|Investment Plan for Europe supports new wind farm in Ireland with €80 million in EIB financing
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing €80 million in financing under the Juncker Plan for the €160 million Oweninny wind farm project in North County Mayo, Ireland. The site was formerly used for peat harvesting by the semi-state company Bord na Móna to provide indigenous fuel for a peat fired power station at Bellacorick, up to its decommissioning in 2003. ESB (Electricity Supply Board) and Bord na Móna have established a Community Benefit Scheme for the funding of local community projects and initiatives over the lifetime of the wind farm. The project will be financed with long-term debt from a consortium of banks including the EIB, MUFG Bank, BNP Paribas and AIB. Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “This investment by the European Investment Bank and guaranteed by the Juncker Plan is a strong statement of support for the further development of clean energy in Ireland. The EU has and continues to be a leader in meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement and we all have a part to play. This €80 million investment from the EIB – the EU’s bank – has the potential to make a significant contribution to Ireland’s renewable energy and climate action targets, through the provision of clean energy to over 50,000 homes. The project also represents excellent collaboration on the part of the commercial semi-state sector as well as public and private sector banks.” (Full press release is found here.
€146 million for breakthrough innovation: Commission helps bring 79 top-class projects to market
The Commission is announcing today 79 innovative projects that will be granted up to €2.5 million each through the pilot phase of the European Innovation Council (EIC). The EIC is a novel funding concept under Horizon 2020 targeting fast-moving, high-risk innovative products, services, processes or business models with strong potential to create entirely new markets. As announced in the Renewed Agenda for Research and Innovation on 15 May, building on the current €2.7 billion pilot phase for the period 2018-2020, the Commission proposes to establish a full-scale European Innovation Council to offer a one-stop shop for high potential and breakthrough technologies, as well as for innovative companies with potential for scaling up. Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Supporting innovation as a source of growth and job creation is at the core of the European Innovation Council. We support close-to-market projects, giving them a head start in the race to the market with a fast access to funding and business innovation support.” The projects selected in this round include a detection tool for pre-symptomatic signs of Alzheimer’s disease, a technology that quickly contains oil spills in the sea, and a novel anti-lock braking system for e-bikes. The selection process included face-to-face interviews with a jury of innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. More details on the funding instruments and selection processes here.
Cohesion policy beyond 2020: new Commission initiative helps Member States and regions improve the management of EU funds
The Commission has selected five national and regional authorities in Greece, Poland, Spain, Croatia and Bulgaria to participate in a new pilot action on good governance and administrative capacity-building, as announced this morning in the context of the Good Governance for cohesion policy conference. The 5 following cohesion policy programmes are concerned: the ‘Transport Infrastructure, environment and sustainable development’ programme in Greece, the Lubelskie regional programme in Poland, the Extremadura regional programme in Spain, the ‘Competitiveness and cohesion’ programme in Croatia and the ‘Regions in Growth’ programme in Bulgaria. Commissioner for regional policy Corina Creţu said: “To fully unlock the potential of public investment in terms of growth and jobs, solid institutions and well-functioning administration are as important as the money itself. In the next long term EU budget, lessons drawn from this pilot action will help boost the effectiveness and performance of EU and public national funds alike in the future.” To improve the management of EU funded programmes in the post-2020 period, experts from the Commission and the OECD will focus on building the right organisational structures and developing the right skills for staff. The experts will also help the authorities coordinate more smoothly with the other players involved in the roll-out of Cohesion Policy programmes, such as business and social partners, development agencies and civil society organisations. A press release, a factsheet on the pilot action and a factsheet on the Commission’s initiatives to help Member States improve the way they invest and manage EU funds are available online.
European Commission launches expert group to strengthen EU-Africa partnership on agriculture
The Taskforce on Rural Africa, which is holding its first meeting today, was created at the initiative of the Commission to deliver recommendations on the role of the European agri-food and agro-industrial sector in sustainable economic development of Africa. The eleven members of this group are to report in January 2019 focusing on job creation and support for young people active in the agri-food sector in Africa. Opening today the first meeting, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said: “How to deal with the challenge of productivity in Africa? How to develop infrastructure and skills? How to encourage and increase responsible investment in the African agro-food sector? Here are the types of questions on which we expect a contribution from the Taskforce. Making change a reality implies a strong partnership at all levels. I hope that agriculture is among the first sectors with a policy of effective dialogue between the two continents, leading to real results. It is by working together that we will be able to bridge the gap between opportunity and reality. Also present, Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, said: “This Taskforce – a concrete outcome of our engagement with Africa – aims to provide answers to Africa’s challenges in a sector that has tremendous potential for development. Natural resources, land and labor are available. Well managed, the agri-food sector can make a difference not only to food security, but also to economic growth and job creation in Africa. Five meetings will be held until January 2019. Commissioner Hogan’s full remarks are available here. More information about the group, its objectives and its composition are online.
Commissioner Andriukaitis in Vilnius to participate in the ‘AgroBalt’ International Exhibition for Agriculture and Food Industry and hold a Citizens’ Dialogue
Today and tomorrow, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety will be in Vilnius to participate in the ‘AgroBalt’ International Exhibition for Agriculture and Food Industry. In the margins of the conference, Commissioner Andriukaitis will attend the High level Political Forum on Food Waste and the 4th meeting of EU Platform on Food Losses and Waste and will also hold a Citizen Dialogue in the premises of the exhibition. “One of the greatest challenges ahead of us is to find ways to ensure that the 10 billion people living on this planet by 2050 will have access to a sufficient supply of safe and nutritious food, despite the limited natural resources and the climate change. In this context, there is simply no room for food waste. This is why I am particularly glad that this issue will be discussed at the highest level and that the 4th Platform Meeting will take place in the margins of AgroBalt Exhibition“, said Commissioner Andriukaitis ahead of the meetings. During his visit, Commissioner will also attend a conference organized by the European Association of Hospital and Healthcare Associations (HOSPEEM) and the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) entitled “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body – Taking care of those who take care of us“, he will meet the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Mr José Graziano Da Silva and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Han Changfu. On Friday, Commissioner will deliver a speech at the International Conference “Effectiveness and Sustainability of the Lithuanian Health System’ that will take place in the Lithuanian Parliament.
Commission proposes new measures to further strengthen the Capital Markets Union and the Banking Union
Today the Commission is presenting a series of measures stemming from the Capital Markets Union and the Banking Union, leading to a stronger and more resilient Economic and Monetary Union. First, the Commission is today proposing risk-reduction rules that will allow market-led solutions for the development of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBS). SBBS would contribute to weakening the link between banks and their home countries. SBBS would, by design, not involve mutualisation of risks and losses among euro area Member States. Instead, these securities would be issued by private institutions as claims on a portfolio of euro-area government bonds. The market-driven development of SBBS will help investors diversify their sovereign exposures and promote financial integration. Full press release, MEMO and factsheet on SBBS are available online. The Commission is today also presenting a series of actions to drive forward the Capital Markets Union (CMU). Following up on the first ever EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, the Commission is now coming forward with its first tangible measures to enable the EU financial sector to lead the way to a greener and cleaner economy. More investments will be channelled into sustainable activities thanks to new rules that determine whether an economic activity is environmentally-sustainable or not. These proposals confirm Europe’s commitment to be the global leader in fighting climate change and implement the Paris Agreement. Full press release, MEMO and factsheet on sustainable finance are available online. The Commission is also proposing new rules to give small and medium enterprises (SMEs) better access to financing through public markets. As part of the CMU agenda, today’s initiative should help EU companies to tap market-based funding more easily and cheaply so that they can expand. Full press release and MEMO on SMEs financing are available online. Moreover, the European Commission is today proposing to strengthen EU rules on motor insurance to better protect victims of motor vehicle accidents and improve the rights of insurance policyholders. Today’s proposal will ensure that victims of motor vehicle accidents are protected, even when the insurer is insolvent. Full press release and MEMO on motor insurance are available online.
Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets
The European Commission has adopted a decision imposing on Gazprom a set of obligations that address the Commission’s competition concerns and enable the free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets, to the benefit of European consumers and businesses. Gazprom is the dominant gas supplier in a number of Central and Eastern European countries. In April 2015, the Commission sent a Statement of Objections to Gazprom. It set out the Commission’s preliminary view that the company breached EU antitrust rules by pursuing an overall strategy to partition gas markets along national borders in eight Member States (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia). This strategy may have enabled Gazprom to charge higher gas prices in five of these Member States (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland). Today’s Commission decision puts an end to this behaviour by Gazprom. Furthermore, it imposes on Gazprom a detailed set of rules that will significantly change the way Gazprom operates in Central and Eastern European gas markets. In particular, Gazprom must i) remove any restrictions placed on customers to re-sell gas cross-border; ii) facilitate gas flows to and from isolated markets (i.e. the Baltic States and Bulgaria), iii) abide by structured process to ensure competitive gas prices; iv) not act on any advantages concerning gas infrastructure, which it may have obtained from customers by having leveraged its market position in gas supply. Combined, these obligations address the Commission’s competition concerns and achieve its objectives of enabling the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe at competitive prices. Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said: “All companies doing business in Europe have to respect European rules on competition, no matter where they are from. Today’s decision removes obstacles created by Gazprom, which stand in the way of the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe. But more than that – our decision provides a tailor-made rulebook for Gazprom’s future conduct. It obliges Gazprom to take positive steps to further integrate gas markets in the region and to help realise a true internal market for energy in Europe. And it gives Gazprom customers in Central and Eastern Europe an effective tool to make sure the price they pay is competitive. As always, this case is not about the flag of the company – it is about achieving the outcome that best serves European consumers and businesses. And the case doesn’t stop with today’s decision – rather it is the enforcement of the Gazprom obligations that starts today.” The press release in all EU languages is available online. You can view the press conference of Commissioner Vestager on EbS.
EU and African Union Commissions step up their cooperation to support young people, jobs and peace
President Jean-Claude Juncker co-chaired yesterday the 9th Commission to Commission meeting with Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. The two sides had agreed on a set of priorities at the November 2017 AU-EU Summit in Abidjan and now the two Commissions took stock of progress made to chart the way forward. On the occasion, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We met today to translate words into concrete action. We launched programmes worth €400 million to support, amongst others, African youth – which is all the more important, as 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old. The future of the world depends on the good cooperation between Europe and Africa.” Amongst others, the two commissions discussed cooperation to enhance resilience, peace, security and governance, including support to African peace initiatives such as the G5 Sahel joint force. In this regard, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding reinforcing the existing cooperation in the area of peace and security. In addition, they agreed to continue and consolidate the important work made by the AU-EU-UN Task Force on migration. The full press release and a factsheet are available online.
EU delivers further support for Ebola outbreak
The European Commission is taking further action to support the World Health Organisation and the national authorities help manage and contain the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to emergency funding and the ECHO flight service announced last week, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has also been activated at the request of the World Health Organisation and is now providing medical teams. Experts from the Commission’s humanitarian aid department are also being deployed in the country. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said: “I’m pleased to announce that through our EU Civil Protection Mechanism, France and Norway have offered medical teams and personnel to be dispatched immediately to the affected areas. Norway has also offered transport shuttles used to isolate the sick and help them get specialist treatment. This is solidarity in action. We will do all we can to support the World Health Organisation and our partners on the ground fight the battle to contain Ebola.” Furthermore, the Commission has also decided to increase the co-financing for transport of the assistance delivered via the EU Civil protection Mechanism for the countries providing support from 55%-85%.
Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici at Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings
Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici will represent the European Commission at the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings taking place today and tomorrow in Brussels. At today’s Eurogroup meeting, the institutions will present the staff-level agreement agreed with the Greek authorities and, more generally, the status of the ongoing fourth review of stability support programme for Greece and the conditions for a successful conclusion of the programme this August. The Commission will present its Spring 2018 Economic Forecast. The Eurogroup will hold a thematic discussion on growth and jobs, with a special focus on spending reviews. Finally, the Eurogroup will discuss, in an inclusive format, progress towards the completion of the Banking Union and the future role of the European Stability Mechanism. Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the press conference following the meeting. At the ECOFIN meeting tomorrow, EU Finance Ministers are expected to agree on the package of reforms that the Commission proposed in November 2016 to reduce risks in the banking sector. In the area of taxation, Ministers will be asked to agree on new tools for cooperation between EU countries in the fight against VAT fraud – a problem which leads to losses of €50 billion for national budgets of EU Member States each year. An agreement is also possible on a measure to allow e-books and other e-publications to benefit from the same VAT rates as their printed equivalents. Also on the tax front, ministers are expected to remove two countries, Bahamas and St Kitts, from the common EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. This follows commitments from those countries to improve their tax systems by the end of the year – a process that will be closely monitored by the EU. Finally, the ECOFIN is expected to formally approve far-reaching new transparency rules for tax advisers in the EU following political agreement in March. Vice-President Dombrovskis will participate in the ECOFIN press conference.
Security Union: Commission welcomes agreement on its proposal to tackle illicit cash flows
The Commission has welcomed the agreement reached by EU Member States and the European Parliament last night on key measures to control illicit cash flows at EU customs. The reinforced rules complement the EU’s anti-money laundering rules and form part of the European Agenda on Security and work to fight the financing of terrorism. The decision was taken following a final round of negotiations in Brussels. Putting tighter controls on large cash flows strengthens the capacity of the EU to tackle money laundering, fight terrorism and organised crime, making it harder for terrorists and criminals to finance their activities. Cutting off the sources of financing is one of the most effective ways to stop potential terrorist attacks and criminal activities in the EU and worldwide. Welcoming the political agreement, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “We are going further than ever before in the fight against money laundering and terrorism, with the aim of ensuring a safer society. We are responding to the expectations of our citizens, who are understandably outraged by the criminals and terrorist activity on our soil. I welcome today’s agreement to curb the circumvention of cash controls at the EU’s external borders.” Last night’s press release on the agreement is available here.
DiscoverEU: travel opportunities in Europe for 18 year olds – official website launched
Information about the DiscoverEU initiative is now available on the European Youth Portal website. DiscoverEU is a new EU initiative, which offers 18 year old EU citizens the opportunity to discover their continent this summer. Young people can for instance find out if they can travel in a group, which expenses are included or what the Commission expects from selected participants.Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Commissioner Tibor Navracsics said: “In less than two months, 15,000 young 18 year old Europeans will be able to travel across the EU and that for free. Seize this chance to experience freedom of movement, understand better Europe’s diversity, enjoy its cultural richness, make new friends and ultimately, discover yourself. I am happy we were able to kick-start this new EU initiative so quickly and hope it will become an important part of our support for Europe’s youth in the future.” With a budget of €12 million in 2018, DiscoverEU is expected to give at least 20,000 young people the opportunity to travel around Europe this year in order to discover the continent’s rich cultural heritage, get in touch with other people, learn from other cultures and as such discover what unites Europe. Participants can travel for up to 30 days and can visit from 1 to 4 foreign destinations. Those interested will need to apply for a first application round from 12 June at 12.00 noon CET to 26 June at 12.00 noon CET via the European Youth Portal. Applicants must be 18 years old on 1 July 2018, EU citizens, and prepared to start their travel experience between 9 July and 30 September 2018. An evaluation committee will make the final selection of the first 15,000 recipientsexpected for this first round. A second round of applications will be organised in autumn 2018.Information will also be available on the European Youth Facebook page and the European Youth twitter account.
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of a newly created joint venture by Kuraray, PTTGC and Sumitomo
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over a newly created joint venture by Kuraray Co., Ltd., Sumitomo Corporation, both of Japan, and PTT Global Chemical Public Company Ltd. (“PTTGC”) of Thailand. The joint venture, which will be based in Thailand, will manufacture and supply high performance plastics (polyamides and styrenic block copolymers). Kuraray is active in the manufacturing of specialty chemicals, fibres and other materials. Sumitomo has diversified business activities, including trading of metal products, transportation and construction of systems, environment and infrastructure, chemicals and electronics, media, networks and lifestyle related goods, mineral resources and energy. PTTGC is active in petrochemicals and natural gas businesses, trading and distribution of fossil fuels and chemical products. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given that the joint venture has no, or negligible, actual or foreseen activities within the European Economic Area. 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.8739.
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of UTA by Edenred
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of UNION TANK Eckstein (“UTA”) by Edenred Tankkarten Holding GmbH. UTA is a provider of fuel cards, which are used for cash-free payment of fuel and other vehicle related services. It is currently jointly controlled by Edenred and two other shareholders. Edenred is a provider of corporate services including employee benefits. After the transaction, it will acquire sole control of UTA by increasing its shareholding. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the companies have only limited presence on the markets where both are active. In addition, Edenred already has joint control over UTA and, as such, no new overlaps in the companies’ activities are created. 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.8857.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Powerflute by Mondi
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Powerflute Group Holdings Oy of Finland by Mondi Finland Services Oy, belonging to the Mondi Group of Austria. Powerflute operates an integrated pulp and paper mill in Kuopio of Finland and is mainly active in the production of Nordic semi-chemical fluting, which is an input for corrugated packaging. It is also active in the procurement of wood via its subsidiary Harvestia Oy, a wood supply company also based in Finland. Mondi Group is a vertically integrated global packaging and paper group. It is mainly active in the manufacturing of packaging paper, converted packaging products and uncoated fine paper. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the relatively limited competitive constraints that the parties appear to exert on each other pre-transaction and the existence of alternative suppliers. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8831.
Statement by Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Jourová ahead of the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation
As of tomorrow, 25 May, new data protection rules will apply across the EU. On this occasion, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Europe’s new data protection rules will be a reality tomorrow. Europeans’ privacy will be better protected and companies benefit from a single set of rules across the EU. Strong data protection rules are the basis for a functioning Digital Single Market and for the online economy to prosper. The new rules ensure that citizens can trust in how their data is used and that the EU can make the best of the opportunities of the data economy.” Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, added: “Personal data is the gold of the 21st century. And we leave our data basically at every step we take, especially in the digital world. (…) Data protection is a fundamental right in the EU. The new rules will put the Europeans back in control of their data. (…) The rules are based on a risk-based approach. Companies that have been making money from our data, have more responsibilities. They should also give something back to the consumers; at least the security of their data. Companies, which do not process data as their core business activity, have less obligations and mainly have to make sure that the data they process are secure and used legally. They will also be rules with teeth. Everyone, especially those companies that monetise our personal data, will have an interest to play by the rules.” On 6 April 2016, the EU agreed to a major reform of its data protection framework, by adopting the data protection reform package, comprising the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replacing the twenty years old Directive. On 25 May 2018, the new EU-wide data protection rules are becoming applicable after a two year transition period. New rules to strengthen data protection in EU institutions, bodies and agencies were agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators yesterday, in the so-called ‘trilogues’. Tomorrow, Commissioner Jourová will open an exhibition on the General Data Protection Regulation at 10:00 at the Commission’s info point at Schuman roundabout; journalists are welcome to join for a photo-op. The Commission is then organising in the afternoon an event dedicated to the topic, where Commissioner Jourová and Andrea Jelinek, Head of Austria’s Data Protection Authority and Chair of the Article 29 Working Party, will deliver the keynote speeches. The full programme is available online and journalists can register per e-mail. The event will also be streamed online. The full statement is available online, as well as Q&As and factsheets.
Security Union: Joint statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting
On 22 and 23 May 2018, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová and Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King were in Sofia where they participated inthe EU-U.S. Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs hosted by Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The meeting reaffirmed the long-standing, fruitful cooperation between the United States of America and the European Union in the areas of justice and home affairs, as well as the importance of jointly addressing common security threats. Underlining the progress made in these vital areas of common interest, and re-emphasising the fact that common solutions are necessary in order to address global security threats, the European Union and the United States committed to meet again in the second half of 2018 in Washington, D.C. The joint statement following the meeting is available online.
Commissioner Jourová on official visit to the Hague
Commissioner Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, is visiting the Hague today. She visited Eurojust , the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit, and meet Ladislav Hamran, the President of Eurojust. They discussed Eurojust’s increasing case work, the main trends in criminal justice cooperation (more details in Eurojust’s Annual Report) as well as the Commission’s proposals on access to electronic evidence. They also discussed the reform of Eurojust. Commissioner Jourová calls on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly finalise this reform, as the data protection regime for EU institutions has been agreed yesterday. She will then exchange views with the Dutch Minister of Justice and Security, Ferdi Grapperhaus.Commissioner Jourová welcomes the Netherlands’ announcement that it will be the 21st Member State to join the European Public Prosecutor’s office, which is currently being set up.