The European Union is stepping up efforts to improve military mobility
As part of the drive to better protect citizens and improve the Union’s security environment, the European Commission and the High Representative are today proposing a number of actions to improving military mobility within the European Union. A Joint Communication adopted today outlines steps to be taken to address the obstacles which are hampering the movement of military equipment and personnel across the EU with the aim of facilitating and expediting their mobility to react in a fast and effective way to internal and external crises. In doing so, the European Commission and the High Representative are delivering on the commitment to use all the tools at their disposal to build a Union that protects. “European citizens understand that only together, as a Union, can we tackle the security challenges of our times. Cooperation inside the European Union and with our partners has become a must. There is a growing demand for our Member States to coordinate and work together on defence. So while we are moving forward with the Permanent Structured Cooperation to make our defence more effective, we have also decided to further strengthen military mobility among EU Member States and in cooperation with NATO,” said High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “The European Union has a modern transport network that serves the needs of Europeans. These needs can also be of a military nature. The swift movement of military personnel and equipment is hindered by physical, legal and regulatory barriers. This creates inefficiencies in public spending, delays, disruptions, and above all a greater vulnerability. It is high time we maximise civil and military synergies also through our transport network in an efficient and sustainable manner.” More information is available in a press release.
EU report: Georgia successfully delivering on its reform commitments
Georgia’s implementation of its Association Agenda in 2017, which has been supported by the European Union, confirms the country’s commitment to political association and economic integration to the EU. The details of this progress are highlighted in the 2nd Joint Association Implementation Report on Georgia, released today by the European External Action Service and the European Commission, ahead of the EU-Georgia Association Council on 8 December 2017. “The European Union and Georgia have invested a lot in a strong partnership that is proving deeper day by day and that is bringing great benefits to our citizens. Since last March, Georgian citizens have been able to travel without a visa to the Schengen Area for short stays, we see more exchanges between our students than ever before, and there are more possibilities for trade among our businesses. Today’s report demonstrates clear progress in Georgia’s reform agenda. The European Union will continue to support the work that has still to be done in several important areas and will stay committed to the thorough and continued implementation of our Association Agenda”, said the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini. “We continue to see positive results of the implementation of the Association Agreement”, said the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn. “The revised EU-Georgia Association Agenda provides a practical framework of priorities for joint work until 2020. The approximation to EU standards and regulations is allowing Georgia to become more and more an actor in the international market. The EU is Georgia’s largest trade partner and 2017 looks to have brought further increases. The accession of Georgia to the Energy Community Treaty as a full contracting party in July 2017 was another milestone bringing the EU and Georgia closer“. This 2nd Joint Report assesses the state of play of Georgia’s implementation of the Association Agenda since the EU-Georgia Association Council of December 2016. It focuses on key developments and reforms undertaken in line with the strategic priorities agreed between the EU and Georgia. A full press release on the Joint Report is available online. The Joint Report itself can be found here, and more information on EU-Georgia relations is available on the website of the EU Delegation and in the dedicated factsheet.
The European Union steps up support to independent media in the Western Balkans
Freedom of media is one of the political criteria for EU accession – a must for countries willing to join the European Union. At the EU-Western Balkans Media Days conference that took place on 9-10 November in Tirana, Albania, the Commission announced that it will invest in new initiatives to support independent journalism, sustainable media outlets, and boost regional cooperation among public service media.Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, participating at the EU-Western Balkans Media Days said: ““Freedom of expression is a fundamental value of the European Union and inextricably linked to further progress on the EU path. The EU-Western Balkans Media Days pave the way to a more comprehensive approach to support independent media outlets, assist the expansion of media literacy in the region, help digitalisation and know-how transfer. A vibrant, economically sustainable, independent and pluralistic media sector is equally important for exercising freedom of expression as are the legal, political and judicial conditions that guarantee it.” A full press release is available here. The concluding speech by Commissioner Hahn will be available online. Photos and video of the event are available on EbS.
Greece joins EU efforts to cooperate on high-performance computing
Greece is the 12th country to sign the European declaration on high-performance computing (HPC), joining the European effort to build the next generation of computing and data infrastructure. The EuroHPC declaration was launched in March 2017 and signed first by France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain during the Digital Day in Rome (see the press statement, speech and blog post by Vice-President Ansip). Four other countries have since joined this European initiative: Belgium in June, Slovenia in July, Bulgaria and Switzerland in October. Greece signed the EuroHPC declaration today in Athens. Vice-President Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society welcome this important step for EuroHPC: “We are very pleased that Greece is now part of this ambitious European project. By joining forces, we can lead in both the production and use of HPC technology in Europe and open the way to new innovative applications to benefit people, such as designing and simulating new medical treatments.” The signatories of this declaration have committed to work together to establish a world-class high-performance computing ecosystem that will acquire and operate world-class supercomputers and also build key hardware, software tools and applications needed to run HPC technology. The aim is to have EU exascale supercomputers operational by 2022-2023. All other Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020 research and innovation framework programme are encouraged to join forces and to sign the EuroHPC. More details are available here.
State aid: Commission approves Spanish support scheme for renewable electricity
The European Commission has found the Spanish scheme supporting electricity generation from renewable energy sources, high efficiency cogeneration of heat and power and waste to be in line with EU State aid rules. The Commission concluded that the Spanish measure will boost the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources, in line with EU energy and climate goals, while any distortion of competition caused by the State support is minimised. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “I am pleased to see the latest Spanish renewables auctions have shown the positive effects of competition: companies are ready to invest in new installations with very low levels of State support. Spain’s transition to a low carbon, environmentally sustainable energy supply is important and this support scheme will help.” The full press release is available here.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of the West Midlands franchise by Abellio, Mitsui and EJR
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of the West Midlands passenger rail franchise by Abellio Transport Group Limited both of the UK, Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. Europe Plc (Mitsui) and East Japan Railway Company (EJR), both of Japan. The West Midlands franchise is a passenger rail service across the West Midlands, from London Euston to Crewe and from Liverpool to Birmingham. Abellio, which is ultimately owned by the Dutch rail operator NS Group, operates a number of passenger railway concessions or franchise contracts in the UK and Germany. Mitsui is a major Japanese trading house engaged in a number of commodities and other business. EJR operates rail networks in Japan. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market structure. 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.8636.
Commissioner Avramopoulos in Bern for Ministerial Conference on Central Mediterranean Migration Route
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Bern, Switzerland on 12 and 13 November to participate in the third Ministerial Conference on the Central Mediterranean Migration Route, hosted by the Swiss Confederation this time. Discussions will focus on the comprehensive cooperation along the route. Commissioner Avramopoulos will be joined by the President of the Swiss Confederation Doris Leuthard and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga as well as the Estonian Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the responsible ministers from Austria, France, Italy, Malta and Slovenia, the state secretary for the interior from Germany, and ministers from Chad, Tunisia, Mali, Niger and the Interior ministry secretary general of Algeria. The Director General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi will also be present, together with Director General Yves D’Accord from the International Red Cross. A press conference is scheduled for 13:00 CET and can be followed on EbS