NEW REPORTS QUANTIFY HUMAN EXPOSURE TO NATURAL HAZARDS AND OFFER SCIENTIFIC GUIDANCE TO SAVE LIVES AND PROPERTY
Tomorrow, on 25 May, the Commission will present two new scientific reports giving insights into disaster risk management. The first report, the 2017 edition of the JRC Atlas of the Human Planet, looks at where in the world people and property are most exposed to the six major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, tropical cyclone winds, tropical cyclone storm surges and floods. The report finds that global exposure to these has doubled between 1975 and 2015, due to urbanisation, population growth and socioeconomic development. The second report, ‘Science for Disaster Risk Management 2017: knowing more and losing less’, presents the best and most up to date available science in various fields of disaster risk management, such as risk assessment and risk communication, across the whole spectrum of hazards and throughout the entire disaster risk management cycle. It makes concrete proposals on how to use existing evidence and knowledge more effectively to ensure informed decision making, in order to save lives, minimise damage and improve resilience. It is the first flagship report of the Commission’s Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre, run by the Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC). Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the JRC, said: “Science helps us prevent and prepare for disasters, and enhance our resilience to them. Educating decision makers and societies about how to keep developing and improving disaster management is key to widespread application and has the potential to save millions of lives and safeguard property.” The reports will be presented at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Cancun, Mexico, taking place this week. Read more on the human exposure to the natural hazards here and on disaster risk management here.
JUNCKER PLAN-BACKED INVESTMENT PLATFORM TO SUPPORT SOCIAL AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN POLAND
The Juncker Plan has backed an investment platform established by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (BGK), Poland’s national development, which aims to contribute to social inclusion by supporting social and affordable projects in different municipalities across Poland. The European Fund for Strategic Investments, the central pillar of the Juncker Plan, will unlock EIB loans for an amount up to total of PLN 400 million (some EUR 95 million). The projects to be financed under the investment platform concern the construction or retrofitting of social and/or affordable housing units and associated infrastructure. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “The European Fund for Strategic Investments was designed as a dynamic tool that can work with investment platforms to channel investment to support a range of projects. Today’s agreement is an excellent demonstration of the EFSI being used in a dynamic manner in order to support investment where it is needed most to contribute to tangible improvements in people’s lives.” The Juncker Plan is now expected to trigger around EUR 183.5 billion across Europe. A full press release is available here.
EU ANNOUNCES NEW AID FOR NATURAL DISASTERS FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN AT UN CONFERENCE
The European Commission has announced today new funding of €14.3 million to support countries affected by natural disasters and invest in disaster risk reduction and resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017. The announcement comes as Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides is set to take part in the UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun, Mexico, together with the President of Mexico and leaders from Latin America. “The European Union has assisted the Latin American and Caribbean region in all major recent natural disasters, from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti to the forest fires in Chile and the floods in Peru and Colombia earlier this year. We are committed to continue supporting the region and helping communities better prepare themselves for new emergencies, so that they can be more resilient when disasters strike in the future.” said Commissioner Stylianides. The new funding will be used to build resilience in local communities and support the food security needs of populations stricken by natural disasters. A full press release is available.
EUROPEAN CITIZENS’ INITIATIVE: COMMISSION ASKS FOR FEEDBACK
The European Commission is today launching a call for feedback on a potential reform later this year of the European Citizens’ Initiative Regulation — which allows 1 million citizens to call for new EU legislation. Announcing the planned revision of the current EU rules in April, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said, “I know that the requirements to set up a Citizens’ Initiative and collect signatures can still be burdensome. I want to make the European Citizens’ Initiative more accessible and citizen-friendly. I want the Citizens’ Initiative to become a popular and living instrument, one that citizens are familiar with.” European Citizens’ Initiatives were introduced by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, and allow 1 million citizens from 1 quarter of EU Member States to request that the Commission proposes a legal act in an area where it has competence. The tool has been in operation for 5 years, since its launch in April 2012. The Commission is now seeking the views of citizens and stakeholders on how to better achieve the goals of fostering citizen participation and bringing the EU closer to citizens. Over 40 initiatives have been registered so far, and have received support from more than 6 million people from all Member States. 3 Initiatives successfully secured 1 million signatories, with 2 of them — “Right2Water” and “Stop Vivisection” — influencing current EU policies. The public consultation is available online here and is open for responses until 16 August 2017. More information about European Citizens’ Initiatives is available on the dedicated website here.
STATE AID: COMMISSION OPENS INVESTIGATION INTO PROPOSED PUBLIC FINANCING OF JAGUAR LAND ROVER PLANT IN SLOVAKIA
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether Slovakia’s plans to grant €125 million to Jaguar Land Rover for investing in a car plant in Nitra (Slovakia) are in line with EU rules on regional state aid, i.e. the Commission’s 2014 Regional State Aid Guidelines. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “It is a good thing if public investment fosters economic growth in Member States. However, we need to avoid harmful subsidy races between Member States. The Commission will carefully investigate if Slovakia’s planned support is really necessary for Jaguar Land Rover to locate its investment in Nitra and is kept to the minimum needed, if it distorts competition or harms cohesion in the EU”. The Commission has doubts at this stage whether the measure incentivises private investment, as required under the Guidelines. It will need to further investigate whether Jaguar Land Rover’s investment decision was triggered by considerations other than the conditional public subsidy of €125 million. Furthermore, Slovakia claims that without the aid the investment would have taken place outside the European Union, in Mexico. However, the Commission will have to investigate further indications that the €125 million subsidy incentivised Jaguar Land Rover to invest in Slovakia rather than in another Member State. If proven, the measure may have an anti-cohesion effect in the EU, which would not be permitted 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. The full press release is available online here
STATE AID: COMMISSION APPROVES SLOVAK SUPPORT OF €36 MILLION FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL STADIUM IN BRATISLAVA
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Slovakia’s plans to grant in total €35.96 million of public support to the construction of the national football stadium in Bratislava. The Bratislava stadium will comply with the UEFA category 4 requirements. The stadium will be available to professional teams, including the Slovak national football team and a first league football club, but also to non-professional clubs, sports unions, schools and citizens for sportive, social and cultural events. Slovakia will ensure that the access to the stadium is granted on a transparent and non-discriminatory basis. The pricing conditions for its use will be publicly available. The Commission found the aid to be proportional because it does not exceed the funding gap. It concluded that the measure will further the promotion of sport and culture while preserving competition in the EU’s Single Market. The full press release is available online here
COMMISSION DEBATES FUTURE OF EUROPEAN DEFENCE
Feeding into the discussion on the future direction of the EU at 27, the Commission today held an orientation debate on the future of European defence. A stronger Europe when it comes to security and defence matters has been a priority for the Juncker Commission since it took office, with President Juncker announcing the creation of a European Defence Fund in his 2016 State of the Union address. With a worsening security situation in Europe’s neighbourhood and a strong economic case for greater cooperation on defence spending amongst EU countries, the Commission believes now is the time to make strides towards a Security and Defence Union. High Representative Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Security and defence are priorities for the European Union because they are priorities for all our citizens. The world is changing rapidly around us and we have to tackle new challenges every day: as the European Union, we have taken the responsibility to address these challenges.” Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen added: “There is an overwhelming economic and industrial case for greater cooperation, for example in defence research and procurement. As pressure on national budgets remains high, we need more efficient defence spending and a better use of defence capabilities.” Today’s orientation debate will help guide the Commission’s work in the weeks to come. Ahead of the Prague high-level European conference on defence and security, on 7 June, the Commission will launch the European Defence Fund announced in the November 2016 European Defence Action Plan. In parallel, it will present a longer-term reflection paper setting out possible scenarios for the future in the area of European defence. A press release and factsheet are available.
STATE AID: COMMISSION CONCLUDES SALE OF SLOVAK HEALTHCARE CENTRE IN TURZOVKA INVOLVES NO AID
The European Commission has found that the sale below market price of the public healthcare centre building in Turzovka, in the Žilina Region (Slovakia), does not involve state aid. This is because the measure is unlikely to affect competition and trade between Member States. The Žilina Region decided to sell the healthcare centre, which needs important investments to be brought up to standards, to Turzovská Poliklinika s.r.o., a company formed by four healthcare providers currently operating the centre. The buyers undertook to make substantial investments into the medical equipment/infrastructure and to maintain the range of healthcare services currently provided in the building for the next 10 years. The Commission concluded, based on the facts of the case, that the measure does not have an effect on trade within the meaning of EU rules and thus does not amount to state aid. This decision complements a series of decisions taken by the Commission in September 2016 and April 2015 to give guidance to Member States on local public support measures that do not constitute state aid and can be implemented by national authorities directly, without having to seek approval under EU state aid rules. It also complements the modernisation of state aid as a result of which over 95% of all State aid measures can be decided by Member States themselves, and the recent widening of the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.46817.
STATE AID: COMMISSION CLEARS SUPPORT TO ENERGY-INTENSIVE USERS IN LATVIA
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Latvian plans to partially compensate energy-intensive users for charges paid to support renewable energy. Today’s measure will contribute to the competitiveness of these users without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. It has a yearly budget of around €95 million and is estimated to benefit around 100 beneficiaries, covering the period from 2016 until 2021. EU state aid rules, in particular Commission’s 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy, allow Member States to grant reductions from contributions under certain conditions in order to maintain the global competitiveness of certain sectors. In particular, this concerns energy-intensive users in sectors that are particularly energy-intensive and/or exposed to international competition. The Commission concluded that the scope of the beneficiaries under Latvia’s plans meet the criteria under the Guidelines. The measure enables Latvia to strike a balance between guaranteeing support to renewable energy and ensuring competitiveness of energy-intensive industries. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.42854 in the state aid register on the Commission’s competition’s website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
MERGERS: COMMISSION CLEARS ACQUISITION OF SCCN BY SGAB AND ACCIONA
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of 10% of the total voting rights of Sociedad Concesionaria de la Zona Regable del Canal de Navarra SA (‘SCCN’) by Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona SA (‘SGAB’) and Acciona SA (‘Acciona’), all three of Spain. SCCN is the concession-holder of phase I of the Navarre Canal irrigation area. SCCN designed, financed and built this infrastructure and is currently responsible for its maintenance. SGAB is active in the management of the whole water cycle. Acciona is active in the promotion and management of infrastructure and renewable energies. SGAB and Acciona are already shareholders of SCCN. As a result of the acquisition, they will acquire joint control of SCCN. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the overlaps between the companies’ activities in the provision of maintenance services for irrigation infrastructures are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8424.
VICE-PRESIDENT ANSIP AND COMMISSIONER JOUROVÁ MEET BUSINESSES ONE YEAR AHEAD OF THE ENTRY INTO APPLICATION OF THE GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION
Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Jourová will discuss today the implementation of the new Data Protection Regulation together with business associations. On the occasion, they said: “New EU-wide data protection standards have been adopted by the EU last year. Their success depends not only on Member States adapting national laws to the new rules, but also on the knowledge of citizens of their new rights, and on businesses in the EU to be ready once the new rules enter into force. We have one year to work with all Member States and to engage with companies to make this happen. This work should be stepped up and reinforced to ensure harmonisation and avoid fragmentation in the implementation. Within the year we will also launch an EU-wide campaign to raise awareness so that Europeans are conscious of their rights.” Adopted in April 2016, the new regulation will enter into force in May 2018 and replace national legislation substituting the current Data Protection Directive. Full statement is available online as well as a Q&A.
STATEMENT BY COMMISSIONER STYLIANIDES ON THE CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN YEMEN
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides has issued a statement on the EU’s efforts for the Cholera outbreak in Yemen. “As Yemen is facing a fast spreading Cholera outbreak of unprecedented scale the EU is increasing its response with further funding to help those in need. (…) To help, the EU has now made available €3.8 million to deal with the outbreak. This assistance will allow our humanitarian partners to rapidly increase their capacity to treat people and save lives. This is part of our overall funding of €116.7 million for Yemen in 2017. What matters at this crucial time is for all parties to allow full access to humanitarian organisations to deliver aid and carry out their relief efforts. (…) It’s essential that basic commodities, including much needed medical supplies but also food, enter the country at the earliest possible time. (…)”. Read the full statement here.
High-Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini visits Argentina and Chile
The High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will visit Argentina on Monday, 29 May, where she will meet President Mauricio Macri and Minister of Foreign Affairs Susana Mabel Malcorra. Argentina is currently holding the rotating presidency of Mercosur. During her subsequent visit to Chile on Tuesday, 30 May, she will meet President Michelle Bachelet, Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Muñoz and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Alicia Bárcena. The visit is yet another demonstration of the strong ties between the European Union and Latin America. Argentina and Chile are important partners of the EU in a wide spectrum of areas, from foreign policy to trade and investment. They further enjoy close cooperation on issues of common interest, such as climate change and security. This visit comes ahead of the Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which will take place in El Salvador in October 2017.
VICE-PRESIDENT KATAINEN REPRESENTS COMMISSION AT STATE FUNERAL OF MR MAUNO KOIVISTO, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen will be in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday 25 May to represent the European Commission at the state funeral of Mr Mauno Koivisto, former President of the Republic of Finland. President Jean-Claude Juncker conveyed his condolences on the passing of President Koivisto, paying tribute his life-long commitment to freedom and democracy, his European spirit and his decisive role in forwarding Finland’s membership of the European Union.
VICE-PRESIDENT ŠEFČOVIČ IN BRATISLAVA FOR THE 2017 GLOBSEC FORUM
On 26 May, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will be in Bratislava for the 2017 GLOBSEC Forum. Vice-President Šefčovič will participate in the GLOBSEC lunch session: “Transition to a clean economy” as well as in the GLOBSEC Future panel debate: “Navigating the Forth Industrial Revolution”. On the eve of the visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said: ‘”The fourth Industrial Revolution is happening at same time as the fastest urbanisation in human history. It therefore allows us turn our cities from centres of smog, congestion and breaking services into smart cities of clean air, smart mobility, and advanced services. Europe already enjoys the first mover’s advantage.” More information on the 2017 GLOBSEC Forum here. More information on the Energy Union is available here.