State of the Union 2017: Commission scales up its response to cyber-attacks and proposes a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the EU
The European Commission and the High Representative are proposing today a wide-ranging set of measures to step up the EU’s cybersecurity capacity, including tools to ensure that Europe is better equipped to deal with cyber-attacks. As well as a proposal for a strong EU Cybersecurity Agency, the European Commission and the High Representative are proposing a new European certification scheme that will ensure that products and services in the digital world are cyber secure, as well as measures to combat fraud and the counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment. On 13 September2017, in his annual State of the Union Address, President Jean-Claude Juncker stated: “In the past three years, we have made progress in keeping Europeans safe online. But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks. This is why […] the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.” To unlock the full potential of the EU data economy, the Commission is additionally proposing a new set of rules to govern the free flow of non-personal data in the EU. Together with the already existing rules for personal data, the new measures will enable the storage and processing of non-personal data across the Union to boost the competitiveness of European businesses and to modernise public services in an effective EU single market for data services. Details on the cybersecurity initiatives are available in the press release, questions and answers, an overview factsheet as well as the factsheets on the European Union Cybersecurity Agency and on non-cash payment fraud. Further information on the free flow of non-personal data can be found in the press release, questions and answers and factsheet.
European Union signs €200 million assistance programme with Jordan
Jordan will receive further Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) from the European Union. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, on behalf of the EU, has signed the agreement for a second Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme with Jordan, worth €200 million. This macro-financial assistance is the second programme Jordan receives following €180 million approved in 2013 and fully disbursed in 2015. It is part of the EU’s comprehensive effort to help Jordan mitigate the economic and social impact from regional conflicts and the presence of a large number of Syrian refugees, as confirmed during the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region in April 2017 and the EU-Jordan Association Council in July 2017. The €200 million programme, in the form of medium-term loans at favourable financing conditions, will help Jordan cover its external financing needs in 2017 and 2018, support reform measures in the areas of public finance management and taxation, promote investments and exports, strengthen the country’s social safety net, and foster job creation. Commissioner Moscovici said: “Jordan’s economy and public finances have been strongly affected by the war in Syria and the protracted refugee crisis. The European Union stands by Jordan in these very difficult times. The agreement signed today provides further important support for Jordan’s efforts to preserve macroeconomic stability and reform its economy.”
As a joint initiative with the EU, International Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is launched
The International Alliance for Torture-Free Trade was launched on Monday during the United Nations General Assembly ministerial week in New York. The initiative – a joint effort by the European Union, Argentina and Mongolia, with a total of 58 participating countries – aims to stop the trade in goods used to carry out the death penalty and commit torture. “These products serve no other purpose than inflicting terrible pain and killing people. Now we are taking concrete action to shut down this despicable trade. I am thrilled that so many countries around the globe have signed up to the joint Declaration and joined this Alliance. By standing together, we demonstrate that we will not tolerate this trade any longer,” said Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. More information here and at http://torturefreetrade.org
EU at UN General Assembly: Full day of activities
On the first full day of events and bilateral meetings at the 72nd UN General Assembly ministerial week on Monday in New York, First Vice-President Timmermans addressed the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit, highlighting the importance of education, as well as the high-level launch event of the Equal Pay International Coalition, where he underlined the need of empowering women through education and ensuring undifferentiated treatment of girls and boys from birth. He further had an interactive discussion on democracy and media at Columbia University. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini took part in the ministerial meeting of the like-minded group on Syria, hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She also attended a high level meeting on the G5 Sahel, organised by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and spoke at the Ad-hoc Liaison Committee for Palestine together with Commissioner Johannes Hahn. She chaired an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers who were joined by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Libya Ghassan Salamé; Commissioner Hahn also participated. Commissioner Neven Mimica hosted a meeting of the Scaling up Nutrition Movement Lead Group and addressed the UN Private Sector Forum 2017 on the financing of the 2030 Agenda. Commissioner Chrystos Stylianides delivered a speech on Hurricane Irma and spoke at an event on Rebuilding Shattered Lives and Communities: Chibok and Yazidi Girls and Women, where he pointed out that women and girls are the most vulnerable people in conflicts and crises. As the leader of the global initiative on gender-based violence protection, the EU is dedicating more than €200 million per year in humanitarian aid to related healthcare. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos underlined the important need for a global approach on cybersecurity at a high-level event on the role and responsibilities of private actors in strengthening the stability and international security of cyberspace. The EU’s agenda at #UNGA on Tuesday will be dominated by further multilateral and a high number of bilateral meetings as well as the annual EU event, this year dedicated to the Erasmus programme.
State aid: Commission approves alternative to divestment commitment for Royal Bank of Scotland
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules the alternative package proposed by the UK authorities to replace the commitment for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to divest Williams & Glyn. Today’s decision follows the agreement in principle reachedon 26 July 2017between Commissioner Vestager and the UK Government. The commitment to divest Williams & Glyn was made by the UK authorities as part of RBS’s restructuring plan submitted in 2009 and amended in 2014, to remedy competition concerns in the concentrated UK SME banking sector, where RBS is the leading bank. During the Commission’s in-depth investigation, the UK authorities proposed amendments to their original package to take into account some of the comments made by interested parties on the package. The Commission’s investigation concluded that the improved package is sufficient to replace the divestment commitment and will increase competition in the UK SME banking market. A full press release is available online in here.
State aid: Commission approves Belgium’s and France’s plan to convert their Dexia preference shares into ordinary shares
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a plan notified by Belgium and France to convert their existing preference shares of Dexia into ordinary shares. Dexia is a bank in liquidation since 2012, and is exiting the market and not competing for new business. It is however still subject to regulatory capital requirements. The objective of this conversion is to enable Dexia to comply with the request from the European Central Bank to maintain Dexia’s capital ratios above their regulatory thresholds, as the preference shares will lose their Common Equity Tier 1 status on 1 January 2018. In 2012, Belgium and France provided significant state support for the liquidation of the Dexia group, with full burden-sharing of existing ordinary shareholders to limit the amount of State aid. The preferential shares served to ensure that the two States were repaid before the existing ordinary shareholders, in case the liquidation would result in a profit. The Commission found that the conversion plan incorporates elements such as new preferential rights for Belgium and France and a dilution of ordinary shareholders. This will ensure that future wind down proceeds will still in the first place go to the two States and preserve the full burden sharing of ordinary shareholders. In particular, the conversion plan sufficiently ensures there is no undue benefit to ordinary shareholders at the expense of taxpayers. On this basis, the Commission has approved this conversion plan under 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.49039.
Mergers: Commission clears joint venture by Aunde and Bader in the automotive sector
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture by AUNDE Achter & Ebels GmbH, part of the Aunde Group (“Aunde”) and Bader Holding GmbH, part of the Bader Group (“Bader”), both of Germany. Aunde designs, manufactures and supplies yarns, technical textiles, seat covers, technical springs, complete seats, foam parts, interior and composite components for original equipment manufacturers in the automotive sector under the Aunde, Isringhausen and Fehrer brands. Bader produces leather that can be used for seat covers and other interior part of a vehicle. The joint venture will manufacture and supply textile and/or leather seat covers for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to original equipment manufacturers, primarily in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the limited activities of the joint venture in the EEA.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.8559.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition over logistic assets of Logicor by CIC
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the indirect acquisition of sole control over companies and assets comprising the Logicor business (“Logicor”) of the UK by China Investment Corporation (“CIC”). Logicor owns and operates logistics warehouse assets across the EU. CIC is a Chinese sovereign wealth fund established as a vehicle to diversify China’s foreign exchange holdings and seek maximum returns for the state within acceptable risk tolerance. 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.8554.
Eurostat clarifies how to record energy performance contracts in national accounts
Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Commission, has published today an updated guidance note on the recording of energy performance contracts (EPCs) in government accounts. The revised guidance note clarifies the accounting rules applied to the treatment of energy performance contracts. It note follows up on the work already undertaken by Eurostat to clarify the accounting rules for various types of public investment, including the Guide to the Statistical Treatment of Public Private Partnerships published last year. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, and responsible for Eurostat, said: “Europe needs investments. With this guidance we show how public authorities can invest in full respect of the principles of public accounting, now also in the energy sector. Facilitating investments in energy efficiency measures has also an important social function, as public buildings such as social housing facilities will benefit from it too.” Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy said: “Energy efficiency first: from words to action. Thanks to the revised guidance published today, it will be easier for schools, hospitals, and other public buildings – which make up more than 10% of the overall EU building stock – to invest for the purpose of improving energy efficiency. Energy efficiency measures are also an important means to combat energy poverty, which this Commission aims at tackling at the roots.” Energy performance contracts in the public sector offer a practical solution to make public buildings and other public infrastructures more energy efficient, as the initial investment can be covered by a private partner and repaid by guaranteed energy savings. However, frequently this type of contract simultaneously contains elements of a rental, service, lease, purchase or loan agreement, making its recording complex. At the request of Member States, Eurostat has worked with National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) to reflect on the most appropriate recording of EPCs in government accounts, resulting in the guidance note published today. More information can be found in a press release and memo online. The guidance note is available to download here.
July 2017 compared with June 2017 – Production in construction up by 0.2% in euro area – Up by 0.5% in EU28
In July 2017 compared with June 2017, seasonally adjusted production in the construction sector increased by 0.2% in the euro area (EA19) and by 0.5% in the EU28, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In June 2017, production in construction grew by 0.2% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU28. Full text available here
Vice-President Šefčovič in Estonia for Energy Union Tour visit
From 19-21 September, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will be visiting Estonia for the second Energy Union Tour. During his visit, he will meet Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Minister for the Environment Siim Kiisler, as well as Speaker of the Parliament Eiki Nestor and others. Their discussions will centre around the work of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU related to the Energy Union, including the progress on a number of legislative proposals, such as those under the Commission’s ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans‘ package. In addition, Vice-President Šefčovič will chair a joint session of energy and transport ministers during their informal meeting on 20-21 September. He will also attend a high-level conference on ‘Europe´s Future Electricity Market‘, with the focus on the governance of the Energy Union. A meeting with energy industry leaders, an interactive discussion with students of the Tallinn University of Technology and the Connecting Europe Conference are also on the agenda of the Vice-President. Ahead of his visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said: “I am confident that the Estonian Presidency will make a significant contribution to the progress of our legislative proposals in the area of clean energy that will enable us to deliver our Energy Union objectives. This is in line with the joint declaration by the Parliament, Council and Commission that highlighted the Energy Union and climate change policy as key priorities for 2017.” He added: “I also congratulate Estonia on its recent publication of Climate Policy Guidelines for 2050, in which it commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% and sets out the measures required to achieve this. Its efforts will help the EU as a whole reach its ambitious climate and energy targets“. Upcoming dates and more information on the 2017 Energy Union tour are available here. More information on the Energy Union is available here.