02 Mar 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily


Commission proposes to increase de minimis aid to farmers to €25,000

The European Commission proposes to increase the maximum amount of agricultural state aid that Member States can distribute without prior notification from €15,000 to €25,000, over three years, per farm holding. The so-called “de minimis” aid has proved to be particularly useful in times of crisis as it enables a quicker reaction in helping farmers overcome emergencies, such as temporary liquidity gaps. The Commission is responding to Member States’ call to increase the ceiling of this aid which will allow them to distribute funds on a bigger scale and more quickly without going through the necessary notifications.  To ensure that no market distortions occur, an additional safeguard is introduced: a single agricultural sector cannot receive more than 50% of the total amount of the national de minimis aid. The Commission is also proposing to create a central registry which Member States will have to set up and use. This will make the monitoring of the aid’s use and distribution simpler. The Commission is currently seeking feedback on its proposal from public authorities across the EU having made use of this tool. The consultation remains open until 16 April 2018. The proposal is expected to be adopted in the summer by the Commission after consulting the Member States.


Future of EU finances – Commissioner Oettinger visits Malta

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, is visiting Malta, as part of his tour across EU Member States (#MFFtour27) aimed at gathering views on the future of EU finances and the EU’s multiannual budget post-2020 (#EUbudget). In Malta, the Commissioner meets Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He is also meeting with the Parliamentary Committees for Foreign and European Affairs and Economic and Financial Affairs at the House of Representatives. The Commissioner has met Minister for Finance, Mr Edward Sicluna, Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Ms Helena Dalli, and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Mr Carmelo Abela. In addition, he participated in a Citizens’ Dialogue. The Commission kicked off this debate on 28 June 2017 with the publication of its Reflection paper on the future of EU finances, available in all EU languages (also in Maltese). Then, on 14 February 2018, the Commission presented the Communication“A new, modern Multiannual Financial Framework for a EU that delivers efficiently on its priorities post-2020”. Stakeholders’ views will be taken into account when preparing the next MFF, to be presented in May 2018. See a speech “A Budget Matching our Ambitions” given by Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger at the conference “Shaping our Future” on 8 January 2018.    Mr Günther H. Oettinger will be in Dublin, on Tuesday 06 March to gather views on the Future of EU finances and the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

Commission responds to the US restrictions on steel and aluminium The European Commission took note yesterday of the announcement by the President of the United States of the imposition of additional import duties on EU exports of steel and aluminium to the United States. In reaction to the announcement President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Instead of providing a solution, this move can only aggravate matters. The EU has been a close security ally of the US for decades. We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk. The EU will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests. The Commission will bring forward in the next few days a proposal for WTO-compatible countermeasures against the US to rebalance the situation.” Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström added: “The root cause of problems in these two sectors is global overcapacity caused by non-market based production. This can only be addressed at the source and by working with the key countries involved. This go-it-alone action by the US will not help.” The new US import duties are set at 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium. Similar restrictions will also be imposed on exports from other countries. The investigations undertaken by the US Department of Commerce under Section 232 of the US Trade Expansion Act of 1962 concluded that steel and aluminium imports threatened US national security and recommended the imposition of trade restrictions. However, in essence, these measures are primarily intended to protect the US domestic industry from import competition. For more information see the full Commission statement.


Key agreements on radio spectrum pave the way for 5G

Yesterday evening the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a provisional political agreement on several crucial parts regarding the new telecom rules and radio spectrum policy. The agreement was reached on a number of key measures envisioned in the European Electronic Communications Code, including the availability of radio spectrum for 5G by 2020 in the EU, 20 years investment predictability for spectrum licences, and enhanced coordination and peer review of planned radio spectrum assignment procedures. The provisional agreement will prepare the ground for 5G network deployment across the EU, taking into account the previous agreements on the setting of radio spectrum fees, on eliminating cross-border interference and on deploying the small cells more easily. Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “We are laying the groundwork for the deployment of 5G across Europe. It is vital because many applications, from connected vehicles to smart cities and telemedicine, will not happen without first-class connectivity. Let’s now agree as soon as possible on other elements of the new EU telecoms rules that we proposed.” Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “The EU is ready to lead on 5G deployment. With this political agreement, co-legislators set in stone the roadmap on spectrum for 5G that we put forward last October and which paves the way for the 5G gigabit society envisioned by the Commission in 2025. It is time to deliver. This can happen only if telecom, vertical industries and public authorities agree to join efforts and go in the same direction.” The negotiations on other parts of the European Electronic Communications Code are ongoing. The goal of the co-legislators is to find an agreement as soon as possible under the Bulgarian Presidency. More information on the EU’s spectrum policy is available in the factsheets, here and here, as well as in a blog post of the Vice-President.


Eurostat: January 2018 compared with December 2017 – Industrial producer prices up by 0.4% in both euro area and EU28

In January 2018, compared with December 2017, industrial producer prices rose by 0.4% in both the euro area (EA19) and the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In December 2017, prices increased by 0.1% in both the euro area and the EU28Full text available here



Statement by Commissioner Stylianides on the killing of aid workers in Nigeria

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has released the following statement on yesterday’s attack:“An attack in north east Nigeria has resulted in many casualties, with humanitarian aid workers among the victims. This senseless violence is a grave violation of all humanitarian principles. Right now, our thoughts are with families, friends and organisations of all those affected and the most vulnerable people aid workers strive to help in Nigeria. Humanitarian workers are not a target. Saving lives should not cost lives. At this difficult time, the European Union stands by the Nigerian authorities and people. These attacks will never deter our commitment to support those most in need in Nigeria.” Find the statement here



Commissioner Bulc in Portugal to launch EU-funded rail projects

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc will be in Portugal on Monday, where she will be joining Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy and Portuguese Planning and Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques for the launch of several EU-funded rail projects. This includes the start of works on the conventional section between Elvas and Caia (which is the missing link to the Spanish border), as well as the launch of the public tender for the Évora-Elvas section. Once completed, these actions will greatly improve rail connections with Spain and onwards with the rest of Europe, while allowing for longer and faster trains to run on the network. The EU has contributed for a total amount of €184 million under the Connecting Europe Facility, the EU’s fund supporting infrastructure networks. This is an expression of European solidarity and an illustration of the Europe that empowers which President Juncker has called for. Later in the day, Prime Minister Costa, Minister Marques and Commissioner Bulc will attend a ceremony marking the start of works on the “Beira Baixa” rail line, which once completed will cut travel time between Covilhã and Guarda by 30 minutes and improve connections within Portugal and to Spain. Since 2007, the EU has been investing €121 million in this project under the EU Cohesion fund. Commissioner Bulc said: “These rail projects have received the financial backing of the EU, which shows our commitment to support Portugal and Spain in developing their transport network and connections with the rest of Europe. It also demonstrates how the EU budget can bring tangible benefits for people in the Member States. By pooling resources at the European level, we can deliver results that national budgets cannot. This is the added value of the EU budget and reinforces the need for an ambitious budget beyond 2020, which would allow us to continue funding these flagship transport projects.” Commissioner Bulc will stay in Portugal on Tuesday to participate in a citizens’ dialogue organised in Covilhã and meet in Lisbon with Members of the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

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