13 Dec 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily


EU farm policy rules to be further simplified

A raft of changes due to come into force on 1 January 2018 continue the drive towards a simpler, more modern Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Major improvements to EU agriculture rules will come into force on 1 January 2018 following the adoption by the Council of agriculture ministers and the European Parliament of the agriculture and rural development part of the so-called Omnibus regulation. This regulation amends the financial regulation governing the implementation of the EU budget as well as 15 sectorial legislative acts, including in the field of agriculture. The Omnibus simplifies and strengthens existing EU rules on a wide range of agriculture issues from risk management to support for young farmers, and is the latest in a series of simplification and modernisation measures implemented by the Commission. Read Press Release here and changes proposed here


New Plant Health Regulation: Commission adopts harmonised format for plant passports

Today the European Commission has adopted the harmonised format specifications of plant passports, required under the new Plant health regulation. Ahead of the adoption, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “I am very pleased that we have started the process of implementing the new Plant Health regulation. The introduction of a harmonised plant passport is only the first step in modernising the rules to protect EU plants, economy and agriculture.” Starting from 14 December 2019, plant passports will be required to accompany all consignments of plants traded between professionals within the European Union territory. These labels will guarantee that the plants were grown under official supervision, in the absence of regulated pests and will ensure their traceability. The common format of plant passports will make them easier to recognise throughout the EU, while the changes will increase the transparency of the EU Plant Health Regime and significantly enhance stakeholders’ awareness. More information on the new Plant Health Law and the EU Plant Health Regime is available online.

EU, Japan and US to step up cooperation to eliminate market distorting and protectionist practices leading to global overcapacities

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, together with the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, Hiroshige Seko, decided to strengthen their commitment to ensure a global level playing field and fight against unfair trading practices by other global players. In a joint statement issued following a meeting held at the margins of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) held in Buenos Aires (Argentina), the trade leaders “agreed to enhance trilateral cooperation in the WTO and in other forums, as appropriate, to eliminate […] unfair market distorting and protectionist practices by third countries.” They shared the view that “severe excess capacity in key sectors exacerbated by government-financed and supported capacity expansion, unfair competitive conditions caused by large market-distorting subsidies and state owned enterprises, forced technology transfer, and local content requirements and preferences are serious concerns for the proper functioning of international trade, the creation of innovative technologies and the sustainable growth of the global economy.” This strengthened commitment adds to the efforts deployed by the EU at global level to tackle overcapacity issues in key sectors, like steel. It follows the recent meeting of the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity, held in Berlin at the end of November. The Forum – bringing together 33 economies, including the main steel producers – agreed on an ambitious package of concrete policy solutions to tackle the pressing issue of global overcapacity in the steel sector. The need to address the unfair practices leading to overcapacities – especially those existing in the steel sector – was also raised on several occasions by President Juncker at both bilateral and multilateral level, notably during the last two G20 Summits.


Already €278 billion delivered to Europe’s real economy under the European Structural and Investment Funds

A new report published today highlights what the five EU funds have achieved since the beginning of the funding period, as the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes has now reached full speed.

By October 2017, almost half of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds‘ budget for 2014-2020 had been committed to concrete projects. By the end of 2016, almost 793,500 businesses had received support from the funds, creating an estimated 154,000 new jobs. Read the Press Release here

Fishing opportunities for 2018 in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea

This morning, EU ministers reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for 2018 in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea following negotiations at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 11 – 12 December. The negotiations were based on the Commission’s proposal for Total Allowable Catches (TAC), presented by Commissioner Karmenu Vella. This morning’s agreement will bring 53 catch limits(TACs) to Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels in 2018, 9 more than in 2017. In 2009, only 5 stocks had catches set at MSY.Commissioner Vella welcomed the outcome: “We are now more than half-way to the 2020 deadline to ensure that all stocks are fished sustainable. With today’s agreement two-thirds of fish in the Atlantic and the North Sea will be subject to sustainable catch limits next year. I would like to pay particular tribute to our fishermen, who year by year undertake considerable efforts. Each year we move closer to our objective of sustainable fisheries and this will bring substantial long term reward.”As the size of some key fish stocks is increasing, so is the profitability of the fishing sector. Today’s agreement on fishing opportunities is worth over €5 billion, benefiting more than 50,000 fishermen.For the first time at EU level, it was agreed to close eel fisheries for three months during their migration period. Moreover, Member States committed to additional actions to protect the eels throughout its lifecycle and in all sea basins. These measures are crucial, both for the recovery of the stock and to safeguard the communities who depend on this fishery.For sea bass, an improved package was agreed which should allow the stock to start recovering following years of decline. The package recognises the responsibility of commercial and recreational fishermen alike. Read Commissioner Vella‘s press statement on the outcome of the Council here. For more details see here.


Transparency in decision-making: launch of register of delegated acts

A new online register, launched on Tuesday 12 December, will make it easier to find and track EU decisions taken in the form of delegated acts. To help the public and interested parties to follow this part of the EU decision-making process, a new common online register is being launched by the three Institutions, so that anyone can easily search and find delegated acts linked to a certain topic or piece of legislation. European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Today we are delivering again on the Commission’s Better Regulation Agenda and on our joint commitment with Parliament and Council to better law-making for Europe’s citizens. By launching this new online register today, we are making the EU more transparent and opening up the windows on the process for adopting technical rules to implement our policies.” A press release is available here.


Transparency Register: Second political meeting opens way for negotiations in the New Year

Political representatives from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission met on Tuesday evening and agreed that negotiations on a mandatory EU Transparency Register can start in the New Year. Following the Council’s approval of its negotiating mandate on 6 December, the three institutions reiterated their full commitment to increasing the transparency of the activities of interest representatives at EU level. At this second political meeting, which closed the pre-negotiation phase, they also stressed the importance of conducting the upcoming interinstitutional talks in an open and inclusive manner. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “I am pleased that the European Parliament and the Council have agreed to start formal negotiations in the New Year on our proposal for a mandatory Transparency Register. People have a right to know who is seeking to influence EU decisions. The Commission has been applying the ‘not on the Register, no meetings’ rule for some time and it works. A commitment is now needed from all three Institutions to make interactions with lobbyists conditional on being in the Register.” A press release is available here.


Investment Plan supports €10 million loan to Swedish tech company Flexenclosure

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Flexenclosure a Swedish high-tech manufacturer for the ICT industry – have signed a€10 million loan agreement to support the company’s research and development activities and growth strategy. The EIB transaction with Flexenclosure was made possible by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which is the central pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. Mobile telephony, connected vehicles, electronic commerce, financial transactions, the Internet of Things – they are all generating ever increasing amounts of data which need to be managed closer to the people creating and consuming it. The resulting demand for reliable network access and data management is rapidly increasing across the world and Flexenclosure, a designer and manufacturer of data centres and telecom site power systems, is extremely well-positioned to build upon this new wave of economic growth. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Flexenclosure is a European company which is bringing its innovative, disruptive technology to all the corners of the earth. I am very pleased that the Investment Plan for Europe is supporting tech companies, large and small, in a wide range of sectors.”


Commission calls on industry to use the European Online Dispute Resolution platform

The Commission published today its first report on the functioning of the European Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform. This website allows consumers buying online to solve issues with traders in a fast and cheap way by using outside of court dispute resolution systems. Since its launch in February 2016, over 24 000 consumers decided to lodge a complaint and about 40% of complaints were solved outside of the platform through a direct contact between consumers and traders initiated by the platform. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “Consumers from all EU countries have filed complaints using the ODR platform over the last year. We want them to be able to solve their disputes quickly and easily when they buy online. But we need traders to use this tool more, which will allow them offer the best customer service to their clients. By using the platform, traders will show they respect consumer rights.” In the EU, online traders have an obligation to put a link to the Online Dispute Resolution platform, as well as an email address on their website that can be used to handle complaints online via the platform. In a study, also published today, the Commission examined 20,000 EU online traders’ websites and concluded that only 28% of these websites make the Online Dispute Resolution platform link available, out of which 85% provide an e-mail address as required by law. Too many complaints were automatically closed due to the lack of response from traders. As part of its efforts to improve traders’ engagement on the Online Dispute Resolution platform, the Commission is holding today a round-table discussion with online retailers from the clothing and footwear sectors. They will discuss emerging challenges in on-line retail trade and how to provide the best customer service. The report and the study are available online.


Health work programme 2018: focus on the EU added value 

Today the Commission adopted the HealthWork Programme for 2018 setting out the priorities and actions to be undertaken during next year. The overall budget for 2018 is over €62 million, with 64% being allocated to grants, 24% to procurement and 12% to other actions including prizes. The Work Programme 2018 will focus on support to the European Reference Networks for rare and complex diseases; the promotion of health and prevention of non-communicable diseases; strengthening preparedness and response to serious cross-border health threats; and the implementation of EU legislation on medical devices. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said “I welcome the adoption of the 2018 work programme of the Health Programme 2014-2020. Our budget might be relatively modest but I aim to support actions that deliver undisputed EU added value – such as connecting expertise on rare diseases and preparing a robust response in the event of a serious cross-border health threat. This can make a real difference to European citizens’ health and wellbeing.” With a total budget of close to € 450 million for 2014-2020, the Health Programme is the main financial instrument for policy coordination in the area of health and it supports and complements Member States’ efforts towards the achievement of major priorities set by the Commission. A key specific objective is to promote health and prevent diseases – for example through a Joint Action on vaccination which will commence next year. More information, including the full 2018 WP 2018, is available online.


Endocrine disruptors: Member States endorse Commission’s proposal to identify criteria for plant protection products

Today, at the meeting of the Standing Committee for Plant, Animals, Food and Feed, Member States endorsed the criteria for the identification of endocrine disruptors in the context of the plant protection products legislation. The criteria take into account the views of the European Parliament expressed, on 4 October, on an earlier draft Regulation endorsed by Member States in July. The criteria endorsed today therefore do not include a specific provision for the so-called “growth regulators”. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis welcomed the vote: “I now call on Council and the European Parliament to give their green light on this text to ensure a swift implementation of the criteria in the course of 2018. Once implemented, the text will ensure that any active substance used in pesticides which is identified as an endocrine disruptor for people or animals can be assessed and withdrawn from the market.”The scientific criteria for biocides already entered into force on 7 December and will become applicable on 7 June 2018. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – have launched last week a public consultation on the draft technical Guidance document to implement the criteria once they become applicable for biocides and pesticides. The public consultation is open until 31 January 2018. For more information here.  


MiFID II: Commission adopts equivalence decisions to facilitate global trading in shares

The European Commission today recognised several trading venues in Australia, Hong Kong and the United States as eligible for compliance with the trading obligation for shares set out in the new Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), which will apply as of 3 January 2018. The EU trading obligation applies to shares listed on both exchanges in the recognised countries and in the EU (“dual listings”), on condition that trading in the EU constitutes a significant percentage of the share’s global trading volume. Today’s decisions ensure that MiFID II investment firms can continue to access the liquidity in dual listed shares outside the EU. There is currently no evidence that shares only listed on exchanges in Australia, Hong Kong and the United States (“single listings”) trade significantly in the EU. Therefore, trading in these shares can continue as previously. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said: “It is important that European firms can trade shares on international markets. Access to major international trading venues will boost the EU’s competitive position as a financial centre. It is an important step in building a vibrant Capital Markets Union”. The European Commission is assessing the EU trading volumes of shares listed in other financial centres around the world.  These assessments should be concluded shortly and decisions will be adopted where necessary. More information is available online


State aid: Commission approves PLN 40 billion (around €9.4 billion) Polish support scheme for renewable energy

The European Commission approved under EU State aid rules a Polish renewable energy scheme and a reduced levy to finance the scheme for energy-intensive users. This will further EU energy and climate goals and ensure the global competitiveness of energy-intensive users whilst preserving competition. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “We want to make progress towards clean energy for the sake of our environment but also for European economic growth. The Polish support scheme will increase the share of green energy in Poland’s energy mix and help the country’s transition to low carbon, environmentally sustainable energy. It will also preserve the global competitiveness of companies that are heavily dependent on energy. We approved the scheme today.” The scheme, with a total budget of PLN 40 billion (around €9.4 billion), will grant State support to producers of renewable electricity by means of competitive auctions. The Commission found that the scheme will encourage the development of different renewable technologies, in line with the requirements of EU State aid rules, and will help Poland achieve its 2020 environmental and climate change objectives. The measure will boost the share of renewable electricity produced in Poland, while any distortion of competition caused by the State support is minimised. Poland has also notified to the Commission plans to lower the financial burden on undertakings in certain energy-intensive sectors, which will benefit from a reduced surcharge to finance the support scheme. The Commission has found that these reductions are in line with EU State aid rules, which allow Member States to provide reductions to undertakings in certain sectors that are particularly energy-intensive and exposed to international competition, in order to ensure their global competitiveness. A full press release is available online in here.


Mergers: Commission approves proposed acquisition of parts of Air Berlin by easyJet

The European Commission has approved unconditionally under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of certain assets of Air Berlin by easyJet. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not adversely affect competition in the EU Single Market. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Our job is to make sure that airline takeovers do not result in less competition – that would mean higher flight fares and less choice for consumers. EasyJet’s plans to buy certain Air Berlin assets will not reduce competition and we have approved it today. Our decision enables easyJet to grow its presence at Berlin airports and start competing on new routes to the benefit of consumers“. The Commission’s investigation found that i) the increase in the slot portfolio of easyJet at congested airports, and in Berlin in particular, was unlikely to have a negative effect on passengers, and ii) easyJet will continue to face strong competition from large carriers like Lufthansa and Ryanair on routes from and to Berlin. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns in any of the relevant markets. A full press release is available online in here.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over a joint venture by Porsche Digital and Axel Springer

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over a newly established joint venture company by Porsche Digital GmbH, wholly owned by Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Aktiengesellschaft (“Porsche”), , and Axel Springer Digital Ventures GmbH (“ASDV”), wholly owned by Axel Springer SE, all of Germany. The joint venture will be active in sourcing, financing and developing start-ups ups through a joint accelerator for early stage seed investments. Porsche Digital is active in digital capital investment and serves as the venture unit and digital competence centre of the automobile manufacturer Porsche. Both companies belong to the Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft Group (“VW”). ASDV is active in digital venture capital investments and is the primary digital venture unit of the multimedia company Axel Springer. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because the envisaged joint venture will have negligible actual or foreseen activities within the territory of 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.8703.




Commissioner King in Bulgaria tomorrow

Tomorrow, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King will be in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he will meet Minister for the Interior Valentin Radev and Minister for Justice Tsetska Tsacheva to discuss issues relating to security, information exchange and the interoperability of information systems. Commissioner King will then participate in a joint meeting of the Bulgarian Parliament’s Committees on Foreign Policy, Internal Security and Public Order, and European Affairs and Oversight of European Funds. He will also meet the Chairperson of the State Agency for National Security Dimitar Georgiev and visit the National Counterterrorism Centre. A press point with Commissioner King and Minister Radev will take place after their meeting at around 10:50 local time.

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