COLLEGE MEETING: EU budget: Commission proposes a modern budget for a Union that protects, empowers and defends
The Commission is today proposing a pragmatic, modern, long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period. It is an honest response to today’s reality in which Europe is expected to play a greater role in providing security and stability in an unstable world, at a time when Brexit will leave a sizeable gap in our budget. Today’s proposal responds to this twin challenge through cuts to expenditure and through fresh resources in equal measure. Funding for the Union’s new and main priorities will be maintained or reinforced which inevitably means some cuts in other areas. With the stakes so high, it is time to act responsibly. Today’s budget proposal is therefore both focused and realistic. The Commission’s proposal aligns the Union’s budget to our political priorities – as reflected in the positive agenda set out by President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address on 14 September 2016 and agreed by the EU27 Leaders in Bratislava on 16 September 2016 and in the Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017. By focusing on the areas where the Union is best placed to deliver, it is a budget for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today is an important moment for our Union. The new budget is an opportunity to shape our future as a new, ambitious Union of 27 bound together by solidarity. With today’s proposal we have put forward a pragmatic plan for how to do more with less. The economic wind in our sails gives us some breathing space but does not shelter us from having to make savings in some areas. We will ensure sound financial management through the first ever rule of law mechanism. This is what it means to act responsibly with our taxpayers’ money. The ball is now in the court of Parliament and Council. I strongly believe we should aim to have agreement before the European Parliament elections next year.” Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger in charge of Budget and Human Resources said: “This budget proposal is truly about EU added value. We invest even more in areas where one single Member State cannot act alone or where it is more efficient to act together – be it research, migration, border control or defence. And we continue to finance traditional – but modernised – policies, such as Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy, because we all benefit from the high standard of our agricultural products and regions catching up economically.” Press release is available here (all language versions will be available shortly) as well as a detailed Q&A and a set of factsheets.
State aid: Commission clears HRK 105.6 million in restructuring aid for Croatian shipping company Jadroplov
The European Commission has found Croatian plans for restructuring the shipping company Jadroplov to be in line with EU State aid rules. Jadroplov, which is based in Split and suffered from reduced volumes and falling prices in worldwide trade of dry bulk cargo has started carrying out a comprehensive restructuring program aimed at reducing costs, focusing on core business and alleviating the financial pressure stemming from high-indebtedness. Croatia is supporting the process with a subsidy and two State guarantees on bank loans for a total State support amount of HRK 105.6 million (around €14.2 million). The Commission found that Jadroplov’s restructuring plan will enable the company to become viable in the long term without continued State support. Jadroplov will make a significant own contribution to the cost of restructuring of HRK 144.9 million (around €19.5 million), in particular by securing financing from the private market and through asset sales. Moreover, the assets sale contributes to reducing the potential distortions of competition brought about by the restructuring aid. The Commission therefore concluded that the restructuring plan was in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the 2014 Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public State Aid Register under the case number SA.48121.
Big bang theory: Stephen Hawking’s last paper co-authored with EU funded researcher Thomas Hertog
Professor Hawking’s final theory of the origin of the universe, on which he worked in collaboration with Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven, was published in the latest issue of the renowned Journal of High-Energy Physics. The paper, which was submitted for publication before Hawking’s death earlier this year, predicts the universe is finite and far simpler than many current theories about the big bang say. In 2014, Professor Hertog was awarded a €2 million grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his 5 year-long project on holographic quantum cosmology. Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: “I am extremely pleased that yet again EU funded research lives up to its reputation of excellence. The universe might not be infinitely expanding, but the list of successful ERC grantees continues to grow. They dare to put concepts into question and push our knowledge over the edge into new realms.” Modern theories predict that our local universe came into existence, when the overall universe expanded after the big bang. It is widely believed that some regions of the universe then never stopped growing, others did. In their new paper, Hawking and Hertog say that this concept of eternal inflation is wrong. They predict that our universe is not a fractal structure, but reasonably smooth and what’s more finite. Their results, if confirmed by further work, would imply a significantly smaller range of possible universes. Professor Hertog said: “This kind of work is ambitious, high-risk, and lies entirely in the realm of the curiosity-driven, fundamental sciences. It fits in very well with the goals and the vision of the ERC. I used my ERC grant to set up a kind of school in theoretical cosmology which has proven to be a fertile and stimulating research environment to explore new ideas.” More information is available in an ERC press release and an ERC interview with Professor Hertog.
Tackling illegal content online: Commission launches a public consultation
Following the Commission’s Recommendation presented in March to further step up the work against all forms of illegal content ranging from terrorist content, incitement to hatred and violence, child sexual abuse material, counterfeit products and copyright infringement, the European Commission launched an open public consultation. All respondents are asked to share their experience and challenges faced with the spread and detection of illegal content online. The consultation aims at collecting information on perceptions and various opinions in regard to the effectiveness of voluntary measures to tackle illegal content online. The consultation also aims to gather information and views concerning the need for additional steps from the Commission in this area. The consultation targets specifically citizens, but also online platforms and other online hosting service providers, as well as organisations who detect and flag illegal content, digital rights organisations, competent authorities, law enforcement bodies, national governments and academia. On 28 September 2017, the Commission adopted a Communication with guidance on the responsibilities of online service providers regarding illegal content online, followed by a Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online on 1 March 2018. The Commission has published an inception impact assessment and is collecting evidence on the effectiveness of the voluntary measures and the scale of the problem. The Commission will explore before the end of 2018 possible further measures to improve the effectiveness of combating illegal content online. A factsheet is available here. The public consultation on the illegal content online will be open until 25 July and can be accessed here.