14 Sep 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily, IFA in Brussels


State of the Union 2017: Commission unveils initiatives for an balanced and progressive trade agenda

The Commission today unveiled an ambitious package of trade and investment proposals for a progressive and balanced trade agenda. Those include a European screening framework to ensure that foreign direct investment does not compromise the EU’s strategic interests, as well as three draft negotiating mandates for trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, and for a multilateral agreement to create an investment court. The Commission also steps up further the inclusiveness and transparency of its trade policy by setting up an Advisory Group on EU trade agreements and deciding to publish as of today any new proposals for negotiating mandates. These initiatives – explained and put in context in a Communication: A balanced and progressive trade policy to harness globalisation – build on “Trade for All” strategy of 2015 and the Commission’s broader Reflection Paper on Harnessing Globalisation from May 2017. For more information on today’s trade policy package see related press releases (general;  investment screening) and other documents available here. The press conference held today in Brussels can be watched on EbS.


State of the Union 2017: President Juncker strengthens ethical rules for Members of the Commission in new Code of Conduct

On the occasion of his 2017 State of the Union address, President Juncker announced a new Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission. The modernised rules set new standards for ethical rules in Europe. The announcement continues President Juncker’s push for greater transparency since the beginning of his mandate and his recent proposal to extend the “cooling-off” period from currently 18 months to two years for former Commissioners and to three years for the President of the Commission. The proposed modernisation goes further by setting clearer rules and higher ethical standards as well as introducing greater transparency in a number of areas. It will also create an Independent Ethical Committee replacing the current Ad hoc Ethical Committee, to reinforce its status, to strengthen scrutiny and to provide advice on ethical standards. Full press release is available in all languages here.


Commission supports more than 150 new reform projects in 15 Member States under its new Structural Reform Support Programme

The Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) now engages with 15 EU Member States to carry out more than 150 projects ranging from assistance for reforms in sectors from judiciary to digital. The structural reform assistance comes under the Service’s €142.8 million programme from 2017-2020. The role of the Structural Reform Support Service was mentioned in President Juncker’s State of the Union Address. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will give an on-the-record briefing today in Tallinn on the latest set of reform support projects. On the eve of the informal ECOFIN, he said: “Today we are launching cooperation with 15 countries to design and implement important growth-enhancing reforms. I would like to acknowledge the leadership and efforts of the involved authorities. Reforms require investing political capital, which is not always easy. But experience shows that reforms pay off. They bring more jobs and robust growth.”For more information on the Structural Reform Support Service, see the factsheet here.

IFA Brussels

Eurostat regional yearbook 2017 – How is my region doing within the European Union? – Facts and figures at subnational levels

National figures alone cannot reveal the full and sometimes complex picture of what is happening at a more detailed level within the European Union (EU). EU Member States are often compared with each other, but in reality it is very difficult to compare a small country like Malta or Luxembourg with Germany, the most populous EU Member State.  Full text available here

Solidarity with Italy: European Parliament backs Commission proposal for €1.2 billion of aid following the earthquakes

The Commission welcomes the European Parliament’s vote on the proposal to grant Italy €1.2 billion under the EU Solidarity Fund, the highest sum ever mobilised under the fund, following the deadly earthquakes of 2016 and 2017. This exceptional amount will help Umbria, Lazio, Marche and Abruzzo heal and bounce back and, as President Juncker said, help people living in these regions turn the page on this painful chapter and build a new future. “We have repeatedly said that we would not leave Italy alone in this crisis and we are delivering on this commitment,” said Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu, “The EU cares. It is leaving none of its Member States alone in the face of difficulty. Both our emergency help response and long-term assistance are concrete expressions of EU solidarity with its citizens.” The proposal now has to be formally adopted by the Council. The money is expected to be paid to Italy this autumn. More information on EU support to Italy following the earthquakes and, more generally, on the EU helping citizens and Member States at home is available online.


EU supports Greece following oil tanker spill

The European Commission has helped mobilise immediate support for Greece following a request for assistance to deal with a marine pollution incident in the sea area of Piraeus. Greece has activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism requesting a vessel to help with clean-up operations. The request was channelled through the Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre and the European Maritime Safety Agency promptly offered an oil recovery vessel as well as satellite imaging. “Our EU emergency centre responded swiftly to Greece’s request and I’m pleased to see another concrete example of EU solidarity in action. The oil recovery vessel offered by the European Maritime Safety Agency has already started response activities in the affected area,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.The European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre monitors natural and man-made disasters 24/7, including marine pollution emergencies and is closely monitoring the latest developments. The European Maritime Safety Agency manages a network of standby at-sea oil spill recovery vessels based in all the regional seas of Europe.  


European Commission launches public consultations to improve the security of EU citizens’ documents 

Have you ever lost your passport while on holiday? Did you ever need an emergency travel document to get home?  Or do you worry that someone might make a fake copy of your ID card? The Commission wants to better address these issues by launching two public consultations to improve the security of EU citizens’ documents, as announced in the 2017 EU Citizenship Report. Commissioner Jourová said: “EU citizens should be able to exercise their citizenship rights wherever they go. Having identity cards and residence cards that are more secure is crucial for security across the EU. We also want to modernise the rules on emergency travel documents to make it easier for EU citizens to access consular protection outside the EU.” The first consultation will gather views on how to improve the security of identity cards and residence documents.  The second consultation aims at evaluating the existing rules for emergency travel documents for people living or travelling outside the EU where their country does not have an embassy or consulate. Both consultations will run until 5 December 2017 and are open to all EU citizens.


Commissioner Hahn pays visit to Serbia

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations is travelling to Belgrade, Serbia the day after the State of the European Union, to reaffirm the EU’s perspective for the country and the Western Balkan region, as set out by President Juncker in his address yesterday. Commissioner Hahn will reiterate the unquestionable commitment of the EU to Serbia’s EU integration and support for its reform process. He will discuss with his interlocutors the state of play of Serbia’s accession process as well as priority issues such as the implementation of the Regional Economic Area and the connectivity agenda. Tomorrow, 15 September Johannes Hahn will meet with President Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić. Commissioner Hahn will also participate in the event ‘EU-Serbia: A strategic partnership for the future’ organised by the European Convent, where he will deliver a speech and will have an exchange with Serbian Erasmus students. Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS.


Tackling Challenges for Independent Media in Eastern Partnership Countries

The 2nd Eastern Partnership Media Conference took place yesterday in Kyiv, Ukraine to shine a spotlight on the growing challenges facing journalists in the EU’s Eastern partner countries. Bringing together 350 media professionals and donors from ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraineas well as the EU Member States and beyond, it offered a unique platform to identify the obstacles to healthy media environment, discuss ways of addressing them, and examine how the European Union and other donors can best support independent journalism in these countries. In his message to the participants, Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, stressed that ”Freedom of expression is one of the very foundations on which our Union is built. We believe that a strong, independent press is fundamental to successful societies everywhere. Today’s conference clearly shows the importance of closer engagement of the EU with partner countries on the issues of plurality and independence of media.’‘ The full press release and the factsheet EU support to media in the Eastern Partner countries are available online.


EU steps up efforts to prevent violent extremism and counter-terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa

The European Union adopted a programme under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace worth €17.5 million to address the terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa. This three-year programme will address drivers and threats from terrorism in the region to foster human security and build resilience in both states and societies. Federica Mogherini, High Representative/Vice-President, said: “We are increasing as a priority our work and cooperation on counterterrorism with partner countries. We have developed a network of counterterrorism experts that are deployed in key countries and a series of counterterrorism dialogues with our partners to exchange best practices and to learn from each other. The best way to address radicalisation and violent extremism effectively is by working together, in a comprehensive and concerted way.” The full press release is available online.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of parking-facilities operator Q-Park by KKR

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Q-Park of the Netherlands by KKR of the US via purchase of shares. Q-Park constructs, renovates and operates off-street parking facilities. KKR is a global investment firm which offers a broad range of alternative asset management services to public and private market investors, and provides capital markets solutions for the firm, its portfolio companies and clients. 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.8561.


New rules adopted to finance the Single Resolution Board’s administrative costs

The Commission has today adopted new rules on how to finance the administrative expenditures of the Single Resolution Board (SRB), the EU agency responsible for ensuring the orderly resolution of failing banks in the Banking Union. A strong Single Resolution Board with sufficient resources and highly qualified staff is essential for the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) to function properly and protect financial stability without recourse to taxpayers’ money. The SRB has an autonomous budget, with a dedicated part for its administrative costs that consists of the annual contributions from banks. The administrative budget is distinct from the Single Resolution Fund (SRF), which works on the basis of contributions raised by national resolution authorities, which are then transferred to the Fund. Since it was set up in 2014, the SRB has collected advance payments for its administrative costs only from bigger banks. Today’s rules require all banks in the Banking Union to contribute to the SRB’s funding, in proportion to the resource requirements that they place on the Board, i.e. according to their size and the risks of their activities. The new rules, which take the form of a delegated act and will enter into force unless opposed by the European Parliament and the Council, will apply from 2018 onwards. Banks that made advance payments from 2015 to 2017 will be reimbursed for any excess contributions, as needed. Other banks will need to make back payments. The new rules are inspired by the European Central Bank’s (ECB) supervisory fees, meaning that banks are already familiar with the calculation methodology. For more information, see here.


Commission extends the mandate of Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the European Research Council

The Commission has re-appointed Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon as President of the European Research Council (ERC), the EU’s premier funding body for investigator-driven frontier research. Professor Bourguignon, a mathematician and French national, has worked in this role since 2014, and will now continue until the end of 2019. The ERC is part of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. Its mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe across all fields through competitive funding awarded on the basis of scientific excellence. Further information, including Professor Bourguignon’s biography, is available online.



Vice-President Šefčovič, Commissioners Oettinger, Bulc and Gabriel in Frankfurt to discuss connected and automated driving

Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič, Commissioner for Budget & Human Resources Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel are today in Frankfurt where they will attend the opening of the International Motor Show (IAA) led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Vice-President Šefčovič will deliver a speech on “European Mobility – Accelerating into the future”. Later today, Commissioners Bulc and Gabriel will take part in the Second High-Level Dialogue on Automated and Connected Driving. This is a follow-up to the “Amsterdam Declaration” of April 2016 where the Commission and EU transport ministers agreed to intensify cooperation for the development of self-driving technology. On Friday, 15 September, Commissioners Oettinger and Gabriel will take part in the sixth edition of the Round Table on Connected and Automated Driving, a platform which includes Member States and the representatives of the European industry. As President Juncker pointed out in the State of the Union, it is essential to invest in the cars of the future to keep Europe at the forefront of innovation and digitisation. To this end, President Juncker announced a new industrial policy strategy.


Commissioner Jourová on official visit to Austria

On Friday 15 September Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová will travel to Austria to meet Vice-Chancellor and Justice Minister Brandstetter. Talks will mainly focus on the functioning of the prison system, security in the European Union as well as the rule of law. They will visit the youth prison of Gerasdorf, where they will discuss how to prevent radicalisation in prisons. A press conference will be organised on the premises of the prison at 11:30. In the afternoon, Commissioner Jourová and Vice-Chancellor Brandstetter will visit the exhibition “Alles was Recht ist” organised by the region of Lower Austria.


Commissioner King in Tallinn to give keynote speech at EU Cybersecurity Conference

EU Security Union Commissioner Julian King will be in Tallinn, Estonia tomorrow to deliver the keynote speech at the EU Cybersecurity Conference. The event, entitled ‘Digital Single Market, Common Digital Security 2017’, will focus on the current cyber threat landscape and ways to safeguard the digital single market. Topics for discussion will also include new cyber tools, such as a European Cybersecurity Agency, proposed by President Jean-Claude Juncker in the 2017 State of the Union address.


Commissioner Gabriel takes oath of independence at the European Court of Justice

Commissioner Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel took her formal oath of office today in Luxembourg, at the Court of Justice of the EU. With this “solemn undertaking”, the Member of the Commission pledged to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, to carry out her responsibilities in complete independence and in the general interest of the Union. The Commissioner also promised not to seek or take instructions from any authorities, to refrain from engaging in actions incompatible with her duties and performance of her tasks, and to respect her obligations during and after her term of office

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