| EUROSTAT: Flash estimate for the first quarter of 2018 -GDP up by 0.4% in both euro area and EU28 – +2.5% and +2.4% respectively compared with the first quarter of 2017
Seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.4% in both the euro area (EA19) and the EU28 during the first quarter of 2018, compared with the previous quarter, according to a flash estimate published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the fourth quarter of 2017, GDP had grown by 0.7% in the euro area and by 0.6% in the EU28. Full text available here
Commission advises public buyers on how to capitalise innovation
In the context of the Renewed Agenda for Research and Innovation presented today as input to the upcoming Leaders’ agenda meeting in Sofia, the Commission has published guidance to encourage public buyers of goods and services in using public procurement as a tool to stimulate innovation. “Public authorities in the EU spend nearly 14% of GDP purchasing services and products. If spent strategically on innovative solutions, public procurement can contribute to higher quality and sustainable public service and lead to economic and social benefits. It creates demand for new ideas and innovative start-ups to emerge and grow. We are here to assist the Member States that choose to do so.”, said Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska. A greater shift to the strategic public procurement is a choice of the Member States but it is at the same time a very strong tool supporting our shared objectives such as research and innovation. EU public procurement legislation was modernised in 2014 and the Commission put forward in October 2017 an initiative to carry out procurement more efficiently and in a modern and sustainable manner. The guidance complements these efforts. It contains good-practice examples on reducing administrative burden, adjusting selection criteria, mobilising innovation brokers and designing an SME-friendly payment scheme to better attract innovators to public procurement. Alternative public procurement procedures can specifically cater for innovation (for example competitive dialogues, design contests or innovation partnerships) and have been bundled in a flexible toolbox to inspire new approaches.
EU prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards – 29 winners announced
Today, the European Commission and Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage network, have announced the winners of this year’s EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards. The 29 laureates from 17 countries have been recognised for their accomplishments in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. Cultural heritage is in the spotlight throughout 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 sees many initiatives and events being organised across the continent to celebrate Europe’s rich cultural heritage. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport said: “Cultural heritage in all its different forms is one of Europe’s most precious assets. It builds bridges between people and communities, as well as between the past and the future. It is central to our identity as Europeans, and also has a vital role in driving social and economic development. I congratulate the winners of the 2018 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards and their teams for their exceptional and innovative work. Thanks to their talent and commitment, numerous European cultural heritage treasures have been safeguarded and revitalised. And importantly, their work enables people from all backgrounds to discover, explore and engage with our rich cultural heritage, fully in the spirit of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.” More information on the award winners can be found here. They will be honoured at a high-level European Heritage Awards Ceremony, co-hosted by Commissioner Navracsics and the President of Europa Nostra, Maestro Plácido Domingo, on 22 June in Berlin, during the first ever European Cultural Heritage Summit.
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of UK Enterprise Management Initiative scheme
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules the prolongation of the UK Enterprise Management Initiative scheme, which reduces the taxation of employee share options for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Under the scheme, employees of SMEs will benefit from reductions from income tax and/or national insurance contributions, when exercising their share options. Furthermore, also the employer (i.e. SMEs that are listed companies and would therefore be subject to national insurance contributions when the share options are exercised) will benefit from reductions from such contributions. The aim of the scheme is to allow SMEs to recruit and retain employees, and thus enable their growth, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. The Commission initially authorised the scheme in 2009. In March 2018, the UK authorities notified their plans to prolong the scheme to the Commission. The Commission’s assessment found that the prolongation of the measure is necessary to help UK SMEs attract and retain talented and skilled personnel. It also found that the measure contains a number of safeguards, such as a cap on the value of the share options that can be subject to the tax advantage both at the employee and employer level, ensuring that potential distortions to competition are limited. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules. Without prejudice to any provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, which is under negotiation, this Commission decision only applies until the UK ceases to be a Member State. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the reference SA.47789.
State aid: Commission approves CZK 400 million public support for intermodal transport in the Czech Republic
The European Commission has approved a CZK 400 million (around €16 million) aid scheme to support the shift of freight traffic from road to rail and inland waterways in the Czech Republic. The scheme, which will run until 31 December 2023, will support the purchase of transport units dedicated to combined transport, such as intermodal road trailers and freight containers. The beneficiaries will be operators of intermodal transport. The government will support up to 30% of the eligible costs, with the scheme being partially funded by the EU Cohesion Fund. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary to improve the competitiveness of intermodal transport services in the Czech Republic and that it is proportionate in accordance with EU State aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.49153.
European Labour Authority on track: Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Thyssen attend first meeting of the Advisory Group
Tomorrow, 16 May, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, as well as Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will attend the very first meeting of the Advisory Group for the European Labour Authority (ELA). The Advisory Group aims to facilitate the establishment of the Labour Authority and make sure it is rapidly operational once established by the European Parliament and the Council. The Advisory Group is composed of representatives of Member States’ authorities, Union-level social partners, and existing EU agencies in the employment and social area. Member countries of the European Free Trade Area and Europol will have an observer status in the Advisory Group. Ahead of the meeting,Commissioner Thyssen said: “Tomorrow’s meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the upcoming activities of the Advisory Group. I’m happy to see the European Labour Authority is on track, as it will fulfil a very important role in ensuring fair EU labour mobility.” The Commission presented its proposal to establish a European Labour Authority, first announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address, in March 2018. The European Labour Authority will aim to ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way. It will act as a permanent structure to support national authorities, businesses, and mobile citizens and will be established as a new decentralised EU agency. The Commission’s aim is to have it up and running in 2019.
Commissioner Stylianides visits Belgian Federal Parliament to discuss current humanitarian aid challenges and rescEU: the EU’s plan to strengthen its emergency response to disasters
Today Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides meets with members of the International Relations Committee, the Federal Advisory Committee for EU Affairs and the Interior Committee of the Belgian Federal Parliament. Commissioner Stylianides will discuss current humanitarian aid challenges. He will also present rescEU – the Commission’s proposal to strengthen Europe’s ability to deal with disasters.)