15 Sep 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily, IFA in Brussels


State of the Union 2017 – Democracy Package: Reform of Citizens’ Initiative and Political Party funding

On 13 September, in his annual State of the Union Address, President Jean-Claude Juncker stated: “Our Union needs a democratic leap forward. Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of national campaigns. European democracy deserves better. We should be giving European parties the means to better organise themselves.” Increasing democratic legitimacy in the EU through stronger citizen participation is among the Ten Priorities of the Juncker Commission (Priority 10 – Democratic Change). To continue delivering on this commitment, the European Commission adopted two legislative proposals to revise the European Citizens’ Initiative Regulation and the Regulation on European Political Parties and Foundations. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans presented these two proposals in a press conference in Brussels today, stating: “With these proposals, we are empowering Europeans to participate in the democratic process. We want to make the European Citizens’ Initiative more accessible for all Europeans, and by lowering the age limit from 18 to 16, we have invited 10 million more young Europeans to step forward and help shape the EU’s policy agenda. At the same time, our political party reform will ensure that Europeans are better informed about the link between national and European parties, and will ensure that their funding better reflects the democratic choices made by citizens in the European elections.” A full press release and memo are available online. The First Vice-President’s press conference can be watched on EbS here.


Convergence criteria for joining the euro: State of play for non-euro area Member States

As President Juncker stated, “It’s not my idea to request that Member States now gallop into the euro. They have to fulfil the criteria before joining the euro. This will not change. But a Euro-accession support instrument should help those who want to join.” This is why President Juncker in his 2017 speech on the State of the Union, proposed the creation of a Euro-accession Instrument, to offer technical and financial assistance to non-euro area Member States on their path towards full membership of the euro. All EU Member States except Denmark and the United Kingdom are required by the EU Treaties to join the euro once they fulfil all conditions, but as President Juncker said, “no one would be forced to do so. The strict convergence criteria for joining the euro would continue to apply”, he explained. Today the European Commission published the latest available facts and figures on the situation of non-euro area Member States vis-à-vis meeting the convergence criteria. See President Juncker’s statement in here, More information is available online in the two factsheets covering the legal parameters and on the convergence criteria and facts and figures on non-euro area Member States (more languages will be available later).



Juncker Plan: New projects signed, European Fund for Strategic Investments supports 300,000 jobs

The latest projects to receive support from the Investment Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) are Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal, to extend their campus; Águas de Portugal, to improve water supply and sanitation; Mecachrome, a circular economy project in France; Amadéite Group in France to support investments in marine biotechnology; Vertis Venture 3 in Italy which finances early-stage technology projects; and today the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed an agreement to finance the construction of 524 near-zero-energy social houses in Navarra, Spain, creating more than 700 jobs. The European Commission and the EIB Group estimate that the EFSI has so far supported 300,000 jobs across the EU. By 2020 that figure should be 700,000. This week the European Parliament and Member States came to an agreement in principle on EFSI 2.0 – the extension and reinforcement of the European Fund for Strategic Investments. (For more information about the EFSI 2.0 agreement, see our EFSI 2.0 Q&A, and for more details on any of the projects and Investment Plan results see the new and updated website, which has even more data about EFSI financing including results for all countries, more material such as stories about small businesses that have benefitted so far, and all the latest news.

IFA Brussels

Preparation of the Eurogroup and informal ECOFIN meetings, Tallinn 15-16 September 2017

Commissioner Moscovici represented the European Commission at today’s meeting of the Eurogroup. Both Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici attend the informal ECOFIN Council meetings today and tomorrow in Tallinn, Estonia. At today’s Eurogroup, Ministers held a thematic discussion on ways to increase the economic resilience of Member States in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in order to better withstand internal and external shocks. Ministers were also informed about the state of play of the stability support programme for Greece. Commissioner Moscovici participated in the press conference following the Eurogroup meeting. EU Ministers will exchange views during a working lunch on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union and maximising effectiveness of EU finances. This discussion will be followed by a working session on the same topic based on the Commission’s  Reflection Paper on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union published in May 2017. Ministers will further debate the implications of technological innovation in the area of financial regulation as part of the Capital Markets Union. On Saturday, Ministers will hold a working session on digital economy and taxation, given the importance of adapting European tax systems to the challenges of a modern economy. The discussion comes just days after President Juncker confirmed in his State of the Union letter of intent that the Commission would come forward in 2018 with a proposal for the taxation of the digital economy. In the final working session on Saturday, the ECOFIN will look at ways to increase cost efficiency and sustainability of EU customs IT systems. Vice-President Dombrovskis will participate in the two press conferences following the ECOFIN sessions on 15 and 16 September.


Eurostat: July 2017 – Euro area international trade in goods surplus €23.2 bn – €8.8 bn surplus for EU28

The first estimate for euro area (EA19) exports of goods to the rest of the world in July 2017 was €177.7 billion, an increase of 6.1% compared with July 2016 (€167.6 bn). Imports from the rest of the world stood at €154.6 bn, a rise of 8.2% compared with July 2016 (€142.8 bn). As a result, the euro area recorded a €23.2 bn surplus in trade in goods with the rest of the world in July 2017, compared with +€24.8 bn in July 2016. Intra-euro area trade rose to €145.6 bn in July 2017, up by 5.6% compared with July 2016.  Full text available here


European Union bringing communities in Kosovo together in support of cultural heritage protection

The European Union adopted a programme worth €2 million to support confidence building among the ethnic communities in Kosovo through cultural heritage protection. The European Commission adopted this week a programme – under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) – worth €2 million to support cultural heritage protection in Kosovo. The programme will support the continued rehabilitation of important cultural and religious sites, the development of cultural and rural tourism, as well as engaging communities to work together on cultural heritage protection. In doing so, this programme will contribute to greater understanding and reconciliation between ethnic communities. The full press release is available online


EU co-hosts major international climate meeting with Canada and China

The European Union, Canada and China are joining forces to strengthen global action in the fight against climate change. They will co-host a Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action on 15-16 September in Montreal, Canada. This gathering, a first of its kind, seeks to galvanise global momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and will bring together ministers and high-level representatives from 34 economies that are part of the G20 and other invited countries. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will jointly lead the roundtable discussion on climate action and clean growth. Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: “The EU remains committed to the Paris Agreement and its full and swift implementation. Domestically, we are progressing steadily with the finalisation of the measures to reduce our emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Internationally, we are strengthening our existing partnerships and seeking new alliances. Our aim is to raise global climate ambition, follow through with concrete action and support our partners, in particular the most vulnerable countries.” The meeting in Montreal takes place only days after this year’s State of the Union Address by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker where he underlines that he “wants Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again. It is the shared heritage of all of humanity” (read #SOTEU2017 SPEECH/17/3165). Two months before the next United Nations climate conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, the meeting will also provide the space for discussions on the expected outcomes of upcoming UN climate talks. More information on the Commission’s website.


Clean, shared and intelligent mobility: Commission launches the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK

The European Commission is today launching the 16th edition of the EUROPEAN Mobility WEEK taking place from 16 to 22 September across more than 2000 towns and cities. The objective of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is to promote sustainable urban mobility and this year edition will encourage people to use shared forms of transportation such as bicycle and car sharing under the slogan ‘Sharing gets you further’. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Shared mobility is a smart and innovative emerging model of transportation, with the potential to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads: for example, for each shared car, 15 private cars are off the road. But it’s not only about cars; we are witnessing a real explosion of shared bike systems in cities and towns across the EU. This is important, as we need to ensure that the future of urban mobility is both shared and sustainable.” Shared mobility solutions can indeed reduce congestion, air pollution and make a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of urban transport, which is responsible for about 23% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is essential for Europe to be “the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change” envisioned by President Juncker in the State of the Union. The EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK will include events such as car-free days all across Europe and the second edition of the European day without a road death, which aims at raising awareness on road safety. More information is available here.


Mergers: Commission approves banking joint venture by DNB and Nordea in the Baltics

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, a proposed joint venture between DNB of Norway and Nordea of Sweden. The joint venture, called the Luminor Group, would operate in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. DNB and Nordea are universal banks which offer a wide range of financial services to retail and corporate clients. They will combine their banking activities in the Baltics in the newly created Luminor Group. The Commission concluded that the proposed merger would raise no competition concerns in view of the strong competition that the Luminor Group will face post-transaction, notably from SEB bank and Swedbank, and the fact that DNB and Nordea are not considered to be particularly close competitors in the countries concerned by the transaction. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8414.


Eurostat: Second quarter of 2017 – Euro area job vacancy rate at 1.9% – EU28 rate at 2.0%

The job vacancy rate in the euro area (EA19) was 1.9% in the second quarter of 2017, stable compared with the previous quarter and up from 1.7% in the second quarter of 2016, according to figures published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the EU28, the job vacancy rate was 2.0% in the second quarter of 2017, up from 1.9% recorded in the previous quarter and from 1.8% in the second quarter of 2016.  Full text available here


Eurostat: Second quarter of 2017 – Annual growth in labour costs at 1.8% in euro area – At 2.2% in EU28

Hourly labour costs rose by 1.8% in the euro area (EA19) and by 2.2% in the EU28 in the second quarter of 2017, compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the first quarter of 2017, hourly labour costs increased by 1.4% and 1.6% respectively. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Full text available here




Reinvigorating Multilateralism: EU attends 72nd United Nations General Assembly Ministerial week

A high-level delegation of the European Union will attend the ministerial week of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, starting on 18 September in New York. The EU representatives will participate in a large number of events at the United Nations and meet with world leaders, reflecting the European Union’s engagement as a force for positive change, in support of multilateralism and a rules-based global order. The level and breadth of the EU’s participation illustrates the strong cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations, who work hand in hand to jointly deliver peace and security, advance human rights and sustainable development, thus changing lives across the globe for the better. To help find common solutions to global challenges, the European Union will host several events in the margins of the General Assembly. These include the launch of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade and the launch of the EU – UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The EU will also host a ministerial-level event on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and a high-level meeting on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, following up on the 2017 Brussels conference. In the run up to the African Union – EU Summit in November 2017, a series of events dedicated to Africa will take place. See here the full press release with more information on the activities of the EU participants, and here a factsheet on EU – UN cooperation. For more information throughout the week follow key events also on EbS and the EU Delegation at the UN.

Commissioner Moscovici in Washington D.C. and New York, USA

Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Union, Pierre Moscovici travels to the United States on Sunday for several days of meetings with U.S. policymakers and stakeholders in Washington, D.C. and New York, including Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, as well as the Director-General of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva. On Monday in Washington he will deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution entitled ‘Europe’s window of opportunity: Seizing the moment to strengthen the Eurozone’. On Wednesday in New York, the Commissioner will attend the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and on Thursday he will take part in a conversation on ‘Transforming the Eurozone’ at Columbia University.


Vice-President Maroš Šefcovic’ visit to Ukraine focused on energy policy reforms

On 15 September European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic will pay a working visit to Kyiv. He will meet Ukrainian leadership and speak at the opening of the 14th Yalta European Strategy annual event on the geopolitics of energy policy. The Vice-President intends to discuss with his interlocutors the reform progress in energy sector, gas transit and Naftogaz reforms and explore ways to further develop the EU-Ukraine cooperation in the context of the Energy Union. During his visit, Vice-President will meet Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Vice Prime Ministers Hennadiy Zubko and Volodymyr Kistion, Energy Minister Ihor Nasalyk and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin. He will also meet with members of Verkhovna Rada Energy Committee and Naftogas CEO Andriy Kobolyev. Prior to his visit, Vice-President Šefcovic said: “The European Union strongly supports Ukraine’s reforms in the energy sector, which are central to modernising Ukraine’s economy and bringing concrete advantages to consumers and enterprises. I look forward to discuss with Ukrainian leadership our next steps to enable Ukraine’s full potential in the fields of energy efficiency, power sector and transit of gas. 


Commissioner Jourová on official visit to Washington D.C and San Francisco

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová will visit Washington D.C. on Monday September 18 to launch the first annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The purpose of the review is to establish whether the arrangement adopted on 12 July, now used by over 2,400 firms, properly secures transfers of personal data from the EU to the US. After discussions with US administration and gathering feedback from range of stakeholders, from businesses to NGOs, the Commission will publish a report with its assessment in the coming weeks. The Commissioner will then visit Silicon Valley September 19-20 to quiz tech companies on their experience with Privacy Shield and discuss the ongoing work on social platforms in the EU, including combating illegal online hate speech, user’s terms and conditions, gender equality, especially in a tech environment and other upcoming EU initiatives. In particular, she’ll meet Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, representatives of Google and other tech companies, start-ups and NGOs. She will give a keynote at Berkeley University on ‘Between freedom and security – The future of justice on the Internet’. More information on the Privacy Shield is available online, as well as in a short video.


Commissioner Navracsics to travel to Slovenia for international education congress

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, will be in Ljubljana on Monday where he will open the 2nd World Open Educational Resources Congress. Organised by UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia, the Congress will adopt an Action Plan to further reinforce the use of open educational resources, such as openly licensed text, digital assets and media used for learning or teaching. The first edition of the Congress took place in Paris in 2012 and called on organisations to ensure that educational resources created with public funds are made available as open educational resources. Ahead of his visit, Commissioner Navracsics said: “Open Educational Resources have a critical role in boosting development and inclusion. Yet, high-quality educational materials are often still expensive and hard to access. Educational resources produced with public funding should be available to the public free of charge and without usage limitations. The European Commission is following this principle with its Erasmus+ programme, and many of the 2,800 projects completed since 2014 have created and released excellent open educational resources. We are working to ensure that all Erasmus+ funded educational resources become available under open licences in 2018.”


Commissioner King in Bucharest on Monday

EU Security Union Commissioner Julian King will be in Bucharest, Romania on Monday 18 September to discuss issues related to security, in particular information exchange and cybersecurity. During his visit, he will meet Mihai Tudose, Prime Minister of Romania, Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader and Minister of the Interior Carmen Dan. Commissioner King will also visit the Operational Headquarters – Central Management of the Romanian Border Control, which houses the Passenger Name Records (PNR), sea border and land border units, and later will meet with the specialised committees of the Romanian Parliament.

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