plan will mark a new phase in the EU privileged bilateral partnership with the Palestinian Authority.

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MEPs called for talks on a possible trade deal with the US to start in 2013

The European Parliament approved a resolution in which points out the huge potential for growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic but caution that the EU's interests must be protected, especially in the farm sector. The Parliament calls in the non-binding resolution for negotiations to begin in the first half of 2013.

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Spring Forward for Women, a new EU-UN regional programme for the South Mediterranean Region

The European Commission and UN Women launched Spring Forward for Women. This programme aims to support national and regional stakeholders to empower women economically and politically in the context of the progress that has followed the Arab Spring. The programme will respond to the support needed at regional and country levels.

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The EU tightened measures against Syria and against Iran's nuclear and ballistic programmes

The Council significantly broadened EU restrictive measures against Iran, given the EU's serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear programme. In addition, sanctions against the Syrian regime were once more strengthened by the EU. Also, with regard to Belarus, the Council was very concerned about increased acts of harassment and repression of civil society and political opposition as well as a diplomatic crisis with Sweden.

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Commission recommends granting EU candidate status to Albania subject to completion of key reform steps

The European Commission outlined next steps for EU enlargement in the annual Enlargement Package presented by Commissioner Stefan Füle. The Commission recommends to open accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; granting EU candidate status to Albania; proposes negotiating a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo; and it also confirmed that Croatia is on track in its membership preparations. In a set of annual reports, the Commission also assesses the progress towards EU accession made elsewhere in the Western Balkans, Turkey, and Iceland over the past year.

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