| Transparency Register: Negotiations begin on a mandatory Register for the 3 EU Institutions
Political negotiators from the Parliament, Council and Commission met on Monday evening to discuss how to strengthen the EU Transparency Register. The Commission’s proposals would make it mandatory for interest representatives to sign up to the Register and abide by its Code of Conduct if they wish to seek to influence policy-making, for example by ensuring that meetings with decision-makers and access to EU buildings are subject to interest representatives fulfilling that condition. First Vice-President Timmermans, leading the negotiations for the Commission, said after the meeting: “Citizens expect to know who is influencing decision-makers in Brussels. We need a major step forward towards more transparency on who lobbies the EU institutions. Tonight we had a useful exchange of views, but there is still quite some way to go. We agreed to continue our work.” The 3 institutions agreed last night on the next steps for the negotiations, including a commitment to ensure that the process is highly transparent. The Joint Statement issued by the 3 institutions after the meeting can be found here.
Reform of Political Party Funding: Commission welcomes swift agreement by EU legislators
The Commission today welcomed the vote by the European Parliament on its proposals, following the 2017 State of the Union Address, to reform the rules on European Political Parties and Foundations. These changes will increase transparency, so people know what they are voting for in the European elections, improve democratic legitimacy with funding better reflecting the electorate’s choices, and strengthen enforcement so that abuses of public money can be better tackled and funds reclaimed. As President Jean-Claude Juncker stated in his State of the Union address on 13 September 2017 “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.” First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said after today’s vote: “This is an important reform and I am glad it is being completed so quickly. European political parties play a central and increasing role in creating a direct link between European citizens and the European political system. Citizens need to know who they are voting for when they cast their ballots in next year’s European elections, so it is good that these changes will make the links between national and European parties clearer. They will also make sure that the public money given to parties better reflects the votes their candidates have won, and help us claw back any funds which are misused.” A press release is online here.
COLLEGE MEETING: Enlargement package: Commission publishes reports on the Western Balkans partners and Turkey
Today the European Commission adopted its annual Enlargement Package, including seven individual reports, assessing the implementation of the European Union’s enlargement policy which is based on established criteria and fair and rigorous conditionality. Progress along the European path is an objective and merit-based process which depends on the concrete results achieved by each individual country, with the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights being an utmost priority. A credible enlargement perspective requires sustained efforts and irreversible reforms. The EU Enlargement is an investment in peace, security and stability in Europe: a prospect of EU membership has a powerful transformative effect on the partners in the process, embedding positive democratic, political, economic and societal change. The Commission recommended today that the Council decides that accession negotiations be opened with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania, in light of the progress achieved. Maintaining and deepening the current reform momentum in the key fields outlined in the reports will be decisive for the countries’ further progress. To support this, the Commission would apply the reinforced approach for the negotiating chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights and justice, freedom and security. This step forward in a long process is in line with merit-based approach and strict conditionality, most recently confirmed by the Commission’s Western Balkans strategy. As stated in the Strategy for the Western Balkans, the EU itself needs to be ready for new members – once they have met the conditions – including from an institutional and financial perspective. The Union must be stronger, more solid and more efficient before it can be bigger. For the first time together with the Enlargement Package, the Commission also published its annual assessments of the Economic Reform Programmes for the Western Balkans and Turkey. The annual assessments of the Economic Reform Programmes for the Western Balkan countries and Turkey show continued economic growth and efforts to strengthen macroeconomic and fiscal stability in the light of current vulnerabilities. Sound policies should be maintained and strengthened and the reforms speeded up to reduce the still persisting macroeconomic risks and unlock sources for sustainable long-term growth and speed up convergence with the EU. A press release is available online.
COLLEGE MEETING: Security Union: Commission presents new measures to deny terrorists and criminals the means and space to act
Today, the European Commission is taking additional steps to further curtail the space in which terrorists and criminals operate – denying them the means needed to plan, finance and carry out crimes. Six months after the anti-terrorism package of October 2017, the Commission is proposing measures to: bolster the security of identity cards and reduce document fraud; provide law enforcement and judicial authorities with access to electronic evidence and financial information; further restrict terrorists’ access to explosives precursors; and strengthen controls on the import and export of firearms. The Commission is also reporting today on the progress made on other priority initiatives which will pave the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Security has been a top priority of this Commission from day one. We continue to support Member States’ efforts to better protect our citizens and safeguard their freedoms. And today, we are stepping up our actions to deprive criminals and terrorists of the tools and resources they need to perpetrate their crimes – delivering on our commitment to a Union that protects.” Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Today we take action to restrict explosives precursors and firearms, to step up the security of ID cards, and introduce measures to help law enforcement access information they need to fight crime and terrorism. We are building our security framework on core security measures, but also stronger border management, and more efficient judicial and law enforcement cooperation. This is how we move closer to a genuine and effective Security Union.” Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “By giving law enforcement access to crucial pieces of financial information, we are closing another loophole being exploited by terrorists, and hitting them where it hurts – their finances. And together with facilitating easier gathering of electronic evidence, tightening controls on firearms and explosives precursors and strengthening the security of ID cards, we are further squeezing the space in which terrorists operate.” A press release, Q&A and a factsheet are available online.
Mergers: Commission clears the creation of joint venture Fujitsu Client Computing Limited, by Fujitsu and Lenovo
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of the joint venture, Fujitsu Client Computing Limited (FCCL), by Fujitsu Limited (Fujitsu) and Lenovo Group Limited (Lenovo). FCCL, based in Japan, will comprise most of Fujitsu’s personal computer business as well as various ancillary services, including R&D functions. Fujitsu is an information and communication technology company also based in Japan. Lenovo is a multinational computer technology group based in China. The Commission assessed the horizontal overlap of the parties’ activities on the market for the supply of personal computers (desktops, notebooks and tablets) and the potential segments at European and national level. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not have a significant impact on effective competition in the Single Market. The Commission based its conclusion in particular on the presence of a number of firms, which will continue to compete strongly with FCCL and the parties, irrespective of the potential segmentation or geographic scope of the market. The Commission also investigated the vertical relationship between the upstream market for the supply of personal computers and the downstream market for the supply of IT services. The Commission concluded that FCCL and the parties would neither have the ability nor incentive to shut out competing suppliers as there are many alternative players at both levels. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s Competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8765.
High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini andCommissioner Hahn travelling to the Western Balkans following the adoption of the Enlargement package
Federica Mogherini, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission and Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will travel to the Western Balkans region following today’s adoption of the Enlargement Package. They will reconfirm the EU’s clear engagement and commitment to the Western Balkans and to the European perspective of the region. The visits follow the discussion on the Western Balkans in the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 April in Luxembourg where ministers debated on EU relations with the region, in particular in preparation of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on 17 May. It also follows the publication of the Western Balkans Strategy on 6 February 2018. Federica Mogherini will visit Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia from 17 to 19 April. Johannes Hahn will visit the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 18 April. Photos and videos of the visit will be available on EbS.