Brussels Daily
22 Jun 2018


Brussels Daily


European Commission ready to start negotiations for a new ambitious partnership with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific

Today, the European Commission received authorisation from the Council to open negotiations for a new partnership agreement with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP).

The European Commission welcomes the Council decision allowing to launch the negotiations with the ACP group of States in the coming weeks. The existing framework, known as the Cotonou agreement, is due to expire in February 2020.

On this occasion, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “We are ready to embark upon a modern and dynamic partnership with our partners in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. This new partnership will be a powerful tool to jointly tackle global challenges – from fighting poverty and inequality to peace and security, from climate change to sustainable growth for all.” More information here  Read the Facsheet here


Trade: Commission reports on progress in trade talks with Chile and Mercosur

As part of its commitment to a transparent trade policy, the Commission today published reports from the latest negotiating rounds with Chile and Mercosur.  The round reports include information about progress in all areas of the respective negotiations. As regards Chile, the report covers the third round of talks for a new, modernised trade agreement. The negotiations took place in Brussels from 28 May to 1 June 2018.  In total, 22 negotiating thematic groups met, which resulted in constructive exchanges and substantive progress in most areas.  Contacts will continue with the aim of advancing in all areas in preparation for the next round of negotiations, the date of which has yet to be confirmed. The Commission also publishes today three new text proposals, on animal and plant health, trade and sustainable development, and trade and gender equality. As regards Mercosur, the report concerns the round of negotiations held from 4 to 8 June 2018. The partners achieved progress on several issues such as services and exchanges were constructive overall but there is still work to be done, notably on cars and car parts, geographical indications, maritime transport and dairy.


Commission welcomes Eurogroup agreement laying foundations for successful conclusion of stability support programme for Greece

The Commission welcomes the comprehensive agreement reached at the Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg. Together, the different elements of this agreement will provide the basis for a successful conclusion of the stability support programme for Greece in August. The agreement includes a credible package of measures that will reassure partners and investors that Greece’s debt is sustainable, thereby facilitating a return to market financing and allowing Greece to stand on its own two feet. It also allows for a disbursement of €15 billion which will, in part, be used to build up a cash buffer which will act as a backstop against future risks. The sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people in undertaking reforms have delivered real, tangible results allowing Greece to begin a new chapter with its place at the heart of the euro area and the European Union secured. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs said: “The Eurogroup agreement achieves what we have been calling for: a credible, upfront set of measures, which will meaningfully lighten Greece’s debt burden, allow the country to stand on its own two feet, and reassure all partners and investors. Today, eight long years of crisis come to an end for Greece and, symbolically, for the euro area as a whole. Today a new chapter begins.” A series of factsheets on the stability support programme for Greece is available here. The Eurogroup statement on Greece is available here. 


A Europe that protects: Commission calls for stronger national equality bodies to fight discrimination

Today, the Commission is recommending a set of measures for Member States to ensure that the equality bodies effectively protect citizens and fight discrimination. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Equality is one of the fundamental values upon which the European Union is built, but it is not a given. We need good laws and strong and independent equality bodies to defend our core principles and values so that victims of discrimination can right the wrongs they face.” European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová added: “Discrimination has no place in the EU. Victims or witnesses of discrimination should know where to turn and equality bodies are there to help them in these situations. We must ensure that national equality bodies are independent, with sufficient resources to carry out their task. They play a key role in ensuring all citizens are given equal rights and equal opportunities.” Equality bodies are independent organisations assisting victims of discrimination, monitoring and reporting on discrimination issues, and promoting equality throughout the EU. Member States should ensure their independence and that they have the necessary resources to cover all types of grounds for discrimination such as sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. They should also ensure better awareness-raising about the role of national equality bodies and how citizens can access equality bodies and exercise their rights in case of discrimination. A full press release is available here.

Guatemala: EU deploys experts following recent volcano eruptions

Additional EU support to help those affected by the volcanic eruption that struck Guatemala earlier this month is being channelled through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. A team of eight European experts will fly to Guatemala tomorrow, following a new request of assistance issued by the national authorities. “We are continuing to support Guatemala following the recent volcano eruptions. Our help through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism is a concrete example of European solidarity to the people of Guatemala and of our readiness to support people in need anywhere in the world, wherever a disaster strikes,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. The deployment of European experts comes on top of the €400,000 in emergency assistance the EU has provided to Guatemala since the volcano erupted to provide displaced populations in the worst-hit departments with health, water and sanitation assistance, as well as psychosocial support. The EU’s Copernicus satellite mapping service was also activated upon request of the Government of Guatemala and has produced 18 maps so far.


VAT: European Commission welcomes adoption of new tools to combat fraud in the EU

The Commission has welcomed the political agreement reached by EU Member States today on new tools to close loopholes in the EU’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system. These inconsistencies can lead to large-scale VAT fraud causing losses of €50 billion for national budgets of EU Member States each year. Proposed by the Commission in November 2017, the new measures aim to build trust between Member States so that they can exchange more information and boost cooperation between national tax authorities and law enforcement authorities. Once in force, Member States will be able to exchange more relevant information and to cooperate more closely in the fight against criminal organisations, including terrorists. Following the agreement, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “The new rules agreed today confirm the willingness of Member States to tackle the problem of VAT fraud together. The EU is making real progress on VAT reform, towards a system that is fit for purpose and that stops criminals in their path. Taken together, the Commission’s package of VAT proposals, of which these rules are part, will have a profound impact on VAT fraud and a positive effect on the public finances and budgets of EU countries.” A full press release is available here.


Car emissions and automated driving: Europe sets tone for global standards

Good news come these days from the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations hosted by the United Nations Economic Mission for Europe (UNECE). The platform decided on 21 June to use the novel European methodology for testing car emissions on the road to develop, under the chairmanship of the Commission, a globally harmonised regulation. Indeed, the Commission has led the way internationally by introducing Real Driving Emissions testing (RDE) and making it mandatory since September 2017 (see FAQs). Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska welcomed the decision: “This is excellent news for regulators, industry and consumers alike. The emissions testing on the road that we developed in Europe will become a global standard by 2020. And automated mobility gets the deserved recognition as a key technology for the next generation of vehicles. With our international partners we will work on an international framework for ever safer, cleaner and modern cars.” Since RDE was introduced in the European Union, countries like Japan, Korea and China have developed their own versions of RDE. Now the work will start to develop a global standard out of it. The World Forum has also decided to set up a dedicated team to work on automated driving, following the recommendations of the Commission’s High Level Group ‘GEAR 2030’ and the Mobility Package in May 2018 with a  strategy for automated mobility, which called for coordination and harmonisation at international level.


Eastern Partnership: EU and neighbouring countries boost cooperation on the digital economy

The EU and the six Eastern Partner countries – ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, have agreed to step up their cooperation on the digital economy: adopting a road map on reducing roaming charges, addressing the cybersecurity threat in a coordinated manner, and expanding e-services to create more jobs in the digital industry. Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel agreed with Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers in charge of digital agenda from to boost cooperation on digital economy today at the 10th Informal Partnership Dialogue, Minsk, Belarus. Commissioner Johannes Hahn commented: “The EU will continue to work closely with its Eastern partners in the digital area, for the benefit of citizens across the region. Promoting high-speed broadband internet to boost economies and expand e-services, creating more jobs in the digital industry, reducing roaming tariffs among the Eastern partner countries and tackling cybercrime and cybersecurity is a priority. We are focused on delivering concrete results, with a clear programme for cooperation until 2020.”Commissioner Gabriel added: “Today’s Informal Partnership Dialogue proves that we are on the right path towards a common European digital future. We warmly welcome the commitment of our Eastern partners to achieving the Deliverables by 2020; and thereby helping to build a stronger digital economy bringing direct benefits to the citizens and to succeed the digital transformation. Enhanced broadband connectivity, roadmap for reducing roaming tariffs and cooperation on cybersecurity are just some of the few first steps in the long-term digital collaboration between the EU and its Eastern Partners.” The full press release as well as the factsheet ‘EU develops digital economies and societies in Eastern Partner Countries’ are available online.


New interactive Story Maps make Europe’s cultural heritage more accessible

Today, on the occasion of the first ever European Cultural Heritage Summit, the European Commission released a set of interactive maps which will help to raise awareness of cultural heritage in Europe.The Story Maps, developed by the Joint Research Centre, the Commission’s science and knowledge service, give users an extensive overview of cultural heritage sites across the continent, including for instance a wealth of information on all European Capitals of Culture. These maps will be updated and developed, for example taking into account tips from young people exploring Europe’s cultural heritage through the new DiscoverEU initiative. Speaking in Berlin today, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Making cultural heritage more accessible to everyone is one of my main goals for the European Year. The Story Maps will play an important role in this, offering valuable information in a user-friendly way. The Joint Research Centre has already developed a number of tools that help us preserve cultural heritage, such as 3D scanning technologies that can be used to map heritage sites as well as smart materials for their reconstruction. Now the interactive Story Maps will help open up opportunities for Europeans to explore our shared heritage and get involved in safeguarding it for the future.” Commissioner Navracsics will this evening co-host the annual awards ceremony for the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage alongside Plácido Domingo, President of Europa Nostra, in the presence of the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. More information on the winners, including the 7 Grand Prix laureates, selected by a jury of experts, will be available here at 21:00 CET today. A press release is available online.


Stepping up efforts against counterfeiting and piracy: first EU Blockathon and new industry agreement

The Commission and the EU Intellectual Property Office (EU IPO) are launching today the EU Blockathon 2018 competition, the first hackathon dedicated to develop blockchain based solutions to fight counterfeiting and piracy. The event will be closed on Monday 25 June by Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, who will attend a Q&A session. The Blockathon will bring together the world’s most talented teams of coders (programmers) to co-create the next level anticounterfeiting solutions for consumers, enforcement authorities, logistic operators and companies. In addition, industry participants will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on online advertising and intellectual property rights (IPR) during the closing ceremony. Building on the success of previous industry-led agreements facilitated by the Commission, the MoU will bring together advertisers, advertising intermediaries, technology providers and associations to curtail the revenue that websites and mobile applications infringing copyright and disseminating counterfeit goods obtained through online advertising. These initiatives follow on from the measures presented last November to ensure the protection of Europe’s know-how and innovation leadership. You can follow the opening and closing ceremonies (respectively at 11.00am on Friday and 9.00am on Monday) live here. Winners of the Blockathon will be announced during the closing ceremony and the results published here. More information on the MoU on online advertising and IPR can be found here from time 12.15pm CET on 25 June.


Innovation: Commission awards four remarkable women entrepreneurs

Yesterday evening, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas announced the winners of the 2018 EU Prize for Women Innovators, worth in total €190.000. The first prize of €100.000 was awarded to Gabriella Colucci from Italy for strategically innovating with active compounds for industrial applications. Commissioner Moedas said: “The four winners are truly inspiring women who developed ideas that succeeded in the market and at the same time improve the lives of people. I am happy that our prize recognised their outstanding achievement. But it also has another aim – to inspire future generations of women innovators. Women’s participation and contribution to research and innovation is fundamental for Europe’s growth.” Alicia Asín Pérez from Spain has won the second prize of €50.000 for her work in powering the Internet of Things, providing connected hardware solutions for our everyday lives. The third prize of €30.000 went to Walburga Fröhlich from Austria for inventing services and products that allow people with learning disabilities to enter the workforce as paid employees. And finally the prize in the rising innovator category of €20.000 was awarded to Karen Dolva from Norway for creating tailored communications devices for socially isolated groups. The EU prize for Women Innovators, which is funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme, decorates women that have successfully started a company and brought their innovation to market. More information is available in a news item.


European Green Capital award for 2020 goes to Lisbon, Portugal

The Portuguese city of Lisbon has won the European Green Capital Award for 2020. The title for European Green Leaf 2019, which concerns smaller cities, goes jointly to the cities of Cornellà de Llobregat in Spain and Horst aan de Maas in the Netherlands. These prestigious titles were awarded at a ceremony in Nijmegen (the European Green Capital 2018 while Oslo will be in 2019) by Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella: “As we enter the second decade of the European Green Capital Awards, the initiative has become even more significant than ever. Globally we are faced with enormous environmental challenges. Climate change, over consumption, plastic waste and biodiversity loss are major threats to our cities and our future. It is heartening and inspiring to see such strong leadership from Lisbon, and other European Green Capital winners.” The Jury found that Lisbon can be a role-model across the EU, demonstrating clearly that sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand. It was the first capital in Europe to sign the New Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy in 2016, after achieving a 50% reduction in C02 emissions (2002-14), reducing energy consumption by 23% and water consumption by 17% from 2007 to 2013, having one of the world’s largest networks of electric vehicle charging points, while 39% of the municipal car fleet is electric. The Spanish city of Cornellà de Llobregat was commended for its commitment to sustainable transport modes and water management measures and the Dutch city of Horst aan de Maas was recognised for its well-planned inclusive urban strategy and its extensive bicycle and public transport network. More details here.


Vice-President Katainen in Beijing to co-chair the EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, will be in Beijing, China, on Monday 25 June to co-chair the 7th meeting of the EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue. The meeting will prepare the economic and trade related deliverables of the upcoming EU-Summit, foreseen to take place in July in Beijing. The plenary session of the High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue will discuss among others the global trading system, trade and investment, innovation-driven development and connectivity. Vice-President Katainen will also have discussions with the Chinese co-chair of the High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, Vice-Premier Liu He, who is responsible for both relations with the EU and the US, as well as economic adviser to  President Xi Jinping. Vice-President Katainen will also engage with the representatives of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China and meet with journalists.


Commissioners Navracsics and Moedas host Western Balkans ministerial in Brussels

On Monday, 25 June, and Tuesday, 26 June, Education and Research Ministers from the Western Balkans will be in Brussels for the annual ministerial meeting of the Western Balkans Platforms on Education & Training and Research & Innovation. On Monday, issues for discussion include the research and innovation capacities in the region and participation in the EU’s framework programmes for research and innovation. On Tuesday, all Ministers of Education from the region are invited to review the state of educational reforms in their countries, learn and discuss deeper cooperation. This year, the meeting will also focus on the recognition of academic qualifications. Ahead of the event, Commissioner Navracsics said: “Coming shortly after the adoption of the new Strategy for the Western Balkans and the recent EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia, this meeting is part of our efforts to strengthen our cooperation. Young people are the backbone of any society, so education and youth empowerment will be at the heart of ambitious reforms on the road to accession. Since 2014, over 13,000 students and staff from the Western Balkans have studied or taught abroad under the Erasmus+ programme. And about 23,000 young people from the Western Balkans and the EU have worked together on Erasmus+ youth and non-formal learning projects. I hope that thousands more will benefit in the future.” Commissioner Moedas added: ”Science, research and innovation have an important role to play in integrating the Western Balkan region and in reinforcing our renewed Strategy. Spreading excellence and closing the excellence gap in Europe remain a critical issue that will stay at the top of the agenda. The work of the Steering Platform on Research and Innovation is in this perspective crucial in helping to develop regional strategies and exchange best practices to increase national and regional research and innovation capacities.” The longer term perspective of the Platforms is to assist the Western Balkans with their reform efforts and prepare them for EU Membership responsibilities, including full participation in the EU’s education and research programmes.


Digital Single Market: Digital Assembly 2018 takes place in Sofia

On 25-26 June, Digital Assembly 2018 will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, gathering more than 1,000 stakeholders and policymakers to debate the Digital Single Market policies and recent technological developments. The Assembly is co-organised by the European Commission and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Five thematic working sessions will focus on key digital priorities:strenghtening cybersecurity, digital skills, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things as well as tackling disinformation. Additionally, in three plenary sessions the participants will discuss the digital transformation of Western Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe. All discussions can be followed live here. On Monday, the Assembly will also witness the launching of the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans, supporting the six Western Balkan Partners in the areas of broadband connectivity, cybersecurity, digitisation of private and public services and research and innovation. For this occasion, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov (at 15:10 EEST, web streamed here). The Digital Agenda builds on the informal EU-Western Balkans summit from 17 May 2018 in Sofia, where leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkan Partners committed to boosting the digital connectivity in the region. More details can be found in the factsheet.


Commissioner Stylianides visits Greece

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides is in Greece today to present the Commission’s rescEU proposal, which looks to strengthen collective capacities in civil protection to better prevent and respond to natural disasters. He will present the proposal at the “Europe at a crossroads: Challenges and prospects for the future” event, hosted in the Acheloos Valley.

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