Brussels Daily
13 Jul 2017


Brussels Daily


Sustainable development in trade agreements: European Commission launches debate

How should sustainable development be addressed in the trade agreements negotiated by the EU? The European Commission published a document – referred to as a “non-paper” – intended to contribute to an open and inclusive debate aimed at improving the EU’s approach in this field. It builds up on the Commission’s recent reflection paper on harnessing globalisation, which underlined the EU’s commitment to a fair, international, rules-based order based on high standards, cooperation and strengthening of multilateral institutions. The document, sent to the European Parliament and the Council, asks several questions on whether the current Trade and Sustainable Development chapters are meeting expectations, and what could be done to improve them. Also, whether a more assertive partnership should be pursued, and whether a sanctions-based approach would address shortcomings. The Commission has been negotiating Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in all its recent trade agreements (see example of measures foreseen most recently with Japan), as part of the EU’s value-based trade agenda, in line with ‘Trade for All‘ strategy of 2015.  More on EU trade and sustainable development initiatives.


High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance delivers early recommendations

The High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, established by the Commission, has published its first report setting out concrete steps to create a financial system that supports sustainable investments. The Commission will explore some key early recommendations to take further steps towards a low carbon, more resource-efficient and sustainable economy. The report is part of broader efforts to map out an EU strategy on sustainable finance, a priority action of the Capital Markets Union (CMU) Action Plan. The first wave of EU reforms focused on making the financial system more stable and resilient. The Commission is now driving forward efforts to reorient the financial system so that it can support long-term, sustainable growth. The financial sector has a vital role to play in reaching the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement and the EU’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. It is also vital that more private capital is mobilised towards green and sustainable investment so as to enable the transition to a low-carbon economy. Today’s interim report by High-Level Group maps out the challenges and opportunities that the EU faces in developing a sustainable finance policy agenda, identifying possible areas of reform in financial policy. It also presents a first set of early recommendations to the Commission. The expert group will further explore other policy areas to provide further recommendations in the final report, due at the end of 2017. For more information please see the press release and the report.


EU – Ukraine Summit: Ukrainian reforms combined with European Union support delivering positive results

The 19th Summit between the European Union and Ukraine is taking place today in Kyiv. Speaking at the joint press conference, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “More steps have been taken in the last three years than in the previous twenty, Ukraine should be proud of what it has achieved”. The full remarks of President Juncker at the press conference will be available online. The Summit, which was also attended by Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioners Johannes Hahn and Cecilia Malmström and preceded by a meeting between the two Presidents and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, provided an important opportunity to review the progress made in implementation of Ukraine’s ambitious reform efforts, as well as to identify further reform priorities, including in the area of anti-corruption and transparency. EU leaders outlined the way forward in terms of the disbursement of the third tranche of EU macro-financial assistance, including the necessary measures to be taken by the Ukrainian authorities in this respect. They also announced the preparation of €200 million of priority programmes for 2017, including support to conflict-affected areas in the east of Ukraine, energy efficiency, and public finance management. A press release highlighting the outcomes of the Summit is available online. Following the Summit, Vice-President Dombrovskis will remain in Ukraine for a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Finance, Oleksandr Danylyuk, and members of the Verkhovna Rada. He will also travel to Mariupol and areas in eastern Ukraine to visit humanitarian assistance projects supported by the EU. Coverage of the 19th EU-Ukraine Summit and of the Vice-President’s visit is available on Europe by Satellite. More information on EU-Ukraine relations can be found on the website of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, or in a dedicated factsheet on EU-Ukraine relations.


Atlantic Ocean: EU boosts research cooperation with Brazil and South Africa 

Today, the European Union and its partners Brazil and South Africa commit to working together to better understand marine ecosystems, their resources and impact on climate. Ahead of the signing in Lisbon of the Belém Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation at the “New Era of Blue Enlightenment” Conference, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: “This partnership will go beyond the understanding and protection of the Atlantic Ocean: it will focus on the Atlantic’s impact on climate change, but also its potential to transform our food systems, improve our health, modernise our energy systems, protect our wildlife habitats and boost the opportunities of the “blue” economy. To me, this partnership has the potential to become a model of science diplomacy in action.” The full speech delivered by Commissioner Moedas this morning is available here. More information on the Belém agreement signed between the Commissioner and Ministers for Brazil and South Africa will be available here after the signing ceremony. More information on the international ocean governance “Our Ocean” conference in October 2017 in Malta here. 


July infringements package – Part 1: key decisions

Overview by policy area

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission (‘Commission’) is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law. These decisions, covering various sectors and EU policy areas, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. For more information please see the press release

July infringements package – Part 2: other letters of formal notice

In addition to key decisions set out in Part 1 (MEMO/17/1935), the European Commission decided today to send letters of formal notice for the following types of EU law infringements. For more information please see the press release


Western Balkans Summit 2017: delivering for the region

The 2017 Western Balkans Summit took place yesterday in Trieste, Italy. Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Economy and Ministers of Transport of the Western Balkans together with their counterparts from several EU Member States and high EU officials – High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini and Commissioners Johannes Hahn and Violeta Bulc – discussed key areas of regional cooperation, and set out concrete measures to better connect the region’s infrastructures, economies and people. At the end of the Summit Federica Mogherini said: “[…] we confirmed the perspective of the European Union integration of the Western Balkans. All the 6 partners in the Western Balkans clearly want to be more integrated in the EU, once the right reforms are passed. Many new practical projects were confirmed and a Transport Community Treaty was signed, opening new connections.” Her full remarks are available here. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations participated in many events including the signing ceremony of the “letter of intent” for new assistance under the Western Balkans Enterprise Development & Innovation, the Business Forum, the Civil Society Forum, the Youth Forum and the meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Violeta Bulc, Commissioner for Transport met with the Ministers of Energy and Ministers of Transport focussing in particular on the finalisation of the Transport Community Treaty and on road safety. At the signature of the Transport Community Treaty also Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn were present. The full press release following the Summit is available online as well as the Q&A: Western Balkans: Regional Economic Area and the Factsheet on the Transport Community


Forest fires in Italy: EU provides immediate help through the Civil Protection Mechanism

Italy is facing severe forest fires in its southern regions. It has requested European Union support through the Civil Protection Mechanism, upon which the EU has immediately responded. Three French air planes specialised in fire-fighting missions are now already on their way to help Italian authorities to bring the situation under control. Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management said: “The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is a strong example of solidarity in action and how Europe can better protects its citizens by pooling resources from different countries. I am very thankful to France for having immediately provided help in these times of great need. I want to assure our Italian friends that Europe stands ready to give further assistance if and when requested.” In addition, the European Union has deployed an expert to assist in coordinating the EU’s emergency response on the ground. This is the third time that Italy has asked for assistance from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism since its creation and the first time since the forest fires in 2009. The full press release is available here.



Security Union: Cracking down on the illegal import of cultural goods used to finance terrorism

The European Commission today puts forward new rules to clamp down on the illegal import and trafficking of cultural goods from outside the EU, often linked to terrorist financing and other criminal activity. Today’s proposal marks one of the final steps set out in the Commission’s action plan to strengthen the fight against terrorism financing. It will stop this traffic in its tracks by banning the import into the EU of cultural goods exported illegally from their home countries and comes just days after the Hamburg G20 called on countries to tackle terrorist finance, including the looting and smuggling of antiquities. On the adoption of the proposal, Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “Money is oxygen to terrorist organisations such as Daesh. We are taking action to cut off each of their sources of financing.”Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Such activity can wreak serious damage on the cultural heritage of those countries that can least afford to protect their interests. Today’s proposal equips customs authorities with the right tools to ensure the EU market is closed for such goods.” At the moment, the EU applies prohibitions on goods from Iraq and Syria but there is no general EU framework for the import of cultural goods. Current rules can be exploited by unscrupulous exporters and importers who can use the profits to fund illegal activities such as terrorism. Commissioner Moscovici will present the new proposal at a press conference today at 12.30. The press conference can be followed live on EbS and a press release and Q&A on the new measures will also be made available.  


Joint Research Centre opens its laboratories to wider scientific community

The European Commission’s in-house science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), is opening its scientific laboratories and facilities to scientists and researchers from the private and public sectors. As early as December 2017, researchers will be able to use JRC research facilities located in Ispra (Italy), and thereafter in Geel (Belgium), Karlsruhe (Germany) and Petten (Netherlands), thus helping to maximise the benefits of these world-class infrastructures and laboratories. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “The JRC hosts several high-value research facilities, some of which are unique in Europe and in the world. By opening up our laboratories, we will realise their full potential in collaboration with European researchers and industry, for the benefit of policy-makers, businesses and, above all, citizens.” Past successful cooperation with universities, research institutes and SMEs has shown that there is big interest in using JRC facilities. With this initiative, the JRC aims to spread scientific knowledge, boost competiveness and help to bridge the gap between research and industry. The results will also feed into JRC’s mission to support EU policymaking. During the pilot phase in 2017-2018, three facilities in Ispra will be opened to external users. They are the Reaction Wall and the Hopkinson Bar facility of the European Laboratory for Structural Assessment (ELSA), and the Nanobiotechnology Laboratory. Further details are available in the press release as well as on the portal of the initiative.


State aid: Commission approves Slovakia’s investment aid to paper manufacturer Mondi SCP

The European Commission has found Slovakia’s €49 million investment aid to Mondi SCP, a paper and pulp manufacturer, to be in line with EU state aid rules. The investment aid will support Mondi SCP’s plans to invest €310 million to introduce in its existing plant in Ružomberok the production of corrugated case material. Corrugated case material is used for the production of corrugated board, which is then processed into boxes. In particular, Mondi SCP will extend its pulp production capacity in the plant and install a new paper machine. The project is expected to create 105 direct jobs. Ružomberok is located in the Žilina region, in Stredné Slovensko, an area eligible for regional aid. The Commission’s assessment showed that without the public funding, the project would not have been carried out in Ružomberok, but in another location outside the European Economic Area. The Commission also found that the aid was limited to the minimum, as it merely compensated the company for the financial disadvantage incurred by carrying out the project in Ružomberok and not in an alternative location. The Commission therefore concluded that the positive effects of the project on regional development clearly outweigh any distortion of competition brought about by the state aid. The support will contribute to the development of the region, whilst preserving competition in the Single Market.  Please see a full press release online in here


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of a shopping centre in Spain by Megatrends and Intu

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Xanadú Retail and Leisure S.L.U. of Spain (Xanadú), which ultimately controls the Xanadú Shopping Centre in the south west of Madrid, by Megatrends European Holdings S.à.r.l. of Luxembourg and Intu Properties Plc of the UK. Megatrends is an investment vehicle ultimately owned by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, a reserve life insurance company. Intu Properties is a real estate investment trust, largely focused on shopping centre ownership, management and development across the United Kingdom and, to a more limited extent, in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns due to 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.8517.


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