Latest News

Home
Brussels Weekly
Page 2

MAIN NEWS

 

European Commission acts to ban unfair trade practices in the food supply chain

The Commission is targeting the most damaging unfair trade practices to grant farmers and small and medium sized businesses greater certainty and less need to manage risks over which they have little or no control. The Commission proposes today to ban the more damaging unfair trading practices in the food supply chain to ensure fairer treat­ment for small and medium sized food and farming businesses. In addition, the proposal includes effective enforcement provisions: sanctions can be imposed by national authorities where infringements are established. Smaller operators in the food supply chain, including farmers, are vulnerable to unfair trading practices employed by partners in the chain. They often lack bargaining power and alternatives to get their products to consumers. For more information read the Press Release the Memo and documents

The future of EU finances: Commissioner Creţu debates cohesion policy after 2020 in Luxembourg 

Today, Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu debated the future of cohesion policy at the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg. This was the last Council on cohesion before the Commission puts forward its proposal on the next long term EU budget, on 2 May, with the post-2020 cohesion policy proposal following closely. Discussions focused on the future scope and priorities of the policy. Commissioner Creţu stated her conviction that Europe needs a cohesion policy for all regions. But the statu quo is not an option; the Commissioner highlighted the need for more flexibility, a more tailored approach to regional needs, with a new allocation method and new indicators for example, as well as a stronger link between cohesion policy and structural reforms. On priorities for investments; “we know the growing impact globalisation is having on regions,” said the Commissioner, stressing the necessity to help regions achieve industrial transition, embrace innovation and invest in their people, with the help of smart specialisation. The Commissioner also mentioned the need for a long-term response to the migration challenge, supported by cohesion policy.In addition, Commissioner Creţu debriefed the ministers on the progress made under the seven communication actions to improve the visibility of cohesion policy, which she presented in April 2017 with Commissioner Thyssen. Commissioner Creţu‘s speaking points at the Council are available here. The press conference will start at 13h30 CET and can be watched here.

Juncker Plan: €120 million for innovative Dutch SMEs

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Aegon Asset Management have signed a guarantee agreement supporting a €120 million portfolio of loans for innovative Dutch companies. This InnovFin SME Guarantee agreement was made possible by the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the Juncker Plan. Thanks to this EU support, Aegon will provide subordinated loans (loans which will be repaid after all other debt is repaid) to innovative SMEs and small mid-caps at favourable terms. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “The deal signed today brings exciting opportunities for small Dutch companies with innovative ideas they want to make a reality. With this fresh injection of €120 million into the Dutch SME eco-system, we are helping our small businesses to grow and create jobs.” Full press release is found here.

 

Commission adopts the Opinion on the Austrian Draft Budgetary Plan

The European Commission has today adopted its Opinion on the updated Draft Budgetary Plan (DBP) of Austria and found it to be broadly compliant with the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). In October last year, Austria submitted a DBP based on unchanged policies, which is an agreed practice for governments without full budgetary powers. The Commission called on Austria to submit an updated plan as soon as a new government takes office and received the document on 21 March. The assessment of the updated DBP is more favourable compared to the one in the autumn, which was based on a no-policy change DBP. This reflects the markedly improved economic situation and outlook, as well as the policy measures for 2018 included in the updated plan. Still, there is a risk of some deviation for 2018 as well as for2017 and 2018 taken together. The Commission therefore invites the authorities to stand ready to take further measures within the national budgetary process to ensure that the 2018 budget will be compliant with the SGP. The Opinion and related documents are available online.

 

Eurostat press release: February 2018 compared with January 2018 – Industrial production down by 0.8% in euro area – Down by 0.7% in EU28

In February 2018 compared with January 2018, seasonally adjusted industrial production fell by 0.8% in the euro area (EA19) and by 0.7% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In January 2018, industrial production fell by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU28More information here

 

STATEMENTS

Statement by Commissioner Thyssen following the adoption of the revised Europass framework

Today, EU Member States adopted the Commission’s proposal to revise the Europass framework. The revision, which aims at simplifying and modernising the Europass CV and other skills tools for the digital age, will enable people across the EU to make their skills and qualifications more visible, and will help policy makers to anticipate labour market needs and trends. In reaction to the agreement of the Member States, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “I warmly welcome today’s adoption in Council of the revision of the Europass Decision. […] Europass has clearly demonstrated its added value as vehicle to communicate skills across the EU, but it has to evolve in parallel to challenges and opportunities in the digital age. Thanks to today’s adoption of our proposal to modernise Europass, the framework will offer an e-portfolio for storing and sharing information, tools for people to self-assess their skills and tools for describing formal and informal learning as well as qualifications. […] The Commission looks forward to beginning work on implementation of this new era for Europass in close co-operation with the Member States and stakeholders. I wish to thank all those involved for their commitment to ensuring better tools and services for skills and qualifications for our citizens.” With today’s agreement, the Commission has now delivered on all ten actions under the Skills Agenda for Europe, launched in June 2016. The state of play of the Skills Agenda is available here. The full statement is available online.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Stylianides meets Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov 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 travels to Sofia to meet Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. During the meeting Commissioner Stylianides will present and discuss rescEU – the Commission’s ambitious plans to further strengthen Europe’s ability to deal with disasters in the framework of the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Bulgaria is already one of the 34 participating states to the European Civil Protection Mechanism and has both provided and received assistance during times of crises. The comprehensive proposal put forward by the European Commission in November 2017 is set to upgrade the existing mechanism in order to more effectively address natural hazards in Europe: floods, forest fires, earthquakes and epidemics. The Commission proposals foresees two complementary strands of action, targeting (1) a stronger collective response at European level via rescEU, and (2) stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness capacities. Administrative procedures will also be streamlined and simplified to reduce the time needed to deploy life-saving assistance. With the implementation of rescEU, Bulgaria, alongside the rest of the Member States, will be able to directly benefit from a strengthened European response to disasters.

 

Commissioner King in Zagreb to discuss security issues

Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King will be in Zagreb, Croatia today and tomorrow, where he will meet Minister for the Interior Davor Božinović and State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice Kristian Turkalj to discuss security issues including the fight against terrorism and cooperation on information exchange. In addition, Commissioner King will meet with members of the European Affairs and the Domestic Policy and National Security Committees of the Croatian Parliament. He will also participate, together with Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner Neven Mimica, in a working lunch with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

 

Migration: Commissioner Avramopoulos visits reception facilities in Greece

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos is in Greece today to visit reception facilities in Ritsona as well as rental accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees in Livadia funded by the Commission’s ESTIA programme together with the Greek Minister for Migration Dimitris Vitsas. A joint press point is scheduled to take place around 12:45 CET in the Ritsona facility and will be broadcast live by EbS.

MAIN NEWS

European Semester Winter Package: reviewing Member States’ progress on their economic and social priorities

The European Commission has presented the European Semester Winter Package. The package includes 27 Country Reports (for all Member States except Greece, which is under a stability support programme), the annual analysis by Commission staff on the economic and social situation in Member States and progress made in implementing Country-Specific Recommendations over the years. For the 12 Member States selected last November for an in-depth review, the Country Reports include an assessment of possible macroeconomic imbalances and the package provides an update of the categorisation of countries under the so-called Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure. For the first time, the Country Reports put a special emphasis on mainstreaming the priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed in November 2017. A press release and memo are available online.

 

European Commission outlines EU plan to counter US trade restrictions on steel and aluminium

The College of Commissioners discussed today the EU’s response to the possible US import restrictions for steel and aluminium announced on 1 March. The EU stands ready to react proportionately and fully in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in case the US measures are formalised and affect EU’s economic interests. The College gave its political endorsement to the proposal presented by President Jean-Claude Juncker, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. Speaking after the College meeting, Commissioner Malmström said: “We still hope, as a USA security partner, that the EU would be excluded. We also hope to convince the US administration that this is not the right move. As no decision has been taken yet, no formal action has been taken by the European Union. But we have made clear that if a move like this is taken, it will hurt the European Union. It will put thousands of European jobs in jeopardy and it has to be met by firm and proportionate response. Unlike these proposed US duties, our three tracks of work are in line with our obligations in the WTO. They will be carried out by the book. The root cause of the problem in the steel and aluminium sector is global overcapacity. It is rooted in the fact that a lot of steel and aluminium production takes place under massive state subsidies, and under non-market conditions. This can only be addressed by cooperation, getting to the source of the problem and working together. What is clear is that turning inward is not the answer. Protectionism cannot be the answer, it never is.”The EU remains available to continue working on this together with the United States.The EU has been and remains a strong supporter of an open and rules-based global trade system

 
European Semester Winter Package: reviewing Member States’ progress on their economic and social priorities

The European Commission has presented the European Semester Winter Package. The package includes 27 Country Reports (for all Member States except Greece, which is under a stability support programme), the annual analysis by Commission staff on the economic and social situation in Member States and progress made in implementing Country-Specific Recommendations over the years. For the 12 Member States selected last November for an in-depth review, the Country Reports include an assessment of possible macroeconomic imbalances and the package provides an update of the categorisation of countries under the so-called Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure. For the first time, the Country Reports put a special emphasis on mainstreaming the priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed in November 2017. A press release and memo are available online.

European Commission outlines EU plan to counter US trade restrictions on steel and aluminium

The College of Commissioners discussed today the EU’s response to the possible US import restrictions for steel and aluminium announced on 1 March. The EU stands ready to react proportionately and fully in line with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules in case the US measures are formalised and affect EU’s economic interests. The College gave its political endorsement to the proposal presented by President Jean-Claude Juncker, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström. Speaking after the College meeting, Commissioner Malmström said: “We still hope, as a USA security partner, that the EU would be excluded. We also hope to convince the US administration that this is not the right move. As no decision has been taken yet, no formal action has been taken by the European Union. But we have made clear that if a move like this is taken, it will hurt the European Union. It will put thousands of European jobs in jeopardy and it has to be met by firm and proportionate response. Unlike these proposed US duties, our three tracks of work are in line with our obligations in the WTO. They will be carried out by the book. The root cause of the problem in the steel and aluminium sector is global overcapacity. It is rooted in the fact that a lot of steel and aluminium production takes place under massive state subsidies, and under non-market conditions. This can only be addressed by cooperation, getting to the source of the problem and working together. What is clear is that turning inward is not the answer. Protectionism cannot be the answer, it never is.”The EU remains available to continue working on this together with the United States.The EU has been and remains a strong supporter of an open and rules-based global trade system

EUROSTAT: 8 March 2018: International Women’s Day-Women in the EU earned on average 16% less than men in 2016 – Lowest pay gap in Romania and Italy, highest in Estonia

In 2016, the unadjusted gender pay gap stood at just over 16% in the European Union (EU). In other words, women earned on average 84 cents for every euro a man makes per hour. Across Member States, the gender pay gap in 2016 ranged from just over 5% in Romania and Italy, to more than 25% in Estonia, followed by the Czech Republic and Germany (both almost 22%).  More information here

EUROSTAT: DP and main aggregates estimate for the fourth quarter of 2017-GDP up by 0.6% in both euro area and EU28-+2.7% and 2.6% respectively compared with the fourth quarter of 2016

Seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.6% in both the euro area (EA19) and the EU28 during the fourth quarter of 2017, compared with the previous quarter, according to an estimate published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the third quarter of 2017, GDP grew by 0.7% in both zones.  More information here

Commissioner Andriukaitis in Sofia for the ‘Role of the Wildlife in Animal Health Management’ workshop and Citizens’ Dialogue

On 8 March, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food safety will be in Sofia to participate in the multi-country workshop on the ‘Role of the Wildlife in Animal Health Management’ organised by the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX) of the European Commission and the Bulgarian Presidency. ‘Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all overall strategy to deal with wildlife in relation to animal health management. The EU animal health policy that covers all animals in the EU kept for food, farming, sport, companionship, entertainment, as well as animals used in research and kept in zoos is currently covered in many different pieces of EU legislation. The intentions is to replace it, over time, by the new Animal Health Law and its implementing legislation which will be presented and discussed in more detail during the event.’ said Commissioner Andriukaitis ahead of the visit. In Sofia the Commissioner is scheduled to meet with Mr Rumen Porodzanov, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Mr Kiril Ananiev, Minister for Health and coordinators of European Reference Networks. During his visit Commissioner will also participate in the Citizens’ Dialogue “Towards more sustainable food production and healthier consumption in the EU” alongside Ms Desislava Taneva, Member of the Parliament and Chair of Agriculture and Food Committee, webstream available here.

More Commission support for industrial regions to build resilient and competitive economies

Todaythe Commission has selected 7 additional EU regions and Member States for tailored assistance under the Commission pilot action on industrial transition: Cantabria (Spain), Centre-Val de Loire (France), East-North Finland, Grand-Est (France) and Greater Manchester (United Kingdom) as well as Lithuania and Slovenia, in addition to the regions already selected in December 2017. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: “Industrial transition is a major challenge for our economy and society. I am very glad that we will be working with 10 regions and two Member States to help them make full use of their strengths and potentials to embrace innovation, decarbonisation, digitisation, and to develop the skills for the future.” The selected authorities will be able to develop or redesign strategies for regional economic transformation based on their smart specialisation priorities i.e. the regions’ niche areas of competitive strengths. Tailored assistance will be offered by the Commission services, external experts and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to help prepare for the jobs of the future, broaden innovation, support the transition to a low-carbon economy, encourage entrepreneurship and promote inclusive growth. A press release and a factsheet are available online. More information on smart specialisation in the participating Member states and regions is available on DG REGIO’s website. A signature ceremony between Commissioner Crețu and representatives from the Member States and regions will take place today at 14h at the Commission’s VIP corner, which you can follow live on EbS.

Eurostat: Estimation du PIB et des principaux agrégats pour le quatrième trimestre 2017, le PIB en hausse de 0,6% tant dans la zone euro que dans l’UE28, +2,7% et +2,6% respectivement par rapport au quatrième trimestre 2016

Au cours du quatrième trimestre 2017, le PIB corrigé des variations saisonnières a progressé de 0,6% tant dans la zone euro (ZE19) que dans l’UE28 par rapport au trimestre précédent, selon l’estimation publiée par Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. Au cours du troisième trimestre 2017, le PIB avait augmenté de 0,7% dans les deux zones. En comparaison avec le même trimestre de l’année précédente, le PIB corrigé des variations saisonnières s’est accru de 2,7% dans la zone euro et de 2,6% dans l’UE28 au quatrième trimestre 2017, après +2,7% dans les deux zones au troisième trimestre 2017. Au cours du quatrième trimestre 2017, le PIB des États-Unis a progressé de 0,6% par rapport au trimestre précédent (après +0,8% au troisième trimestre 2017). Par rapport au même trimestre de l’année précédente, le PIB a progressé de 2,5% (après +2,3% au troisième trimestre 2017). Sur l’ensemble de l’année 2017, le PIB a augmenté de 2,3% dans la zone euro et de 2,4% dans l’UE28, contre 1,8% et 2,0% en 2016. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Century by Nufarm

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Century, a portfolio of assets belonging to Adama Agricultural Solutions Ltd of Israel and Syngenta AG of Switzerland, by Nufarm of Australia. Century comprises a portfolio of pesticides including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, seed treatment products, as well as plant growth regulators. It is sold as part of the commitments offered by ChemChina to the Commission to approve the acquisition of Syngenta. Nufarm is a public company that offers pesticides including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and seed technologies. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the presence of several alternative competitors in various pesticide markets within the European Economic Area. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8725.

 

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of controlling shares in Hyperion by CDPQ

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of controlling shares in Hyperion Insurance Group Limited (“Hyperion”) of the UK by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (“CDPQ”) of Canada. Hyperion is an insurance and reinsurance broker, and underwriting agency, active worldwide. CDPQ is a long-term institutional investor that manages funds for public as well as private pension and insurance funds, active worldwide. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are no overlaps between the companies’ activities in 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 registerunder the case number M.8767

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Security Union: EU Mayors to discuss security of public spaces

Tomorrow, mayors from cities across Europe will gather in Brussels to discuss lessons learned from recent terrorist attacks and to share best practices to enhance the protection of public spaces. The EU Mayors’ Conference, “Building Urban Defences Against Terrorism”, jointly organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions, will notably focus on “security by design” solutions, measures to enhance the prevention of radicalisation at local level, public-private cooperation and funding opportunities for public spaces under the different EU financial instruments. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “In a Europe that protects, it is fundamental that our citizens feel safe when walking down the street. Security by design should become a cornerstone of the way we protect our public spaces from terrorism. We are here to concretely help our Member States with funds and expertise so they step up their efforts at all levels – European, national and local.” Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said: “We are committed to working closely with cities and local authorities to strengthen the protection of our public spaces, without compromising the very values that we are defending: openness, tolerance and freedom.” Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: “Security in our cities has a social dimension: access to quality and non-segregated basic services, urban regeneration, community empowerment. Solutions will be found by working together at all levels, so we are able to tackle extremism and violence before they can take roots in our streets.” President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz said: “Community safety is a priority and by bringing together every level of government, the EU is taking the right steps to counter terrorism. We need to cooperate across borders, invest locally to tackle radicalisation and ensure our security services are ready to prevent future attacks. This work starts in our cities”. Following up on the Nice Declaration of 29 September 2017, the conference is one of the key deliverables of the EU Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces, presented by the Commission in October 2017. A press conference with Commissioner Julian King, French Minister of Interior, Gérard Collomb, the Mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions, and the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi will take place tomorrow at 9:45 and will be broadcast on EbS. Factsheets on the Commission’s efforts to protect public spaces and fight radicalisation are available online. More information on the conference is available on the event’s website.

Commissioners Avramopoulos, Jourová and King to attend the Justice and Home Affairs Council

Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Věra Jourová and Julian King will participate in the Justice and Home Affairs Council taking place in Brussels on 8 and 9 March. On Thursday, Home Affairs Ministers together with Commissioners Avramopoulos and King will exchange views on the implementation of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive, cooperation between CSDP missions and EU Justice and Home Affairs Agencies and the work with the Western Balkan countries in the area of security and counter terrorism. Over lunch, the Ministers will discuss the issue of terrorist content online and the recent Recommendation presented by the Commission. In the afternoon, the discussion will focus on the Commission’s proposal on interoperability of EU information systems and the state of play on migration. A press conference is scheduled to take place after the meeting at 18:00 CET and will be streamed live on EbS. On Friday, Commissioner Jourováwill discuss with Justice Minsters the reform of the Brussels IIa Regulation on cross-border matrimonial matters and parental responsibilities. Commissioner Jourová will also inform Ministers on the state of play of the setting up of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Ministers will exchange views on improving the cross-border access to electronic evidence, a session which Commissioner King will also participate in, ahead of Commissioner Jourová’s visit to the U.S. and the presentation of a proposal by the Commission on this topic. Finally, the lunch session will be dedicated to the issue of radicalisation in prisons. A press conference is scheduled to take place after the meeting at around 15:30 CET and will be broadcast on EbS.

MEX/18/1681

MAIN NEWS

Vice-President Šefčovič in Austria for second Energy Union Tour

On 28 February-1 March, Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will be in Austria for the second Energy Union Tour. He will meet the Federal Minister for Sustainability and Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger, the President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka, members of the National Council as well as representatives of Austrian social partners. Their discussions will focus on Austria’s progress towards Energy Union targets and its post-2020 national energy and climate strategy, its role in regional energy cooperation in central Europe, and the possibility of using EU funding to invest in projects that will contribute to the clean energy transition. Vice-President Šefčovič will give a keynote speech at the Urban Future Conference 2018 and participate in a discussion on the future of energy and climate with students of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), as well as visit the “Aspern Smart City Research” project in Vienna’s new district of Seestadt Aspern. Ahead of his visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said: “I am happy that Austria is already very close to achieving its 2020 renewables target, and in particular that 73% of its electricity comes from renewables: it is a European champion in this area, and we look forward to Austria’s plans for 2030. However, it will need to do more to meet its energy efficiency and effort sharing targets, especially in the transport and residential sectors. Furthermore, Austrian energy infrastructure projects have already benefited from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, but there is potential for more, and I also encourage project promoters to make full use of the EU’s European Investment Advisory Hub and European Investment Project Portal“.

 

The European Union and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reaffirm strong commitment to serving Palestine refugees

The European Union and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are holding a Strategic Dialogue on the way forward for their partnership. The discussion takes place in light of the current financial crisis facing UNRWA and the need to broaden its donor base and continue reforming the Agency. The EU and UNRWA remain committed to protecting the rights of Palestine refugees and continue the delivery of essential services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, has said that “the European Union stands by its commitment to Palestine refugees and UNRWA. We have accelerated our contribution to UNRWA’s Programme Budget in 2018 and are committing to maintaining the present level of support to 2020. I recognise the importance of providing predictability to UNRWA in these difficult times. The Agency is a crucial stabilising factor in the Middle East. We stress the need, in parallel, for UNRWA to pursue deep reforms and to focus on the needs of the most vulnerable refugees.” UNRWA Commissioner-General PierreKrähenbühl expressed gratitude that, “once again, UNRWA could count on the support of the EU to overcome the unprecedented challenges it faces. The EU has been one of our most reliable donors for decades. I am very grateful for the support of the EU in mobilising the international community around a concerted global response to the most severe financial crisis in our seventy year history and helping us build new funding alliances needed to ensure improved income diversity.” The full press release is available here.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of sole control over Phoenix by Apollo

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Phoenix Services International LLC by Apollo Management, L.P., both of the US. Phoenix provides services to steel producers such as handling, processing and sales of slag, as well as recovery and sizing of scrap metal to customer specifications. Apollo controls several investment funds, investing globally in companies and debt in various businesses such as chemical, cruise line, hospital, security, financial services and glass packaging. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that the companies’ activities do not overlap. 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.8778.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Navracsics in Sofia for Culture Ministerial meetings

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, travels to Sofia, Bulgaria today for two ministerial meetings on culture. Given the momentum for EU cultural policy following the Commission’s recent communication on Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture, both meetings provide timely opportunities for high-level discussions on the subject. Tomorrow, 28 February, the Commissioner will participate in the Informal Culture Council organised by the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU with the theme of ‘Culture – an inclusive value for the EU’. He will highlight the important role culture plays in various policy areas to strengthen a European identity in all its diversity as well as ways how to involve young people in preserving and developing European values through culture. On Thursday, 1 March, the Commissioner will attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of Culture Ministers to discuss ‘The Role of Culture in International Relations: the Road Forward’. He will update ministers on the implementation of the 2016 EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations and on upcoming policy and programme developments in the field of culture in the EU. The Commissioner will also highlight the international dimension of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. The Asia–Europe Meeting is an Asian–European political dialogue forum to strengthen relations and different forms of cooperation between its 53 partners.

Citizens’ Dialogue in Copenhagen – tomorrow’s landscape of European research and innovation

On 27 February, Commissioner Carlos Moedas in charge of research, science and innovation engages in a discussion with Danish education and science professionals from the field of politics, academia and business. The Citizens’ Dialogue will focus on how to boost innovation in Europe, create better links between research and education, and increase impact through a mission-oriented approach. This event comes at an opportune moment in the discussion about the EU research and innovation programme beyond 2020. It is particularly important to receive public input in the context of the public consultation open until 8 March. The Citizens’ Dialogue with some 250 expected guests takes places at 3:00 pm at the University of Copenhagen and can be followed live.

MAIN NEWS

Commission awards almost EUR 330 million in research grants to   post-doctoral researchers and to innovative training programmes

What will the next generation of solar cells look like? What is the most effective way for cities to manage floods? These are just two of the challenges that will be tackled by the new Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellows which have been announced by the European Commission today. Following the 2017 bid for post-doctoral research funding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the Commission is awarding grants worth EUR 248.7 million in total to 1,348 researchers with the highest potential to make a game-changing impact on our society and economy. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “We are today recognising the potential of 1,348 excellent, internationally mobile researchers who faced intense international competition to be awarded a fellowship. The projects they will work on will tackle some of the biggest challenges our societies face, helping to build a resilient, fair, competitive Europe. In addition, the EU is now investing in truly innovative research training programmes for doctoral candidates and experienced researchers, enabling them to make full use of their talents and empowering the organisations supporting them to gain competitiveness on a global scale.” The funding awarded to the researchers, which is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, represents an increase of €30 million compared to the previous call. Under another strand, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes the Commission announced that 8 doctoral and 13 post-doctoral research training programmes of outstanding quality – from nine EU Member States and three associated countries – will receive cofunding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions of €80 million over five years. You can find more details on the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships and the Co-funding of regional, national and international programme as well as a factsheet on Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions online.

Commission awards almost EUR 330 million in research grants to   post-doctoral researchers and to innovative training programmes

What will the next generation of solar cells look like? What is the most effective way for cities to manage floods? These are just two of the challenges that will be tackled by the new Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellows which have been announced by the European Commission today. Following the 2017 bid for post-doctoral research funding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, the Commission is awarding grants worth EUR 248.7 million in total to 1,348 researchers with the highest potential to make a game-changing impact on our society and economy. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “We are today recognising the potential of 1,348 excellent, internationally mobile researchers who faced intense international competition to be awarded a fellowship. The projects they will work on will tackle some of the biggest challenges our societies face, helping to build a resilient, fair, competitive Europe. In addition, the EU is now investing in truly innovative research training programmes for doctoral candidates and experienced researchers, enabling them to make full use of their talents and empowering the organisations supporting them to gain competitiveness on a global scale.” The funding awarded to the researchers, which is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation, represents an increase of €30 million compared to the previous call. Under another strand, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes the Commission announced that 8 doctoral and 13 post-doctoral research training programmes of outstanding quality – from nine EU Member States and three associated countries – will receive cofunding from the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions of €80 million over five years. You can find more details on the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships and the Co-funding of regional, national and international programme as well as a factsheet on Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions online.

 

President Juncker and the College of Commissioners participate in the launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Belgium

The European Year of Cultural Heritage will put the spotlight on Europe’s wealth of cultural heritage, showcasing its role in fostering a shared sense of identity and building the future of Europe

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, who officially launched the European Year of Cultural Heritage today, said: “Cultural heritage is at the heart of the European way of life. It defines who we are and creates a sense of belonging. Cultural heritage is not only made up of literature, art and objects but also by the crafts we learn, the stories we tell, the food we eat and the films we watch. We need to preserve and treasure our cultural heritage for the next generations. This year of celebrations will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage people, especially young people, to explore Europe’s rich cultural diversity and to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives. It allows us to understand the past and to build our future.” Read more here

 

State aid: Commission concludes that the introduction of the Road Act Amendment in the Czech Republic does not involve State aid

The European Commission has found that the prohibition of outdoor advertising such as billboards alongside motorways and main roads, which was introduced by the Czech Republic through the “Road Act Amendment” and entered into force on 1 September 2017, does not involve State aid. In October 2017, the Commission received a complaint from an advertising company alleging that, by introducing amendments to the Act No. 13/1997 Coll. on Roads, the Czech authorities would have granted alleged State aid to its competitors. The Commission assessed the complaint and found in particular that the prohibition: (i) does not grant a selective advantage to any company, since it is a general ban imposed to enhance road safety; (ii) applies equally to all companies operating in the market for outdoor advertising; (iii) does not involve a transfer of State resources in any way to any company. Therefore, the Commission concluded that the measure does not involve State aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.48856.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioners Oettinger, Navracsics and Thyssen to host a meeting on the European Solidarity Corps with key stakeholders

Tomorrow, 30 January, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will host a meeting in Brussels on the European Solidarity Corps. This event will be an opportunity to bring together key partners of the Solidarity Corps, including representatives of the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Council of the EU, to have an open discussion on the lessons learnt during its first year. They will also discuss important issues regarding the next phase of the European Solidarity Corps. Over a working lunch with meeting participants, the Commissioners will discuss remaining issues in the ongoing negotiation process on the legislative proposal on the European Solidarity Corps and give an outlook on key areas. A stakeholder forum took also place on 12 April 2017. Since its launch on 7 December 2016 around 48,000 young people have registered in the European Solidarity Corps portal. Around 2,600 young people have benefitted or are benefitting from placements in more than 1,750 organisations. More information on the European Solidarity Corps can be found here.

 

Commissioner Hahn in Belarus to follow up the Eastern Partnership Summit

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will visit Belarus on 30 January to follow up the Eastern Partnership Summit which took place on 24 November in Brussels. Commissioner Hahn will meet with the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, the Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov and with Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the priorities of the Eastern Partnership Summit and the deepening of EU-Belarus relations. This will also be reflected in the new EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities which will define further cooperation for the coming years. The Commissioner will also meet with representatives of the opposition and participants of the MOST project. Ahead of the mission, Commissioner Hahn said: “Since my last visit in Minsk in 2015, relations between the EU and Belarus developed positively and we extended our cooperation considerably. Cooperation in areas of common interest has been stepped up. The EU increased its support to regional and private sector development; support to civil society; and energy efficiency. The EU’s efforts will continue to focus on increasing engagement with all sectors of Belarus society. My visit will focus on EU-Belarus relations, human rights as well as regional cooperation and our joint progress on the “20 deliverables for 2020, which aim to bring tangible benefits to the daily lives of Belarusian citizens. Photos and videos of the mission will be available on EbS

 

Commissioner Vestager visits Berlin and participates in a Citizens’ Dialogue

Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager travels to Germany today and will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on “Your voice in Europe” at the Representation of the European Commission in Berlin. The Commissioner will also meet Mr Wolgang Schäuble, President of the Bundestag and receive an award from the Schwarzkopf Foundation. The Citizens’ Dialogue can be followed live here.

 

MEX/18/503

MAIN NEWS

Commissioners Andriukatis and Hogan participate in the International Green Week in Berlin on 18-20 January

Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis and Phil Hogan, respectively in charge of health and food safety and of agriculture, will both be attending the International Green Week in Berlin which gathers over 1,500 exhibitors from the food, agriculture and gardening sectors. They will hold a press conference at 16:00 on Thursday 18 January in the Green Week’s premises before the event’s official opening. While in Berlin, Commissioners Andriukaitis and Hogan will hold a Citizens’ Dialogue on Friday on the theme of “From farm to fork –the future of European food production and consumption.” Questions such as “how to make European food production and food consumption more sustainable? How to make European agriculture fit for the challenges of the next decade?” will be discussed in an open dialogue with participants. The event will be livestreamed here.  On that same day, CommissionerAndriukaitis also participate in a High Level Panel on Animal health and Welfare focusing on the future of globally diversified livestock production and in parallel Commissioner Hogan will participate in a High Level Panel on the future of sustainable, responsible and efficient livestock production. Also whilst in Berlin, Commissioner Hogan will meet the German farm unions and Länder Ministers and will hold a series of bilateral meetings with visiting agriculture Ministers. On Saturday, both Commissioners will attend 10th Berlin Agriculture Ministers Conference. The European Commission is present throughout the duration of the International Green Week 2018 with a stand on the theme of sustainable food for a healthy lifestyle. Visitors will receive information about the Common Agricultural Policy, digital innovations in agriculture and rural areas, the EU’s work on food safety and nutrition labelling and research and measures to reduce food waste.

 

Future of EU finances – Commissioner Oettinger visits the Netherlands

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, is visiting the Netherlands on 18 January as part of his tour across EU Member States aimed at gathering views on the future of EU finances and the EU’s multiannual budget post-2020. The Commissioner will meet Prime Minister Rutte, Minister for Finance, Mr Wopke Hoekstra and Director General for European Integration, Mr Mаtthijs van der Plas. Commissioner Oettinger will also give a speech at the Parliament’s Standing Committee for EU Affairs and Finance and discuss the challenges ahead of the next multiannual budget with its members. Commissioner Oettinger will also speak at Leiden University and exchange views with students at a Citizens’ Dialogue. The meetings in the Netherlands are part of the Commissioner’s broad consultation with all interested parties on the future of EU finances – #EUbudget. The Commission kicked off this debate on 28 June 2017 with the publication of its Reflection paper on the future of EU finances, Stakeholders’ views will be taken into account when preparing the next MFF, to be presented in May 2018.

 

VAT: More flexibility on VAT rates, less red tape for small businesses

The European Commission has today proposed new rules to give Member States more flexibility to set Value Added Tax (VAT) rates and to create a better tax environment to help SMEs flourish. Today’s proposals are the final steps of the Commission’s overhaul of VAT rules, with the creation of a single EU VAT area to dramatically reduce the €50 billion lost to VAT fraud each year in the EU, while supporting business and securing government revenues. The EU’s common VAT rules, agreed by all Member States in 1992, are out of date and too restrictive. They allow Member States to apply reduced VAT rates to only a handful of sectors and products. At the same time, EU countries consider VAT rates as a useful instrument to pursue some of their political objectives. The Commission is now making good on its pledge to give Member States more autonomy on rates. Countries will be on a more equal footing when it comes to some existing exceptions to the rules, known as VAT derogations. The Commission is today also addressing the problem of smaller companies suffering from disproportionate VAT compliance costs. A full press release, MEMO and factsheets (on rates and SMEs) can be found online.

 

 

 

Banking Union: First Progress Report on the tackling of non-performing loans to support the risk-reduction agenda

The European Commission has welcomed the headway made in tackling non-performing loans (NPLs) in the EU as part of ongoing work at the national and EU level to reduce remaining risks in parts of the European banking sector. In its First Progress Report since the Finance Ministers agreed an Action Plan on reducing non-performing loans (NPLs), the Commission highlights the further improvement in NPL ratios and forthcoming measures to bring NPL stocks down further. Reducing NPLs is important for the smooth functioning of the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union, and for a stable and integrated financial system in the EU. Addressing high stocks of NPLs and preventing their possible future accumulation is essential to strengthen and cement economic growth in Europe. Households and companies depend on a strong and crisis-proof financial sector to get financing. While individual banks and Member States are in the driving seat when it comes to tackling their stocks of NPLs, there is a clear EU dimension given the potential spill-over effects to the EU economy as a whole. A full press release, MEMO and factsheet can be found online.

 

Future of Europe: President Juncker appoints members to Task Force on Subsidiarity and Proportionality

Today, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appointed six members to the ‘Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and “Doing Less More Efficiently”‘ under the Chairmanship of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. The Task Force will identify policy areas where work could be devolved or definitely returned to Member States, as well as ways to better involve regional and local authorities in EU policy making and delivery. President Juncker said: “The European Commission must be big on the big things, and act only where it can achieve better results than Member States acting alone. This was my message when I was campaigning to become President of this Institution and it was the message delivered by the leaders of the EU27 in the Rome Declaration in March 2017. The new Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force will help us to decide which powers can be better exercised at a national or local level, and respond to citizens’ expectations to take care of the concerns that really matter to them.” First Vice-President Timmermans added: “This Commission has really pushed better regulation so that we are ambitious where we must be, and modest wherever we can be. We do this on the basis of the latest evidence and broad public consultation. We need to continue this work and explore where the EU can really add value more efficiently but also empower Member States to do all that they can do better themselves. This Task Force will do exactly that.” The members of the Task Force are all politicians: Toomas Vitsut, Reinhold Lopatka, Kristian Vigenin, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Michael Schneider and François Decoster. The Task Force will meet for the first time before the end of January and present its report by 15 July. The creation of the Task Force was most recently welcomed by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in a debate on the Future of Europe in the European Parliament on Tuesday 17 January.A full press release can be found online.

 

Launch of EU-China Tourism Year 2018

Tomorrow, and following the announcement made by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in July 2016, the EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY) will be launched at the Doge’s Palace in Venice. This initiative provides a unique opportunity to increase the number of visits, promote sustainable tourism, stimulate investment opportunities for Europe and China, improve air connectivity and underpin the ongoing negotiations on EU-China visa facilitation. The year will be opened by the Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Nikolina Angelkova, the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, the Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, Mr Qi Xuchun, and the Vice-Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, Du Jiang. The EU-China Tourism Year will consist of a number of cooperative marketing campaigns funded through public-private partnerships, business summits, and business-to-business meetings for tourism operators funded by the COSME programme. On the EU side, the aim is to lead to an annual increase of 10% of Chinese visitors, representing at least €1 billion each year for the EU tourism industry, and an estimate of 200 partnership agreements between EU and Chinese companies. The ECTY is a concrete manifestation of EU cultural diplomacy in the framework of the EU-China strategic partnership. The initiative is also in line with the EU Strategy on China adopted in 2016. It is a way to develop a better understanding between European and Chinese people, contributing to the “High Level EU-China People-to-People Dialogue” and the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage. The opening ceremony will be followed by the first EU-China Tourism Business Summit. After the launch event a press conference will take place. Media are invited to sign up here. Further information is available on the dedicated ECTY website.

 

 

Competition: Commission welcomes new rules that benefit consumers by promoting more competition in processing of card payments

The European Commission has issued new requirements that ensure independence of payment card schemes and processing entities, to enhance competition in the card payment market. When a consumer pays with a card in a shop or online, the transaction needs to be processed for the payment to be transferred to the shop’s bank account. This service is carried out by processing companies, which manage the necessary communication and IT processes for the payment to be finalised. Payment card schemes often provide their own services for the processing of payment transactions and therefore compete with many other independent companies that also provide the same processing services. Under the 2015 Interchange Fee Regulation card schemes must ensure the independence of their own processing activities from the rest of their operations. The new rules introduce detailed requirements concerning the separation of certain functions, which enter into effect on 7 February 2018. As a result of this separation, retailers will be able to choose the best processor for their card transactions, while consumers benefit from reduced processing costs in their daily payments in shops, restaurants, on-line or via a growing range of card-based mobile payment applications. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Many consumers use payment cards every day in shops or online. The Interchange Fee Regulation has capped fees charged by the banks for these card payments, which are ultimately paid by consumers. The new rules will bring more competition to the processing of card payments, which should further reduce costs to the benefit of consumers and retailers.A full press release is available  here

 

 

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Sport Zone and JDSH by JD, Balaiko and Sonae MC

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of SDSR- Sports Division SR, S.A. (“Sport Zone”) of Portugal by JD Sprinter Holdings 2010, SL (“JDSH”) of Spain and the simultaneous acquisition of joint control of JDSH by JD Sports Fashion Plc (“JD”) of the UK, Balaiko Firaja Invest, S. L (“Balaiko”) of Spain and Sonae MC- Modelo Continente, SGPS, S.A. (“Sonae MC”) of Portugal. Sport Zone and JDSH are active in the retail trade of sports goods in Portugal and Spain under the brands “Sport Zone” (in the case of Sport Zone) and “JD”, “Sprinter”, “Size?” and “Athlete’s Foot”. JD is active in the retail of sports apparel and footwear worldwide and also operates fitness centres in the UK. Balaiko is an investment vehicle company. Sonae MC is active in the retail and wholesale trade in food and non-food products as well as in the management of related real estate assets. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the local horizontal overlaps between the companies’ activities are moderate, the market shares increments are small, and the joint venture will face competition from the market leader and other players with a regional and national footprint both in Spain and in Portugal. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8710.

 


ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

 

Commissioner Gabriel in Slovenia to discuss Digital Single Market

Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel is in Ljubljana, Slovenia today. She will discuss the progress made regarding the Digital Single Market strategy as well as the most recent EU digital initiatives to build European supercomputers and to tackle the spread of disinformation online. This morning she met with Members of the Slovenian Parliament. Their exchanges focussed, among other things, on the development of public e-services. Commissioner Gabriel took part in aCitizens’ Dialogue at the University of Ljubljana, with Boris Koprivnikar, Minister of Public Administration, Vice-President of the Government for Slovenia responsible for the digital transformation, where the focus was also on the Digital Single Market. The debate touched upon the importance of digital skills, the transformation of the European labour market, women in tech, and research and innovation. The Commissioner emphasised in her first Citizens’ Dialogue: “Europe’s digital revolution should be inspired by people: students, workers, entrepreneurs, researchers, women and men of all ages, who want to lead secure and stable lives in an inclusive Europe that protects its citizens and defends the democratic values and principles that we hold so dear.” The event can be re-watched here. This afternoon, the Commissioner will hold a working lunch with Minister Koprivnikar and meet with BTC Company as well as with this year’s winner of EU Code Week in Slovenia, Alja Isaković. The Commissioner will highlight the importance of women in tech and encouraging more girls and women to study ICT and work in digital jobs across all sectors.


Copyright 2019 © - The Irish Farmers Association - Web Design Dublin by Big Dog
Top