Brussels Daily
27 Jun 2018


Brussels Daily


Publication of latest agri-food trade figures: EU agri-food exports remain high

The latest monthly agri-food trade report published today shows that the EU exports remain strong at €11.1 billion in April 2018. This represents an increase of 3.7% compared to April 2017. Monthly imports values decreased on the other hand by 2% compared with last year and amounted to €9.6 billion. This results in an EU trade surplus for agri-food products at €1.5 billion. EU’s exports to the USA, Russia, Japan and Turkey particularly increased over the last 12 months. Exports of wine, spirits and liqueurs and infant food keep performing very well. From May 2017 to April 2018, the EU became a net exporter of beet and cane sugar. The 2017 annual report published earlier this month confirmed that the EU remains the largest global exporter and importer of agri-food products. The monthly report provides a table presenting the trade balance and its development by product category from May 2016 to April 2018. Read Agri-food trade in 2017

COLLEGE MEETING: Commission preparations ahead of the European Council

Today the College of Commissioners met in Brussels in preparation for the European Council meetings on 28 and 29 June. The Commission has now published three notes which form the basis of its contribution to the European Council: 1. On deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, providing an overview of what has already been achieved to strengthen the EMU, where we are now, and the way forward to be discussed at the inclusive Euro Summit on 29 June; 2. On the next long-term EU budget, recalling the principal features of the Commission’s proposal of 2 May 2018 for a modern and fair long-term budget for the 2021-2027 period, and the proposals for the 37 programmes to implement and support the political priorities around which the new budget is built; 3. On migration, providing an overview of the work over the past 3 years on the European Agenda on Migration proposed by the Juncker Commission in May 2015, and highlighting the areas in which Leaders can take the debate on migration forward. All three notes are available here. Today President Juncker debriefed the College following the informal working meeting on Sunday, which brought together 16 Member States at his initiative. Discussions were positive and constructive, focusing on how no Member State should be left alone or put under disproportionate pressure, be it from primary or secondary movements. There are two factsheets available with more information, on how the future asylum reform will provide solidarity and address secondary movements, and on managing migration: possible areas for advancement at the June European Council, available here. First Vice-President Timmermans also debriefed the College following the General Affairs Council on Tuesday 26 June.

COLLEGE MEETING: Commission appoints two female senior managers: a Director to its employment department and a Principal Adviser to its education department

Today, the European Commission decided to appoint Ms Katarina Ivanković Knežević to the position of Director for Social Affairs in its Employment, Social affairs and Inclusion department (DG EMPL) and Ms Irena Andrassy to the function of Principal Adviser in its Education, Youth, Sport and Culture department (DG EAC). Both appointments follow a selection procedure specifically for Croatian nationals, as is customary when a new Member State joins the European Union. Ms Ivanković Knežević is a lawyer by training and has been a State Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Pension System since 2016. Prior to this, she held several positions in that Ministry as well as in the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship. Ms Andrassy has been Deputy Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Neven Mimica, responsible for International Cooperation and Development since 2014 and for Consumer Policy since July 2013. Before that, she held numerous positions as a diplomat, for example as Representative of Croatia in COREPER I/Council (2011-2013), as well as various other functions, including on Croatia’s negotiating team during the process leading to Croatia’s accession. The date of effect for both posts will be determined later.  

Commission adopts its Opinion on the updated German Draft Budgetary Plan

The Commission has today adopted its Opinion on the updated Draft Budgetary Plan (DBP) of Germany and found it to be compliant with the requirements for 2018 under the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).In October last year, Germany submitted a DBP based on unchanged policies, which is an agreed practice for governments without full budgetary powers. The Commission received the updated DBP on 5 June 2018. The Opinion and related documents are available online.

Road Safety Awards 2018: Commission rewards initiatives in 5 Member States

The European Commission presented the Excellence in Road Safety Awards 2018 at a ceremony held in Brussels, in presence of Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc. Six organisations from five Member States were awarded for their notable contribution to improving road safety in Europe. Awards went to VOZIM, an association fighting reckless driving (Slovenia), to the Association Prévention routière (France), to Community Speed Watch Online (United Kingdom), to the water company Aigua De Rigat SA (Spain), to the City Council of Naron (Spain), and to the research institute KTI (Hungary). Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Road safety is a shared responsibility. It requires national and local entities, as well as the civil society and the industry to work in close cooperation to make our roads, vehicles and users safe. Under the European Road Safety Charter, we have gathered concrete actions and good practices to inspire us.” As part of its May 2017 ‘Europe on the Move’, the Commission put forward measures with strong EU added-value to contribute to safe roads and to a Europe that protects. Actions at all levels are nevertheless indispensable to save lives on European roads. For this reason, the ‘Excellence in Road Safety Award’ acknowledges innovative and inspirational initiatives under the umbrella of the European Road Safety Charter, the largest civil society platform on road safety. More information on the winners is available here.

New report shows European maritime economy as driver of economic growth, jobs and innovation

The Commission published today the first annual report on the state of the EU blue economy which will help identify investment opportunities and provide direction for future policies in this area. Representing 1.3% of the total European Gross Domestic Product, the maritime economy is a dynamically growing sector with a turnover of €566 billion, generating €174 billion of value added and providing jobs for 3 and a half million people in Europe. For the purposes of the report, the blue economy represents all economic activities related to oceans, seas or coastal areas, such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism as well as emerging industries, like ocean energy and blue biotechnology. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said: “The EU’s blue economy is consistently growing over the last decade and the potential for the future is promising. With investments in innovation and through responsible ocean management, integrating environmental, economic and social aspects, we can double the sector in a sustainable way by 2030.” Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre which co-authored the report, said: “Thanks to the scientific input provided by the Joint Research Centre we are able to track what drives the blue economy and how it is developing. This report will support policymakers and stakeholders in creating new business opportunities and managing the resources of oceans, seas and coastal resources in a sustainable manner.” In several EU Member States, including Portugal, Spain and Belgium, the blue economy has grown faster than the national economy in the last decade. Better management of fishing resources, thanks to the EU common fisheries policy, plays an important role in this positive development. More details of the report are available here.

Dailymotion joins Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online 

The IT Companies that signed the EU Code of conduct on countering hate speech online are organising today in Dublin a workshop bringing together civil society organisations and national authorities to step up the fight against illegal hate speech. On this occasion, Dailymotion has announced that it will join the Code of conduct. This announcement follows the decision made by Instagram, Google+ and Snapchat earlier this year to join Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in their work to fight illegal hate speech. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality policy, said: “The Internet must be a safe place, free from illegal hate speech. By fostering collaboration among IT companies, civil society and national authorities, the Code of Conduct stands out as a valuable tool to respond quickly and efficiently to the spreading of racist and xenophobic speech online. I thank all participants of the Code of Conduct for taking the fight against online hate speech a step further. In the same breath, I am very pleased to welcome Dailymotion on board.  Together, we will make a difference for a free, safe and more tolerant online space”.The workshop, which follows a first event in November 2017, aims at improving the reporting systems, the understanding of national contexts and legal specificities related to hate speech, as well as at promoting positive narratives through awareness raising and education campaigns. The latest monitoring of the Code of Conduct is available here.

New report: digital employment platforms gain a foothold in Europe’s labour markets

Today, the Commission published a report on digital platform workers in Europe prepared by the Joint Research Centre, the Commission’s science and knowledge hub. It shows that one in every 10 adults has already used online platforms at least once to provide services. While for the majority it remains a sporadic source of secondary income, 2% of the adult population work more than 20 hours a week or earn at least half of their income via online labour platforms. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: “Working on platforms is a new and fast-growing reality in the jobs market. We need to ensure that people are well protected, no matter which kind of employment contract they have. That’s why we have made proposals to improve working conditions of platform workers as well as their access to social protection, in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights.” Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Many of us have already used digital platforms as customers, perhaps without realising what a difference they make for workers. This report provides a solid basis to understand how these platforms work and how they affect developments in the labour market so that we can improve EU policies to help people get jobs and to protect them when they use these fora to offer services.” The report is based on a survey of over 32 000 people across 14 Member States.To adjust existing labour market institutions and welfare systems to this new reality, the Commission proposed in December 2017 a Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed in the social fairness package in March 2018. More information is available online.

State aid: Commission approves €10.7 million aid for Erfurt-Weimar Airport in Germany

The European Commission has found that operating aid of €10.7 millionto secure the functioning of the Erfurt-Weimar Airport in Germany, is in line with EU State aid rules. The small regional airport, which handles around 230,000 passengers per year, is 100% publicly owned and located in the Land of Thuringia. The operating aid aims to keep the airport running until it is expected to cover its costs, as of 2024. This is on the basis of a new business model, making the airport independent from low cost airlines, and on a strategy to reduce costs. In its assessment, the Commission also took into consideration that part of the airport’s operational costs are due to the fact that the airport is used by the fire brigade and the police. The Commission found that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the Aviation Guidelines, as it will contribute to improving connections and facilitate regional development in Thuringia, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.46945 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Solvay’s nylon business by BASF

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Solvay’s global nylon business by BASF, under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission is concerned that the merger may reduce competition in the supply of key inputs in the nylon production chain. Solvay and BASF are both active in the nylon industry, and  manufacture nylon compounds and nylon fibres. The proposed transaction would create an important player in the nylon compounds market with a market size almost double that of the closest competitor. The merged entity would also control substantial parts of the merchant markets and of the production capacities at all levels of the nylon production chain. Moreover, no other player would be similarly fully integrated in the production chain. Competitors will thus depend on the merged entity to continue to supply them with one or more essential inputs. In addition, there is no indication that competition could be preserved by new entrants, since access to essential inputs is limited and critical to be able to compete effectively. At this stage, the Commission is concerned that the proposed transaction would reduce competition in the markets where the merged entity would be active. The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation into the effects of this transaction to determine whether its initial competition concerns are confirmed. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Nylon is used in everyday products like clothes, sports shoes and carpets. But it’s also an important industrial input, for example contributing to make lighter engines and cars. However, only a few manufacturers provide essential inputs to produce different nylon products, so we need to carefully assess whether the proposed acquisition would lead to higher prices or less choice for European businesses and, ultimately, consumers.” A full press release is available here



Strengthening the European Solidarity Corps: Joint statement by Commissioners Navracsics, Oettinger and Thyssen on the political deal reached by the European Parliament and the Council

The European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement this morning on the Commission’s proposal to provide the European Solidarity Corps with its own budget and legal framework until 2020. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger, and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, welcomed the agreement with the following statement: “We are very pleased that the European Parliament and the Council have found a political agreement on the legal framework for the European Solidarity Corps. The European Union is built on solidarity; it is one of our fundamental values connecting European citizens. The Solidarity Corps is a key part of our efforts to empower young people and enable them to become engaged, caring members of our society, playing their part in building a resilient, cohesive Europe for the future. Now that the Corps will have its own legal framework and its own budget of €375.6 million until 2020, we can hold our promise to have 100,000 young people in placements by the end of 2020”. The full statement and a factsheet on the European Solidarity Corps are available online. Once the European Parliament votes on the agreement and the Council formally adopts the text, the Commission can start awarding projects under the European Solidarity Corps. Preparatory steps can already be taken before and the first call for funding is expected this year.


Posting of Workers: Parliament and Council sign the final agreement in presence of Commissioner Thyssen

Tomorrow, Commissioner Thyssen will participate in the official the signing ceremony of the final agreement on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive. The agreement will be signed by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Minister Lilyana Pavlova, representing the Bulgarian Presidency. Commissioner Marianne Thyssen responsible for Employment, Social affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility said “Today, Europe has taken an important step towards building a fairer single market. Thanks to our joint determination and a shared spirit of compromise, we have forged a balanced agreement on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive that substantially improves the rules of the 1996 Directive. The text signed today implements the principle of equal pay for equal work in the same place and enshrines the principle of fair competition between companies. Now we need to make sure that the new rules are implemented on the ground. The Commission will follow this closely and support Member States in this exercise. We also need to ensure that the rules are applied. The new European Labour Authority will be crucial in this respect”. This signature ceremony follows the adoption of the revised Directive by the Parliament on 29 May and by the Council on 21 June. The adopted text maintains the main elements of the Commission’s proposal from March 2016.The ceremony will take place in the European Parliament at 11:30. The ceremony can be followed on EbS. More information about the Posting of Workers Directive is available online.


Commissioner Avramopoulos to visit Europol

Tomorrow Commissioner Avramopoulos will be in The Hague, Netherlands, where he will pay a visit to Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which has been considerably reinforced in the last years to help to address the current and new security challenges. Commissioner Avramopoulos will meet Ms Catherine De Bolle, the new Executive Director. He will also participate in a discussion with Europol’s three operational teams: the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, the European Counter Terrorism Centre, and the European Cybercrime Centre. A joint press conference with Commissioner Avramopoulos and Executive Director De Bolle will take place at 9:45 and will be available to follow on EbS.


Commissioner Mimica and German Minister for Development Müller discuss common development policy priorities 

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica is in Berlin today, addressing the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development of the German Bundestag, and meeting with the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr. Gerd Müller. Commissioner Mimica discussed key elements of the EU’s future external policy budget, which the Commission proposed on 14 June. The Commission proposed not only to increase the EU’s external action budget for the period 2021-2027 by 30%, compared to the previous period, but also to significantly simplify its structure, including through merging several funding instruments intoone broad instrument. Particular priority will be given to the EU’s relations and cooperation with Africa and Europe’s neighbourhood, as well as to promoting peace, human rights, democracy, civil society and climate change. Delivering a speech to the German Parliament’s Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development, Commissioner Mimica said: “The European Union continues to show global leadership in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I know that I can count on Germany’s continued support and leadership on our development efforts – especially in view of Germany’s Presidency of the European Union in 2020.”

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