|Customs: New agreement between EU and New Zealand to create a more secure and trade-friendly environment
A new customs agreement between the EU and New Zealand will officially enter into force tomorrow (1 May). The agreement will enable both partners to work together to prevent, investigate and combat breaches of customs rules. It paves the way for more cooperation on customs security and a safer, trade-friendly environment for businesses and consumers alike. Total trade between the EU and New Zealand in goods amounted to €8.4 billion in 2017 and trade in commercial services amounted to a further €4.4 billion in 2016. The entry into force of the agreement this week follows its signature in July 2017. More information is available on the DG TAXUD website and the full text of the new agreement is available here.
Rules guaranteeing EU citizens protection and assistance from any EU consulate enter into force
As of tomorrow, 1 May 2018, EU citizens living or travelling outside the European Union will be able to better benefit from consular protection in case of need, when their EU Member State of origin is not represented in the non-EU country they are staying in. The updated rules allow EU citizens in distress in a non-EU country to get assistance from any EU embassy or consulate. The rules entering into force tomorrow also specify how Member States should cooperate on common contingency plans so that unrepresented EU citizens get protection in the event of a crisis or a natural disaster. Commissioner Vĕra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “Almost 7 million EU citizens travel or live outside the EU in countries where their own Member State does not have an embassy or consulate. As of tomorrow we ensure that all EU citizens are treated equally when they need urgent assistance outside of our Union. The new rules reinforce citizens’ rights and are a strong sign of European solidarity.” Besides assistance in times of crisis, EU citizens can also benefit from requesting consular protection in case of serious illness, when being victim of a crime, when arrested or in cases of passport loss or theft when abroad. Requests for emergency travel documents represent more than 60% of all cases of consular assistance to unrepresented citizens. The Commission will work closely with those Member States who have not finalised transposition yet to make sure the important new rules are implemented swiftly. More information can be found here.
Pensions in the EU: report recognises efforts of Member States to ensure adequate pensions, but more needs to be done
The 2018 Pensions Adequacy Report, published today, analyses how current and future pensions help prevent old-age poverty and maintain the income of men and women for the duration of their retirement. It underlines that Member States pay more and more attention to sustainable, adequate pensions in their reforms, but further measures will be needed in the future. Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility commented: “Every retired person has the right to live in dignity. This is a key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Adequate pensions are essential in preventing poverty and social exclusion among older people in Europe, especially women. And we need to make that sure that people in non-standard work or self-employment are not left out. Our priority must to be to pursue ongoing reforms that encourage adequate pensions for everyone.” To ensure the adequacy and sustainability of current and future pensions, pension systems need to promote longer working lives, in accordance with continuously increasing life expectancy. Member States should also take further steps to close the gender gap in pensions, by putting in place equal opportunity policies targeted at women and men of working age, for instance, promoting the work-life balance and equal distribution of caring responsibilities, addressing labour market participation, work intensity and career breaks. The Commission aims at supporting Member States in these efforts, for instance with its proposal to create a better balance between private life and professional career for working parents and carers. Finally, it is also important to continue to extend pension coverage to people in non-standard or self-employment, and to promote supplementary pension saving. In this vein, the Commission has recently put forward a proposal for a Recommendation on access to social protection. More information on the conclusions of the report can be found in this press release.
State aid: Commission approves seventh prolongation of Irish credit union restructuring scheme
The European Commission has found the prolongation until 31 October 2018 of an Irish scheme aimed at restructuring credit unions, to be in line with EU State aid rules, and in particular the 2013 Banking Communication. The objective of the scheme is to underpin the stability and long-term viability of credit unions and the credit union sector in Ireland at large. Restructuring involves merging weaker and stronger credit unions, providing, if necessary, a capital injection to make up any shortfall in the capital reserve requirements of the merged credit union. Stabilisation involves assisting fundamentally viable credit unions that have temporarily slipped below the regulatory reserve requirements. The Commission found that the measure ensures that the beneficiaries become viable in the long-term through restructuring or merging with sound credit unions, and that they contribute to the cost of restructuring. Moreover, the impact on competition is limited because credit unions are small and do business only with members. The Commission initially authorised the scheme in October 2014. It was subsequently prolonged six times, the last time in October 2017. Until now, the Irish authorities have managed to restructure credit unions without granting any aid under this scheme. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the reference SA.50692.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of parts of Bayer’s Crop Science business by BASF, subject to conditions
The European Commission has conditionally approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of parts of Bayer’s Crop Science business by BASF. Today’s decision follows the Commission’s conditional clearance in March 2018 of Bayer’s planned acquisition of Monsanto. Bayer committed to divest an extensive remedy package worth well over €6 billion (the “Bayer Divestment Business”) to address the competition concerns on overlaps between Bayer and Monsanto in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture. Since BASF does not currently sell seeds or non-selective herbicides and has only recently started to develop a limited offering in digital agriculture, the Commission did not identify competition concerns with most parts of the transaction. However, the Commission had concerns that the transaction would have reduced innovation competition in the European Economic Area for the development of certain non-selective herbicides as well as potential competition for the production of nematicidal seed treatments. The Commission found that the proposed commitments fully address the overlaps between the Bayer Divestment Business and BASF in the innovation areas and in the markets where the Commission had identified competition concerns. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. As regards Bayer’s planned acquisition of Monsanto, the Commission’s March 2018 decision requires Bayer to sell the Bayer Divestment Business to a suitable purchaser. The decision adopted today does not prejudge the outcome of that separate assessment. The press release is available online in EN,
EU response to drugs: Commission to ban two new psychoactive substances
Today, the European Commission has proposed to ban two new psychoactive substances (NPS) – cycloproplyfentanyl and methoxyacetylfentanyl – across the European Union. These strong synthetic opioids can cause severe harm to health, sometimes resulting in death, and pose a growing threat to European citizens. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “We have taken quick and decisive steps to stop illicit drugs from spreading across Europe – in 2017 we have proposed to ban 16 new psychoactive substances and put in place stronger EU-wide rules. Today, we are following up on the efforts to better protect Europeans from dangerous drugs and propose to ban two new, potentially life-threatening, substances. We need to stay vigilant, continue our work and monitor the situation closely – in the coming weeks we will present a report with the main drug use trends in the EU.” According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), cycloproplyfentanyl and methoxyacetylfentanyl are associated with a total of 90 deaths so far across the EU and a number of acute intoxications. The substances are sold online in small and wholesale amounts as “research chemicals” or as “legal” replacements of illicit opioids. The Commission’s proposal will now be discussed by the Member States in the Council, which, in consultation with the European Parliament, will decide whether to adopt the measures. More information on the trends in the drug use in Europe is available online in EU Drug Report 2017.
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Mefro Wheels by Accuride, subject to conditions
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of steel wheels manufacturer Mefro Wheels by its competitor Accuride. The decision is conditional on the divestment of Accuride’s European business Gianetti Ruote.Accuride and Mefro Wheels are both components suppliers for the automotive industry, in particular of steel wheels for buses, trucks and trailers. The Commission’s investigation confirmed that the proposed transaction, as originally notified, raised the following competition concerns: i) Accuride and Mefro Wheels would have a combined market share of more than 60%, and only one other supplier, Maxion, would remain in the market to compete with the merged entity; and ii) suppliers not currently present in Europe do not exert sufficient competitive constraint and are not expected to become a significant competitive force in the near future. To address the Commission’s concerns, Accuride offered to divest its European business Gianetti Ruote, an Italian company, to a suitable buyer. The proposed remedy maintains the competitive landscape existing before the transaction, with three independent suppliers of steel wheels for buses and trucks. Therefore, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments. A full press release is available in EN.
Statement by Commissioner Thyssen ahead of International Workers’ Day
“Every year on 1 May, people all over the world celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day. What began as a yearly strike movement has developed into a public holiday celebrating social achievements for workers. […] But Labour Day is not only about celebrating achievements. It also serves as a reminder that a well-functioning social market economy is not a given and the rules need to be updated, in light of continuously changing technologies that impact our economies and societies. […] In November 2017, the first Social Summit in 20 years took place in Gothenburg. There, the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, a series of 20 principles and rights supporting opportunities for people to have access to training, education and lifelong learning; good working conditions and effective welfare systems. Now it is time to make sure these principles and rights become a reality on the ground. […] Delivering on the Pillar and its principles is a joint effort. We need everyone on board: Our Member States, the European Parliament, social partners, and last but not least civil society. I look forward to working with all of them to make sure that in the coming years, we can make clear that economic and social progress reinforce each other and that we have a reason to celebrate International Worker’s Day.” The full statement is available here.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini to attend a meeting of the Libya Quartet in Cairo
Today, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, participates in the fourth meeting of the Libya Quartet, the group that brings together the League of Arab States, the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union. The meeting is hosted by the League of Arab States in Cairo. The aim of the Libya Quartet is to support UN mediation and regional efforts and to accompany the process of the political transition in Libya, in full respect of Libyan ownership. Today, the Libya Quartet will discuss progress in the UN mediation efforts, led by UN Secretary General Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, and explore ways in which these key regional groupings can keep supporting this work. A joint press conference will take place after the plenary meeting at 19.30 CET, available on EbS.
Commissioner Avramopoulos in Marrakesh for the Fifth Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will tomorrow participate in the Fifth Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development in Marrakesh, Morocco. Government representatives of 58 European and African countries are expected to attend the Conference. Discussions will focus on strengthening cooperation in the fields of migration and development, including the prevention of irregular migration and strengthening of legal pathways. The Conference forms part of the Rabat Process, a platform aimed at facilitating exchange and cooperation between partner countries on the migration route in North, West and Central Africa and Europe. The Conference will be followed by a press conference at 18:30 (CET) which will be available on EbS.
Commissioner Stylianides tours Germany to discuss rescEU, the EU’s comprehensive plan to strengthen its emergency response to disasters
Today Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides makes his first stop in Munich to meet with Interior Minister of Bavaria, Mr Joachim Herrmann and the President of the Bavarian Parliament, Ms Barbara Stamm. The Commissioner continues his tour to Berlin on Thursday this week to meet Federal Minister of Interior, Mr Horst Seehofer. On this occasion, Commissioner Stylianides will take the chance to discuss rescEU – the Commission proposal to strengthen the European Union’s ability to deal with disasters when Member States own capacities are overwhelmed. The proposal put forward by the European Commission in November 2017 foresees to upgrade the existing European Civil Protection Mechanism to address natural hazards, such as floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics, more effectively in Europe. The proposal also foresees stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness capacities and to simplify administrative procedures to reduce the time needed to deploy life-saving assistance.
Commissioner Gabriel in Luxembourg to join Citizens’ Dialogue
On Wednesday, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and SocietyMariya Gabriel will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue in Luxembourg to talk about the Digital Single Market. Starting at 15:00 (CEST), the Commissioner together with the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, will address topics related to the digital sector in Luxembourg and Europe, including the end of unjustified geo-blocking,strengthening EU’s cybersecurity and the recently proposed new rules for fairer and more transparent platforms-to-business trading practices, among others.The dialogue can be followed live here. The viewers can ask questions using the hashtag #EUdialogues. More information about the Digital Single Market strategy is available here.