14 Dec 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily


WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires: A missed opportunity

The 11th biannual ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ended last night in Buenos Aires. In a statement made at the final meeting of Heads of Delegations, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “All WTO Members have to face a simple fact: we failed to achieve any of our objectives, and did not achieve any multilateral outcome. The sad reality is that we did not even agree to stop subsidising illegal fishing. Now, I hope that several WTO members, whose actions here in Buenos Aires prevented an outcome, will use the time following this Ministerial meeting for valuable self-reflection.” Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, also attending the conference, said: “From the agriculture perspective, it is very disappointing that a work programme could not be agreed post Buenos Aires. That means that important issues such as food security will not now be prioritised in the work of the WTO. This is not in the interest of farmers and rural people in the developing world, nor in the developed world for that matter. This is a lose-lose outcome for all involved – a negative-sum outcome. The WTO is not a zero sum game, it is a positive-sum game when everyone plays their part.” Many WTO members recognised the central role of the organisation to global trade and development. In this respect Commissioner Malmström said: “Luckily, we still have the WTO’s current agreements, its structures of cooperation, and its invaluable dispute settlement system. It is a global public good, and the EU attaches enormous value to it. In the coming months, we will do what is necessary to support it if it comes under further pressure. We also need to intensify efforts to find solutions to important issues in the international trading system, such as on e-commerce, working with all willing WTO members in an open, inclusive and transparent manner.” The full statement by Commissioner Malmström, as well as more comments on the outcome of the ministerial conference, are available online. In the run-up to the conference, the EU challenged its WTO partners to plan for substantive outcomes in Buenos Aires, with text proposals in six areas of work.


Commission welcomes agreement on key legislation to tackle climate change 

The European Parliament and Council today reached a provisional agreement on a key legislative proposal for implementing the EU’s 2030 climate objectives – on accounting of emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). They form part of the EU’s policy to drive Europe’s transition to a modern and clean economy. A robust climate policy framework is a key element of the EU’s Energy Union and a successful transition to a modern and clean economy. This is a necessary shift that will require a contribution from all sectors of the economy. Incentives for climate-friendly land use and forestry ensure the continued growth and sustainable productivity of our rural communities, which provide important services and economic benefit. A sustainably managed land use sector can supply renewable energy and materials, ensuring that the EU remains a world leader in these markets. Welcoming the political agreements, Energy Union Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: “Today is yet another milestone for the European Union in its job to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments. Today’s agreement recognising the role of land and forests in mitigating climate change puts the European Union firmly on track. Climate action must outpace climate change and we are once again setting a positive precedent that others beyond Europe can follow.” Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete added: “After long and complex negotiations, we have found an agreement to include emissions and removals from land use, land use-change and forests in our collective efforts towards the 2030 objectives and in line with our commitment under the Paris Agreement. This is yet another example of Europe’s determination to turn the Paris Agreement into a reality, through concrete policies and measures.” Read full statement here.

President Juncker meets with the Visegrad 4 leaders and Prime Minister of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni

Only two months after the first meeting in October, President Juncker, together with Prime Minister Gentiloni, met again with the leaders of the four Visegrád countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – ahead of today’s European Council. Together they reaffirmed their joint determination to address common challenges together.  Migration featured prominently on the agenda of the meeting, particularly the EU Trust Fund for Africa. At the October European Council, all EU Member States agreed to contribute more to fill gaps in the Fund and today the Visegrad 4 made good on that commitment, announcing a further €35 million contribution to the North Africa window of the Fund. This constitutes a clear expression of solidarity and commitment towards the EU’s external action to manage and address the root causes of migration. In his statement today, President Juncker said: “I want cooperation to be as close as possible between the Visegrád Four countries and the Commission. Today I am happy that there are results. The V4 countries did deliver on this point, which is important. This is the proof that the Visegrád Four countries are fully aligned when it comes to solidarity with Italy and with others.” The North Africa window of the Fund has already helped more than 14,000 vulnerable migrants return voluntarily from Libya to their countries of origin and this figure should reach 18,000 by the end of 2017. The Fund has also provided medical help and direct support to more than 20,000 migrants inside and outside detention centres. The Africa Trust Fund – and the Visegrád contribution to it, is one part of the collective European solution to irregular migration on our shores. Last week the Commission proposed a political roadmap to reach a comprehensive agreement by June 2018 on how to pursue a sustainable migration policy, contributing to the European Council where this evening Member States will discuss the topic. Watch President Juncker’s statement here. More information on the roadmap here.  


EU agrees to make parcel delivery more affordable

EU negotiators reached a provisional agreement last night to make prices for cross-border parcel delivery services more transparent and affordable and to increase regulatory oversight of the EU parcel market.

The new Regulation is a key pillar of the Commission’s efforts to boost e-commerce to allow consumers and companies, in particular SMEs, to buy and sell products and services online more easily and confidently across the EU.

Vice-President Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: “High delivery prices are a major concern for consumers and companies, especially SMEs. With more transparency and a stronger role for the regulators, we are tackling this issue. It is good news again for the development of e-commerce in the EU, after a series of agreements to improve consumer protection, simplify VAT rules and fight unjustified geo-blocking. I thank the European Parliament and the Estonian Presidency for their efforts in reaching an agreement.” 


Eurostat: E-commerce in EU enterprises – 1 in 6 EU businesses sold on the web in 2016 – Some difficulties still hinder cross-border sales

Last year, 16% of enterprises located in the European Union (EU) and employing at least 10 persons had received orders via a website or via apps. Web sales include both sales to individual consumers and to other enterprises. The share of EU enterprises making web sales rose from 12% in 2010 to around 16% in 2014, since when it has been relatively stable. Among those EU enterprises with web sales in 2016, nearly all (97%) sold to their own country, while less than half (44%) sold to customers located in other EU Member States and over a quarter (28%) to non-EU customers. Full text available here 


Eurostat: Consumption per capita in purchasing power standards in 2016 – Consumption per capita varied between 53% and 132% of the EU average

Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) is a measure of material welfare of households. Across the Member States in 2016, AIC per capita expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) varied from 53% of the European Union (EU) average in Bulgaria to 132% in Luxembourg. Full text available here


Commission welcomes agreement by European Parliament and Council on its proposal to make people’s skills and qualifications more visible

The European Commission welcomes the political agreement between the European Parliament and Council on the revision of the Europass Decision achieved in Strasbourg yesterday. Europass is a suite of tools and services which support the transparency of skills and qualifications across the European Union. The main aim of the revision is to make people’s skills and qualifications more visible, to not only help people into jobs, but also to better understand and anticipate labour market trends and skills needs. Following the agreement, Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: “We needed to upgrade our Europass system to make it relevant for the digital age. The new Europass will be an even more effective tool to deliver for people on the ground so that they can better showcase their skills and manage their careers. With this agreement, the rollout of our European Skills Agenda is delivering and I want to thank the Estonian Presidency and the European Parliament for the excellent cooperation in achieving this result.” The political agreement has still to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council. More information on the initial Commission proposal can be found here.


European Union takes over chairmanship of Kimberley Process on conflict diamonds

Today the European Union has formally taken over the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process from Australia and will head the international initiative to stem the trade in conflict diamonds during 2018. On the occasion of assuming the lead role, HR/VP Federica Mogherini said “For the European Union, the Kimberley process is part of our work for sustainable development. It is part of our work for sustainable peace – to prevent new conflicts and cut the revenues of criminal and terrorist groups. It is part of our work for human rights – to make sure that diamonds produce wealth, not modern slavery. It has spread the idea that natural resources belong to communities, not militias. The main strength of the Kimberley process has always been that it looks beyond governments, to civil society and to private sector. This is our main asset as we chart the way ahead. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in this coming year.” More information is available here.


Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of Banco Popular’s real estate business by Blackstone 

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of control over the real estate business of Banco Popular Español S.A. of Spain by The Blackstone Group L.P. of the US. Banco Popular is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banco Santander. Its real estate business mostly comprises the Spanish portfolio of repossessed properties, non-performing loans relating to the real estate sector, and certain assets, as well as the operations of Banco Popular’s real estate management company, Aliseda. Blackstone is a global asset manager. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited overlap between the companies’ activities. 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.8679.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of sole control over Getec Energie companies by EQT Fund Management

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of sole control over the Getec Energie companies of Germany by EQT Fund Management S.à.r.l. of Luxembourg. The Getec Energie companies consist of (i) Getec Heat & Power AG; (ii) Getec Wärme & Effizienz AG; (iii) Getec Media AG; (iv) Getec shared services GmbH; and (v) Getec Contracting GmbH. They are specialised in energy contracting in Germany and the Netherlands. EQT is an investment fund that seeks to make investments in infrastructure as well as related assets and businesses in Northern Europe, Continental Europe and North America. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that EQT already held joint control over the Getec Energie companies prior to the transaction. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competitionwebsite, in the public case registerunder the case number M.8729.

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