Brussels Daily
26 Jun 2017


Brussels Daily


Commission’s report on trade and investment barriers shows rising protectionism

Today, the European Commission has released the ‘Report on Trade and Investment Barriers’ stating that 36 more trade barriers were created in 2016. This amounts to an overall increase of 10% bringing the current total number of trade obstacles to 372. This could affect EU exports that are currently worth around 27 billion Euro. G20 members figure prominently among countries having created the highest number of import obstacles. Thanks to its effective Market Access Strategy, the Commission however succeeded in 2016 to remove as many as 20 different obstacles hindering European exports. Commenting on the report, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “We clearly see that the scourge of protectionism is on the rise. It affects European firms and their workers. […] At the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, the EU will urge leaders to walk the talk and resist protectionism. Europe will not stand idly by and will not hesitate to use the tools at hand when countries don’t play by the rules.” The ‘Trade and Investment Barriers Reports’ are published annually since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis. This year’s edition is fully based on concrete complaints received by the Commission from European companies. They concern a wide range of products covering everything from agri-food to shipbuilding industries. A press release and more information on trade barriers will be online as of 12h30.

Commission takes further steps to enhance business transparency on social and environmental matters

The Commission has today adopted guidelines on the disclosure of environmental and social information. These guidelines will help companies to disclose relevant non-financial information in a consistent and more comparable manner. The aim is to boost corporate transparency and performance, as well as encourage companies to embrace a more sustainable approach. The new guidelines will support companies in fulfilling their reporting obligations under current non-financial disclosure requirements and will promote smart company reporting. Appropriate non-financial disclosure is also an essential element to enable sustainable finance. This builds on the Commission’s goal to develop an overarching and comprehensive EU strategy on sustainable finance as part of the Capital Markets Union. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Euro and Social Dialogue, Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union, said: “Europe needs to take the lead in making economies greener and more sustainable. This is why we are today proposing flexible guidelines to boost corporate transparency across all sectors. By providing relevant information on their environmental and social credentials, companies are doing themselves a favour and helping their investors, lenders and society at large.” The adoption of today’s guidelines will supplement the already existing EU rules on non-financial reporting (Directive 2014/95/EU). Companies falling within its scope have to disclose relevant information on policies, risks and results as regards environmental matters, social and employee-related aspects, as well as respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery issues, and diversity on the boards of directors. A full press release and MEMO are available online.


New EU rules to strengthen the fight against money laundering, tax avoidance and terrorism financing enter into force

The Juncker Commission has made the fight against tax avoidance, money laundering and terrorism financing one of its priorities. Today, the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive enters into force. It strengthens the existing rules and will make the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing more effective. It also improves transparency to prevent tax avoidance. This entry into force comes as discussions with the European Parliament and the Council on extra measures further reinforcing the Directive are already at an advanced stage. Frans Timmermans, European Commission First Vice-President said: “Laundered money is oxygen to crime, terrorism and tax-avoidance. We need to cut off its supply as best we can. Today’s stronger rules are a big step forward but we now need quick agreement on the further improvements the Commission proposed last July.” Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “Terrorists and criminals still find ways to finance their activities and to launder illicit gains back into the economy. The new rules as of today are crucial to closing further loopholes. I urge all Member States to put them in place without delay: lower standards in one country will weaken the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing across the EU.” Today the Commission also publishes a report which will support Member State authorities in better addressing money laundering risks in practice. It identifies the areas most at risk and the most widespread techniques used by criminals to launder illicit funds. A full press release is available here.


Juncker Plan: EUR 25 million to support research and innovation in Spain

The Juncker Plan has backed a EUR 25 million European Investment Bank (EIB) loan agreement with Maier, a vehicle component manufacturer. The agreement is expected to create 250 new jobs in the company’s research and development division, allowing Maier to expand its research activities to design new products and develop more sustainable production processes. This agreement was made possible by the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The EFSI is the central pillar of the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called “Juncker Plan”. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Investing in the research required to produce innovative products for international markets requires a commitment to sustained investment. Today’s agreement will provide Maier with the opportunity to do just that. The EFSI is providing the financial backing to help ensure that European companies maintain their status as global leaders in research and innovation and are well-placed to compete in the global marketplace.” The Juncker Plan is now expected to trigger over EUR 28 billion in investments in Spain and EUR 209 billion across Europe.For the latest figures country-by-country, see here. A full press release is available here.


Road Safety Awards: Commission rewards initiatives in Greece, France, Portugal, Romania and Sweden

At a ceremony in Bucharest, the European Commission presented today the Excellence in Road Safety Awards 2017 to five winners. This prize recognises commitments to road safety that have a significant impact on saving lives on Europe’s roads. Awards went this year to the Heracles Group of Companies, a member of LafargeHolcim (Greece), to the Ville de Martigues (France), to the CTT Correios de Portugal, to the Romanian Automobile Club and to the Motorförarnas Helnykterhetsförbund (Sweden). After two years of stagnation, 2016 brought a positive turn by reducing road fatalities on EU roads by 2% compared to the previous year. Even though European roads remain the safest in the world, 25 500 people a year still lose their lives in road crashes and about 135 000 sustain serious injuries. More information on the winners is available here. The latest road safety statistics are available at this address.


State aid: Commission approves aid for market exit of Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca under Italian insolvency law, involving sale of some parts to Intesa Sanpaolo

The European Commission has approved, under EU rules, Italian measures to facilitate the liquidation of Banca Popolare di Vicenza (BPVI) and Veneto Banca under national insolvency law. These measures involve the sale of some of the two banks’ businesses to be integrated into Intesa Sanpaolo. This announcement follows the declaration by the European Central Bank (ECB), in its capacity as supervisory authority, of 23 June 2017 that and BPVI and Veneto Banca were failing or likely to fail and the decisions by the Single Resolution Board (SRB), the competent resolution authority, that resolution action is not warranted in the public interest in either case. EU law foresees that, in such circumstances, national insolvency rules apply and it is for the responsible national authorities to wind up the institution under national insolvency law. In this context, if Member States consider public support necessary to mitigate the effects of a bank’s market exit, EU State aid rules apply, in particular the 2013 Banking Communication, requiring that shareholders and subordinated bondholders fully contribute to the costs (so-called “burden-sharing”) and competition distortions are limited. Senior bondholders do not have to contribute and depositors remain fully protected in line with EU rules. Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Italy considers that State aid is necessary to avoid an economic disturbance in the Veneto region as a result of the liquidation of BPVI and Veneto Banca, who are exiting the market after a long period of serious financial difficulties. The Commission decision allows Italy to take measures tofacilitate the liquidation of the two banks: Italy will support the sale and integration of some activities andthe transfer of employeesto Intesa Sanpaolo. Shareholders and junior creditors have fully contributed, reducing the costs to the Italian State, whilst depositors remain fully protected. These measures will also remove €18 billion in non-performing loans from the Italian banking sector and contribute to its consolidation.” The Commission found the Italian measures to be in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the 2013 Banking Communication. Existing shareholders and subordinated debt holders have fully contributed to the costs, reducing the cost of the intervention for the Italian State. Both aid recipients, BPVI and Banca Veneto, will be wound up in an orderly fashion and exit the market, while the transferred activities will be restructured and significantly downsized by Intesa, which in combination will limit distortions of competition arising from the aid. The subsequent deep integration by Intesa will return the sold parts to viability. The Commission also confirmed that the measures do not constitute aid to Intesa, because it was selected after an open, fair and transparent sales process, fully managed by Italian authorities, ensuring that the activities were sold at the best offer available. The full press release is available online. Please also see Factsheet on how EU rules apply to banks.


State aid: Commission approves Swedish tax breaks for employee share options

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a Swedish scheme to reduce the taxation of employee share options. The scheme will allow young and small innovative companies to recruit and retain employees without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. The Swedish support scheme to small companies will amount to SEK 160 million (€16.35 million) over ten years. The aid will be granted through a reduction in the taxation of employee share options. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows state aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities or areas. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU state aid rules. The non-confidential version of this decision will be made available under the case number SA.47144 in the State Aid Register on the Commission’s Competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. The full press release is available online here.



Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Caldic by Golman Sachs

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Caldic B.V. of the Netherlands by Goldman Sachs Group Inc of the US. Caldic is an international full-line distributor of commodity and specialty chemicals to customers in the industrial, health, and food industries. Goldman Sachs is a global bank, active in investment banking, securities and investment management. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that there are no horizontal overlaps and only minimal vertical links 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.8499.



European Aviation: flying high for the past 25 years

This week the European Commission celebrates the 25th anniversary of the European Union internal market for aviation. Its creation in 1992 revolutionised air travel in Europe by enabling European airlines to fly without restrictions anywhere in the EU. This fostered competition and allowed new players, such as low-fare airlines, to grow. As a result, Europeans benefitted from more routes and more flights, at a better price and always with the highest level of safety worldwide. The internal market for aviation did not only propel European mobility forward, contributing to bring Europeans closer together, it also had a major impact on the European economy as a whole. More flights mean more business, tourism, trade, jobs and prosperity. In 2014 for instance, aviation supported 8.8 million jobs in the EU contributing over €621 billion to the Gross Domestic Product. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Today it is difficult to realise how much air travel has changed thanks to the European Union. The creation of the single market revolutionised mobility, not only providing cheaper and safer air travel, but also more jobs and economic growth. As Commissioner for Transport I want to continue building on this success, bringing on board new technologies and making sustainability part of the way we fly.” More information on the internal market for aviation and the benefits it brings to Europe is available here.


International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking: Commissioner Avramopoulos highlights need to protect children and young people against drug abuse

This year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is dedicated to raising awareness of the major problem illicit drugs represent to society, focusing in particular on preventing children and young people from using drugs.  This morning, in a keynote speech given at the symposium on “The contribution of social cohesion and solidarity in preventing drug use” in Athens, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “The International Day against Drug Abuse reminds us that drugs represent a long-standing and continuously evolving threat to our European societies which has devastating consequences for users, in particular young people, but also their families, their communities and society as a whole, not least through drug-related crime. With the new Action Plan on Drugs adopted last week by the Council, based on a proposal by the European Commission, we aim to enhance our support to Member States in preventing drug abuse and tackling the health and security challenges linked to it.” The full speech can be found hereand will be available on EbS at 13.00h. The Commission’s new EU Action Plan on Drugs for the period 2017-2020 was adopted by the Council on 20 June 2017. The Action Plan identifies new priority areas for action, including the monitoring of new psychoactive substances and the use of communication technologies for prevention of drug abuse.  On 6 June 2017, Commissioner Avramopoulos launched the European Drug Report 2017 produced by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) which provides a comprehensive analysis of recent trends in the drug situation in Europe as well as 30 Country Drug Reports presenting summaries of national drug phenomena in the EU28, Turkey and Norway.


Vice-President Ansip in London to discuss cybersecurity and data economy

Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip is visiting London today. He will deliver a keynote speech at the 5th annual Chatham House Cyber conference on the theme ‘Evolving norms, improving harmonization and building resilience’. The speech will concentrate on the review of the cybersecurity strategy, certification and labelling questions, fighting cybercrime and ways to strengthen international cooperation on cybersecurity. The Vice-President’s full speech will be published here at 17:00 CET. Later this evening he will participate in a dinner discussion at ‘The Briefing Circle’ that brings together leaders from the private and public sectors. The briefing will concentrate on data economy, cybersecurity as well as online platforms.


Vice-President Šefčovič convenes and Co-Chairs the inaugural board meeting of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

On 27 June, in Brussels, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy will hold its inaugural board meeting convened by Co-Chairs Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and Michael Bloomberg. Apart from leading global mayors, former and current UNFCCC Executive Directors, Christiana Figueres and Patricia Espinosa, will also attend the meeting. In this context, Vice-President Šefčovič will participate in related events, such as the luncheon for the Board members hosted by King Philippe of Belgium, and a meeting with the newly created organisation Climate without Borders, which brings together global weather presenters committed to the fight against climate change. In the evening, the Vice-President will open Mike Bloomberg’s book launch and the screening of the movie ‘From the Ashes’. Ahead of the events, Vice-President Šefčovič said: “Since we announced the establishment of the Global Covenant of Mayors, one year ago, the role of cities in fighting climate change has only become more important. Today’s inaugural board meeting confirms our commitment to further serve cities and local governments that take climate and energy action in their communities. We are united by a common vision, that of an inclusive, just, low-emission and climate resilient future which meets and exceeds the Paris agreement objectives.”


Commissioner Navracsics travelling to Rome

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, will be in Rome tomorrow where he will take part in a hearing at the Italian Senate. He will discuss the second EU Work Plan for Sport 2014-17 and, in particular, the European Commission’s Report on the implementation and the relevance of this Work Plan with the members of the Committee on Education, Cultural Heritage, Scientific Research, Audiovisual sector and Sport. He will also present the third Work Plan which runs from 2017-2020 and which EU Sport Ministers adopted on 23 May. During his visit, the Commissioner will also address the 24th Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy which this year addresses ‘The Christian understanding of global crisis and ways to overcome it’. His speech will focus on the challenges and opportunities of globalisation; the role of religion in building communities and tackling intolerance; as well as on the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage and the role it will play in highlighting the importance of religious heritage.


Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis visits Norway 26-27 June

On 26-27 June, Commissioner Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitiswill be in Norway on an official visit. The central topic of this visit is antimicrobial resistance(AMR). On Monday 26 June, Commissioner Andriukaitis will visit a fish farming site together with Norwegian ministers of Health, Fisheries, and Agriculture, and with Norwegian Chief Veterinary Officer, while on Tuesday 27 June, Commissioner Andriukaitiswill attend One-Health high-level seminar on AMR hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Commissioner will also deliver a speech on “How the EU fights against AMR with a one health perspective” and participate in a panel discussion together with Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom Professor Dame Sally Davies, Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale, Norwegian Minister of Health and Care services Bent Høie and Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Per Sandberg. Commissioner will also visit Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Ålesund where he will attend the event “From sea to table”. “I am very glad to be part of the Nordic Council of Ministers event on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – one of the most important challenges facing today’s society. I will be informing Ministers of the new EU Action Plan on AMR that the Commission will adopt in the coming days. Our upcoming ‘one health’ Action Plan will be built on three main pillars: making the EU a best practice region; boosting research; and shaping the global agenda on AMR. Resistant bacteria do not respect borders. Therefore I also want to strengthen the EU’s presence, voice and efforts in the international arena. I look forward to continuing to work together with the Nordic Council towards our shared goal of defeating the threat of AMR, for now and for our common future”, said  Commissioner Andriukaitis. More information during the visit is available online.


DAILY NEWS 26- 06 -2017-

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