|International Women’s Day 2018: Statement by the Commission
Ahead of International Women’s Day, Europe is speaking out for women’s rights in Europe and abroad. Read a joint statement by fourteen Commissioners: “Equality between women and men is one of the fundamental values of the European Union enshrined in our treaties. Our Union is a pioneer in tackling gender-based discrimination and we can be proud of the progress achieved: Europe is one of the safest and most equal places for women in the world. But our work is not over – the path to full equality in practice is still a long one. Women and girls still face harassment, abuse and violence. And women are still too often prevented from breaking the glass ceiling, receiving lower pay and fewer opportunities for career and business development. We want girls and women to achieve equality in all aspects of life: access to education, equal pay for equal work, access to top positions in companies and politics as well as protection from violence..(…) Advancing women’s leadership and economic empowerment is an absolute priority for us. (…) Gender equality is not just about fairness and justice in Europe – it is also a necessity to achieve sustainable peace, security, development, economic prosperity and growth around the world. Investing in the potential of women and girls is an investment in our whole society and is the responsibility of men and boys as much as women and girls.” A Q&A detailing the Commission’s activities, as well as key figures, is available online
EU Civil Protection Forum 2018: EU and Tunisia agree to boost cooperation in civil protection
Today the European Commission signed an administrative arrangement with Tunisia to boost ties in civil protection and disaster risk management, at this year’s European Civil Protection Forum in Brussels. The document outlines key areas of cooperation on disaster prevention, preparedness and response on issues such as forest fires, floods and search and rescue missions. The signature of this arrangement is an important step in the reinforcement of the EU-Tunisia Privileged Partnership. On the occasion, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “Global challenges such as natural disasters require joint efforts and strong partnerships. The agreement is a win-win for both sides and will mean practical results for people during times of need. It is a tangible sign that EU cooperation with Tunisia is deep and strong. We are ready to support Tunisia as a key civil protection partner in our wider southern neighbourhood. This year’s EU Civil Protection Forum has been a great success and this is one of the concrete outcomes”. Under the new arrangement, Tunisia will benefit from trainings for experts, the setting up of joint emergency response plans as well as closer cooperation with the EU’s Copernicus satellite system. Read the full press release here.
TRADE: Commission extends anti-dumping measures on Chinese steel products
The Commission today prolonged the existing anti-dumping measures on Chinese imports of seamless pipes and tubes of stainless steel for another five years. The duties, ranging from 48.3% to 71.9% were imposed initially in 2011, providing a level-playing field and a breathing space for EU producers, based among others in France, Spain and Sweden. The review investigation initiated in December 2016 showed that dumping from China continued, andthat, if the measures were to lapse, significant quantities of dumped Chinese exports might be directed to the EU market. The measures on pipes and tubes used in the chemical and petrochemical industries will then continue at their current level. This is yet another action taken by the EU to defend EU companies and jobs against unfair practices in the international steel trade. The steel sector suffers from a global surplus that has driven down steel prices to unsustainable levels in recent years and had a damaging impact on EU producers and related industries. The EU is using the full potential of its trade defence toolbox to ensure fair conditions for its producers and their ability to maintain jobs in the sector. 53 measures are now in place on steel and iron products, including 27 on products coming from China. As a long-term solution to the overcapacity problem the EU privileges however measures that tackle the root causes of the crisis. To that purpose, the Commission engages in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity that agreed last November on an ambitious package of concrete policy solutions to tackle the pressing issue of global overcapacity in the steel sector.
Commission hosts roundtable with industry representatives on the taxation of the digital economy
Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Taxation and Customs Union, will tomorrow meet digital business leaders in Brussels to discuss challenges related to the taxation of the digital economy. The roundtable meeting comes ahead of Commission measures to tackle this topic, due to be presented later in March. Following the Commission’s thorough public consultation which ended earlier this year, the gathering will provide another opportunity to engage with representatives of online companies and to explain the rationale and main drivers behind the Commission’s agenda on digital taxation. Ahead of the meeting, Commissioner Moscovici said: “We cannot wait for global agreement on such an urgent topic. The Commission will soon present its proposals for how to tax digital companies in a fair and future-proof way. I want online and digital companies to be part of the conversation so that we can work towards the best possible outcome for the European economy. We also have to ensure that both digital and traditional have room to grow in the EU. We must act fast and decisively if we are to protect Member States’ tax revenues.” The Commission has made the completion of the EU Digital Single Market a top priority in order to encourage further economic growth, innovation and job creation. Separately, one of the core objectives underpinning its tax agenda is to provide a business-friendly tax system for companies operating in the EU, while ensuring a level-playing field for all companies. In September 2017, the Commission published its Communication on the way forward for this issue at the EU level. This was followed by a call from EU leaders asking the Commission to present initiatives to ensure that online companies are taxed fairly.
Cohesion Policy invests in better, safer roads in Romania
Over €272 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is invested in the construction of a motorway between the towns of Sebes and Turda, near Cluj, in the Romanian region of Transylvania, on the core Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T). “Romanians living in this region will enjoy safer, more comfortable travel conditions. This motorway will also benefit the development of the regional economy, with positive effects on trade and tourism,” commented Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Crețu. The EU-funded project will connect two existing motorways – A1 Orastie – Sibiu (Southern end) and A3 Gilau – Campia Turzii (Northern end) and increase speed and road safety.
€123 million in EU support for around 5000 small businesses in Baltic countries
The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Swedbank have signed a microfinance agreement aimed at supporting micro-businesses in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI). Thanks to the financial backing of the European Commission, the European Investment Fund is providing a guarantee which will enable Swedbank Baltic to provide up to €123 million financing to microbusinesses in Baltic countries over the next three years. The deal also benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the core element of the Investment Plan for Europe. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “With the help of EU funding, Swedbank is increasing the access to finance in Baltic countries for micro-enterprises, including young entrepreneurs and the unemployed. This will benefit around 5000 small businesses in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This financial support shows again that the European Commission is fully committed to boosting employment in Europe and getting more people into jobs, especially the most vulnerable people on the labour market.” The European Commission’s Programme for Employment and Social Innovation aims at supporting EU’s objective of high level employment, adequate social protection, fighting against social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions. The EaSI guarantee scheme was launched in June 2015 by the European Commission and is managed by EIF. More information can be found in this press release.
Investment Plan gives a boost to Croatia’s tourism sector
The European Investment Bank (EIB) signed today a loan of €16 million with Valamar Riviera d.d, Croatia’s leading tourism company. This is the first EIB transaction in Croatia with a private sector company that benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the financing component of the Investment Plan for Europe. The EFSI-backed loan will co-finance the completion of the Valamar Girandella Resort in Rabac on the Istrian peninsula with the construction of its first five-star “Kinderhotel”, a family-friendly resort focused on children’s activities. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Applying for financing from the European Investment Bank was a smart move by Valamar. The loan is guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments so the EIB was able to lend to a smaller-sized business than it traditionally does. As tourism is one of Croatia’s key sectors, this project will bring a boost to the economy and sustain local jobs. I can only encourage more businesses in Croatia to contact the EIB and see how EFSI can support their growth plans.” Full press release is found here.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Westinghouse by Brookfield
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Westinghouse Electric UK Holdings Limited of the UK and TSB Nuclear Energy Services Inc. of the US (together “Westinghouse”), by Brookfield of Canada. Westinghouse is active in the nuclear industry and supplies a wide range of products and services covering the entire lifecycle of nuclear power plants. Brookfield is an asset manager, with a focus on property, renewable power, infrastructure and private equity. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the activities of the companies do not overlap. 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.8818.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Signode by Crown
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Signode Industrial Group Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd. by Crown Holdings, Inc., both of the US. Signode is active in the supply of transit packaging consumables and related equipment. Crown designs, manufactures and sells packaging products for consumer goods. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are no horizontal overlaps or vertical relationships between the activities of the companies. The operation 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.8796.
Commission and 9 countries renew efforts to protect Baltic Sea
Today, Commissioner Karmenu Vella and Ministers of Environment from 9 Baltic countries are meeting in Brussels in the framework of the Helsinki Convention on Baltic Marine Environment Protection (HELCOM). They are expected to agree a Ministerial Declaration with HELCOM joint commitments to protect the Baltic Sea until 2030. Commissioner Vella said: “HELCOM is a true example of successful regional ocean governance. The Baltic Sea Region is leading the way with marine protected areas now covering more than 12% of the Sea. It has been designated as Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Emissions Control Area. But we need to step up efforts to address other challenges such as eutrophication, marine litter and underwater noise. A Declaration under EU Presidency by the HELCOM Ministers confirms the commitment by its members to work together to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea.” The recent HELCOM report on the State of the Baltic Sea shows that the sea is still heavily affected by eutrophication and more action is needed to reach the environmental goals set in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan. Reduction of eutrophication could result in annual economic benefits of € 4 billion. In light of these, Ministers are to commit to step up their efforts towards the goals of the Baltic Sea Action plan and to update it by 2021, in order to address emerging issues such as marine litter and climate change. The 9 Baltic countries concerned are Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Russia. The EU, as a contracting party, chairs HELCOM until June 2018. More information, including the Ministerial Declaration will be made available here.