Eurostat monitoring report – How has the EU progressed towards the Sustainable Development Goals?
Sustainable development aims to achieve a continuous improvement in citizens’ quality of life and well-being. This involves the pursuit of economic progress, while safeguarding the natural environment and promoting social justice. For these reasons, sustainable development is a fundamental and overarching objective of the European Union. Full text available here
European Commission stands up for women’s rights in turbulent times
Today, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Věra Jourová kick off a major event on “Women’s rights in turbulent times”, the topical theme chosen for this year’s annual Fundamental Rights Colloquium. The Commission is also announcing concrete action to put an end to the gender pay gap through an Action Plan to be delivered between now and the end of its mandate in 2019. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Gender equality is a fundamental right, laid down in the EU Treaties. We must use the current focus on these issues in the media and politics to turn principle into practice. Women across Europe have the right to equality, empowerment and safety, but these rights are not yet a reality for far too many women. Today’s event is about helping to bring about behavioural change and policy change so that we improve the lives of our citizens. Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová added: “Women are still under-represented in decision-making positions in politics and the business world. They still earn 16% less than men on average across the EU. And violence against women is still widespread. This is unfair and unacceptable in today’s society. The gender pay gap must be closed, because the economic independence of women is their best protection against violence.” A new Eurobarometer survey also published today emphasises that gender equality is still not achieved in EU Member States. A full press release is available online. More information on the Fundamental Rights Colloquium, including live streaming, is available here.
Moving forward on the European Pillar of Social Rights: Commission seeks to promote social protection for all
The Commission has launched today the second round of discussions with trade unions and employers’ organisations at the EU level, on how to support access to social protection for all people in employment and in self-employment. This is yet another important step forward in making the European Pillar of Social Rights a reality on the ground, and only days after its proclamation by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission at the Social Summit in Gothenburg. Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “The new world of work gives rise to new opportunities. People should be able to seize them and feel protected no matter what type of job they are in. This is the rationale behind the Pillar of Social Rights.” Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, added: “This Commission is firmly delivering to make Europe more social. I want to make sure that everybody who works is covered by social protection schemes, on the basis of their contributions. This is important to make sure our social protection systems are adequate, sustainable and in respect of intergenerational fairness.” Due to their employment status, persons such as those in non-standard employment and self-employment have insufficient access to social protection and are, as a consequence, exposed to higher economic uncertainty and lower protection against social risks. Addressing this challenge harnesses the aim behind the Pillar to make our social models future-proof and to address intergenerational fairness, making the most of the future world of work. To achieve this goal, and in line with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Commission’s commitment to social dialogue, the Commission is asking the opinion of the social partners by launching the second stage of the social partner consultation. The social partners now have 7 weeks to let the Commission know if they are willing to negotiate. In parallel, a wider public consultation is also open to collect the views of all relevant stakeholders such as public authorities, companies, the self-employed, platform workers and the civil society. Drawing on the conclusions of these consultations, the Commission intends to present a proposal in the first half of next year. More information can be found in the press release online.
New portal launched to teach youngsters about tax issues
The European Commission has launched a new education portal for young people to teach them in a fun and interactive way about tax issues. TAXEDU is a digital resource to educate children about the purpose of taxes and how they affect daily life. The hope is that it will also help to stimulate the ongoing debate about fair taxation. The portal is full of multilingual e-learning tools, games, videos and educational material for teachers to use in schools. Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “I am proud to announce the launch of TAXEDU, a project which will raise young people’s awareness of tax issues. Through online games, young people can learn in a fun way how their schools, local swimming pools and playgrounds are financed, and how they too will one day help to build public services themselves through taxes. We want to spark an interest in tax matters and get young people involved in the decisions that will shape their future.” A joint initiative of the European Commission and the European Parliament, the project has been brought to life thanks to cooperation with EU countries’ tax authorities. The portal is already online and the TAXLANDIA interactive game where players have to manage public finances and make decisions about tax collection and expenditure can be played and downloaded here.
Commissioner Thyssen launches second European Vocational Skills Week
Today, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, launches the second European Vocational Skills Week, building on the success of last year’s initiative and which will take place from 20 to 24 November 2017. Once more, the objective is to inspire people to discover, use and improve their talents and abilities through vocational education and training (VET). Commissioner Thyssen said: “In a smart working world, vocational education and training is a smart choice. The perception that VET is the “poor neighbour” of a university education is mistaken. It is not a poor neighbour, it’s an equal! The Second European Vocational Skills Week will put a wealth of opportunities and experiences from across Europe in the limelight to show that VET and apprenticeships are a great first choice.” During the European Vocational Skills Week, the Commission showcases high-quality initiatives that aim at equipping people with the skills they need in a fast-changing labour market. More than 1000 events are taking place across Europe, demonstrating the crucial role of VET in supporting skills, jobs, innovation and competitiveness but also personal fulfilment. The European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed only a few days ago by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission at the Social Summit in Gothenburg, recognises the importance of acquiring the right skills, by putting education, training and life-long learning as very first principle of the twenty principles under the Pillar of Social Rights. Events at European level include a conference “Promoting the Vocational Skills Agenda – Together”, a European Business-Education Summit and the 4th meeting of the European Apprentices Network, a network of apprentices and youth representatives from across Europe which contributes to policy discussions at the European level. The closing event on 24 November will host a ceremony for the 2017 VET awards highlighting excellence and quality in various categories. The agendas of these and more EU events are available here. The events per country can be found online. Making VET a first choice is one of the ten key actions proposed by the Commission under the New Skills Agenda for Europe, which has been rolled out since June 2016. More information can also be found in this press release and memo online.
EU Medical Corps to be deployed to Uganda
The European Medical Corps, launched by the EU Commission in 2016 to better respond to health emergencies, will be deployed to Uganda to help tackle the outbreak of the virulent Marburg disease which has caused several deaths. The EU assistance includes a mobile health laboratory offered by Germany and two experts who will work closely with their colleagues from Uganda’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and the US Center for Disease Control. “The EU Medical Corps allows us to respond faster to disease outbreaks. This deployment shows how viable and important the idea of common European medical corps with pooled resources is. We are able to send cutting edge expertise in very short time, save lives and prevent extremely serious diseases from spreading. We will do all we can to support those in need in Uganda”, said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. This is now the third time the EU Medical Corps has been deployed, with previous mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (2016, yellow fever) and Angola (2016, yellow fever). More information on the Medical Corps is available in our Q&A and factsheet.
Capital Markets Union: Commission expert group delivers recommendations to improve European corporate bond markets
The Commission’s expert group on corporate bond markets has today published its findings and recommendations, alongside a separate external study on the drivers of corporate bond market liquidity. Corporate bonds are debt securities that businesses issue and sell to investors to raise capital. Strong corporate bond markets can give businesses access to alternative, more diverse sources of funding. They also offer new investment opportunities for European savers. These are all key objectives of the Commission’s flagship Capital Markets Union project. The expert group delivered 22 recommendations to foster the development of corporate bond markets in Europe. These recommendations will be discussed at a public hearing in Brussels on 24 November 2017. As part of its ongoing work, the Commission will follow up on some recommendations and gather views from a broader audience through a public consultation in early 2018. This will provide input for a communication on corporate bonds in the autumn of 2018. For further information please consult the Q&A.
Croatia joins EU efforts to build the next generation of supercomputers
Croatia is the 13th country to sign the European declaration on high-performance computing (HPC). The initiative aims at developing European high-performance computers that would rank among the world’s top three by 2022-2023. Croatian Minister for Science and Education Blaženka Divjak signed the declaration this morning in BrusselswithRoberto Viola, Director General of European Commission’s DG CONNECT. HPC is a strategic resource for the future of EU’s scientific leadership and industrial competitiveness. Vice-President Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society welcome this important step for EuroHPC: “We are very pleased that Croatia joins this ambitious European project. Supercomputers are increasingly used to solve complex societal challenges that need large computational efforts, such as DNA sequencing, early detection and treatment of diseases, climate modelling and cryptography. We encourage other Member States and countries associated to the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to participate too and sign the declaration”. The EuroHPC declaration was originally launched in March 2017 during the Digital Day and signed by France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Five other countries have since joined the initiative: Belgium in June, Slovenia in July, Bulgaria and Switzerland in October and Greece in November. The signatories of this declaration have committed to work together to establish a world-class high-performance computing ecosystem capable of at least 1018 calculations per second (so-called exascale computers). You can find more information here.
State aid: Commission confirms most Greek measures for Hellenic Defence Systems do not involve aid; orders recovery of some public support for civil activities
The European Commission has concluded that Greek measures for Hellenic Defence Systems fall outside the scope of EU State aid control because they protect Greece’s essential security interests. Greece however has to recover up to €55 million of public support for civil activities of Hellenic Defence Systems, which distorted competition in breach of EU State aid rules.Hellenic Defence Systems S.A. (or Ellinika Amyntika Systimata A.E. – HDS) is a Greek company, which is almost fully-owned by the Greek State. HDS manufactured both defence-related products as well as civil-use products. During the period 2004-2011, Greece granted a number of support measures to HDS. These measures included a direct grant by the State of €10 million, a capital increase of €158 million and several State guarantees for loans of up to €942 million. The Commission’s in-depth investigation of the Greek measures in favour of HDS has concluded that: i) The vast majority of Greek measures for HDS fall outside scope of EU State aid control because they served Greek security interests. The Commission concluded that a large proportion of the measures (namely the full €10 million direct grant by the State, and most of the capital increase and State guarantees) supported HDS’s military production and concerned exclusively products necessary for the protection of Greece’s essential security interests; ii) Some Greek measures (worth up to €55 million) for HDS’ civil activities amounted to illegal State aid in breach of EU rules. The Commission also concluded that, on the other hand, a small proportion of the Greek measures supported the civil activities of HDS. These are therefore subject to conditions under EU State aid rules. Since HDS was a company in financial difficulties, these conditions are set out in the then applicable 2004 EU Guidelines on State aid for the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulty. In particular, they would have required Greece to submit a credible restructuring plan to restore the company’s long-term viability as well as propose compensatory measures to mitigate the distortions of competition created by the aid. In the absence of such a restructuring plan and compensatory measures, the Commission concluded that these measures constitute illegal State aid, which now needs to be recovered by Greece. A full press release is available in, here
State aid: Commission approves German support scheme for solar panels on apartment buildings
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a German scheme granting public support to landlords planning to install solar panels on the roof of apartment buildings. The electricity produced with these solar panels (with a capacity of less than 100 kilowatts) is intended to supply the tenants of the building. The support is paid as a premium on top of the market price that the landlord obtains from the residents of the apartments consuming the electricity. The budget is estimated at €4 million annually, and the scheme is approved for 10 years. It will allow tenants to actively participate in Germany’s transition to a low carbon, environmentally sustainable energy supply, and will help the EU reach its environmental objectives. The Commission assessed and approved the scheme under its 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy. More information will be available on the Commission’s competitionwebsite, in the public case registerunder the case number SA.48327.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of VWR by Avantor
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of VWR Corp. by Avantor Inc., both of the US. VWR is a global distributor of laboratory chemicals and provider of related services to laboratories and other customers from the production and research sector. It also sells chemicals under its own private labels. Avantor is a global supplier of branded chemicals and other ultra-high purity materials for the life-sciences and high-tech industry. Since Avantor is already indirectly controlled by New Mountain Capital, a US based investment firm, the merged entity will also be indirectly controlled by New Mountain Capital. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because overlaps between the companies’ activities are limited and their products are not competing closely. The Commission has also carefully analysed the vertical relations created by the merger and concluded that these will not lead to competition concerns notably because alternative manufacturers and distributors remaining on the market will not be affected by the merger. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8522.
Mergers: Commission clears the creation of a joint venture in Ireland between APG and Hines
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over a newly created joint venture by APG Strategic Real Estate Pool (“APG”) of the Netherlands and Hines International Real Estate Holdings LP (”Hines”) of the US. The joint venture will purchase and develop plots of land in Dublin, Ireland for residential and, to a lesser extent, commercial purposes. APG is a real estate investment fund controlled by Stichting Pensionfonds ABP (”ABP”) of the Netherlands. ABP is a pension administration organisation specialising in the field of collective pensions in the public sector. Hines is active in real estate investment, development and management. The Commission found that the transaction would raise no competition concerns because of the limited changes it brings to the market. 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 numberM.8637.
Mergers: Commission clears creation of joint venture between CDPQ and GE
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of joint control over the newly created Irish joint venture Einn Volant Aircraft Leasing Holdings Ltd., by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) of Canada and GE Capital Aviation Services Limited (GECAS) of the US and Ireland, ultimately controlled by General Electric Company (GE) of the US. The joint venture will be active in the acquisition and leasing of aircraft. CDPQ is an institutional investor which manages funds primarily for public and parapublic pension and insurance plans. GE is active in broad and diversified activities, including GECAS which is active in the global commercial aircraft leasing and financial industry. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that the joint venture will not be active in the European Economic Area. 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.8670.
Eurostat: How has the EU progressed towards the Sustainable Development Goals?
Sustainable development aims to achieve a continuous improvement in citizens’ quality of life and well-being. This involves the pursuit of economic progress, while safeguarding the natural environment and promoting social justice. For these reasons, sustainable development is a fundamental and overarching objective of the European Union. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, have given a new impetus to global efforts for achieving sustainable development. The EU is committed to playing an active role to maximise progress towards the SDGs, as outlined in its Communication ‘Next steps for a sustainable European future‘. In this context, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues today the publication ‘Sustainable development in the European Union – 2017 monitoring report of the progress towards the SDGs in an EU context‘. It provides a first statistical overview of trends relating to the SDGs in the EU. This publication is accompanied by a short brochure, also released today, providing a visual summary of the main findings of the full report. As of today, Eurostat’s website hosts a renewed dedicated section on measuring sustainable development in the EU and presents the results of the monitoring report in a series of Statistics Explained articles. A press release is available here.
Leave no child behind – Joint Statement on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day
Ahead of the Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, High Representative/ Vice-President Mogherini, Commissioners Mimica, Avramopoulos, Thyssen, Stylianides, Jourova, Navracsics, Gabriel, made the following statement: “The rights of the child are human rights. They are indivisible, universal and inalienable. As the European Union, we strive to protect and promote the rights of every child. It is our collective obligation and duty and a principle enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union. A child is a child first and foremost. Every girl and every boy deserves a childhood and it is our responsibility, institutions and societies at large, to make sure that they are never deprived of this right – no matter their ethnicity, gender, religion, or, sometimes, the challenging living environments. No matter whether inside or outside the EU – no child should be left behind. Every voice should be heard. […] This is why we are working every day, on all fronts and around the world, to provide long-term, sustainable and positive change for children, to ensure their protection, to end violence against children in emergencies and to provide them with their right to education and offer perspectives for the future. Whilst the EU’s efforts are mobilised from the earliest onsets of a crisis – children’s rights and protection concern everyone. We will continue working with partner countries, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and civil society. […] Our children are the most vulnerable citizens in our societies. They are the present and the future of our world. We will stand up to our commitment and leave no child behind.” Find the entire statement and background on EU actions to support children around the world here.
Taking the European Solidarity Corps forward: Commission welcomes agreement reached by Youth Ministers
Today, EU Ministers in the Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council came to an agreement on the Commission’s proposal to provide the European Solidarity Corps with its own budget and legal framework. Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen welcome the agreement. Their joint statement reads: “We are very pleased that the Council has today adopted a general approach on the legal framework for the European Solidarity Corps. Solidarity is a fundamental and founding value of the European Union. Since last December, over 41,000 young people have signed up for the European Solidarity Corps, ready to volunteer, train or work for the common good. We must value this enthusiasm, which will help us move towards a more sustainable and fairer Europe. A dedicated legal base and funding for the European Solidarity Corps will create clear rules supported by stable funding. This will give a boost to solidarity activities across Europe and enable us to secure 100,000 placements by 2020.” Read the full statement here.
Commissioner Jourová launches data protection adequacy dialogue with Korea and participates in EU-Korea Workshop on Privacy and Data Transfers
This morning, Commissioner Jourová received Mr Lee Hyo-sung, Chairman of the Korea Communications Commission and Mr Jeong Hyun-cheol, Vice-President of the Korea Internet & Security Agency to discuss data protection issues and to launch a dialogue with a view of a possible data protection adequacy decision on Korea in 2018. The launch of the discussions was announced in the Commission’s Communication on Exchanging and Protecting personal data in a globalised world last January. Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said after the meeting:” On data protection, the EU and Korea have a lot in common. We both value data protection as a fundamental right and understand that in today’s data-driven economy, data protection is a central factor of consumer trust. This is the reason why we have decided today to establish a dialogue toward towards an adequacy decision in 2018. This would complement our successful EU-Korea free trade agreement by ensuring free flows of personal data between the EU and Korea with a high level of data protection“. A joint statement was issued to mark the opening of the dialogue. Later in the afternoon, Commissioner Jourová will launch the EU-Korea Workshop on Privacy and Data Transfers. This workshop will bring together representatives from Korean and European companies to discuss the application and implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Signing of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Headquarters Agreement
Tomorrow, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will deliver a keynote speech at the official ceremony for the signing of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Headquarters Agreement in Warsaw. The signature of the Agreement is an important step in the roll-out of the Agency and ensures a continued progress towards its full operationalisation. Building on the foundations of Frontex, the new Agency, proposed by the Commission in December 2015, was agreed by Member States in record time and launched in October 2016. Currently, the Agency is assisting Member States with around 1,500 border guards providing support at different sections of the EU external borders, complementing the existing national capacities. Its joint operations on land and at sea are supporting frontline Member States to better manage migration and secure the EU’s external borders, having contributed to saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the Mediterranean. Following the official ceremony Commissioner Avramopoulos will hold a press conference with Polish minister of the Interior Mariusz Błaszczak which can be followed on EbS. The Commission reported on the progress of the roll-out of the Agency last week. A factsheet summarising the achievements on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is available online.
Commissioner Hahn visits the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, is in Skopje today and tomorrow to reiterate the EU’s readiness to support the country in its reform process. Today, Commissioner Hahn will meet with key political representatives including Speaker of Parliament Talat Xhaferi, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, as well as other members of the government and representatives of the main political parties. The Commissioner will also meet with civil society representatives working in academia and culture. Tomorrow 21 November, the Commissioner will launch the new campaign on Human Resources ‘We believe in You, We invest in You, EU for You’ which supports employment, education and social inclusion. Ahead of the visit, Commissioner Hahn said: “I am looking forward to going back to Skopje. I will meet political leaders, as well as representatives of civil society, to reiterate our support for the country carrying out the necessary reforms to become a member of the European Union. We have seen progress, but the political authorities from both the Government and the opposition need to continue to deliver on the implementation of the Przino agreement and the Urgent Reform Priorities. Tangible steps on judicial independence, the reform of the intelligence services and a professional and merit based public administration bring, first of all, benefits to citizens as well as helping the country to get closer to the European Union.” Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS.
Broadband days – to promote broadband development at local level
Today and tomorrow the European Commission is hosting the broadband days, an annual event aiming at promoting broadband development in the EU. The European Network of Broadband Competence Offices (BCO) providing technical support to representatives of local and regional authorities on ways to effectively invest in and rollout broadband will be launched this afternoon. These offices will also advise citizens and businesses on how to obtain support for better access to broadband services. The launch of the BCO offices will be webstreamed and Commissioner Phil Hogan, in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, will hold a press point at 15h30 in the Borschette conference centre. In the evening, Phil Hogan and Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, will award the five best European broadband projects. The winners will be announced here, the photos and the videos will be available on EbS after the ceremony. Commissioner Gabriel, in charge of Digital Economy and Society, and Commissioners Hogan and Creţu have also joined forces and work together on a rural broadband toolkit, which contains measures that will help managing authorities, regional and local authorities and other types of beneficiaries of EU funds, to invest more easily in the deployment of broadband in rural areas. Tomorrow the Commission will hold a conference on broadband – B-Day –bringing together almost 300 European businesses, investors, and high-level policy makers and other stakeholders to discuss broadband investment, policy initiatives and best practices. The event will be held at the Borschette conference centre and will be webstreamed. The Conference will feature the following key topics: investment in high-capacity networks, financing broadband development, best practices in broadband deployment, WiFi4EU. In the margins of the event Roberto Viola, Director General of European Commission’s DG CONNECT and Antonello Giacomelli, Undersecretary of State of the Italian Ministry for Economic Development, will sign a cooperation agreement to launch the first WiFi4EU test pilot with WiFi.Italia.It. In September, the European Parliament has sealed the legislation that will underpin the WiFi4EU initiative which will give access to free and high-speed internet in the public spaces of some 6,000 to 8,000 local communities in the EU by 2020. Last year, the Commission also revised EU telecoms rules and presented a new Electronic Communications Code to encourage investment in first-class broadband infrastructure (press release). The Commission encourages the European Parliament and Member States to find an agreement on the Code as soon as possible. More details are available here.