09 Mar 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily


World Ocean Summit: Sustainable Finance Principles launched to guide investments in the maritime economy

Today, at the World Ocean Summit taking place in Mexico, the Commission launched in partnership with the European Investment Bank, the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and WWF theSustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles. These are voluntary principles that will guide responsible investments to counter the many stresses that oceans are subject to, from overfishing and rising sea levels to plastic pollution. Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vellasaid: “I am delighted to see the progress in the delivery of this important commitment made at the 2017 Our Ocean Conference hosted by the EU. The importance of having clear guidelines supporting the sustainable development of the blue economy is now widely recognised, and this is encouraging.” Today’s launch is in line with the Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan, presented yesterday as part of the Capital Markets Union’s efforts to connect finance with the specific needs of the European economy to the benefit of the planet and our society. It is also one of the key steps towards implementing the historicParis Agreement and the EU’s agenda for sustainable development.  Earlier this year, the EU High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance had recommended in its final report that the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles be adopted and implemented by the finance community. As a result, initial commitments have already been made by Althelia Ecosphere, Aviva Investors, the BPCE Group, Seventure Partners, Willis Towers Watson and the World Bank. In signing up, investors and organisations commit to mainstream these principles in all new investment decisions. More information is available here.


EUROSTAT: General government expenditure in the EU in 2016 – Government expenditure on social protection accounted for almost one fifth of GDP – Representing more than 40% of total public expenditure

Among the main functions of general government expenditure in the European Union (EU), ‘social protection’ was by far the largest in 2016, equivalent to 19.1% of GDP. The next most important areas were ‘health’ (7.1%), ‘general public services’ such as external affairs and public debt transactions (6.0%), ‘education’ (4.7%) and ‘economic affairs’ (4.0%). ‘Public order and safety’ (1.7%), ‘defence’ (1.3%), ‘recreation, culture and religion’ (1.0%), ‘environmental protection’ (0.7%) and ‘housing and community amenities’ (0.6%) had more limited weights. However, these EU-level data mask significant differences between the Member States in the share of GDP dedicated to each function of general government expenditure. Full text available here

EU-Ukraine: Commission proposes €1 billion in new Macro-Financial Assistance The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme for Ukraine worth up to €1 billion to support economic stabilisation and structural reforms. Today’s proposal follows a request from the Ukrainian authorities and direct discussions between Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “Today’s proposal on the fourth Macro-Financial Assistance programme of €1 billion shows the EU’s commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine. This solidarity must go hand-in-hand with a continued commitment from the Ukrainian authorities to an ambitious reform agenda to ensure a stable and prosperous Ukraine. We are counting on the European Parliament and Member States for their support for this important programme.” Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Ukraine continues to enjoy the political and financial support of the European Union for its reform efforts. Much has been achieved over the past few years, often in the most trying of circumstances. Now I urge the authorities to take forward the reform drive with renewed vigour, to build a fairer, more stable and more prosperous country in the interest of all Ukrainians.”The new programme seeks to build on the progress made in supporting economic stabilisation and structural reforms under the three previous MFA operations. All disbursements under the proposed programme, including the first, would be conditional on the implementation of reform measures designed to address vulnerabilities identified in the Ukrainian economy. Established in a Memorandum of Understanding, they would take into account measures that remain outstanding from the previous MFA programme and include steps to intensify the fight against corruption. The EU has so far pledged €12.8 billion to support the reform process in Ukraine, including €2.8 billion through three previous MFA programmes, since the onset of the crisis in 2014. A press release is available online.


EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Steering Committee reports quick and efficient delivery of the EU’s commitment to assist Syrian refugees and their host communities in Turkey

The ninth Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey took place in Brussels today, chaired by the European Commission. The meeting brought together representatives of EU Member States and Turkey. Members of the European Parliament also participated as observers. The Commission confirmed the quick and efficient delivery of the EU’s commitment to assist Syrian refugees and their host communities in Turkey. The operational funds of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey have been fully committed and contracted, with 72 projects rolled out. More than EUR 1.85 billion was already disbursed at the end of 2017 with the remainder to be disbursed in the course of implementation of projects until mid-2021. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: “We have recently reached a great milestone with the contracting of the full Facility envelope, which confirms the EU’s continued effort in delivering on its commitment in supporting the refugees and host communities in Turkey. With projects in full implementation mode, we look forward to reporting on our achievements in the areas of education, health and socio-economic support.” Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: “The EU managed to increase its humanitarian assistance in Turkey, which changed the lives of over 1.1 million refugees.  EU-funded humanitarian projects are helping refugees meet their basic daily needs, get lifesaving medical attention, and carry on going to school, so that we don’t see a lost generation of refugee children.”  The Steering Committee discussed progress in implementation in advance of the publication of the Second Annual Report on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey that is scheduled for next week. More information on the instrument is available in the factsheets: The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey and Turkey: Refugee crisis.


Artificial intelligence: Commission kicks off work on marrying cutting-edge technology and ethical standards

The Commission has opened today applications for a group on artificial intelligence (AI) to gather expert input and rally a stakeholder alliance. Also today, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), an independent advisory body to the Commission, has published a statement on artificial intelligence. The expert group will be tasked to advise the Commission on how to unite a broad and diverse community of stakeholders in a ‘European AI Alliance’; support the implementation of the upcoming European initiative on artificial intelligence; and come forward by the end of the year with draft guidelines for the ethical development and use of artificial intelligence based on the EU’s fundamental rights. The guidelines will be drafted following a wide consultation and building on today’s statement by EGE. Applications to join the expert group in artificial intelligence can be submitted until 9 April and the Commission aims to set this group up by May. The group will gather and build on the work done by other experts which is relevant to artificial intelligence, such as the high-level strategy group for industrial technologies (intermediate report) and the expert group on liability and new technologies. For the latter a call for applications was also launched today. This expert group will assist the Commission in analysing the challenges related to the existing liability framework. More information is available in a press release.



Clean air: Commission consults on further improvements to car emissions tests

The Commission has opened a public consultation on a draft proposal to further improve the quality of car emissions tests to ensure more reliable results and rebuild consumer confidence. As part of the Commission’s work for a clean, sustainable and competitive car industry, new and improved car emissions tests are mandatory since 1 September 2017: tests in real driving conditions (“Real Driving Emissions” – RDE) and an improved laboratory test (“World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure” – WLTP). Now the Commission is tightening the screws further by improving these testsand introducing more controls to guarantee that vehicles already in circulation are in conformity with the emission limits. The proposal which is open for consultation aims at reducing margins of technical uncertainty in RDE testing, increasing emissions checks of cars in circulation and testing by independent and accredited third parties. The Commission also proposes to improve the WLTP procedure by eliminating test flexibilities and introducing for the first time on-board fuel consumption monitoring, thereby making it possible to compare laboratory results for CO2 emissions with the average real driving situation. On the basis of the public feedback received by 5 April, the Commission will table a legal proposal for a vote by the Member States in the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles (TCMV).


Antitrust: Commission publishes eighth report on patent settlements in the pharma sector

The European Commission published today its eighth monitoring report on pharmaceutical patent settlements. The report covers the 107 patent settlements concluded between originator and generic companies in the pharmaceutical sector in 2016. The annual monitoring exercise started as a follow-up to the Commission’s competition inquiry in the pharmaceutical sector, which was concluded in 2009. The eight monitoring exercises have shown that the Commission’s enforcement activities in this area do not discourage companies from settling their patent disputes. The number of settlements that might attract competition law scrutiny has progressively decreased since the 2008 pharmaceutical sector inquiry and has stabilised at a low level of around 10%. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the pharmaceuticals section.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of CBR by Apollo Management

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of CBR Fashion Holding GmbH of Germany by Apollo Capital Management, LP of the US. CBR is active in the design, wholesale and retail of women’s apparel. Apollo manages investment funds that invest globally in companies and debt issued by companies in various businesses. One of Apollo’s portfolio companies is also active in the retail of women’s apparel. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because overlaps between the companies’ activities are very limited. 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.8827.


Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of CSM by ArcelorMittal and CLN

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Centro Servizi Metalli (“CSM”) by Coils Lamiere Nastri (“CLN”), both of Italy and ArcelorMittal, of Luxembourg. Both CSM and ArcelorMittal are active in the distribution of stainless steel quarto plates through oxy-cutting centres, while ArcelorMittal is also a producer of these goods. CLN is a distributor of carbon steel. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players both in the distribution and in the production of stainless steel quarto plates. 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.8762.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Axent by Axión and Enagás

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control of Axent by Axión Infraestructuras de Telecomunicaciones, S.A.U. and Enagás, S.A., all of Spain. Axent provides wholesale leased lines services in Spain. Axión, controlled by AMP Limited of Australia, is active in the provision of radio telecommunications infrastructure and carrier networks services for audiovisual broadcasters, public administration and telecom operators. Enagás is involved in gas storage and transmission activities in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because Axent has negligible actual and foreseen activities within 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.8793.


Eurostat: Les dépenses publiques de protection sociale ont représenté près d’un cinquième du PIB

Parmi les fonctions des dépenses des administrations publiques dans l’Union européenne (UE), la «protection sociale», équivalente à 19,1% du PIB, était de loin la plus importante en 2016. Venaient ensuite, par ordre d’importance, les fonctions «santé» (7,1%), «services généraux des administrations publiques» tels que les affaires étrangères et les opérations concernant la dette publique (6,0%), «enseignement» (4,7%) et «affaires économiques» (4,0%). Les fonctions «ordre et sécurité publics» (1,7%), «défense» (1,3%), «loisirs, culture et culte» (1,0%), «protection de l’environnement» (0,7%) ainsi que «logements et équipements collectifs» (0,6%) ont eu un poids moins important. A l’échelle de l’UE, ces données masquent toutefois des différences considérables entre États membres en ce qui concerne le pourcentage du PIB consacré à chaque fonction de dépenses des administrations publiques. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici.  



A Europe that Protects: European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism

Ahead of the 14th European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism on 11 March 2018, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Vera Jourová and Julian King issued a joint statement: “We wish to commemorate and pay tribute to all the lives that have been taken from us so tragically. Lives that have been lost too early and lives that we will never forget. We stand together in solidarity with and in support of those who have lost loved ones, those who must live with the aftermath of cowardly terrorist acts. […] Each act of terrorism is an assault on innocent people and our democracies. Nothing can bring back those we have lost or undo the damage done. The European Union is a project of peace, and thus we stand strong and united to pass this powerful message in Europe and beyond that no one, no victim will be left behind in a Europe that protects.” The full statement is available online. Today, Commissioners Avramopoulos and King also attended a dedicated event in Brussels, organised by the European Commission that gathered victims of terrorism, victim associations, first responders and European and Member States’ representatives, to share their stories and experiences. The opening remarks of Commissioners Avramopoulos and King can be followed on EbS. More information on the EU’s work to support victims and their families can be found in this video and on the Commission’s general actions in the area of security, see factsheet “A Europe that Protects”.



Federica Mogherini to visit Ukraine

High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, will on 11 and 12 March travel to Ukraine for a working visit. She will have several meetings with the Ukrainian authorities and government officials, namely the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and the Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, with whom she will have joint press conferences, Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, and the Minister for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons, Vadym Chernysh. The visit comes at an important moment for the implementation of crucial reforms related to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and will be an opportunity to renew the European Union’s longstanding commitment to the Ukrainian people and their aspirations to build a stronger Ukraine. The visit also takes place a few days before the fourth anniversary of the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation of Crimea and Sevastopol, which the European Union does not recognise as it continues to fully support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. High Representative Mogherini will meet with Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, the Chief Monitor of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, Martin Sajdik, the OSCE’s Special Representative to the Trilateral Contact Group, and Alain Aeschlimann, Head of the Mission to Ukraine of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to address the situation on the ground and the implementation of the Minsk agreements. While in Kyiv, the High Representative will also speak to students at the Taras Shevchenko University at 10:00 CET, meet with representatives of civil society organisations, and with members of staff of the European Union’s Advisory Mission and the EU Delegation to Ukraine. Audio-visual coverage of the visit will be provided by EbS. For more information, visit the website of the EU Delegation to Ukraine and consult the EU-Ukraine relations factsheet.


Vice-President Šefčovič in Luxembourg for second Energy Union Tour

Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will be in Luxembourg on 12 March for the second Energy Union Tour. He will visit the Chamber of Deputies meeting the President of Parliament Mars Di Bartolomeo and members of the parliamentary committees for foreign and European affairs, the environment, and economic affairs. Their discussions will be focused on Luxembourg’s national energy and climate plans, its role in regional energy cooperation, and its progress towards its energy efficiency and renewable energy targets for 2020. The Vice-President will also participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on the theme of the Energy Union. Ahead of his visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said: “Let me encourage Luxembourg to keep up efforts to achieve its emission reduction as well as renewable energy targets by 2020. In the latter area, the country can benefit from good cooperation with other Member States, namely Lithuania and Estonia thanks to the so-called statistical transfers of renewable energy, allowing a transfer of surplus. This example is worth following. I also encourage Luxembourg to make maximum use of available EU funding to support energy and climate investments“. More information on the Commission’s website.


Vice-President Jyrki Katainen in Helsinki

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, will be in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday 12 March to speak at an event hosted by the Commission Representation on the European Semester and the economic outlook. He will meet with Ms Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications, to discuss infrastructure funding and Arctic policy, and with Mr. Pekka Ala-Pietilä, Chair of the Finnish government’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Steering Group, on Finland’s upcoming AI strategy. Vice-President Katainen will attend a working lunch with General Jarmo Lindberg, Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, and Lieutenant General Kim Jäämeri, deputy chief of staff, to discuss EU defence cooperation, the European Defence Fund, as well as cybersecurity and defence in general. Furthermore, he will attend the board meeting of the Confederation of Finnish Industries to discuss trade and the circular economy, a topic he will discuss again – along with artificial intelligence – when visiting the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra.

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