December infringements package: key decisions
In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission (‘Commission’) is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law. These decisions, covering various sectors and EU policy areas, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. The key decisions taken by the Commission are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 130 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further. More information here
Applications open for first “EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade” award
The Commission today opened the application period for a new Fair and Ethical Trade award for EU cities. The initiative is part of the EU’s broader efforts to ensure responsible supply chains that respect human rights, labour rights and the environment. The award aims to highlight the importance of the role played in that respect by cities. Candidates – EU cities with populations above 20,000 inhabitants – should demonstrate their involvement in grassroots activities creating awareness, incentives and producing specific impact supporting fair and ethical trade schemes. Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström said: “The award will recognise all the positive and innovative work done by cities across the European Union. In doing so, it will encourage others to follow their lead. It can also be a means to raise awareness of the kinds of policies that have the most impact at the local level. Fair and ethical trade schemes have converted consumers’ awareness into tangible benefits for producers and workers in developing countries”. The selection process will offer cities the opportunity to showcase what is being done to raise awareness about fair and ethical trade at city level and participants will, at the same time, learn from the approaches of other cities and local authorities through the exchange of good practices, ideas, initiatives, and innovations. The award ceremony will take place on 27 June 2018. The winner will obtain the European Commission’s financial support, as well as technical assistance from the International Trade Centre, the co-organiser of the award, to further its activities in the area of fair and ethical trade. For more details about the initiative and the application process see a dedicated website.
Future-proof migration management: European Commission sets out way forward
Ahead of the EU leaders’ thematic debate on migration to be held on 14 December, the Commission is today proposing a political roadmap to reach a comprehensive agreement by June 2018 on how to pursue a sustainable migration policy. As Europe is moving away from crisis management, an agreement on a stable and future-proof EU migration and asylum policy for the long term is needed in order to maintain the momentum an all fronts – internal and external. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Even if we are now moving away from crisis mode, it is evident that migration will remain a challenge for a generation of Europeans. Europe urgently needs to equip itself with future-proof means of managing migration responsibly and fairly. We have made solid progress in the past three years but now is the time to turn proposals into law, and law into practice.” The full press release and factsheets are available online.
EU funding for migration management: Commission supports asylum process in Greece with an extra €7.25 million
The European Commission has today awarded an additional €7.25 million in emergency assistance to Greece under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to support the Asylum Service in Greece. This will include support to the Greek Asylum Service for the reinforcement of their IT equipment and pool of interpreters, as well as professional training for staff in the regional asylum offices at the hotspots. The funding will also support the continuation of the deployment of police officers for security checks in the context of the asylum process on the islands. The €7.25 million awarded today complements the EU emergency funding allocated to Greek authorities and international organisations operating in Greece since 2015 under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) to €378 million. This comes on top of the €561 million EU contribution already allocated to Greece under the national programmes 2014-2020 from these funds (€322.8 million for AMIF and €238 million for ISF) and over €400 million from the Emergency Support Instrument.
Yemen crisis: EU announces additional €25 million in humanitarian aid as situation deteriorates
The European Commission has announced new humanitarian aid of €25 million to support civilians in desperate need in Yemen. This brings the total EU funding to €196.7 million since the start of the conflict in 2015. The current measures restricting humanitarian and commercial access together with the intense armed clashes and air strikes reported from Sana’a over recent days are threatening to deprive people even further from food, water and basic services. “Children, women and men urgently need access to food, water and medical services in Yemen. All parties to the conflict must give priority to protecting civilians and allow humanitarian aid to get to the people. Unless all restrictions on imports of food, fuel and medical supplies are lifted immediately, Yemen will suffer the largest famine in the world in decades. The EU is committed to supporting the Yemeni people. Our new funding will support key UN agencies working on the ground,”said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. The new aid will support the distribution of food by the World Food Programme as well as humanitarian logistical and transport capacity by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). The EU has also provided humanitarian assistance to Yemen during this year for the Cholera outbreak that affected several parts of the country. The EU has long reiterated that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict and called on all the parties to respect International Humanitarian Law, to urgently agree on a cessation of hostilities, and engage in a negotiation process.The full press release is available online.
Civil protection: EU helps mobilise emergency support for Albania floods
Following a request for assistance from Albania after heavy flooding in the country, the Commission has helped mobilise water pumps, power generators and other flood response items through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The EU responded swiftly to the request for assistancethanks to offers of assistance from Austria, France, Slovakia and Slovenia.Albania has also received support from the EU’s Copernicus satellite system which provided maps to the national civil protection authorities. An EU Civil Protection team is being deployed today and tomorrow to facilitate the reception of assistance and cooperation with Albanian authorities. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “We stand in solidarity to help the Albanian people and authorities at this time. Let me thank the strong support of our Member States who have provided valuable emergency supplies through our EU Civil Protection Mechanism. This is EU solidarity in action.”The Commission’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre is closely monitoring flooding across Europe. Photos and video stockshots of the Emergency Centre are available,
EU Syria Trust Fund: New €150 million assistance package to support Syrian refugees and host communities adopted
The Board meeting of the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis adopted new projects totalling €150 million to support refugees and their host communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Serbia. Projects will support the most affected municipalities in the region, agricultural livelihoods and food security, school construction, the upgrading of waste-water systems in areas with high refugee concentration, as well as refugee protection, research and advocacy. The newly adopted assistance package brings the overall amount of projects committed under the Trust Fund to €1.2 billion. EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn commented: “The actions adopted today by the EU Trust Fund will substantially boost local service delivery and economic development for refugees and host communities in the region. With €223 million mobilised by the Trust Fund for Lebanon and Jordan this year alone, the European Union continues to demonstrate its resolve to respond to the needs arising from the Syria conflict, and stand side by side with the refugees and the countries hosting them under difficult conditions”. The full press release is available here.
The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 takes off
Today, the celebrations for the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage are kicking off at the European Culture Forum in Milan.The European Year of Cultural Heritage will put the spotlight on Europe’s wealth of cultural heritage, showcasing its role in fostering a shared sense of identity and building the future of Europe. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, who officially launched the Year today, said: “Cultural heritage is at the heart of the European way of life. It defines who we are and creates a sense of belonging. Cultural heritage is not only made up of literature, art and objects but also by the crafts we learn, the stories we tell, the food we eat and the films we watch. We need to preserve and treasure our cultural heritage for the next generations. This year of celebrations will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage people, especially young people, to explore Europe’s rich cultural diversity and to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives. It allows us to understand the past and to build our future.” The purpose of the European Year of Cultural Heritage is to raise awareness of the social and economic importance of cultural heritage. Thousands of initiatives and events across Europe will provide the possibility to involve citizens from all backgrounds. The aim is to reach out to the widest possible audience, in particular children and young people, local communities and people who are rarely in touch with culture, to promote a common sense of ownership. A press release, Q&A, and a Spotlight brochure are available online. The Commission has also published today a special Eurobarometer on Cultural Heritage as well as 28 country specific factsheets on the results.
European Solidarity Corps: one year since the launch
Today is the first anniversary of the creation of the European Solidarity Corps. One year since the European Commission launched the European Solidarity Corps, 42,745 young people from all Member States have signed up. 2,166 of them have started their placements with 1,434 organisations. Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger, said: “Young people will work on key projects, make life-long friendships and do something good for our society under the quality label of the European Solidarity Corps.” Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics,said: “I am delighted that so many young people around Europe believe in solidarity and are committed to volunteering, training or working to support others. One year after the launch of the European Solidarity Corps, many of them are already making a difference, bringing relief and hope to those who need it. We now need to see a swift adoption of the dedicated legal base and budget for the coming years to make the potential benefits of the European Solidarity Corps a reality.” Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, added: “Participating in the European Solidarity Corps is not only a great way to show solidarity, it also allow young people to develop new skills and brings an added value to one’s CV. I hope our proposal for a stronger Solidarity Corps will be adopted soon so that we can increase opportunities for our European youth even more.” A press release and a factsheet are available online.
European Commission to intervene before the US Supreme Court in the Microsoft case
The European Commission has decided today to submit, on behalf of the European Union, an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in Case No. 17-2, United States v. Microsoft Cooperation. This case raises the question whether, under the US Stored Communications Act, US courts can require a US-based service provider to produce the contents of a customer’s email account stored on a server located outside the United States, in this case Ireland. Given that the transfer of personal data by Microsoft from the EU to the US would fall under the EU data protection rules, the Commission considered it to be in the interest of the EU to make sure that EU data protection rules on international transfers are correctly understood and taken into account by the US Supreme Court. The amicus brief will not be in support of either one of the parties.
State aid: Commission approves public funding to promote shift of freight from road to rail in Bolzano region, Italy
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules an Italian scheme to support the shift of freight traffic from road to rail in the Province of Bolzano. The measure will further EU environmental and transport objectives, whilst maintaining competition in the Single Market.The Italian scheme, which has an overall budget of €9 million and will run until 2019, aims to increase the share of rail and intermodal freight transport through the Brenner Corridor, an international transit route across the Alps linking Germany, Austria and Italy. The public support will be provided to freight transport services carried out by railway companies and multimodal operators along the Alto Adige/Südtirol section of the transport corridor between Brenner and Salorno, comprising 120 km of railway and 116 km of motorway. The aid takes the form of a subsidy to railway companies and multimodal transport operators that carry freight, ultimately reducing prices for end customers. The level of support companies can receive is based on the reduction in the external costs (pollution, noise, congestion and accidents) achieved by rail transport compared to road transport. A full press release is available in EN
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Polish bank guarantee scheme
The European Commission has authorised under EU State aid rules a prolongation of the Polish bank guarantee scheme until 31 May 2018. The scheme provides State guarantees for different types of solvent credit institutions in Poland. The Commission found the prolongation to be in line with its 2013 Banking Communication because it is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The scheme was initially approved in September 2009 and has been prolonged several times since then, the last time in July 2017. The Commission is authorising guarantee schemes on banks’ liabilities for successive periods of up to six months in order to be able to monitor developments and adjust conditions accordingly. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.49404.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of OKD by Prisko
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of OKD Nástupnická a.s. by Prisko a.s., both of the Czech Republic. OKD is active in the production and supply of hard coal in Central Eastern Europe. Prisko is a state-owned enterprise whose main activity is the management of assets of the Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic. The Czech State, through the Ministry of Finance, also owns the majority controlling stake in Czech electricity supplier ČEZ. ČEZ procures hard coal for some of its electricity plants in the Czech Republic. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given OKD’s moderate market position in the production and supply of hard coal in Central Eastern Europe, the existence of alternative hard coal suppliers in particular in Poland, and the pre-merger planned gradual closures of OKD’s mines. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8687.
Mergers: Commission clears the creation of a joint venture between ZV, MAGURA, BFO and Unicorn
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture by Zukunft Ventures GmbH (“ZV”), Gustav Magenwirth GmbH & Co. KG (“MAGURA”), Brake Force One GmbH (“BFO”) and Unicorn Energy GmbH, all of Germany. The joint venture will be active in the research, development, production and supply of anti-lock braking systems and drive systems for light electric vehicles, such as e-bikes, pedelecs or e-scooters. ZV, controlled by ZF Friedrichshafen AG holds interests in innovative start-ups and technology companies in the field of mobility. ZF Friedrichshafen is active worldwide in drive and gear technology as well as active and passive security technology. MAGURA, controlled by MAGENWIRTH Technologies GmbH, develops, produces and supplies hydraulic brake systems and other high-tech components for bicycles, e-bikes, pedelecs and motorbikes. BFO is active in the development of brake systems for two-wheeled vehicles. Furthermore, it develops e-bikes for the German automotive industry. Unicorn Energy, controlled by Preiß Beteiligungs-GmbH, is active in the development of drive systems for light electric vehicles. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that the companies’ activities do not overlap in the EEA. 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.8478.
Stepping up support for security and sustainable development in partner countries
The Commission and the High Representative welcome today’s adoption of the proposal on Capacity Building in support of Security and Development (CBSD), to improve the European Union’s support to security and sustainable development in partner countries. The addition ofCBSD, as a new type of assistance, to the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) will allow the EU to support partner countries more effectively in building their capacity to prevent and manage crises on their own. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini said: “Investing in the security of our partner countries, at their request, is in the EU’s and our partners’ interests. The EU is not only a political actor and an economic partner, but also a critical security provider, notably in Africa. We have already trained more than 30.000 policemen and women, soldiers, judges: with this new measure, we’ll now be able to complete our support by providing them the necessary tools to perform their duty. This will help empower our partner countries to tackle their own security, governance and stability, essential prerequisite for a sustainable development.” Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Mimica added: “There can be no real development without ensuring stability and people’s security. In order to achieve sustainable development, the EU will assist partner countries in providing effective and accountable security services to their citizens, which are consistent with democratic norms, good governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” The addition of CBSD assistance to the IcSP will allow supporting military actors, in exceptional circumstances, and only in cases when the military performs a development objective, in our partner countries. See a full press release here and a memo with more information here.
Commissioner Vella travels to China to strengthen maritime ties
Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, is participating in the first EU-China Blue Industry Cooperation Forum in Shenzhen City, China. Commissioner Vella will meet with Administrator Wang Hong to discuss ways to reinforce their cooperation beyond 2017, in particular their intention to upgrade their bilateral maritime cooperation to an EU-China Ocean Partnership. The Partnership would strengthen cooperation in key areas of ocean governance, such as the implementation of ocean-relevant Sustainable Development Goals, capacity building, promoting conservation and sustainable ‘blue growth’, maritime research, international fisheries management and the fight against Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Before traveling to Shenzhen, Commissioner Vella discussed EU-China cooperation in the fight against illegal fishing with Vice-Minister Yu, responsible for fisheries affairs, in Beijing. Furthermore, in the margins of the Commissioner’s visit, the EU and China will celebrate the successful conclusion of the 2017 EU-China Blue Year, a series of activities and events aiming to foster closer ties between both blocks on ocean matters. The EU-China Ocean Partnership is part of the EU’s Ocean Governance Initiative.