Regions are invited to apply today for two Commission pilot projects. If selected, they can benefit from tailored EU financial and advisory support in transforming their economies and modernising their industries.
The two pilot projects were presented by the Commission in July 2017. They aim to further help Europe’s regions invest in their niche areas of competitive strength (the “smart specialisation” process) and generate the innovation, resilience and growth needed to harness globalisation. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu said: “There are five steps a region needs to take to haul itself up the value chain in a globalised economy; embracing innovation, digitalisation and decarbonisation, developing people’s skills and breaking down barriers to investment. The pilot projects we are launching today show that the EU is ready to help its regions, every step of the way.” More information here
Juncker Plan: €700 million for SMEs in Greece
The Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan – is supporting small businesses in Greece. Piraeus Bank will lend €700 million to SMEs in Greece thanks to an agreement signed today with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Investment Fund (EIF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). This deal is backed by the Investment Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Commissioner Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Today’s agreement with Piraeus Bank under the Juncker Plan means €700 million in new financing is now available for Greek SMEs. This will give a huge boost to the economy and it shows the Commission’s continued commitment to supporting growth and development in Greece.” 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. The EIB estimates that by 2020 the Juncker Plan is set to increase EU GDP by 0.7% and create 700,000 jobs. (For more information about any of the projects and the latest Investment Plan results see the new Investment Plan website or contact
Drones: fresh efforts by the Commission to put safety first
The European Commission is today giving a push to speed up the implementation of EU-wide rules for the use of drones in the European Union. More than 1200 safety occurrences – including near-misses between drones and aircrafts – were reported in Europe in 2016, which underlines the pressing need for a modern and flexible EU regulatory framework. The Commission is therefore calling on the European Parliament and the Council to agree on its proposal from December 2015 establishing an EU-wide framework for drones. Pending this adoption, the Commission’s Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR) is today making half a million euro available to support the demonstration of “geo-fencing” services. These can automatically prevent drones from flying into restricted zones, such as the vicinity of airports. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, ”Drones offer tremendous opportunities for new services and businesses. That is why we want Europe to be a global leader. I am confident our modern and flexible regulatory framework will give rise to new European champions in this sector. But safety always comes first. If we don’t move fast enough, the near misses between drones and airplanes could one day have disastrous consequences. I am therefore calling on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly agree on our proposal from December 2015.” More information is available in a press release.
The end of the sugar production quotas in the EU
Why did the EU have a sugar quota system and why is it ending now?
Sugar is the only agricultural sector in the European Union where production is subject to a quota system. It was introduced with the first rules on the sugar common market organisation (CMO) in 1968, along with a support price for producers at a level significantly above the world market price. At the time, the recently introduced Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) had as one of its main objective the self-sufficiency of the continent for its food production by encouraging agricultural production with remunerative and stable prices for farmers. Quotas, together with a support price, gave a welcome incentive to achieve these goals in the sugar sector. More information here
Commission proposes fresh macro-financial assistance to Georgia of up to €45 million
The European Commission today proposes new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) to Georgia, worth up to €45 million. While Georgia has made significant progress with economic reforms, its macroeconomic outlook remains vulnerable. Georgia’s economy is exposed to an uncertain regional and global economic outlook, and its international reserves are not yet adequate, not least due to the country’s external debt level. This context has formed the basis for the proposal for further Macro-Financial Assistance. Of the total €45 million, €10 million would be provided in the form of grants and up to €35 million in medium-term loans at favourable financing conditions, helping to reduce uncertainties surrounding the economy’s short-term balance of payments and fiscal issues. If adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, this assistance would help Georgia cover part of its external financing needs. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Today’s proposal for additional assistance is another sign of the EU’s strong support for the Georgian people. As Georgia continues its economic transition, we are helping the country to preserve macroeconomic stability and continue the reform process, which is needed to achieve stronger and more inclusive growth.” A press release is available here.
EU and FAO join forces to take action on food waste and antimicrobial resistance
Today, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) José Graziano da Silva agreed to ramp up collaboration between the two organisations in tackling the problems of waste in food supply chains and antimicrobial resistance. Globally, one-third of all food produce for human consumption – 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted, each year, causing massive financial losses. The increased use – and abuse – of antimicrobial medicines in both human and animal healthcare has contributed to an increase in the number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines used to treat them, like antibiotics. This makes AMR a growing threat that could lead to as many as 10 million deaths a year and over €85 million in losses to the global economy by 2050. Speaking at a signing ceremony at FAO’s Rome headquarters, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “Food loss and waste represent an unacceptable, unethical and immoral squandering of scarce resources and increase food insecurity, while AMR marks a grave societal and economic burden,” adding: “We are becoming more united, more efficient and more strategic in how we tackle these issues, and as such, this agreement should be celebrated.” A full press release is available online.
New scientific report shows positive economic trends for EU fishing fleet
According to the latest Annual Economic Report, the overall economic performance of the EU fishing fleet improved again in 2015. While marginally profitable in 2009, the EU fleet registered record-high net profits of EUR 798 million in 2015 and estimates for 2016 and 2017 point towards further increases in profitability. The report also demonstrates that economic performance stagnates where fleets depend on stocks which are still overfished or overexploited. More and more fleets that exploit stocks sustainably see clear improvements in their profitability and salaries. In 2015, the EU fleet’s gross value added, i.e. the contribution of the fishing sector to the economy through wages and gross profit, amounted to €3.9 billion. This represents a 16% increase compared to 2013. Average salaries in the EU fleet have also increased while average fuel consumption has decreased. Fuel use efficiency has improved, with fuel costs amounting to 15% of the total revenue in 2015, compared to 24% in 2008. This is largely because fleets tend to operate more efficiently. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries, said: “It is encouraging to see that the positive trend of the last years has resulted in higher salaries for fishermen, bigger profits for the fishing sector and more value added for the EU’s fishing and coastal communities. This clearly shows that our joint commitment towards more sustainable fishing pays off. But more efforts are needed to allow also small scale coastal fleets, in particular in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, to fully benefit from this positive trend.” The 2017 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet is based on data provided by national authorities and the result of combined work by economic experts from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee of Fisheries and the Commission.
Trade negotiations: Commission publishes report and text proposals following third negotiation round with Indonesia
As part of its commitment to a more transparent trade policy the Commission today published a report summarising the progress made during the latest negotiating round for the EU-Indonesia trade agreement. In addition, the Commission published eight initial text proposals the EU submitted to Indonesia ahead of the round, together with accompanying explanatory memos. The round report includes more details on all areas of the negotiations, including trade in goods, services, investment and technical barriers to trade. The negotiations continue to show good engagement from both partners. The teams have progressed onto text-based discussions on nearly all chapters, meaning that most issues can be covered in greater depth. The talks also provided an extensive to-do list that will be followed up ahead of the next round. The latest round of talks with Indonesia took place from 11-15 September 2017 in Brussels. The next round will be held in Indonesia at the beginning of 2018. The recent Commission proposals made in the course of the negotiations can also be accessed through the dedicated transparency page. More information on EU-Indonesia talks is available on the website of DG Trade.
Commissioner Malmström in Sweden to participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on trade and protectionism
Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström is in Stockholm today, where she is participating in a Citizens’ Dialogue on the EU trade policy’s role in shaping globalisation, entitled “Protectionism does not protect”. She will be joined onstage by several business leaders. This will feed into the ongoing debate launched by the Commission last May with the publication of the Reflection Paper on harnessing globalisation, followed by the presentation of a significant trade package for a balanced and progressive trade policy. Openness and protection should go hand in hand. The EU is open for business, but there should exist a level playing field in a rules-based global trade system. At the occasion of her visit in Sweden, Commissioner Malmström will also deliver a keynote speech at the European Dairy Association Annual Convention “Global trade for global dairy”. The Citizens’ Dialogue is web-streamed as of 10:30 here.
Commissioner Hahn in Armenia to prepare for the Eastern Partnership Summit
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will visit Armenia on 2 October in preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit (Brussels, 24 November 2017). Commissioner Hahn will meet with President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian, to discuss the priorities of the Eastern Partnership Summit and the deepening of EU-Armenia relations. This is reflected in the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and Partnership Priorities which will set the joint policy priorities for the coming years. Ahead of the mission, Commissioner Hahn said: “This is a very important year for EU-Armenia relations as we broaden and deepen our cooperation based on mutual interests. The EU is ready to sign the new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia. This, together with the agreed Partnership Priorities will shape our cooperation where we plan to invest, among other areas, in education and innovation, as skills development will be key for Armenia’s future. My visit will also prepare for the next Eastern Partnership Summit by discussing our joint progress on the “20 deliverables for 2020”, which aim to bring tangible benefits to the daily lives of Armenian citizens.” Accompanied by the Armenian Minister of Education, Commissioner Hahn will also meet young Armenian students.