28 Mar 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily


COLLEGE MEETING: The future of EU finances: College discusses the next long-term budget for the EU

On 2 May 2018, the Commission will propose the next long-term budget for the EU – the Multiannual Financial Framework or “MFF” – after 2020. The future budget is part and parcel of the debate on the Future of Europe launched by the Commission White Paper on the future of Europe on 1 March 2017 and further enriched by the Commission reflection paper on the future of EU finances on 28 June 2017. Following a first orientation debate on 10 January 2018, and the presentation of Commission contribution of 14 February to the Leaders’ meeting on 23 February 2018, the College today held another discussion to prepare this important proposal. The European Parliament has also recently adopted two important reports relating to the next long-term budget.

COLLEGE MEETING: A better deal for consumers: Cheap euro transfers everywhere in the Union and fairer currency conversions

The European Commission is today proposing to make cross-border payments in euro cheaper across the entire EU. Under current rules, there is no difference for euro area residents or businesses if they carry out euro transactions in their own country or with another euro area Member State. Today’s proposal aims to extend this benefit to people and businesses in non-euro countries. This will allow all consumers and businesses to fully reap the benefits of the Single Market when they send money, withdraw cash or pay abroad. All intra-EU cross-border payments in euro outside the euro area will now be priced the same – with small or zero fees – as domestic payments in the local official currency. Moreover, the Commission is today proposing to bring more transparency and competition to currency conversion services when consumers are buying goods or services in a different currency than their own. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “With today’s proposal we are granting citizens and businesses in non-euro area countries the same conditions as euro area residents when making cross-border payments in euro. All Europeans will be able to transfer money cross-border, in euro, at the same cost as they would pay for a domestic transaction. Today’s proposal will also require full transparency in currency conversion when consumers are paying by card in a country which does not have the same currency as their own.” You can find a full press release, Q&A and factsheet online.

COLLEGE MEETING: European Citizens’ Initiative: 9 million citizens have got involved in EU law-makingThe European Commission has today adopted its second report on the application of the European Citizens’ Initiative Regulation. Since this new tool entered into force in 2012, an estimated 9 million Europeans from all 28 Member States have now supported a European Citizens’ Initiative. Four successful initiatives have so far collected over 1 million signatures each and the Commission has committed to follow-up actions on 3 of them.First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The fact that 9 million people have supported a European Citizens’ Initiative in the past 6 years shows that this tool is stimulating participation and debate across national borders, with concrete impact on EU policies. But we need to go further: our recent reform proposal will make it much easier for citizens to launch and support new initiatives, also allowing young people from the age of 16 to have their say. “Non-legislative improvements to the tool have been implemented in the past 3 years. The Juncker Commission has also taken a more political approach, with all requests for registration (before signatures can be collected) now being heard by the College of Commissioners and partial registrations being granted in some cases. These changes have resulted in a significant increase of the number of initiatives accepted for registration: about 90% of proposed initiatives since April 2015, compared to 60% of all proposals in the previous 3-year period. After its first Report on the Application of the European Citizens’ Initiative, the Commission proposed a new Regulation to make the European Citizens’ Initiative more accessible, less burdensome and easier to use for organisers and supporters. The proposal must now be adopted by the European Parliament and Council. More information is available in this press release.

Saving lives on the roads: 112 eCall becomes mandatory for new types of vehicles

As of 31 March, the 112-based emergency system “eCall” will become mandatory throughout the EU for new types of passenger cars and light-duty vehicles. This is the result of legislation passed by the European Union in 2015 on an initiative of the European Commission. The eCall system automatically dials Europe’s single emergency number 112 in the event of a serious road accident and communicates by use of Europe’s satellite navigation system Galileo the vehicle’s location to the emergency services. The eCall system – which can also be triggered manually – only transmits essential information and does not store or record data. The Commission has already tested manufacturers’ eCall solutions in the Joint Research Centre and has issued guidelines to type-approval centres in January 2018. It is estimated that eCall will cut emergency services response time by 50% in the countryside and by up to 60% in built-up areas, thereby saving hundreds of lives every year and reducing the consequences of injuries. In 2016, 25 500 people lost their lives on EU roads, while another 135 000 suffered from serious injuries. In order to save more lives and to continue building a Europe that protects, the European Commission is currently working on a new series of road safety initiatives. They are expected to be presented later in the year.

COLLEGE MEETING: Action Plan on military mobility: EU takes steps towards a Defence Union

In line with President Juncker’s commitment to a fully-fledged Defence Union by 2025, the Commission and the High Representative are today presenting an Action Plan to improve military mobility within and beyond the European Union. Facilitating the movement of military troops and assets is essential for the security of European citizens, and to build a more effective, responsive and joined-up Union, as identified in the Joint Communication on improving military mobility in the EU from November 2017 and called for in the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy. Today’s Action Plan identifies a series of operational measures to tackle physical, procedural or regulatory barriers which hamper military mobility. Working closely with the EU Member States and all relevant actors will be key for the implementation of this Action Plan. High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Promoting peace and guaranteeing the security of our citizens are our first priorities as European Union. By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise. It will be another step in deepening our cooperation at EU level, also in the framework of the Permanent Structured Cooperation we have formally launched recently, and with our partners, starting with NATO. For us, as EU, cooperation remains the only way to be effective in today’s world.” Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Our objective is to make better use of our transport network, to ensure that military needs are accounted for when planning infrastructure projects. This means a more efficient use of public money and a better equipped transport network, ensuring a quick and seamless mobility across the continent. This is a matter of collective security.” More information is available in a press release available in all EU languages and in a factsheet.

Investment Plan backs financing for small businesses in the Netherlands

The European Investment Bank (EIB) Group has signed a new deal under the Investment Plan benefitting small businesses in the Netherlands. The deal allows Dutch bank Rabobank to increase its lending to SMEs, as capital is freed thanks to transferring some of the risk of its current SME loans to the European Investment Fund (EIF), which is in turn guaranteed by the EIB and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Thanks to this transaction supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, Rabobank will be able to lend more money to local businesses in the Netherlands. Dutch SMEs will be the winners in this deal.”

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control of PAM by PC3, Oxalis and three individuals

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Phoenix Asset Management S.p.A (“PAM”) of Italy, by Prime Credit 3 S.à r.l. (“PC3”), Oxalis Holding S.à r.l. (“Oxalis”), together with Mr Steve Lennon, Mr Paolo Lo Giudice and Mr Roberto Tavani. PAM is active in the management of secured and unsecured non-performing loan portfolios. PC3 is a private equity firm focused on the European financial services sector which predominantly invests in non-performing assets comprising loans, leases, securities or other obligations. Oxalis is a subsidiary and investment platform of funds ultimately controlled by PIMCO of the US, which is a global investment manager and provides financial services. Mr Steve Lennon, Mr Paolo Lo Giudice and Mr Roberto Tavani are the original shareholders of PAM. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because the envisaged joint venture will have negligible actual or foreseen activities within the territory of 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.8809.

Eurostat: Women in EU have first child on average at 29

In 2016, 5.148 million babies were born in the European Union (EU), compared with 5.103 million in 2015; On average in the EU, women who gave birth to their first child in 2016 were 29 years old. Across Member States, first time mothers were on average the youngest in Bulgaria and the oldest in Italy. Around 5% of births of first children in the EU in 2016 were to women aged less than 20 (teenage mothers) and around 3% to women aged 40 and over. Among the 5.148 million births in the EU in 2016, nearly 1 in 5 (or almost 930 000) concerned a third or subsequent child. Overall, the total fertility rate in the EU stood at 1.60 births per woman in 2016. It varied between Member States from 1.34 in both Spain and Italy to 1.92 in France. This information comes from recently published data by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. A Eurostat press release is available here.

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