EU-Turkey High-level Economic Dialogue
The EU-Turkey High-Level Economic Dialogue is taking place today in Brussels, co-chaired by Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The purpose of the Dialogue is to contribute to strengthening economic relations between the two partners, and to create a platform to bring business circles together. Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, responsible for Trade, will also participate in the High-level Economic Dialogue. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister will be accompanied by Minister for Economy Nihat Zeybekci, and Minister for Customs and Trade Bülent Tüfenkc. Representatives of EU and Turkey’s business associations will also participate in the discussions. Vice-President Katainen and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek will hold a press point at the VIP corner at 13.30 which you can follow on EbS. At the conclusion of the Dialogue, a press release will be available online.
Agreement on Commission proposal to tighten rules for safer and cleaner cars
Yesterday, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have reached a political agreement to fully overhaul the EU framework for type-approval and testing of vehicles. The new rules will lead to higher quality and independence of type-approvals and vehicle testing; increased checks of cars already on the EU market; and stronger European oversight. Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, commented: “With tighter rules which are policed more strictly, the car industry has the chance to regain consumers’ trust. Just a few weeks after the Commission’s clean mobility proposals, the agreement marks yet another milestone in the EU’s wider efforts to reinforce our car industry’s global leadership in clean and safe vehicles.” Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Dieselgate has revealed the weaknesses of our regulatory and market surveillance system. We know that some car manufacturers were cheating and many others were exploiting loopholes. To put an end to this, we are overhauling the whole system. After almost two years of negotiations, I welcome that the key elements of our proposal have been upheld, including real EU oversight and enforcement powers. In the future, the Commission will be able to carry out checks on cars, trigger EU-wide recalls, and impose fines of up to €30,000 per car when the law is broken.” Under current rules, the EU sets the legal framework but national authorities are fully responsible for checking car manufacturers’ compliance. Following the Volkswagen revelations in September 2015, the Commission therefore proposed a far-reaching reform in January 2016. This reform plays into the overall efforts by the Commission to support the transition to safer and cleaner cars – be it new and improved car emissions tests or proposals for new CO2 emissions targets. More in detail information is available in a press release on yesterday’s agreement and FAQs on the Commission proposal.
EU boosts aid in Ethiopia amid worsening humanitarian situation
The European Commission has announced new emergency assistance of €15 million to help people in Ethiopia who are facing increasingly dangerous levels of food insecurity due to severe drought, bringing total EU humanitarian funding in 2017 to over €91 million. The support comes as the number of refugees arriving from neighbouring countries such as Eritrea, Somalia, and especially South Sudan is constantly increasing, as is the number of internally displaced people. “Ethiopia is facing humanitarian crises on many sides – from those devastated by drought to the challenges brought by an upsurge in refugees from neighbouring countries. The EU is committed to support those in need in Ethiopia. Our new aid will enable humanitarian organisations to step up emergency food assistance and the treatment of malnutrition,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. The funding will also help address water supply, livestock protection, shelter and protection, notably for the increasing numbers of internally displaced people.The EU also provides development aid for Ethiopia worth €745 million over 2014-2020 through the European Development Fund. The full press release is available here.
Security Union: Council paves the way to improve the tools available to judicial and police authorities to fight terrorism and cross-border crime
Today, EU Justice Ministers agreed on general approaches on two European Commission proposals that contribute to completing the Security Union. First, the European Commission’s proposal extending the European Criminal Records Information System to third country nationals will make it easier for judicial authorities to exchange information on criminal convictions of non-EU citizens. Secondly, the proposed Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders will simplify the current procedures and improve the cross-border enforcement of freezing and confiscation orders. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “We are equipping judicial and police authorities with the tools to improve the fight against terrorism and cross-border crime. Time is of the essence; we need cross-border cooperation to be faster to catch criminals and terrorists wherever they are in the EU. A faster exchange of criminal records, which include fingerprints, will help authorities know easily the criminal past of anyone they arrest. With only 2% of criminal proceedings recovered, facilitating the confiscation and freezing of assets across borders will help cut off criminals’ financial means. I urge the Parliament and the Council to conclude their work as quickly as possible. European citizens deserve more security.” The trilogues between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council – on both proposals- should start as soon as the European Parliament votes on its position early 2018.
Antitrust: International Skating Union’s restrictive penalties on athletes breach EU competition rules
The European Commission has decided that International Skating Union (ISU) rules imposing severe penalties on athletes participating in speed skating competitions that are not authorised by the ISU are in breach of EU antitrust law. The ISU must now change these rules. The Commission’s investigation found that: i) under the ISU eligibility rules, in place since 1998, speed skaters participating in competitions that are not approved by the ISU face severe penalties up to a lifetime ban from all major international speed skating events. The ISU can impose these penalties at its own discretion, even if the independent competitions pose no risk to legitimate sports objectives; ii) by imposing such restrictions, the ISU eligibility rules restrict competition and enable the ISU to pursue its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and organisers of competing events; iii) the ISU eligibility rules prevent independent organisers from putting together their own speed skating competitions because they are unable to attract top athletes. This has limited the development of alternative and innovative speed skating competitions, and deprived ice-skating fans from following other events. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “International sports federations play an important role in athletes’ careers – they protect their health and safety and the integrity of competitions. However, the severe penalties the International Skating Union imposes on skaters also serve to protect its own commercial interests and prevent others from setting up their own events. The ISU now has to comply with our decision, modify its rules, and open up new opportunities for athletes and competing organisers, to the benefit of all ice skating fans”. A full press release is available in here
Banking regulation: Commission welcomes Basel Committee’s agreement on post-crisis reforms
The European Commission welcomes the agreement at the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to further strengthen the international post-crisis rules for banks and sets out its approach to these new rules in the EU. This agreement is the result of a strategic review of those international reforms which was conducted by the Basel Committee with the aim of improving the balance between simplicity, comparability and risk sensitivity. The agreement will now be subject to a thorough Commission consultation and impact assessment to evaluate the consequences for the EU economy before it can be translated into EU law taking into account the results of the impact assessment. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “EU banking regulation must provide a foundation for a stable banking system that supports the European economy. International cooperation in this matter is crucial to ensure financial stability and a level playing field for banks globally. The measures that were agreed by the Basel Committee represent the last major piece of the regulatory reform that was launched in the wake of the financial crisis. It is now essential that all major jurisdictions implement all elements of this agreement. The Commission will now carry out a thorough and detailed impact assessment.” Full press release available here.
€1 billion in loans for cultural and creative SMEs thanks to Cultural and Creative Sector Guarantee Facility
In order to strengthen the cultural and creative sector in Europe, the Cultural and Creative Sector Guarantee Facility of the Creative Europe programme has received an additional €60 million through the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). With this additional budget, the size of Guarantee Facility will increase from EUR 121 million to €181 million and is expected to generate more than €1 billion in loans for thousands of cultural and creative SMEs. More banks and other financial institutions from across Europe will now be able to increase financing for projects in the cultural and creative sectors. Since July 2016, agreements have already been signed in Spain, France and Romania, using this innovative financial instrument to provide over €230 million in loans for cultural and creative enterprises. With the increased funds, four additional agreements will be soon signed with financial intermediaries in Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium. The guarantee facility will help SMEs to get better access to funding for producing films, TV and radio shows, video games, but also to invest in wide selection of creative projects involving architecture, archives, libraries, museums, theatres, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, design, festivals, music, literature, publishing and visual arts. Set up under the cross-sectoral strand of the Creative Europe programme, the Cultural and Creative Sector Guarantee Facility is the first EU investment instrument to make access to finance easier for the culture and creative sectors. Access to finance can be difficult for these sectors because of the novelty of their projects, the uncertain demand and limited expertise of banks when dealing with these types of projects. The EU’s financial support to the creative sector complements the push for improved cross-border access to European produced cultural content, e.g. in its ongoing copyright reform. The announcement for additional funding coincides with yesterday’s launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and follows up the EU’s leaders’ discussions on education and culture on 17 November in Gothenburg (see also the factsheet). Further details on the additional funding are available here.
Bumper week for Juncker Plan projects across Europe
This week the European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed several deals under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the core of the Investment Plan for Europe. The EFSI financing agreements are with construction rental company Ramirent in Finland, healthcare company Grifols in Spain, broadband provider Cellnex in Spain and Italy, water company Oasen in the Netherlands, and green tech company Viking Heat Engines in Germany. We also signed an agreement under the Advisory Hub to provide support services to SMEs in Bulgaria, as well as an SME financing agreement with Credit du Nord in France, and Espira equity fund, which finances projects in companies with gender-balanced boards in Central-Eastern Europe. Commenting on the Viking Heat project, Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, said: “EFSI has already mobilised hundreds of billions of euros, investing in innovative projects and concrete solutions. Viking Heat Engines is a perfect example of a project which is smart, sustainable, profitable, and above all, disruptive: instead of energy going to waste, it turns waste into energy.”
EU-funded Nuremberg-Berlin high speed line opens
Today marks the official opening of the high-speed rail line between Nuremberg and Berlin, a project in which the European Union has invested close to €380 million over the past years. It will contribute to the overall competitiveness of rail travel, not only in Germany but along the entire Scandinavian Mediterranean Corridor of the EU transport network. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Crețu said, “The EU invests for faster, greener, smoother connections across Europe, for the direct benefit of citizens. The official opening of this high-speed rail line today is great news.” Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, “This line will bring tangible benefits for passengers by reducing travel time from Berlin to Munich by two and half hours. It will also boost the competitiveness of railways in Europe. More than ever, we need a strong and open rail sector to reach our ambitious climate objectives and shift to low-emission mobility.” EU funding to this project was drawn from the European Regional Development Fund (€320.6 million) and from TEN-T programme (€57.7 million), the EU’s financial mechanism supporting infrastructure networks now replaced by the Connecting Europe Facility.
SME initiative: two new agreements unlock €50 million of fresh funding for Finnish businesses
The Commission welcomes the signature of two new agreements under the SME Initiative between the European Investment Bank Group, Aktia Bank and Savings Banks Group in Finland. With a contribution of €20 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the SME initiative boosts the competitiveness of Finnish small businesses via innovative ways to invest Cohesion Policy funds. These two new agreements will generate €50 million of additional funding for the direct benefit of Finnish businesses. Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen said: “To turn good ideas into good products, small businesses sometimes just need a little boost – and this is what the SME initiative is here for. This Cohesion Policy programme has been a complete success in Finland, delivering on the Investment Plan’s objectives of making a smarter use of financial resources.” Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu added: “The SME initiative in Finland has delivered, and fast. It has now reached 100% of its objectives, with €400 million available overall for Finnish entrepreneurs and startups.” A press release will be shortly available on the European Investment Fund’s website.
North Sea: Agreement on Commission proposal for a multi-annual fisheries management plan
The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission earlier this morning reached a political agreement on a multi-annual management plan for demersal fish stocks in the North Sea. This comprehensive plan covers more than 70% of the fishing sector, sets catch limits based on science and brings decision-making closer to the fishermen. The EU co-legislators have reached an agreement during an informal trilogue, on the Commission’s proposal from August 2016. The new North Sea plan is the first multi-annual management plan for this sea basin and the second for the EU, following the one for the Baltic Sea agreed in 2016. Commissioner Karmenu Vella stated: “I am very pleased with today’s political agreement, as it signals the EU’s determination to protect the future of our fishing industry and coastal communities. The North Sea is one of Europe’s richest fishing grounds and only with long-term and sound planning, we can provide the necessary predictability and profitability to our fishermen for the long run. Today’s agreement shows that the EU lives up and continues to pursue its ambitious commitments for more sustainable fisheries made at the Our Ocean Conference 2017 in Malta“. The fisheries of the North Sea are highly complex, involving vessels from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, as well as Norway. Vessels use a variety of fishing equipment and their catches consist of a mix of different species, such as cod and haddock, or plaice and sole. Today’s agreement is for a plan for demersal fish stocks, i.e. fish that live and feed near the bottom of the sea. It includes ranges within which sustainable catch limits can be set on the basis of the best available scientific advice, as well as rules on recreational fisheries where it has a significant impact on the relevant stocks.
EU makes sure that your car dials 112 in case of emergency
In order to ensure that emergency auto-call devices meet requirements ahead of their compulsory installation in all new cars and vans from April 2018, the EU is testing manufacturers’ eCall solutions and has issued guidelines to type-approval centres. Manufacturers have been sending in their products to the Joint Research Centre’s laboratory in Ispra, Italy, where EU scientists test and verify their conformity. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Any legislation is only as good as its implementation. The EU’s push to save lives by mandating eCall will work only if the on-board units are fitforpurpose. That is why the European Commission’s science service has been reaching out to industry, assessing their devices and providing feedback to manufacturers on their models and to test centres on their procedures.” Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner responsible for Digital Economy and Society, said: “eCall is a tangible example of how the EU can bring real benefits of digital technology to its citizens, no matter where they are in the EU. By combining the single EU emergency number – 112 – with the EU’s Satellite navigation system and GSM technology, it saves lives by making emergency responses faster.” Last year, 25,500 people lost their lives in traffic accidents, and a further 135,000 were seriously injured. This calls for continued efforts to save lives on EU roads. eCall will make a significant contribution to road safety by automatically dialling 112 – Europe’s single emergency number – in the event of a serious accident. Then, Europe’s satellite navigation system – using Galileo satellites – will locate the car. This will cut emergency services’ response time by up to 50% in the countryside and 40% in urban areas, which could save up to 2500 lives across Europe each year according to estimates. The ongoing campaign – launched and coordinated by the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency – is completely free of charge and voluntary, with results kept confidential and covered by individual non-disclosure agreements.
Mergers: Commission clears the creation of a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik and Pepperl+Fuchs
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture between Lufthansa Technik and Pepperl+Fuchs, both of Germany. The joint venture will be active in the research, development and sale of sensor based automation solutions for aircraft maintenance services including aircraft engines and components specifically. Lufthansa Technik, which is controlled by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, is active in the provision of maintenance, repair and overhaul services for the aerospace sector worldwide. Pepperl+Fuchs is active in the development, manufacture and sale of electrical explosion protection and sensor technology products for process automation solutions and systems for a variety of industrial sectors. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that the joint venture would not have significant activities in 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.8583.
Ahead of International Anti-Corruption Day: Surveys shows that corruption remains a concern for EU citizens and companies
Today, ahead of the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Corruption is an affront to the very foundations of our political, economic and social values and to the well-being of our societies. It is no surprise that corruption continues to be a major concern for a large number of citizens and businesses across the EU. Corruption is unacceptable. It harms the EU as a whole by choking off investment, undermining trust in governments and enabling organised crime. If we want to boost business confidence, improve the investment climate, spend public money more efficiently and increase our economic, social and territorial cohesion, we must step up efforts to fight corruption more effectively. We need to fight it together and we will continue to engage with all Member States to prevent and eradicate corruption and protect our citizens.” The European Commission is today releasing two new Eurobarometer surveys looking at citizens’ and businesses’ attitudes to and experiences of corruption. The results show that, whilst corruption is generally considered less widespread than in previous surveys, 68% (-8%) of Europeans still believe that corruption is widespread in their country and 37% (-8%) of companies cite corruption as a problem for doing business. Since 2015, the Commission has presented several measures to step up the fight against corruption, including new rules to protect the EU’s financial interests against fraud and corruption by strengthening administrative and criminal procedures, and establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. New legislation has been initiated to ensure the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders, criminalise money laundering, extend cash controls and strengthen legislation on anti-money laundering. The surveys on public attitudes to corruption and businesses’ attitudes to corruption are available online. More information on the Commission’s activities to fight corruption is also available online.
Commission welcomes Member States’ agreement on the European Accessibility Act, but calls for more ambition on responsibilities of public authorities
The European Commission welcomes the general approach found by the Member States at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers Council yesterday on the Commission’s proposal to make many everyday products and services accessible to people with a disability (European Accessibility Act). Following the agreement, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “Two years after I put this proposal on the table, Member States have finally come to an agreement. Today’s general approach is a very important signal to 80 million people with disabilities in the European Union. The Accessibility Act will establish the world’s largest market for accessible products, which will not only bring down prices, but will contribute to enabling disabled persons to participate in society and the labour market. It also responds to our shared responsibility to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This being said, I would have wished for a more ambitious approach by the Member States. […] This agreement is of course not the end of the process and I look forward to starting the final negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission as soon as possible. […] Last but not least, following the agreement found in July, I am very happy with the Council’s final approval to add 13 new or stricter exposure limits to EU legislation to better protect workers from cancer-causing substances. This is a milestone in the protection of workers’ health and safety, in particular against cancer at the workplace which is the first cause of work-related deaths in the EU. I am now looking forward to a swift deal between the European Parliament and the Council on the second list of substances, which we have submitted in January 2017.” The agreement on the Accessibility Act between Member States paves the way for final negotiations with the European Parliament, which already adopted its position in September 2017. More information can be found in the full statement.
Joint Statement of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland for Human Rights Day 2017
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland have issued a joint statement, ahead of Human Rights Day on Sunday 10 December, calling on governments and opposition politicians across Europe to recommit to promoting and maintaining human rights standards. First Vice-President Timmermans and Secretary General Jagland said: “Recent trends in Europe show that the overall commitment to human rights is not what it once was… The warning lights are flickering and it is time to heed them. We call on every European government and every European politician to heed the warning and get to work. All our European states must recommit to a culture of human rights, abide by the commitments that they have made and implement the rule of law on that basis. Only then can every European enjoy the opportunity to live a full life without the threat of discrimination or abuse.
No region left behind: launch of the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition
On Monday 11 December Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy will launch a Platform for Coal Regions in Transition. This Platform is one of the elements of the Coal and Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition Initiative, a key action from the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package (IP/16/4009). The aim of the Platform is to assist Member States and regions in their efforts to modernise their economies and prepare them to deal with the structural and technological transition in coal regions. The EU’s commitment to a clean energy transition is irreversible and non-negotiable. In this shift to a modern and clean economy the goal of the Commission is to ensure that no regions are left behind when moving away from an economy driven by fossil fuels. The Platform will facilitate the development long-term strategies in coal and carbon intensive regions to boost the clean energy transition by bringing more focus on social fairness, new skills and financing for the real economy. To this end the Commission will bring together European Union officials, national, regional and local stakeholders involved in the transition to help them foster partnerships and learn from each other’s experiences. The Platform’s activities will initially focus on coal regions,with the aim to expand to carbon-intensive regions in the future. The launch takes place on the eve of the “One Planet Summit” convened by the French President Emmanuel Macron to mark the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate. At the summit, the Commission will reconfirm its commitment for a forward-looking climate policy and show that the EU is leading the fight against climate change by example and through action. The Platform launch event on Monday in Strasbourg is open to media and will take place at the Hemicycle of the Regional Council of the Grand Est Region in Strasbourg, see full programme. More information is available on the website of the Energy Union and forward-looking climate change policy. A joint press conference is scheduled at 17:00 CET at Room Marcel Rudloff, Europe by Satellite will transmit.