|Citizens of the European Union remain committed to the common agricultural policy
The vast majority of EU citizens view agriculture and rural areas as important for the future, and most (more than 60%) believe that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) fulfills its role, according to a new Eurobarometer survey on “Europeans, agriculture and the CAP”. The fact that EU citizens have identified the supply of good quality products and the protection of the environment as the two main objectives of EU agricultural policy confirms the results of the public consultation of the summer last on the future PAC. Commenting on the results of the survey, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “I am delighted to see that the CAP is a policy that people know and that they know their role and their benefits can grow. to all European citizens The three priorities identified by those interviewed as important – strengthening the role of farmers in the food chain, developing research and innovation and encouraging young people to work in the agricultural sector – are also priorities for the Commission, and they will be reflected in the legislative proposals that the Commission is expected to adopt in the coming months.This shows that the Commission is listening to public opinion.We ensure that the CAP continues to be strongly sustained, relevant, and able to evolve to meet new and emerging challenges. “Concerns were expressed about socio-economic conditions in rural areas, stressing the importance of continued EU support to rural areas. By choosing their food products, Europeans clearly care about tradition, know-how, quality and proximity (more than 70%). However, it appeared that more could be done to promote the labels of geographical indications (PDOs, PGIs, TSGs) since, as soon as consumers recognize them, they are then better able to buy a product by wearing a label. This overview of EU citizens’ views on agriculture reflects the directions set out in the Communication on the Future of Food and Agriculture: Continued support for farmers, increased protection of the environment and highlighting innovations for the sector. View full report of the Eurobarometer here. More Information here Read also
President Juncker visits the Western Balkans
Following President Juncker‘s announcement in his 2017 State of the Union address, on 6 February the Commission adopted a strategy for the region with new flagship initiatives and support. It is in this context that from Sunday 25 February to 1 March, President Juncker, with High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn, will be in the Western Balkans. He will start his tour in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, before travelling to Albania in the evening. On Monday 26 February in the afternoon, President Juncker will travel to Serbia, followed by Montenegro on Tuesday 27 February, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo on Wednesday 28 February, and lastly Bulgaria on 1 March, where he will attend an official lunch hosted by Prime Minister Borissov together with the six Western Balkans Interlocutors. All press events throughout the visit will be covered by EbS. For the details of President Juncker‘s meetings in the Western Balkans, please consult the President’s agenda online.
Juncker Plan supports €67 million for SMEs in Hungary
The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Erste Bank Hungary have signed a guarantee agreement to support €67 million of loans and leases to innovative Hungarian companies. The agreement was made possible by the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, the Juncker Plan. Today’s €67 million transaction is expected to benefit around 350 businesses in Hungary.Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Hungarian economy. They need better access to affordable and long-term finance in order to continue to grow, to export to other European markets and create new jobs across the country. The agreement signed today is an important step, but many more businesses in Hungary could benefit from similar advantages. I therefore encourage them to apply in order to receive support from the Investment Plan for Europe.”Full press release is found here.
EU solidarity at work: Commission delivers financial assistance to France, Greece, Portugal and Spain following natural disasters
The Commission is today proposing to amend the EU budget to ensure swift mobilisation of €104.2 million in EU support to France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, all hit by natural disasters in 2017. The assistance from the European Solidarity Fund (EUSF), announced last week, concretises the Juncker Commission’s promise to offer help to EU Member States affected by natural disasters. The Fund is used to support reconstruction efforts and cover some of the costs of emergency services, temporary accommodation, clean-up operations and protection of cultural heritage, in order to relieve the financial burden borne by national authorities. Once adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the Solidarity Fund will mobilise €50.6 million for reconstructions in the Centro region in Portugal following violent forest fires in June and October 2017, while Spain will be supported with €3.2 million to overcome the damage in the neighbouring region of Galicia. France will be assisted with €49 million to repair the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the French regions Saint Martin and Guadeloupe in September 2017.Finally, Greece will be supported with €1.3 million to repair homes, business and infrastructure in the aftermath of the Lesbos Earthquakes of June 2017. A press release on the Commission’s proposal from 15 February is available here. Factsheets on EUSF interventions in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain can be found online, as well as more information on how EUSF aid is calculated.
Aviation Strategy: EU at forefront of safe drone operations
The European Union today published a set of common rules for safe and secure drones operations, an important milestone under the Commission’s Aviation Strategy for Europe. The technical opinion released today by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), has kept the rules as simple as possible with a strong focus on the risk of the operation. Flying the same drone over a city center or over the sea entails a completely different risk. This “risk-based” approach is best suited to address the safety challenges posed by drones without creating red-tape or stifling innovation. Common European rules will also cement the internal market for drones and drone-related services and therefore contribute to the EU’s global leadership in this booming sector. This comes only two months after the European Parliament and the Member States agreed to make the EU competent for drone legislation. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said “A clean, safe and secure drone ecosystem in Europe is now becoming a reality, as we move to the implementation phase of our rules. Work also continues in parallel on the U-space to develop a modern airspace management system for safe drone operations in our skies.” The EU is breaking new ground by combining product and aviation legislation, which will ensure the highest safety and security standards and support the competitiveness of the EU’s aviation industry. Next steps: On the basis of this technical opinion the European Commission will adopt concrete regulatory proposals later in the year, which will in turn help deliver the target of getting drone services up and running in the U-space by the end of 2019. For further information: EASA press release.
Education: New report on teaching careers in Europe
Even though most European countries suffer from teacher shortages or expect to in the future, many are not planning long-term how to manage supply and demand of teachers. This is one of the findings of the report on ‘Teaching careers in Europe’ published by the European Commission today, presenting data from the Eurydice network. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Teachers are crucial for the future of our children. Europe has world-class teachers, but the interest in the profession is decreasing, and staff shortages are holding back the quality of education. I therefore call on Member States to invest in teaching careers that are attractive to the best candidates, offer prestige and rich opportunities and enable professional growth and development from recruitment to retirement. This new report tells us what countries are already doing, and what more they could do, to reach that goal.The Commission stands ready to support them.” In May 2017, the Commission adopted a communication on ‘School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life’ which proposed EU-level actions to support Member States in their education reforms. One of the objectives outlined is to achieve excellent teaching and learning by ensuring teachers and school leaders are well-trained and receive the support and recognition they deserve. European ministers and stakeholders, meeting just a month ago on the occasion of the first European Education Summit, confirmed that it is essential to develop a shared agenda to modernise and better support the teaching profession. For further background information please see the Eurydice report on Teachers’ and school heads’ salaries and allowances in Europe, 2015/16.
State aid: Commission finds that two contracts between Lübeck airport and Ryanair do not involve State aid
The European Commission has found two agreements concluded in 2010 between the Lübeck airport operator and Ryanair to be in line with EU State aid rules. Lübeck Blankensee is a small regional airport in the north of Germany, 78 km from Hamburg. The Commission assessed the contracts under its 2014 Aviation Guidelines, and found that the agreements were carried out at conditions that a private investor would have accepted and thus do not involve State aid. In February 2017 the Commission already found a number of different measures concerning the financing and privatisation of Lübeck airport and a 2000 agreement between Lübeck airport and Ryanair to be in line with EU State aid rules. With today’s decision, the Commission completes its assessment of the various measures at stake regarding Lübeck airport. More information will be available, once potential confidentiality issues have been resolved, in the public case register on the Commission’s competition website under the case number SA.31149.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Takata Corporation by KSS Holdings
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Takata Corporation of Japan by KSS Holdings of the US. Both Takata and KSS supply seat belts, steering wheels and airbags to automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The Commission’s investigation concluded that the proposed acquisition will not change the competitive landscape because strong alternative suppliers such as Autoliv or ZF remain in the market. The increment resulting from the transaction is generally limited as KSS is a small player in the European Economic Area. Furthermore, Takata’s market position will likely be affected by the incidents related to its PSAN inflators and the subsequent recalls in that context. 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.8741
Statement by Commissioner Jourová on European Day for Victims of Crime
“In a Union founded on the principles of dignity, justice and solidarity, victims deserve support and protection to help rebuild their lives. The European Union has in place the highest standards when it comes to victims’ right. The Victims’ Rights Directiveensures that all victims of crime in Europe receive proper support, protection and access to justice, wherever they are in Europe. Unfortunately, these rights will remain only words, if they are not applied in practice by Member States. I deeply regret that some EU countries still have not completely transposed these rules since November 2015. I call once again on these countries to take action without further delay. This is a double injustice for the victim. The Commission has made the implementation of the Directive a priority and we are determined to ensure that it is complete, correct and that it works well in practice.” Information on the victims’ rights directive is available online, in a Q&A, as well as in a factsheet. The full statement is available here.
Vice-President Dombrovskis in Berlin
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, is on a European Semester visit in Germany today and tomorrow. He meets the acting Federal Minister of Finance, Peter Altmaier, acting Labour Minister Katharina Barley and the Bundestag President, Wolfgang Schäuble. The Vice-President will deliver two speeches while in Berlin: at the High-level conference on sustainable finance on Thursday and at the Handelsblatt Bankenkonferenz on Friday. The visit to Germany is part of the regular dialogue with Member States on topical economic and social issues in the context of the European Semester.