28 Sep 2017


Brussels, Brussels Daily


Member States to benefit from over €222 million investments for environment, nature and climate action

The Commission has approved an investment package of €222 million from the EU budget to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.The EU funding will mobilise additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going towards 139 new projects in 20 Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom. €181.9 million will go to projects in the field of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information. In line with the European Commission’s circular economy package, projects will help Member States in their transition to a more circular economy. In the area of climate action, the EU will invest €40.2 million to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance and information projects. Selected projects support the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. LIFE funding will also help improve the resilience of one of Europe’s busiest waterways, the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium, develop tools to forecast desert dust storms, and counteract the heat island effect in cities. A press release available and project descriptions can be found here.


The European Court of Auditors gave the EU annual accounts a clean bill of health for the 10th year in a row, finding them true and fair.

The Court also detected fewer errors across all areas of spending than in the past, and the final overall level of error for 2016 is considerably lower than for the previous year. For roughly half of EU spending, the error rate did not even reach the level considered by the Court as material. No errors were found on the revenue side of the budget. This allowed the Court to upgrade – for the first time – its opinion on payments to “qualified”.

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of budget and human resources, said: “The report of the European Court of Auditors shows that our efforts bear fruit – the EU spending is becoming even more effective, to the benefit of citizens and businesses. Of course, we will not stop there – we will continue working with Member States and beneficiaries because every euro from the EU budget counts.” More information here

Investment Plan for Europe to increase EU GDP by 0.7% by 2020

The Investment Plan for Europe – the so-called Juncker Plan – is expected to add 0.7% to EU GDP by 2020. Today the European Investment Bank (EIB) releases new figures on the impact of EIB Group lending from 2015-2016, which highlights the positive impact made by the Juncker Plan. The European Commission and the EIB Group estimate that by 2020 the Juncker Plan will have created 700,000 jobs. Vice-President Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Thanks to the Investment Plan and the commitment of the EIB Group, over the past two years we have seen hundreds of projects get off the ground and thousands of SMEs take out loans. Now we can say that the macroeconomic impact will be an increase of 0.7% of EU GDP and 700,000 new jobs by 2020. There is no denying that the Investment Plan is doing what it was created for: boosting jobs and growth in Europe“. By 2036, EU GDP is still expected to be 0.4% higher than it would have been without the Investment Plan, and there will be 340,000 more jobs. As of September 2017, operations approved under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) are set to trigger €236.1 billion in total investment across the 28 Member States. (For more information about any of the projects and the latest Investment Plan results see the new Investment Plan website.


VAT Gap: EU countries lose €152 billion in 2015, showing urgent need for VAT reform

EU countries lost an estimated total of €152 billion in Value-Added Tax (VAT) revenues in 2015, according to a new study by the European Commission. The ‘VAT Gap’, which is the overall difference between the expected VAT revenue and the amount actually collected, again demonstrates the need for serious reform so that Member States can make full use of VAT revenues for their budgets. While the collection of VAT revenues shows some signs of improvement, the missing amounts remain unacceptably high. The report comes just ahead of proposals by the Commission to overhaul the VAT system. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs said: “Member States should not accept such shocking losses of VAT revenues. While the Commission is supporting efforts to improve collection throughout the EU, current VAT rules date from 1993 and are outdated. We will soon propose to revamp the rules governing VAT on cross-border sales. Our reform will help cut cross-border VAT fraud by 80% and get badly-needed money back to Member State coffers.” While average EU figures are improving, individual VAT collection performances vary significantly amongst Member States. The largest VAT Gaps were reported in Romania (37.2%), Slovakia (29.4%) and Greece (28.3 %). The smallest gaps were observed in Spain (3.5%) and Croatia (3.9 %). In absolute terms, the highest VAT Gap of €35 billion was in Italy. The VAT Gap decreased in most Member States, with the strongest improvements in Malta, Romania and Spain. Seven Member States saw small increases: Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Finland and the UK. A press release and MEMO are available.


EU kick-starts its new EU External Investment Plan

Following the adoption by the European Parliament and the Council, the European Commission immediately starts the implementation of its ambitious External Investment Plan (EIP) to boost investments in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood. The EIP will address some of the obstacles to growth in our partner countries and of the root causes of irregular migration. Moving ahead with the EIP’s rapid implementation, the first Strategic Board of the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), the heart piece of the EIP, meets today in Brussels. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Less than 10 per cent of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa goes to fragile regions – those that need it the most. We want our External Investment Plan to become a powerful engine of more inclusive and sustainable growth, to create green energy, to bring new opportunities to entrepreneurs, also in the European Union, to young people, to empower women. This is the plan Africa needs, this is what our African partners are asking for, this is European partnership at its best.” Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “Our External Investment Plan marks a new approach for eradicating poverty and achieving inclusive sustainable development. By leveraging in particular private finance, our contribution of €4.1 billion will leverage up to €44 billion of investments which otherwise would not happen. Now it is up to all key players of the private sector in Europe and in our partner countries to join us in creating sustainable growth and decent jobs for the benefit of all.” Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said: “Europe is confronted with many challenges at its borders and beyond, challenges that will surely grow in the future, as demographic pressures, mobility and effects of climate change increase and regional conflicts are ongoing. It is in Europe’s own interest that we all work to ensure sustainable and balanced economic growth in our partner countries. Involving the private sector and securing the most conducive environment for it to thrive will support these efforts. By triggering sustainable growth in our partner countries around Europe and in Africa, we are also offering new trade and investment opportunities for EU enterprises and investors.” Please read the press release and the MEMO for further information.


The European Commission is updating the European rules on rail passenger rights to better protect train travellers in case of delays, cancellations or discrimination.

Rail passengers should be fully protected no matter where they travel in the EU. The Commission also wants to guarantee adequate passenger information and to significantly improve the rights of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility. At the same time, the Commission’s proposal is proportionate and recognises that rail operators can, under strict circumstances, be exempted from having to compensate passengers in the event of delay. More information here


President Juncker in Tallinn for the Digital Summit

Today and tomorrow (28-29 September), President Juncker will be in Tallinn, Estonia for the Informal Digital Summit. Tonight, he will participate in the informal dinner of Heads of State or Government ahead of the Summit. The dinner discussions will concentrate on the future of the EU following the debatelaunched by the White Paper on the future of Europe and the way ahead outlined by the President in his State of the Union Address 2017. Tomorrow, the discussions will focus on digital economy and society. Leaders are expected to discuss the Commission’s recent proposals for strengthening the EU’s cybersecurity and setting out measures towards a fair taxation of the digital economy. To complete the Digital Single Market by 2018, EU Member States and the EU institutions need to adopt 18 legislative proposals already tabled by the Commission. You can follow the Summit live on EbS+ from 9:00 CET. European Council President Donald Tusk, President Juncker and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas will hold a press conference in Tallinn after the Summit at 17:15 CET (18:15 local time). Further material on the Informal Summit is published here, including an updated Digital Single Market overview as well as a full timeline of the Commission’s digital proposals, a factsheet on fair taxation of the digital economy as well as on stepping up cybersecurity, and last a brochure on digital skills gap in Europe. .


Security Union: Commission steps up efforts to tackle illegal content online

The Commission is presenting today guidelines and principles for online platforms to step up more proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online, as announced by President Juncker in his Letter of Intent accompanying his State of the Union speechof 13 September. The increasing availability and spreading of terrorist material and content that incites to violence and hatred online is not only a serious threat to the security and safety of EU citizens, it also undermines citizens’ trust and confidence in the digital environment – a key engine of innovation, growth and jobs. Vice-President for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “We are providing a sound EU answer to the challenge of illegal content online. Our guidance includes safeguards to avoid over-removal, ensure transparency and the protection of fundamental rights such as freedom of speech.” Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said:”The rule of law applies online just as much as offline. We cannot accept a digital Wild West, and we must act”. Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union, said: “The digital world offers unprecedented opportunities but, in the wrong hands, poses a serious threat to our security. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “Today we provide a clear signal to platforms to act more responsibly. This is key for citizens and the development of platforms.” The new guidance issued today calls on online platforms to further boost their efforts to prevent the spread of illegal content. Given their increasingly important role in providing access to information, the Commission expects online platforms to take swift action over the coming months, in particular in the area of terrorism and illegal hate speech – which is already illegal under EU law, both online and offline. A press release and Questions & Answers are online


First Vice-President Timermans visits Riga

On Friday 29 and Saturday 30 September, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans will visit Riga, Latvia, for a series of events and meetings. On Friday, the First Vice-President holds a Citizens Dialogue on the Future of Europe, which will be broadcast live on Latvian TV and on the Facebook page of the Commission’s Representation in Latvia. On Friday, Mr Timmermans will also meet with both Mr Raimonds Vējonis, President of Latvia and Ms Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Deputy Speaker of the Latvian Parliament. He will also hold a discussion with business leaders. On Saturday, the First Vice-President meets Mr Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, as well as representatives of the Latvian Jewish Community. He will also participate in the international Riga Conference 2017 as a panel speaker on Political and Economic Consequences of Populism in Europe.


First Vice-President Timmermans co-hosts Future of Europe debate with Muslim university students at European Parliament

Today, the European Commission and European Parliament are co-hosting a Future of Europe Debate with Muslim students from universities across Europe. Following shortly after the European Action Day countering Hate Speech against Muslims on 21 September, the event will be an important opportunity for young Muslims to take part in the debate launched by the European Commission through its White Paper on the Future of Europe. First Vice-President Timmermans said at the event today: “Europe’s future must be built by all of our citizens together. Today we have an opportunity to listen to some voices that don’t get heard often enough in our institutional debates; Muslim university students. The future of Europe will require us all to live together in harmony, and for that we need to understand the hopes and dreams, and the worries and fears, of all our communities.” Parliament First Vice-President McGuinness said: “Today’s dialogue with students from the Muslim community from across the 28 EU Member States sends out a clear message, that Muslims, just as much as any other faith group or non-believers, are part of the fabric of European societies and have a positive contribution to make in building a better future for Europe.” The event is organised in partnership with the European Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup and the Forum of European Muslim Youth Student Organisations. More information on the European Commission’s work with the Muslim community in Europe is available online here.



Modern technologies in agriculture: Commission hosts high-level conference

On 28 September the European Commission is organising a high-level conference on “Modern Biotechnologies in Agriculture – Paving the way for responsible innovation” in order to stimulate an informed and open debate among stakeholders. The conference opened by the speech of Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, in charge of Health and Food Safety, gathers hundreds of participants: researchers, industry, national authorities, civil society, to exchange views on how the EU can benefit from modern biotechnologies and innovation in the food and agricultural sector while maintaining high safety standards. Commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan will participate in the dedicated panel discussion with MEPs and stakeholders on biotechnologies in agriculture. Earlier this year the Commission’s High-level group of the Scientific Advice Mechanism published an explanatory note on new techniques in agricultural biotechnology. The conference’s ambition is to enhance this debate and gather the views of prominent European and national policy makers as well as relevant stakeholders. More information and live web-stream available online.


Commissioner Thyssen participates to the G7 Labour and Employment ministers meeting in Turin

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen will attend the meeting of G7 Labour and Employment Ministers on 29 – 30 September in Turin (Italy). The meeting will focus on the Future of Work in the light of the “Action Plan on Innovation, Labour and Skills” endorsed by G7 Leaders in Taormina at the end of May 2017. The aim of the ministers’ meeting is to agree on commitments of the G7 countries in the areas of skills, labour rights, social protection and social dialogue to improve the future of work. Commissioner Thyssen said ahead of the meeting: “The European economy is in its fifth year of recovery and more people are in employment than ever before. But growth in itself is not enough. We need more social fairness and less inequality. Our citizens must be prepared for the changing world of work. It is the responsibility of policy makers to set the right framework so that change creates opportunities rather than risks. With the Pillar of Social Rights, Europe leads the way.


Commissioner Moscovici participates in Citizens’ Dialogue in Stockholm as part of mission to Sweden and Denmark

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs participated in a Citizens’ Dialogue at the Commission’s representation in Stockholm this morning as part of his country visit to Sweden. The exchange of views with citizens focused on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The visit will continue with meetings with Magdalena Andersson, Swedish Minister of Finance, Anders Kessling, State Secretary at the Ministry of Employment and the Governor of the Swedish Central Bank, Stefan Ingves. On Friday, the Commissioner travels to Copenhagen, Denmark where he will deliver the keynote speech at the Copenhagen EU Tax Law Conference and holds a working session with Danish Members of Parliament. In Copenhagen, the Commissioner will also take the opportunity to meet Karsten Lauritzen, Danish Minister for Taxation, and Per Callesen, Danish Central Bank Governor.


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