|Spring 2018 Standard Eurobarometer: One year ahead of the European elections, trust in the Union and optimism about the future is growing
According to the latest Standard Eurobarometer released today, a majority of Europeans think the situation of the economy is good and are optimistic about the future. For the first time since spring 2007, positive opinions on the situation of the national economy outweigh negative opinions. While perceptions between Member States vary, positive economic sentiment has increased in 18 Member States since autumn 2017. Trust in the Union is also on the rise and at its highest level since autumn 2010. The latest Eurobarometer shows that 40% of Europeans have a positive image of the EU against 37% who are neutral and only 21% with a negative one. Trust in the EU remains higher than trust in national governments or parliaments. “Free movement of people, goods and services within the EU” and “Peace among EU Member States” are perceived as the two most positive results of the EU. Support for the Economic and Monetary Union is at its highest level too and two thirds of Europeans advocate a strong EU when it comes to trade. Finally, 70% of Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU and the proportion of Europeans thinking that their voice counts has reached its highest level since 2004. A majority of Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU and there is strong support for the priorities that the Commission has set itself. On this background, migration and terrorism are Europeans’ top concerns. A press release is available online.
Europe leads the global clean energy transition: Commission welcomes ambitious agreement on further renewable energy development in the EU
This morning, an ambitious political agreement on increasing renewable energy use in Europe was reached between negotiators from the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. Today’s deal means that two out of the 8 legislative proposals in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package (adopted by the European Commission on 30 November 2016, IP/16/4009) have been already agreed by the co-legislators. The new regulatory framework includes a binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of 32% with an upwards revision clause by 2023. This will greatly contribute to the Commission’s political priority as expressed by President Juncker in 2014 for the European Union to become the world number one in renewables. This will allow Europe to keep its leadership role in the fight against climate change, in the clean energy transition and in meeting the goals set by the Paris Agreement. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Renewables are good for Europe, and today, Europe is good at renewables. This deal is a hard-won victory in our efforts to unlock the true potential of Europe’s clean energy transition. This new ambition will help us meet our Paris Agreement goals and will translate into more jobs, lower energy bills for consumers and less energy imports. I am particularly pleased with the new European target of 32%. The binding nature of the target will also provide additional certainty to the investors. I now call on the European Parliament and the Council to continue negotiating with the same commitment and complete the rest of the proposals of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. This will put us on the right path towards the Long-Term Strategy that the Commission intends to present by the end of this year”. Read the full statement here.
Artificial intelligence: Commission appoints expert group and launches European AI Alliance
Today, the Commission appointed 52 experts to advise the Commission on artificial intelligence (AI) and set up a collaboration platform to help build a community of stakeholders – the European AI Alliance. The expert group will help the Commission implement the European approach on AI presented on 25 April (press release, Q&A and factsheet). More specifically the experts will draft ethical guidelines by the end of this year and a set of recommendations by mid-2019. They will build on contributions from stakeholders through the European AI Alliance. Everyone interested in AI can join the European AI Alliance and address all aspects of AI in discussions via the platform and via dedicated events. Facilitating multistakeholder dialogue on how to advance AI innovation to increase trust and adoption, and to inform future policy discussions, is a commitment made as part of the recent G7’s Charlevoix Common Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence. It is also a key element of the European approach on AI and the Declaration of Cooperation on AI signed by 28 European countries. AI Alliance platform can be accessed here. Full list of experts is available here.
More Member States sign up to digital cooperation initiatives on supercomputers, artificial intelligence and innovation
Several Member States have signed recent cooperation declarations demonstrating their commitment to work together at EU level in digital policy areas. This morning Finland and Sweden signed the EuroHPC Declaration, signalling their willingness to join European cooperation on supercomputers. Austria signed the same declaration yesterday afternoon and Lithuania last week. Altogether 20 countries have joined this European initiative to build and deploy a world-class computing and data infrastructure in Europe. In addition, cooperation on artificial intelligence is growing, with Cyprus and Greece being the latest countries to sign up, bringing the number up to 28 European countries. Meanwhile, Croatia is the 20th country to have signed the Innovation Radar declaration, which aims to provide access to innovations supported by EU funding and the innovators behind them. Read more here.
State aid: Commission approves €165 million of investments by Croatia for the extension of the Istrian Y motorway
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a Croatian plan to prolong the Istrian Y motorway concession agreement between Croatia and the company Bina-Istra. This will allow €165 million of new investments to go ahead, while limiting distortions of competition.In March 2018, Croatia notified to the Commission a prolongation of the concession agreement until 2032. Under certain conditions relating to the repayment of Bina-Istra’s debt, the concession can be prolonged by up to 18 further months. The prolongation of the concession will allow Bina-Istra to finance the construction of a 28 km long second carriageway on the north-eastern side of the motorway. The Commission examined the measure under EU State aid rules on services of general economic interest and EU public procurement rules, according to which companies can be compensated for the extra cost of providing a public service on certain conditions. The Commission concluded that the measure will promote growth and unlock investment, while limiting the impact on motorway users, in line with EU State aid and public procurement rules. On this basis, the Commission approved the Croatian support granted through the prolongation of the Istrian Y motorway concession.Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The prolongation of the Croatian Y motorway concession will promote regional growth and investment, as well as enhancing citizens’ safety and reducing congestion. Our decision will ensure that the motorway extension can be built, while limiting any potential distortions of competition.” A press release is available here.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Noris Metallrecycling by Thyssen Alfa and Max Aicher Recycling
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Noris Metallrecycling GmbH by Thyssen Alfa Rohstoffhandel München GmbH (“Thyssen Alfa”), belonging to the Rethmann group, and Max Aicher Recycling GmbH, belonging to the Max Aicher group. All companies are based in Germany. Noris Metallrecycling manages two sites in Fürth and Nürnberg and is active in the collection and trade of non-ferrous scrap. It is currently jointly controlled by Thyssen Alfa and Scholz Recycling GmbH. Thyssen Alfa is active in the collection, processing and trade of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. Max Aicher Recycling manages five scrapyards in Bavaria and is active in the collection and trade of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the limited activities of Noris Metallrecycling within the European Economic Area. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8893.
Statement by Commissioner Gabriel following the cancellation of the first call for applications for WiFi4EU vouchers
Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel announced today that the first call for applications for WiFi4EU vouchers, for EU financing of free wireless internet hotspots in public spaces, has been cancelled due to a technical issue. The Commissioner said in a statement: “During the investigation, the Commission identified a flaw in the software supplied by contractors. This issue allowed some municipalities to apply in good faith before the call was opened, while it prevented others from doing so once the call had opened. The Commission is strongly attached to the principles of fairness, transparency and reliability. Therefore, as this technical issue prevented all municipalities from applying on an equal basis, I have asked my services to cancel this first call. The vouchers from this first round of applications will be added to the budget for the next call.” The Commissioner’s full statement is available here.
International Blood Donor Day: Statement by Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis
On 2018 World Blood Donor Day, let us remember that blood is the lifeline that connects us and that we all have a pivotal role to play in donating blood to help save lives. In particular, I would like to invite young people to come forward, to ensure that our blood banks do not diminish and are constantly replenished. To encourage blood transfusions and avoid related complications, including the transmission of diseases from donor to recipient the EU has laid out directivesthat set out safety standards for blood collection. Moreover, the European Commission is currently carrying out the first formal evaluation of this legislation since its adoption in 2002. The evaluation is taking an in-depth look to see if the legislation has achieved its objectives and if it is still fit for purpose. As there have been many scientific, societal and epidemiological changes since 2002, I believe that our citizens deserve to benefit from the latest developments in health and safety. Given that the aims of the World Blood Donor Day include raising awareness of the importance of regular and safe blood donation and thanking the thousands of unpaid blood donors worldwide, I am proud to say that there are 20 million blood donations in the EU every year, resulting in 26 million blood transfusions to patients. Together, let us do all we can to continue this trend and to ensure universal access to safe and timely blood donations. Read the full statement here.
Commissioner Vestager to hold two Citizens’ Dialogues in Denmark
Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager travels to Bornholm, Denmark to hold two Citizens’ Dialogues. Today, the Commissioner will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on the future of Europe, at 17.15 CEST. Tomorrow, the Commissioner will also participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on questions related to the competition portfolio as well as on topics currently at the top of the EU’s agenda, at 14.00 CEST. Both Citizens’ Dialogues can be followed live here and here, respectively.
Commissioner Thyssen gives speech at European Validation Festival
Tomorrow, 15 June, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will give a keynote speech at the second day of the European Validation Festival in Brussels. The aim of the Festival, organised for the very first time by the European Commission, is to raise awareness about the importance of validating non-formal and informal learning as part of one’s curriculum. Examples of non-formal and informal learning are language learning during travels, development of health care competences while taking care of a family member for several years, any kind of on-the-job training, and more. Commissioner Thyssen’s speech will be published here.
Commissioner Bieńkowska in Sofia to discuss access to public procurement markets
On Friday 15 June, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, SMEs and Entrepreneurship, will be opening a high level conference on access to public procurement markets in Sofia, Bulgaria. At the conference, organised with the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, she will be joined by Tomislav Donchev, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, and Juliane Kokott, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice. Every year public authorities tender out contracts for products and services worth 14% of EU GDP. The conference will discuss how to ensure that economic operators – including Europe’s many small and medium sized companies – can seize the opportunities offered by public procurement. It will also explore how to make sure that public procurement processes function efficiently by increasing transparency, preventing collusion, and allowing relevant redress mechanisms striking the right balance between protecting rights of economic operators and contracting authorities and avoiding unnecessary delays. The conference follows the Commission initiative in October 2017 to increase the impact of public investment through efficient and professional procurement. The initiative aims to ensure that procurement is carried out more efficiently and strategically and in a sustainable manner, while making full use of digital technologies to simplify and accelerate procedures.