|President Juncker participates in the European Council 22-23 March 2018
Yesterday and today, EU leaders gathered in Brussels for the March European Council, with a full agenda. Yesterday, discussions focussed on digital taxation and the Commission’s proposals in this area, and leaders agreed to come back to the matter in June. They also called for increased efforts to deliver on the Single Market strategy, the Digital Single Market, the Capital Markets Union Action Plan and the Energy Union, before the end of the current legislative cycle. On social issues, leaders confirmed their support for delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights and invited the Council to examine the Commission’s proposals under the Social Fairness Package, including the proposal for a European Labour Authority, which President Juncker welcomed in the press conference yesterday evening. Other items on the agenda included the Paris Agreement, where the Commission will present a proposal for a Strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction in 2019. In the working dinner yesterday evening, leaders discussed Turkey, strongly condemning Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, and underlining their full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece. On Russia, leaders condemned in the strongest possible terms the recent attack in Salisbury, and expressed their unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom. Trade was on the agenda this morning, following announcements by the US administration yesterday evening, and EU leaders confirmed their commitment to an open and rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core, regretting the decision by the United States to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminium, and underlining their support for a dialogue on trade issues of common concern with the United States. The 27 EU leaders then met to discuss Article 50 negotiations with the UK, and welcomed the agreement reached by the negotiators on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, and adopted guidelines on with a view to the opening of negotiations on the overall understanding of the framework for the future relationship. Following this, leaders of the euro area countries met. At the concluding press conference this afternoon, President Juncker said: “the U.S. has recognised that the EU is a single entity when it comes to trade. But the exemption from the tariffs until 1 May is not very realistic. We are asking for a permanent exemption”. On Brexit, President Juncker underlined the united front of EU leaders in adopting the guidelines presented to the Council. Watch the full press conference here. In the margins of the Summit, President Juncker also met with Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa to launch a pilot reform project to improve the Portuguese national vocational education and training system, including adult education, contributing to address the skills challenges of a significant share of the Portuguese labour force and enhancing the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy. A statement is available here. Re-watch it on EbS here.
Commissioner Hogan is in Poland to take part in a citizens’ dialogue on the future common agricultural policy
Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan is in Jasionka, Poland, today to meet Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Krzysztof Jurgiel and to participate in a citizens’ dialogue on new budgetary perspectives of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – priorities, assumptions, proposals for changes “. The event is part of the 2018 European Agricultural Forum, where Polish and European politicians and stakeholders discuss the prospects for agriculture in the European Union. Commissioner Hogan will answer questions from participants along with Mr Krzysztof Jurgiel, Polish Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Stéphane Travert, French Minister for Agriculture, Mr Pavel Sekac, Czech Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Zsolt Feldman, Hungarian Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture. This citizen dialogue is part of a series of commitments between the Commission and the main stakeholders in the agri-food sector that have been taking place throughout the European Union since the adoption of the Commission’s guidelines on the future of the CAP. Citizen dialogues are a regular feature of the daily work of the Juncker Commission. All members of the Commission travel to European regions and cities to interact with citizens and listen to their views and expectations regarding the future of the Union. Since the beginning of the mandate, more than 130 dialogues have taken place in more than 80 cities
WTO confirms Russian duties on EU vans are illegal
The WTO Appellate Body yesterday dismissed Russia’s appeal and upheld the EU’s arguments in the dispute on the anti-dumping duties imposed by Russia in 2013 on imports of European light commercial vehicles (LCVs). “I am glad to see that the WTO Appellate Body confirms the 2017 WTO ruling. It’s important that every member of the WTO plays by the rules. That’s what the EU is doing and we are expecting our partners to do the same. I’m looking forward to those measures being removed, so that our exports of commercial vehicles can benefit from a level-playing field on the Russian market,” said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. The duties ranging from 23% to nearly 30% affect exports of Italian and German LCVs and are just one example of multiple measures taken by Russia in the recent years against EU exports. European Union expects Russia now to comply with the panel and Appellate Body reports by removing its anti-dumping duties on LCVs from Germany and Italy. The anti-dumping duties on light commercial vehicles introduced in May 2013 target imports from Germany, Italy and Turkey. The measures concern light commercial vehicles between 2.8 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes of weight, van-type bodies and diesel engines with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 3.000 cm3, designed for the transport of cargo of up to two tonnes, or for the combined transport of cargo and passengers. The measures were adopted by the Eurasian Economic Union and apply to imports to all its countries. The case concerns specifically Russia, given that at the time the EU brought the case to the WTO in 2014, Russia was the only member of the Eurasian Economic Union bound by the WTO rules. This is the 9th WTO case won by the EU in the WTO since the begging on of the Juncker’s Commission. Successful EU action has led over this period to the removal of discriminatory taxes, illegal customs duties or export restrictions in key markets such as Russia, China, US, and South America. Together, these cases concerned an estimated value of EU exports of at least €10 billion/year. For more information: WTO Appellate Body report, WTO ruling in favour of the EU in 2017, enforcement of trade rules through WTO Dispute Settlement.
Rules against unjustified geoblocking enter into force
The new rules against unjustified geoblocking (Regulation (EU) 2018/302) entered into force yesterday and will be a reality for citizens as of 3 December 2018 – they will be able to find the best deals online when buying goods and services across the EU without being discriminated based on nationality and residence. The nine-month period gives traders sufficient time to adapt and introduce necessary changes to comply with the EU rules. At the same time, the Member States are requested to appoint responsible institutions for the enforcement of the Regulation. Ending unjustified geoblocking will boost e-commerce in Europe and provide consumers and businesses more opportunities to benefit from the growing European online marketplace. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, said: “From 3 December onwards, European citizens will enjoy the freedom of shopping goods and services online. This is not only the end of unjustified discrimination but also it opens new opportunities for the European companies to grow and innovate. Ending unjustified geoblocking is part of our efforts to encourage e-commerce across borders in the EU, along with more transparent parcel delivery prices, stronger consumer protection and simplified VAT rules.” Further details about the new rules are available in the press release from November 2017, factsheet, Frequently Asked Questions and the guide on 10 most important features for companies to comply with the new rules. More information on cross-border parcel delivery can be found here.
European Processor Initiative: consortium announced to develop microprocessors for future supercomputers
The European Commission presented today the consortium European Processor Initiative (EPI) to co-design, develop and bring to the market a European low-power microprocessor, one of the core elements needed for the development of the European supercomputers with exascale capacity (i.e. performance of a billion billion or 1018 calculations per second). Vice-President Andrus Ansip, in charge of the Digital Single Market, and Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “Thanks to such new European technologies, European scientists and industry will be able to access exceptional levels of energy-efficient computing performance. This will benefit Europe’s scientific leadership, industrial competitiveness, engineering skills and know-how and the society as whole.” The consortium gathers experts from the High-Performance Computing (HPC) research community, the major supercomputing centres, the computing and silicon industry representatives as well as the potential scientific and industrial users, a total of 23 partners from ten European countries. The financial contribution of the European Union to the initiative under the Horizon 2020 programme is expected to be around €120 million. Specific grant agreements to support the consortium will be published later this year. Further details about the consortium are available here.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Unilever’s baking, cooking and spreads business by KKR
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Unilever’s baking, cooking and spreads business of the Netherlands by KKR of the US. Unilever’s baking, cooking and spreads business manufactures and sells butter, margarine and other spreads, melanges, dairy cream alternatives and vegetable oils in Europe and worldwide. KKR is a global investment company that offers alternative asset management services to public and private market investors, and provides capital markets solutions for the firm, its portfolio companies and clients. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the companies’ activities do not overlap and they are not active on related markets. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8802.
Statement ahead of World Tuberculosis Day by Commissioners Andriukaitis, Moedas, Thyssen and Mimica
On the eve of World Tuberculosis Day, we underline our commitment to ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030. We call on governments all over the world to redouble their efforts and make this happen. Globally, tuberculosis remains the single most deadly infectious disease. In 2016, there were over 10 million new tuberculosis cases and 1.7 million deaths worldwide. The European Union fully supports the international effort to address this, including the commitment made in Riga in March 2015 to fully eradicate tuberculosis by 2050; the 2017 “Berlin declaration”; and the 2017 “Moscow declaration to end Tuberculosis”. Building on the work of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, in summer through a policy paper the Commission will address ways to eliminate tuberculosis, as well as HIV/AIDS, and significantly reduce viral hepatitis, in line with the objectives set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. In September this year, the EU will be represented at the United Nations General Assembly which will convene for the first time, specifically to discuss tuberculosis. This is a crucial opportunity for health ministers to stand together and reaffirm our commitment to eradicating tuberculosis forever. The EU is also financially supporting the international effort. For the period 2017-2019, we provided €475 million to the Global Fund against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to support the most vulnerable people, including those living with tuberculosis and HIV, and those who do not have sufficient access to quality services. Thanks to our support, more than 53 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2016. But this is far from enough. Tuberculosis is also frequently associated with poverty and poor living conditions. We strongly urge leaders in Europe to ensure access to preventative and good quality curative healthcare for everyone, in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights and the values Europe stands for. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The number of cases is actually decreasing in most parts of the world. The overall number of new cases within the EU continues to decline by 5-6% each year and globally by 1.5% per year. While small, these figures bode well for the future. They show that with political will, determination and sufficient funding, we can save lives. Together we can #EndTB. Follow us on Twitter: @V_Andriukaitis @EU_Health @EUScienceInnov #EndTB#EUHealthResearch @MoedasRead full statement here.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini travels to Uzbekistan for the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan
On Monday 26 – Tuesday 27 March, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini will be in Uzbekistan to participate in the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan: “Peace process, security cooperation and regional connectivity”. The conference brings together Afghanistan, the five Central Asian countries, the United Nations and other stakeholders to work towards peace, increased security and regional development in Afghanistan and the region, and builds on the successful Kabul Process meeting held at the end of February as well as the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, held in October 2016. Topics for discussion at the conference include matters relating to peace and reconciliation, counter terrorism and counter narcotics, as well as regional cooperation.All of these themes feature strongly in the EU’s ownAfghanistan Strategy (Joint Communication; Council Conclusions), whichwas adopted in October 2017, as well as the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development, which has been provisionally applied since 1 December 2017. The High Representative/Vice-President will address the conference as an opening speaker. She will also hold, in the margins of the conference, a number of bilateral meetings, including with the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, as well as several Ministers. Four months after the most recent formal EU-Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, chaired by the High Representative in Samarkand in November 2017, Federica Mogherini will again meet the five Foreign Ministers in order to discuss recent developments in the region and ways to take the EU’s engagement forward, in particular in view of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia which is currently being developed and following a landmark meeting of Central Asian leaders held in Astana on 15 March, which gave new momentum to regional cooperation. Coverage of the visit will be provided by Europe by Satellite. For more information see the factsheet on EU-Afghanistan relations and the website of the EU Delegation to Afghanistan, likewise the factsheets on EU-Central Asia regional relations and on relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis opens Baltic FinTech conference
Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, is in Latvia today, participating in two high-level events. This morning, he gave a keynote address at ‘Baltic EU Conversations 2018: Is Europe Back?’, an international conference hosted by the Latvian Parliamentand Representation of European Commission in Latvia. Later in the afternoon, the Vice-President will open the conference ‘Future of Financial Technology in the Baltics and the EU’ with a keynote on the Capital Markets Union. Both speeches will be available online.
Commissioner Hahn travels to Beirut to support socio-economic development of Lebanon, a key long-term partner of the EU
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will travel to Lebanon on Monday 26– Tuesday 27 March to reiterate the EU’s firm commitment to support the country’s socio-economic development and prosperity. He will meet with key political authorities of the country including President Michel Aoun, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Ahead of the visit commissioner Hahn said: “I am looking forward to visiting Lebanon again. Our focus is on how to attract investments into Lebanon to stimulate jobs and growth. This will be the topic of my meetings with the government and other economic actors. Lebanon is a key long-term partner of the European Union and we are deploying all our instruments to help support the county’s socio-economic development. We commend Lebanon’s huge contribution in hosting Syrian refugees, and it is crucial that the protection of refugees continues. On the 24 and 25 April we will host the Brussels II Conference in support of Syrian refugees but also of their host countries, including Lebanon.” In Lebanon, Commissioner Hahn will also speak at an event underlining the importance of Higher Education for Lebanese students and Syrian refugees, he will visit EU funded projects in Tripoli, and EU-supported activities for Palestine refugees in Lebanon. Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS.
Future of EU finances – Commissioner Oettinger visits Poland
Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, is visiting Poland on 26 February as part of his tour across EU Member States (#MFFtour27) aimed at gathering views on the future of EU finances and the EU’s multiannual budget post-2020 (#EUbudget). In Poland, the Commissioner will meet with Prime Minister, Mr Mateusz Morawiecki, Minister of Finance, Ms Teresa Czerwińska, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Jacek Czaputowicz, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Konrad Szymanski, and Minister of Investment and Economic Development, Mr Jerzy Kwieciński. He also participates at a joint meeting of the EU Affairs and Public Finances Committees of the Sejm (Lower Chamber of the Parliament) and holds a meeting with the EU Affairs Committee of Senate (Upper Chamber of the Parliament). In addition, he participates at a discussion with business representatives in the National Chamber of Commerce. Least but not last, the Commissioner participates at a Citizens’ Dialogue at the Polityka Insight. The Commission kicked off this debate on 28 June 2017 with the publication of its Reflection paper on the future of EU finances, available in all EU languages (also in Polish). Then, on 14 February 2018, the Commission presented the Communication “A new, modern Multiannual Financial Framework for a EU that delivers efficiently on its priorities post-2020”. Stakeholders’ views will be taken into account when preparing the next MFF, to be presented in May 2018. See a speech “A Budget Matching our Ambitions” given by Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger at the conference “Shaping our Future” on 8 January 2018.
Commissioner Bieńkowska in Kyiv for the 2nd EU-Ukraine High-level Industrial and Regulatory Dialogue
On Tuesday 27 March, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, will visit Kyiv, Ukraine. Commissioner Bieńkowska will meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to discuss the priorities for industrial and economic cooperation. Together with First Vice-Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, she will open the 2nd EU-Ukraine High-level Industrial and Regulatory Dialogue, an initiative to support Ukraine in its reform path andcontinue to build strong links between the Ukrainian economy and theEU Single Market. The dialogue puts an emphasis on regulatory alignment on specific issues, such as the automotive, textile and raw materials sectors, as well as removing technical barriers to trade and public procurement. It also promotes enhanced cooperation on Ukraine’s participation in EU programmes, such as COSME and Horizon 2020, and cooperation in areas like space policy. The Commissioner will also deliver a keynote speech to around 50 representatives of industrial cluster organisations from Ukraine and other European countries. Cluster cooperation is particularly useful and effective to facilitate business collaboration and the development of innovation ecosystems.For more information on EU-Ukraine relations, see the factsheet.
Commissioner Gabriel to hold her first Citizens’ Dialogue inBulgaria
On 25 March,Commissionerfor the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will hold her firstCitizens’ Dialoguein Bulgaria where she will discuss digital topics and the role of young people in Europe. The debate will start at 10:00 CET(11:00 local time) at the Diplomat Plaza Hotel in Lukovit. The Commissioner will be joined on stage by Bulgarian Minister of Education and Science Krasimir Valchev. The discussion with students will be focussed on the significance of young people’s participation in the digital future of Europe, notably in helping to shape Europe’s policies and drive innovation in the digital sector. The Commissioner will talk about the benefits of the Digital Opportunity traineeshipsand development of the digital skills as a key factor for the success of young Europeans. She said ahead of the event: “The future of Europe is digital and no one should be excluded from the opportunities brought to us by the new technologies. Digital skills are the fuel for the engine of economic growth in Europe. They are the foundation for new business models, they will create new jobs and will contribute for a more competitive and innovative economy. Investments in training digital skills have great added value for the people, our societies and our economies.” You can watch the event live here and here (both in Bulgarian). Regular updates will be available here.