26 Apr 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily


Preparation of the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings, 27-28 April 2018

Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici will represent the European Commission at the Eurogroup and informal ECOFIN meetings taking place in Sofia on 27 and 28 April.The Eurogroup will take stock of progress made on the ongoing fourth review of the stability support programme for Greece. The Eurogroup will also be briefed by the institutions on the key topics that are relevant to the successful completion of the programme. The Chair of the European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, Danièle Nouy, will present the ECB’s banking supervision activities since January 2017 to the Eurogroup and the Chair of the Single Resolution Board, Elke König, will inform the Eurogroup of the Board’s ongoing activities. There will also be a thematic discussion on growth and jobs, with a specific focus on wage dynamics. Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the press conference following the meeting. At the first session of the ECOFIN meeting starting on Friday, Ministers will discuss the deepening of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), including the completion of the Banking Union and the future of the European Stability Mechanism. In the afternoon, Ministers are expected to exchange views on the strengthening of economic convergence among EU Member States based on lessons learned from the past. A discussion is also planned on how to further reduce fragmentation within the Capital Markets Union, on the basis of the measures already proposed by the Commission, as well as new initiatives in the pipeline. Vice-President Dombrovskis will participate in the press conference following this first session. On Saturday morning the focus switches to taxation policy as Ministers will be invited to discuss the future of corporate taxation in the EU, including the challenges created by the digitalisation of the economy. This debate follows Commission proposals for an overhaul of corporate tax rules for multinational companies within the Union, as well as proposals to ensure the fair taxation of the digital economy.  An exchange of views will also be held on how to build trust and exchange of information between tax administrations in the EU. A press conference with Commissioner Moscovici will follow the end of the ECOFIN meeting on Saturday.

Space: new Copernicus satellite can track ocean waste and wildfires

Yesterday evening the seventh satellite (Sentinel-3B) from the Copernicus Earth observation programme was successfully sent into orbit, with the mission to monitor changing land, atmosphere and oceans. With these new services, the Commission continues to deliver on its Space Strategy for Europe. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “This new satellite will deliver valuable images of how our oceans and land are changing. This will not only speed up the response to natural disasters but also create new business opportunities. Earth observation is a larger market than you would think – a driver for research discoveries, a provider of highly skilled jobs and a developer of innovative services and applications.” The satellite will provide measurements to monitor aquatic biological productivity and marine pollution, to map sea-level change and to forecast the sea state for efficient and safe ship routing. The mission also delivers unique and timely information about changing land cover, vegetation, urban heat islands, and for tracking wildfires. With this new launch, the EU is meeting the demands of a rapidly growing global market for space enabled applications. Copernicus data is provided free of charge and without restrictions on access. For more information, read the news item and visit the Copernicus website.

Juncker Plan supports wind farm project in Aragón, Spain

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a new agreement in Spain with the backing of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The EIB is lending €50 million in financing to Forestalia Renovables for the construction of nine new wind farms in the region of Aragón. An additional €120 million is coming from the private sector. Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “The European Commission welcomes the financing of these nine wind farms in Aragón. Europe will always endeavour to support projects that invest in the transition to clean energy and job creation. Investing in renewables means investing in quality jobs. Spain has the potential to be the benchmark for renewable energies and sustainable long-term job creation. These projects provide an example of this potential and they will certainly not be the last”. Full press release is found here 

Vaccination: Commission calls for stronger EU cooperation against preventable diseases

Today, the Commission is issuing a set of recommendations for how the EU can strengthen cooperation in the fight against diseases that can be prevented with vaccines. This follows President Juncker‘s call, in his 2017 State of the Union address, for action to increase vaccination coverage and to ensure that everyone in the EU has access to vaccines. ”Vaccination is one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures developed in the 20th century. As a medical doctor, I find it disheartening to witness children dying because of low uptake, vaccine hesitancy, or vaccine shortages. Infectious diseases are not confined within national borders. One Member State’s immunisation weakness puts the health and security of citizens at risk across the EU. Cooperating in this area is in all of our interests. Protect our children, vaccinate!” said Commissioner Andriukaitis. Vaccination saves between 1 and 3 million lives worldwide every year. Press release is available in all languages here as well as a detailed Q&A.

Commission calls out to innovators to develop early warning system for epidemics

The European Commission launched a €5 million prize to find the best solution for setting up a scalable, reliable and cost-effective early warning system for epidemics. By use of Copernicus and GEOSS earth observation data the system shall be able to forecast and monitor outbreaks of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, zika, dengue or yellow fever. Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas said: “Every year there are over one million reported deaths from vector-borne diseases globally. Their societal impact is significant, often causing disability, stigmatisation and exacerbating poverty. This EIC prize will be a launchpad for innovators to find solutions that help prevent future outbreaks and improve life quality.” The competition is one of six Horizon Prizes part of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot and run under Horizon 2020, the EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme. The winning solution will provide an early warning capability to support existing elimination efforts and to help mitigate the impact of infectious diseases on local, regional and global scales (more information in a news item). This announcement is very timely. As part of the Digital Single Market strategy, the Commission presented yesterday initiatives on digitising the healthcare system. They focus on securing citizens’ access to their healthcare data and the possibility to share it across borders. The use of larger data enables a more personalised diagnosis and medical treatment and improves the research and anticipation of epidemics. In this way the Commission boosts the digital transformation of healthcare and puts citizens at the centre of it (see Q&A).

EU mobilises strong international commitment at the Brussels II Conference “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”

Over the past two days, the EU and the UN have co-chaired the Brussels II Conference “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”. The Conference brought together delegations from over 85 countries, international organisations and civil society, who collectively committed to continued engagement and support for a UN-led political solution in Syria and for Syrians and the neighbouring countries. At thejoint EU-UN press conferenceyesterday, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “There was common ground in reconfirming that there is no military solution to the war in Syria and that there is a need, recognised by everybody, to relaunch the political process. There is also agreement on the key role of the UN in leading this process to ensure that the political process is meaningful, inclusive, and represents all Syrians in intra-Syrian talks, and that this takes place in line with the UNSC resolutions already adopted”. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, concluded the Conference announcing the global commitment of €3.5 billion for 2018, as well as multi-year pledges of €2.7 billion for 2019-2020.  The EU and Member States contributed with €4,8 billion out of the €6.2 billion pledged until 2020, which corresponds to some 77% of all funds pledged during the Conference. The Commission itself pledged new funding of €560 million for 2019 for assisting refugees inside Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, thus maintaining the level of its engagement.  This reconfirms the EU as the leading donor for the Syria crisis. Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood policy Johannes Hahn highlighted that: “Creating and maintaining perspectives for a decent life beyond war is a focus of the EU efforts. The only way forward is to foster inclusive economic growth in the countries hosting Syrian refugees, not just for this moment but for the longer term: creating job opportunities and better education, fostering an atmosphere of confidence for investors, improving the business climate and investing in individuals. The EU is more than a donor. It is also a partner on the pathway towards economic recovery, building a better future for the region”. The co-chairs, supported by all the participants, adopted a Joint Declaration including specific annexes on the pledging commitment and on supporting the resilience of host countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey). The Joint Declaration reflects the breadth of the continued international community’s engagement for Syrians and neighbouring countries for the coming years. This includes both significant political and financial support and will be accompanied by renewed, coordinated and collective efforts for securing a peaceful future for Syrians, as well as regional stability. Footages of both day one and day two of the Conferenceare available online. Main results are available here. For more information on the Conference, visit the dedicatedwebsite. For further insight into the EU response to the Syria crisis, see here. 

Trade: European Commission puts in place an import surveillance system for aluminium

The European Commission has introduced today a prior surveillance system for imports of aluminium products. In response to the new US import tax of 10% announced on 8 March and the potential diversion of trade to the EU market, this measure will allow the EU to closely monitor import trends in aluminium. The products covered by the surveillance therefore mirror the products covered by the US measures. Surveillance has purely statistical purpose and does not affect trade flows. It will however allow the EU to anticipate any trade surges and, if necessary, allow the Commission to act in a timely and WTO-compatible manner to prevent economic damage for EU producers. Companies that intend to import into the EU aluminium products covered by the surveillance measures will now have to request an import license. The licence will be granted automatically whilst giving the Commission a better real-time overview of trade flows. A similar surveillance system has already been in place and proven useful for steel products. It was introduced in June 2016 in reaction to the global steel overcapacity situation. Thanks to the data collected through the import surveillance for steel, the Commission was able to open on 26 March an investigation that might lead to introduction of safeguard measures. If confirmed, this would be one of the three announced potential EU responses to the recent US import restrictions.


Mergers: Commission clears the creation of joint venture between Viohalco and Koramic

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture between ElvalHalcor of Greece (controlled by Viohalco of Belgium) and NedZink of the Netherlands (controlled by Koramic of Belgium). The joint venture will be active in developing the production in the area of titanium zinc, by increasing the production capacity of NedZink’s lines and combining the long-term experience of NedZink in zinc rolling with that of ElvaHalcor in continuous melting, casting and rolling of zinc as well as other metals. Viohalco is active in the manufacturing and sale of products, including copper, aluminium and steel for the construction industry, in particular copper elements for roofing and rainwater systems; and aluminium elements for roofing systems, facades and rainwater systems steel sandwich panels. Koramic invests in industrial and commercial companies, real estate investment and development, private equity and treasury activities, in particular the production of rolled zinc products for roofing systems and rainwater systems, mainly conducted through NedZink. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because of the limited overlap between the companies’ activities. 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.8859.

EUROSTAT: Unemployment in the EU regions in 2017 – Unemployment rates in the EU regions ranged from 1.7% to 29.1% – Unemployment rates fell in 8 out of 10 EU regions

More than 80% of the NUTS 2 regions of the European Union (EU) saw their unemployment rate for persons aged 15-74 fall in 2017 compared with 2016, and around 60% recorded a decrease of at least 0.5 percentage points. However, regional unemployment rates continued to vary widely across the EU regions, with the lowest rates recorded in Praha (1.7%) in the Czech Republic and Trier (2.0%) in Germany, followed by the Czech regions of Střední Čechy and Jihozápad and the German regions of Niederbayern and Mittelfranken (all 2.1%).  Full text available here



Vice-President Ansip in Germany for ministerial meetings to discuss Digital Single Market

Today and tomorrow, Vice-President Andrus Ansip visits Berlin to meet with government representatives and members of the German Bundestag. He will also attend an event at the European Commission Representation on Artificial Intelligence. From today at 12:00 (CEST), the Vice-President meets first with the Head of the Federal Chancellery Helge Braun and thereafter with the Minister of the Economy Peter Altmaier to discuss progress in building the  Digital Single Marketand in particular pending proposals on online privacy, cybersecurity, free flow of non-personal data and eGovernment. Later in the day, he will join an extraordinary session of the Committee for the Digital Agenda of the Deutscher Bundestagto speak about the digital future of Europe. Tomorrow at 10:00 (CEST), Vice-President Ansip will attend an event at the European Commission Representation Office to discuss the Commission’s recent proposals about data and artificial intelligence. For more information on artificial intelligence see the latest press release.

Commissioner Thyssen opens 3rd Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth

Tomorrow, Friday 27 April, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen open the third Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth in Brussels, Belgium. This year’s edition will focus on the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Convention will be an opportunity for the Commissioner to discuss how to make the Pillar a reality on the ground with representatives from national authorities, and civil society representatives from all around Europe. Ahead of the Convention, Commissioner Thyssen recalled:“Two years ago, the Pillar was still an idea in our minds, an audacious thought. One year ago, the Pillar was a proposal on paper. Last November, it was proclaimed by all of Europe’s leaders. Now it is time to turn the Pillar into a practical and concrete reality, for all Europeans. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!” The Convention was created at the initiative of Commissioner Thyssen to revamp the dialogue between civil society and the European Commission on social and employment issues. This year, delegates will discuss different tools to implement the Pillar, such as funding, the EU Semester, tools to encourage adult learning and skills development, social services as well as the link between the Pillar and the Sustainable Development Goals. The full programme of the Convention can be found here.

Valdis Dombrovskis in Sofia for the European Semester visit

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, is on a European Semester visittoBulgaria today. He meets President Rumen Radev, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Dimitar Radev, Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank. The Vice-President will also hold a Citizens’ Dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, focussing on euro accession, and will deliver a keynote at Financial Forum Innovations 2018.The visit to Bulgaria is part of the regular dialogue with Member States on topical economic and social issues in the context of the European Semester.


Vice-President Katainen in the United States to discuss artificial intelligence and innovation

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, will be in the United States from 26 – 30 April to present the EU’s views on artificial intelligence and the future of Europe, notably at Stanford University and the Milken Institute. In San Francisco he will participate in a seminar discussion on artificial intelligence at the Stanford University Research Institute in Palo Alto. He will also attend a roundtable conversation with EIT DIGITAL. Vice-President Katainen will visit Applied Materials chipmaker campus in Palo Alto to debate how the circular economy, big data and digital skills contribute to innovation. In Los Angeles, Vice-President Katainen will participate in the Milken Institute’s Global Conference 2018. He will speak in the panel discussion Europe: Past Tense, Future Perfect?, touching on burning issues such as trade and investment, innovation, scale-ups and Europe’s vision for artificial intelligence.

Commissioner Malmström meeting Finnish civil society to discuss trade

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is today in Helsinki, Finland, where she will participate, together with Ms Anne-Mari Virolainen, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, in a Citizens’ dialogue. The Commissioner will engage in open discussions with members of the public, as well as with representatives of Finnish civil society, non-governmental organisations and businesses on the subject of “the EU as a leader of rules-based multilateral trading system”. The discussion will be streamed via Facebook live starting at 15:00 CET. The Commissioner will also use this occasion to have a bilateral discussion with Minister Virolainen. In addition, the programme of the visit to Finland includes a meeting with the Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee, and contacts with Finnish business representatives.

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