|EU Nature Action Plan: Commission issues guidance for renewable energy projects
As part of the “EU Action plan for nature, people and the economy” the European Commission has today issued two guidance documents on energy transmission infrastructure and hydropower, explaining the steps that need to be taken under EU nature legislation when such energy projects are prepared. They aim to improve the implementation of the EU biodiversity legislation (Birds and Habitats Directives) on the ground while ensuring a safe, sustainable and affordable energy supply across Europe. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said, “Our objective is to ensure that EU nature laws deliver for nature, people and the economy. Today’s guidance documents offer practical recommendations to guarantee that renewable energy developments do not pose further threat to our species, habitats and Natura 2000 sites. By allowing everybody involved in the preparation of renewable energy projects to consider environment early in the process, they will facilitate projects that work with nature, and not against it.” The guidance documents are primarily designed for national authorities and stakeholders involved in the planning and approval of energy projects. They underline the need to take into consideration, early on, the ecological requirements of protected species and habitats and to include, wherever possible, measures to improve their conservation. More information is available here.
President Juncker addresses members of the Parliament of Wallonia and the Flemish Parliament
In the context of Europe Day, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will address both the Wallonian and Flemish parliaments of Belgium. This afternoon, he will address members of the Parliament of Wallonia, in Namur. Following last week’s unveiling of the long-term European budget, he will explain the priorities proposed by the Commission for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. He will then meet with the Minister-President of Wallonia, Mr Willy Borsus. Tomorrow, on Europe Day itself, the President will address members of the Flemish Parliament, in Brussels. He will then meet Minister-President Geert Bourgeois. The President’s speeches can be followed live on EbS +.
European Commission and EIB further clarify statistical treatment of Energy Performance Contracts
Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Commission, and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are launching a new Practitioner’s Guide on the Statistical Treatment of Energy Performance Contracts today. The Guide explains in detail how these contracts work and gives a clear overview of the potential impact on government finances. This will assist public authorities in taking better-informed decisions when preparing and procuring their EPCs. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner responsible for Eurostat, said: “I am very pleased to launch a new guide today that clarifies how investments in energy efficient infrastructure should be statistically treated. This will help all stakeholders involved in commissioning, financing and undertaking energy performance contracts. This is a win-win for public authorities and private stakeholders, with a clear understanding of the impact on the national budget.” Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, Miguel Arias Cañete, added: “Thanks to this guide, it will be easier for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings – which make up more than 10% of the overall EU building stock – to invest for the purpose of improving energy efficiency. Energy efficiency measures are also an important means to combat energy poverty, which this Commission aims at tackling at the roots.” The Guide is also a helpful tool to provide clarity to public and private promoters in the context of the Investment Plan and remove perceived barriers to investment. It follows the Eurostat Guidance note on the revised treatment of Energy Performance Contracts in government accounts, issued in September 2017, and explains its practical application, making use of technical assistance resources from the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH). More information is available in this press release. The Practitioner’s Guide can be found here.
State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into restructuring support for Romanian National Uranium Company
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether various public support measures from Romania in favour of Compania Nationala a Uraniului SA (‘CNU’, the National Uranium Company) are in line with EU rules on State aid to companies in difficulty. On 12 June 2017, Romania notified to the Commission a plan for the restructuring of CNU. The restructuring plan foresees around €95 million (RON 441 million) of support to CNU, in the form of grants, subsidies, debt write-off and debt-to-equity conversion. It follows an urgent rescue aid loan of around €13.3 million (RON 62 million) to keep the company afloat, which the Commission temporarily approved on 30 September 2016. EU State aid rules only allow a State intervention for a company in financial difficulty under specific conditions, requiring in particular that the company is subject to a sound restructuring plan to ensure its return to long-term viability, that the company contributes to the cost of its restructuring and that any competition distortions are limited. At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the planned restructuring aid is in line with these conditions. The Commission will now investigate further to find out whether its initial concerns are confirmed. The opening of an investigation gives interested third parties the opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The full press release is available online here
Citizens’ Dialogue with Commissioner Gabriel in Sofia
Tomorrow, on 9 May, on the occasion of Europe Day, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, will take part in a Citizens’ Dialogue in Sofia, Bulgaria. Taking place at Sofia University, the Commissioner will be on stage with Lilyana Pavlova, Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Iskra Mihaylova, MEP, Chair of Committee on Regional Development. They will notably talk about the future of youth in digital Europe. The moderator will be TV journalist Peter Georgiev, from the Bulgarian National Television. The Citizens’ Dialogue can be followed live on the European Commission Representation in Bulgaria website and via Facebook.
Commissioner Jourová on official visit to Berlin
Commissioner Jourová will be in Berlin on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 May to meet her counterparts in the new German government and deliver a speech on data protection. On Monday, she will meet Justice Minister, Katherina Barley, the Minister for Family, Senior, Woman and Youth, Franziska Giffey and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Interior Helmut Teichmann. She will then deliver a keynote speech to open the 8th European Data Protection days. Finally, she will exchange views with Klaus Müller, the Managing Director of the Association of German consumer protection agencies (VZBV). On Tuesday, she will participate in an extraordinary session of the Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection committee of the Bundestag. She will then meet with Peter Altmaier, Minister of Economy, and Dorothee Bär, Minister for Digitalisation.
Commissioner Crețu in Italy: “Achieving great results with EU investments now to keep a strong cohesion policy in the future”
From Wednesday 9 to Monday 14 May, Commissioner for regional policy Corina Crețu will be in Rome and Florence, Italy. In Rome the Commissioner will meet Pope Francis, as well as Virginia Raggi, Mayor of Rome and Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Lazio region. In Florence the Commissioner will deliver a speech on solidarity and the EU budget at the 2018 State of the Union conference, participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue and meet Enrico Rossi, President of the Tuscany region as well as Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence. The Commissioner will also visit several EU-funded projects. “My visit will focus on the sound and swift implementation of the 2014-2020 EU funds programmes,” said the Commissioner ahead of her visit, “because achieving good results now will be key in the negotiations on the future long term EU budget and the future cohesion policy. As always my services and I stand ready to provide all the assistance needed so EU resources can turn into concrete benefits for citizens on the ground.”
Vice-President Dombrovskis in Riga for European Semester Visit
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, is on a European Semester visit in Latvia until 10 May. He meets President Raimonds Vējonis, Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Deputy Prime minister and Minister for Economics Arvils Ašerādens and Minister for Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs. He will also discuss the deepening of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union with the European Affairs Committee of the Parliament, participate in a Citizen’s Dialogue dedicated to Europe Day and deliver a keynote speech at the conference “New Challenges in Economic and Business Development – 2018: productivity and economic growth”. The visit to Latvia is part of the regular dialogue with Member States on topical economic and social issues in the context of the European Semester.