09 Nov 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily


Autumn 2017 Economic Forecast: euro area economy on track to grow at fastest pace in a decade

The Autumn 2017 Economic Forecast published today shows that the euro area economy is on track to grow at its fastest pace in a decade this year, with real GDP growth forecast at 2.2%. This is substantially higher than expected in spring (1.7%). The EU economy as a whole is also set to beat expectations with robust growth of 2.3% this year (up from 1.9% in spring). The Commission expects growth to continue in both the euro area and in the EU at 2.1% in 2018 and at 1.9% in 2019. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. We should use these good economic times to further strengthen the resilience of both Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union and individual countries.” Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “After five years of moderate recovery, European growth has now accelerated. We see good news on many fronts, with more jobs being created, rising investment and strengthening public finances. Yet challenges remain in the form of high debt levels and subdued wage increases. A determined effort from Member States is needed to ensure that this expansion will last and that its fruits are shared equitably. Moreover, structural convergence and the strengthening of the euro area are necessary to make it more resilient to future shocks and to turn it into a true motor of shared prosperity. The coming weeks will be decisive on this front.” The full press release is available in all languages here. The full Autumn 2017 Economic Forecast is available here. Commissioner Moscovici’s remarks will shortly be available here.

Report: EU trade agreements in place deliver tangible benefits

The Commission today published a report assessing the implementation of the EU’s existing trade agreements. This is another step towards a fully transparent and inclusive trade policy, in line with the Commission’s commitments set out in the EU’s 2015 ‘Trade for All’ strategy. Commenting on the report, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “The success of EU trade policy is measured not only by striking new trade deals but also by ensuring that our existing agreements actually deliver. The report published today confirms that our trade agreements are a boost for the European economy and that we are also on the right track when it comes to engaging concretely with our partners on labour and environmental standards.” The report shows that the export increases observed for the agreements negotiated in the past amount to as much as 416% for Mexico, 170% for Chile, and around 60% for South Korea and Serbia. The agricultural and car sectors appear to be benefiting the most (e.g. 244% increase in car exports to South Korea since 2011 and 92% and 73% increase to Colombia and Peru respectively for agricultural goods since 2013). The report also shows that EU companies do not yet take full advantage of the opportunities offered; a situation that calls for some extra awareness raising efforts, including at national level. The report highlights also numerous examples of positive collaboration on issues going beyond trade liberalisation that have been made possible thanks to EU trade agreements, including on human rights and labour conditions. The report will now be subject to discussion with Members of the European Parliament, Member States representatives in the Council, and civil society organisations. Commissioner Malmström will present the report to Member States’ Ministers at the Council meeting on Friday, 10 November. A press release is available online. For more information see the actual text of the report, a factsheet and a blogpost by Commissioner Malmström.


EU Emissions Trading System: landmark agreement between Parliament and Council delivers on EU’s commitment to turn Paris Agreement into reality

The European Parliament and Council have today reached a provisional agreement to revise the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) for the period after 2020. This revision will contribute to put the EU on track to achieving a significant part of its commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Today’s deal between Parliament and Council provides a clear outcome after more than two years of intensive negotiations, following the Commission’s proposal to revise the EU ETS in July 2015. Please find the full statement online.

EU delivers on blue economy commitments made at Our Ocean conference

In a rapid follow up to the EU-hosted 2017 Our Ocean conference, and in the run-up to the COP23 Ocean Day in Bonn (11 November), the European Commission today launched a new €14.5 million investment initiative to further promote sustainable blue growth across the EU. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “At the Our Ocean conference in Malta, the European Union led by putting the blue economy on the agenda for the first time. Now we are leading in the follow up. Today we launch a €14.5 million investment initiative for green projects to safeguard our marine ecosystems. On ocean energy, tackling marine litter, and along Mediterranean coastlines, I am delighted that we are so quickly following up on our Our Ocean pledges.”Funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, €8 million from this initiative is set aside to help SMEs, including start-ups, testing novel products and services in high-potential emerging blue economy sectors, including ocean renewable energy. In order to better tackle the growing challenge of marine litter, a further €2 million will target innovative technologies to prevent, monitor, remove and recycle marine litter from EU waters. Furthermore, €3 million will support twinning projects in the Mediterranean Sea, including between maritime training and education institutions, blue economy businesses and local fishing communities. Finally, €1.5 million is allocated to restoring marine and coastal ecosystems in the Mediterranean, including mitigation of climate change. The Our Ocean conference generated an unprecedented level of commitments: 437 were announced, including €7.2 billion in financial pledges. The EU alone announced 36 commitments amounted to over €550 million. Moreover, the EU–hosted conference saw for the first time large-scale mobilisation of the private sector in ocean conservation. Video selection of commitments here. More detailed information here.


Animal welfare 2nd EU Platform meeting: “Everyone is responsible”

On 10 November 2017 Commissioner Andriukaitis, in charge of Health and Food Safety, will open the second meeting of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare. Under the motto “Everyone is responsible”, 75 stakeholders involved in this area will gather to work towards three main goals: a better application of EU rules on animal welfare, the development of voluntary commitments by its members and the promotion of EU animal welfare standards at global level. The Commission will establish a sub-group on animal transport with a specific focus on improving enforcement in this area – a key priority of the EU Commission in the field of animal welfare. In addition, the topic of ‘unwanted horses’ (abandoned due to high life costs, end of career as sport horses, behavioural problems etc.) will be discussed to explore possible contributions and voluntary initiatives of the members. Finally, the session dedicated to information sharing will focus on EFSA’s (European Food Safety Authority) Animal Health and Welfare Network and on the Animal transport guides pilot project. The meeting will be web-streamed here (as from 10:00 CET).


Education & training in Europe: inequality remains a challenge

Today, the European Commission published the 2017 edition of the Education and Training Monitor, which analyses and compares the main challenges for European education systems. The Monitor shows that national education systems are becoming more inclusive and effective. Yet it also confirms that students’ educational attainment largely depends on their socio-economic backgrounds. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Inequality still deprives too many Europeans of the chance to make the most of their lives. It is also a threat to social cohesion, long-term economic growth and prosperity. And too often, our education systems perpetuate inequality – when they do not cater for people from poorer backgrounds; when parents’ social status determines educational achievements and carries over poverty and diminished opportunities on the job market from one generation to the next. We have to do more to overcome these inequalities. Education systems have a special role to play in building a fairer society by offering equal chances to everybody.” On 17 November, in Gothenburg, EU Leaders will discuss education and culture as part of their work on “Building our future together”. The European Commission will present this year’s data on Education and Training. The discussion in Gothenburg will give visibility to and stress the political significance of education reform.Commissioner Navarcsics will give a press conference at 12:30, which can be followed here. A press release in all EU languages, a generic factsheet and country-specific factsheets are available online at the beginning of the press conference.


Financing boost for energy-efficient connected cars under Investment Plan

The Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan – continues to support financing in innovative sectors. The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a €245 million loan with Volvo Car Corporation to invest in a multi-faceted research and development programme. The programme includes the development of more energy-efficient engines, electric cars, and improved safety, navigation and driver-assistance facilities. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “The Investment Plan for Europe is boosting innovation throughout Europe, and today’s announcement is yet another example. This research and development project by Volvo will push the boundaries of automotive technology in Europe and take us another step closer to a low carbon economy.”  These deals under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) come hours after the Council gave its formal green light to EFSI 2.0 – the extension and strengthening of the EFSI. As a next step, the Regulation will go to a plenary vote in the European Parliament. For more information see the Investment Plan website 


EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: new contracts signed as more and more refugees receive support

The European Commission reported on the strong progress in the implementation of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, during the 8th meeting of the Steering Committee of the Facility that took place in Brussels yesterday. Over one million refugees have now been reached with the EU’s flagship humanitarian programme, the ‘Emergency Social Safety Net’ and multiple new contracts were signed for €115 million in the areas of humanitarian aid, socio-economic support and municipal infrastructure. Of the overall €3 billion budget for 2016-2017, €2.9 billion has been allocated. Of this, contracts have been signed for 55 projects worth over €1.78 billion, out of which €908 million have already been disbursed. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: “With the recent signatures of contracts worth over €100 million, the EU Facility for Refugees continues to deliver its commitment in supporting the refugees and host communities. A great example of this, are the Technical and Vocational programs organised with the Ministry of National Education, which aim at increasing employability by facilitating entry into the labour market and thus supporting the integration of refugees in their host communities.” Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: “We have recently reached a milestone of one million most vulnerable refugees benefitting from our main EU humanitarian programme. We have also signed five new agreements with humanitarian organisations to provide protection and health services. It is clear that the EU Facility for Refugees is delivering and having a positive impact on the lives of the people who need our assistance.” You can find more information about the new contracts and the projects under the Facility in our press release here.


President Juncker awarded Honoris Causa Doctorate by the University of Salamanca

Today President Juncker is in Salamanca, Spain where he will be formally awarded the title of ‘Doctor Honoris Causa’ by the University of Salamanca – one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in Europe, teaching students for over 800 years. The ceremony, which begins at 12:45 CET, will be opened by Rector of the University of Salamanca Mr Daniel Hernández Ruipérez. Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy will also attend, as well as representatives of regional authorities and members of the academic community.  


Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Ilva by ArcelorMittal

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Ilva by ArcelorMittal under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission has concerns that the proposed merger may reduce competition for a number of flat carbon steel products. ArcelorMittal is the leading producer of flat carbon steel, both worldwide and in Europe, with a wide production network within the European Economic Area. Ilva is a significant producer of flat carbon steel with major production assets in Italy. With the transaction, ArcelorMittal would notably increase its market leadership through the acquisition of Ilva’s steel plant in Taranto, Italy, which is Europe’s largest single-site integrated plant. The Commission’s initial market investigation raised several issues relating in particular to the combination of ArcelorMittal’s and Ilva’s offering of a number of flat carbon steel products, namely hot rolled, cold rolled and galvanised flat carbon steel products. At this stage, the Commission is concerned that, following the transaction, customers would face higher prices, particularly in Southern Europe, for these important inputs. The Commission will also further investigate whether the transaction could have an effect on the supply and prices of certain other products, such as metallic coated steel for packaging. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Steel is a crucial input for many goods we use in our everyday life, and industries dependent on steel employ over 30 million people in Europe. Those European industries need access to steel at competitive prices to compete in global markets. This is why we will carefully investigate the impact of ArcelorMittal’s plans to buy Ilva on effective competition in steel markets”. A full press release is available in here.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Aegon Ireland by Apollo Management

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Aegon Ireland plc of Ireland, by Athene Holding Ltd. belonging to the group Apollo Management L.P., both of the US. Aegon Ireland provides insurance products and services in the UK and Germany. Apollo Management is active in the private investments sector with investments in various businesses throughout the world. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are only minor horizontal overlaps or vertical relationships between the activities of Aegon Ireland and Apollo. 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.8621.



Future of EU finances – Commissioner Oettinger visits Cyprus

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, is visiting Cyprus on 10 and 11 November as part of his tour across EU Member States aimed to gather views on the future of EU finances and the EU’s multiannual budget post-2020. The Commissioner will meet the President, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, the Minister of Finance, Mr Harris Georgiades and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ioannis Kassoulides. Commissioner Oettinger will discuss the challenges ahead of the next multiannual budget with Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committees on Budget and Finance and Foreign and European Affairs. He will also take part in a stakeholder event where he will hear further views on how the next multiannual budget should look like. The meetings in Cyprus are part of the Commissioner’s broad consultation with all interested parties on the future of EU finances – #MFFtour27. The Commission kicked off this debate on 28 June 2017 with the publication of its Reflection paper on the future of EU finances, which is also available in Greek. Stakeholder views will be taken into account when preparing the next MFF, to be presented in May 2018. Commissioner Oettinger’s first reflections on the future of EU finances are available on his blog.

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