|Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and EU Commissioner for Development and International Cooperation Neven Mimica on the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area
“The historic decision to launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) taken on 21 March by the African Union at its Assembly in Kigali, represents a significant step towards deepening continental integration. The adoption and signing of the AfCFTA legal instruments and the signing of the Protocol on free movement of persons are concrete commitments to liberalisation and to building on what has already been achieved at the regional level. The EU is ready to support the implementation of this impressive achievement in the spirit of the African Union-European Union partnership and our joint political declaration of the Summit in Abidjan in November 2017. The meeting between the African Union and the European Commission in Brussels on 23 May will be an important opportunity to discuss this further. We will be focussing on delivering on our joint commitments as agreed in Abidjan, to advance the strategic priorities for our cooperation for the coming years.” The statement is available here.
Single Market: Commission welcomes agreement on professional services
The Commission welcomes the preliminary political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council on a “proportionality test” to guide Member States in regulating professional services. The Commission tabled the proposal in January 2017 among other measures to give the EU services economy a fresh boost, and the agreement comes shortly after the joint statement by the European Parliament, Commission and Council presidency on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Single Market. Around 50 million people – 22% of the European labour force – work in professions to which access is conditional upon the possession of specific qualifications or for which the use of a specific title is protected, e.g. engineers, lawyers or architects. Regulation can be warranted for a number of professions, for example those linked with health and safety. But there are many cases where unnecessarily burdensome and outdated rules make it unreasonably difficult for qualified candidates to access these jobs. This is also to the detriment of consumers. Under EU law, a Member State needs to establish whether new national professional requirements are necessary and balanced. The Commission proposal does not change existing law but aims to ensure a coherent and consistent approach by streamlining and clarifying how Member States should ensure that national rules on professional services are necessary and balanced. The tentative agreement reached in so-called trilogue negotiations is still subject to formal adoption.
Sustainable Finance: High-Level Conference kicks EU’s strategy for greener and cleaner economy into high gear
The European Commission is today hosting a high-level conference on its strategy to reform the financial system in support of the EU’s climate and sustainable development agenda. This event is an opportunity to maintain the momentum established at the One Planet Summit, cementing the support and commitment of EU leaders and key private players for the changes needed in the financial system and the economy. The event is jointly hosted in Brussels by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission said: “Europe is open for sustainable business. But climate change knows no boundaries and will affect us all. We cannot work alone. This is why we want to lead international efforts and will work with our G7, G20 and United Nations partners to set global sustainable finance standards […] Two decades ago, sustainability was a specialist topic for experts and scientists. Today, it is a daily reality and a priority for governments, for financial institutions, for business and for citizens […]. At its heart it is about making sure that our money works for our planet as well as our bottom line. There is no greater return on investment.” The full speech is available here.High-level keynote speakers include French President Emmanuel Macron and Michael Bloomberg, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella will also address hundreds of participants discussing how best to put the Commission’s Action Plan on Sustainable Finance into practice. The Action Plan, launched on March 8, is part of the Capital Markets Union’s (CMU) efforts to connect finance with the specific needs of the European economy to the benefit of the planet and our society. It is also one of the key steps towards implementing the historic Paris Agreement and the EU implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Link to the live webcast here. A full press release is available here. Speeches are published here.
Global Report on Food Crises: major famines were partly averted in 2017 but food security remains critical
The Global Report on Food Crises indicates that major risks of famine were averted in 2017 in the four countries that were declared at risk in early 2017: Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and North Nigeria. However, it also highlights the severity and the complexity of food crises around the world. Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, who presented the report today in Rome together with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme, said: “In 2017, the Global Report on Food Crises alerted us about the risk of famines in a number of partner countries. Thanks to local and international efforts, including in the most critical hotspots, we were able to avert major famines. But let us be clear: we still have huge challenges ahead of us, and the EU will continue to work relentlessly for food security around the world. When future generations look back on this time in history, I want to say that we were not only able to diagnose the problem, but we were also able to prescribe the right solutions.” The Global Report on Food Crises provides a comprehensive picture of the severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in 51 countries and territories, with in-depth analysis of 26 hotspots.Read the full press release here.
EUROSTAT: Employment in EU regions in 2016 Employment grew in 8 out of 10 EU regions
In 2016, 231 of the EU regions (84%) saw their employment grow in 2016. In 32 other regions, the number of persons employed decreased and in a further 12 employment remained stable. Full text available here
Energy Union: Synchronisation of the Baltic States’ electricity network with the European system will strengthen solidarity and regional security of supply
Today, the Heads of State or Government of the Baltic States and of Poland met with President Juncker to reaffirm their strong commitment to synchronising the Baltic States’ electricity grid with the continental European System by 2025. The Heads of State or Government called for utmost efforts to maintain the working schedule of the Ministers, of system operators and of experts. They agreed to meet again in summer, to conclude a political agreement on the preferred way of synchronising the Baltic States with the continental European network. At a meeting held in the European Commission premises, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker together with the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas, the Prime Minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis and the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki stressed the importance of the synchronisation process as a key element to physically integrate the Baltic States with the Continental European energy system and offering a major contribution to the unity and energy security of the European Union. They stressed that this is one of the most emblematic projects of the Energy Union and a concrete expression of solidarity in energy security. They agreed that 2018 will be a decisive year and expressed their commitment to conclude by June 2018 a political agreement on the preferred way of synchronising the Baltic States with the continental European network. In order to successfully realise the project the support from Connecting Europe Facility funds will be crucial. Read full statement here.
Vienna, Igoumenitsa and Turda receive European sustainable urban mobility awards
The European Commission yesterday announced the winners of the 2017 European sustainable urban mobility awards at a ceremony held in Brussels. Vienna (Austria) received the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Award for large municipalities, while Igoumenitsa (Greece) won the inaugural prize in the ‘less than 50,000 inhabitants’ category. Turda (Romania) received the Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning. With 75% of Europeans living in cities, sustainable urban mobility is essential to the EU’s ambitious climate objectives and to tackle issues such as congestion, noise, and air pollution. The three cities were selected by an independent jury for their innovative solutions to promote sustainability. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “My congratulations to each of the award winners. Through their actions, Vienna, Igoumenitsa and Turda are creating a more sustainable Europe. They also help their residents to move around in a cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable way. It is my hope that these cities will inspire others to embrace the core message of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK – sustainable mobility is the right choice for everyone.” Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “Mobility Week gets bigger every year! More proof, year after year, that green is everyone’s favourite colour. Green means clean, it means convenient, and it means a city where people find it easy to go about their business. And best of all, it’s better for your health. My congratulations to these winners – they’ve understood what citizens really need.” 2017 was the most successful edition of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK to date, with over 2,500 towns and cities participating. More information on the three winners is available here.
Joint statement on the ratification of the Border Demarcation Agreement between Kosovo and Montenegro
Following yesterday’s ratification of the Border Demarcation Agreement between Kosovo and Montenegro, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn have issued this statement: “The ratification of the Border Demarcation Agreement with Montenegro, by the Assembly of Kosovo, represents a real achievement, a welcome and concrete progress, very much in the spirit of good neighbourly relations as well as the new Commission Strategy for the Western Balkans. The ratification is also the fulfilment of one of the key criteria for Kosovo’s visa liberalisation. As President Juncker said during his recent visit to Kosovo, it is a crucial step towards visa liberalisation which will first and foremost benefit the people. […] The European Union expects all sides in Kosovo to continue the hard work and successful efforts to achieve visa-free travel for the people of Kosovo and in the interest of the region.” The full statement is available online.
Commissioner Gabriel in Croatia to discuss Digital Single Market and audiovisual sector
Commissioner Gabriel visits Zagreb, Croatia tomorrow to discuss the latest developments in the MEDIA sub-programme of Creative Europe and in the Digital Single Market. In the morning, the Commissioner will give a keynote speech and preside a panel discussionat the event “10th Anniversary of the Creative Europe in Croatia – Strong Women of European Audiovisual Industry in Zagreb for the First Time!“. The Commissioner will address the contributions of the MEDIA programme to the Croatian film industry. As well, Commissioner Gabriel will discuss the question ofgender balance in the European audiovisual sector; underlining the initiatives she launched two weeks ago to increase the participation ofwomen in the digital and audiovisual sectors. Following this panel, Commissioner Gabriel will join the 9th Plenary meeting of European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) to discuss the ongoing negotiations on the Commission’s proposals to modernise the EU copyright rules, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the situation of the European audiovisual industry, and the opportunities for the sector during the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. At 15:00 CET, the Commissioner will hold a Citizens’ Dialogue at the University of Zagreb together with Croatian MEP Dubravka Šuica, to exchange with all the participants on the latest initiatives launched by the Commission for the completion of the Digital Single Market. The Commissioner can be followed on her Twitter account @GabrielMariya.
Commissioner Navracsics in Sofia to open the EU Sport Forum
Today, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, is in Sofia to open the EU Sport Forum taking place on 22-23 March under the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Under the banner ‘Sport in Europe, investing for future generations,’ this year’s edition will have a special focus on the role of sport in international relations. The Commissioner will also present the results of the latest Eurobarometer on physical activity showing that the number of EU citizens who never exercise or play sport has slightly increased from 42% to 46% since 2009. Ahead of the event, Commissioner Navracsics said: “The new figures show how vitally important it is to continue our efforts to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles. I strongly encourage all actors, from public authorities to sports organisations, to intensify their efforts and work together.“ The European Commission is working to boost physical activity, for example through the European Week of Sport, as well as through projects funded by the Erasmus+ programme. In September last year, Commissioners Tibor Navracsics, Phil Hogan, responsible for Agriculture and Rural development, and Vytenis Andriukaitis, in charge of Health and Food safety, launched an initiative which sets out a roadmap for promoting healthy lifestyles in Europe, particular amongst children. The Commissioner’s opening speech is available online. Detailed results of the Eurobarometer are published here and here.