|High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioners Avramopoulos and King attend G7 meeting in Toronto
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King will participate today and tomorrow in the G7 meeting of Foreign and Security Ministers in Toronto, Canada, joining the EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini who has been participating in the meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers since Sunday. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and the Foreign Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland yesterday announced that they will co-host a meeting of all women foreign ministers in Canada this September. Building on the outcome of the G7 Interior Ministers meeting in Ischia, Italy last October, Commissioners Avramopoulos and King will join Ministers from Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to discuss steps towards building a more secure world. The discussions will focus in particular on the fight against terrorism, the prevention of violent extremism online and offline, trafficking in human beings, and building resilience against the cyber threat and new forms of hybrid warfare. There will also be a joint discussion with Ministers of Foreign Affairs on Russia, disinformation, foreign terrorist fighters and reinforcing democracy.
New recommendation to support cross-border market access for defence and security SMEs
Today the Commission issued a recommendation on cross-border market access for sub-suppliers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the defence sector. It outlines actions national authorities can take to support SMEs and make it easier for them to take part in defence procurement contracts. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “Innovative SMEs are a vital part of the EU defence industry. But they face too many barriers to participating in defence procurement, particularly across borders. Today’s recommendation should foster a more dynamic defence market, creating opportunities for SMEs and providing better value for public money.” This recommendation also includes actions to be taken on the EU and national level, such as using national and European funding for defence-oriented SMEs and intermediate companies and addressing skills needs in the defence sector. The recommendation was announced in the 2016 European Defence Action Plan (EDAP), where the Commission envisaged work to strengthen an open and competitive defence market in Europe in order to help companies operate across borders and encourage Member States to get the best value for money when procuring in the defence area. As part of the Action Plan, the Commission has already launched last year the European Defence Fund.
Whistleblower protection: Commission sets new, EU-wide rules
The European Commission is proposing a new law to strengthen whistleblower protection across the EU. Recent scandals such as Dieselgate, Luxleaks, the Panama Papers or the ongoing Cambridge Analytica revelations show that whistleblowers can play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest and the welfare of our citizens and society. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn’t had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks. So if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people’s health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing. In addition, today’s proposals also protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are defended in Europe.” Today’s proposal will guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law by setting new, EU-wide standards. The new law will establish safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities. It will also protect whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation and require national authorities to inform citizens and provide training for public authorities on how to deal with whistleblowers. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The new whistleblowers’ protection rules will be a game changer. In the globalised world where the temptation to maximise profit sometimes at the expense of the law is real we need to support people who are ready to take the risk to uncover serious violations of EU law. We owe it to the honest people of Europe. A Press Release, Memo and Factsheet are all available online.
State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Italian State loan to Alitalia
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether Italy’s bridge loan to Alitalia totalling €900 million constitutes State aid and whether it complies with EU rules for aid to companies in difficulty. Italy notified the State loan granted to Alitalia in January 2018 as rescue aid within the meaning of EU State aid rules, namely the Commission’s Rescue and Restructuring Aid Guidelines. This followed a number of complaints received by the Commission in 2017, alleging that the loan constitutes State aid that it is not compatible with the applicable EU rules. The Commission’s current view is that the State loan may constitute State aid. It will now investigate further whether the loan satisfies the conditions under the Guidelines. The opening of an in-depth investigation provides all interested parties with an opportunity to comment on the measure. It does not prejudge in any way the outcome of the investigation. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The Commission has a duty to make sure that loans given to companies by Member States are in line with the EU rules on State aid. We will investigate whether this is the case for Alitalia.” A full press release is available online in EN
Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region: Commissioner Hahn meets young people from the region and Commissioner Stylianides inaugurates a photo exhibition on the EU response to the Syrian crisis
Today Commissioner Hahn is hosting an event organised by the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis. Young people, students and young entrepreneurs from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, who have all benefitted from EU Trust Fund projects will raise their voice, share their aspirations and visions for their countries, and their messages for the Brussels II conference with Commissioner Hahn. The event will also feature the pianist Aeham Ahmad, who in 2013 risked his life to play the piano in the besieged city of Yarmouk aiming at transmitting a message of hope and joy to his fellow citizens facing the siege. Thanks to his music, Aeham has now become an advocate for the cause of refugees all over Europe. An exhibition featuring EU Trust Fund projects will follow Ahmad’s performance. On the same day at 14h at the Justus Lipsius building of the European Council, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides will inaugurate a photo exhibition dedicated to the concrete results of EU Humanitarian Aid Operations in both Syria and neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. It tells the personal stories of Syrians that received this aid, showing individual stories of survival, resilience and human determination to rebuild life as normal as possible. WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, ICRC and Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC) have contributed with pictures. These two events will conclude the run-up to the Brussels II Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region #SyriaConf2018, due to kick off tomorrow. Both events will be broadcast live on EbS.
High-level Conference to discuss results of Environmental Footprint pilot phase
What is the environmental footprint of a smartphone battery, pasta or dairy products? Consumers, businesses and investors have a growing interest in the environmental performance of products they buy, produce, and finance. A conference in Brussels on 23- 25 April 2018 discusses how to generate reliable, and comparable information to make this happen. The Environmental Footprint Final Conference will discuss the results, experiences and lessons learned from the pilot phase to develop a harmonised method for calculating the environmental footprint of products and organisations. Participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities linked to such a tool: common rules for measuring impacts, reducing companies’ costs, and stimulating fair competition.
Citizens’ Dialogue: Commissioner Andriukaitis in Austria
On Tuesday, Commissioner Andriukaitis will be in Vienna to meet with Ms Beate Hartinger-Klein, the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection of Austria and to attend the 1st International Animal Welfare Summit 2018. The Commissioner will also hold a Citizens’ Dialogue that will be webstreamed here. “I am looking forward to engaging in dialogue with the people of Austria on important topics such as food safety, food waste, sustainable food production in Europe and the role that consumers play in these areas of discussion”, said Commissioner Andriukaitis ahead of the visit.