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Trade: EU and 16 WTO members agree to work together on an interim appeal arbitration arrangement

Today, in Davos, Switzerland, the EU and Ministers from 16 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to develop a multi-party interim appeal arrangement that will allow the participating WTO members to preserve a functioning and two-step dispute settlement system at the WTO in disputes among them. This initiative was launched in mid-December 2019 by the EU and a number of other WTO members following the effective paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body, due to the blockage of any new appointments since 2017. Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “This statement testifies to the high importance that the EU and the participating WTO members attach to retaining a two-step dispute settlement process in WTO trade matters. The multiparty appeal arbitration arrangement will guarantee that the participating WTO members continue to have access to a binding, impartial and high-quality dispute settlement system among them. Let me underline again that this remains a contingency measure needed because of the paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body. We will continue our efforts to seek a lasting solution to the Appellate Body impasse, including through necessary reforms and improvements.” More information is available online in the press release and Joint Statement. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

State aid: Estonia to recover incompatible aid from agricultural company AS Tartu Agro

The European Commission has found that agricultural company AS Tartu Agro received incompatible aid from Estonia through the rent of agricultural land at a rate below market price. Estonia must now recover this illegal aid from AS Tartu Agro. AS Tartu Agro is an Estonian private company, which produces milk, meat and cereals. In 2017, following a complaint by a competitor, the Commission opened an in-depth investigation to establish whether a land lease contract between the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs and AS Tartu Agro was in line with EU State aid rules. The Commission’s investigation revealed that the lease of land involved State aid, as the lease fee paid by AS Tartu Agro was, and still is, below the market price. On this basis, the Commission found that the lease contract gives an undue and selective advantage to AS Tartu Agro over its competitors. The Commission therefore concluded that the contract amounts to incompatible aid under EU State aid rules, and that AS Tartu Agro now has to return the illegal advantage received. The amount is estimated to be around EUR 1.2 million. The full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and ET. (For more information: Arianna Podesta – Tel. +32 229 87024; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Commissioner Ferreira in Poland to discuss the transition towards a climate-neutral economy

On 27 and 28 January, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, will be in Poland. On Monday, the Commissioner will have a bilateral meeting with Polish Minister of Funds and Regional Policy, Malgorzata Jarosínska-Jedynak, to discuss the preparation of the 2021-2027 programming period, the ongoing negotiations on the next EU long-term budget, and the Just Transition Fund. Commissioner Ferreira will then give keynote speeches at the kick-off conference on the Just Transition Fund as well as in a session discussing the green economy. Both speeches will be made available on her website. In the afternoon, the Commissioner will participate in a panel discussion on coal regions in transition and the need for fairness in the green transition. In the margins of the Conference, Commissioner Ferreira will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Mr Piotr Gliński. Finally, the Commissioner will also visit several projects during her stay in Poland: on Monday, she will visit the city of Bytom, which has been suffering from the consequences of coal mining activities, and on Tuesday a former coal mine which has been converted into the Silesian Museum of Katowice. During the latter project visit, the Commissioner will hold a bilateral meeting with Mr Jakub Chelstowski, Marshal of the Silesian region. (For more information: Stefan De Keersmaecker – Tel.: +32 229 84680; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

 

CALENDAR – Commissioner’s weekly activities

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here

EU and five Eastern and Southern African countries kick off negotiations to deepen trade relations

The EU concludes today the first round of negotiations to deepen the existing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with five Eastern and Southern African partners (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe). Both sides are aiming for an ambitious and modern agreement including the whole spectrum of trade topics and building upon the existing agreements covering market access for goods and development cooperation. During the first round of negotiations, the partners have organised future work and had substantive initial text-based discussions on five chapters: rules of origin, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and agriculture. The second round is foreseen to take place before the summerbreak, in Brussels. As part of its transparency commitment, a report summarising the progress made during the round, as well as the texts tabled by the EU, will be published on the European Commissions’ website in the near future. The deepening of the existing EPA was launched at a political level on 2 October 2019 in Mauritius.The process comes in the context of the current EU-Africa Strategy and supports the implementation of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs launched in September 2018. Through deepening of the current trade relations, the EU also seeks to support the regional integration within the continent and preparations for making the African Continental Free Trade Area operational. More information about the EU trade relations with the Eastern Southern African partners is available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel.: +32 229 51383)

Commission reports on latest negotiating rounds with Indonesia and New Zealand

As part of its transparency commitment, the Commission today published the reports summarising the progress made during the latest negotiating rounds for the EU-Indonesia and EU-New Zealand trade agreements. Both sets of talks were held in a constructive atmosphere. The ninth round of negotiations for an EU-Indonesia trade agreement took place from 2 to 6 December in Brussels, Belgium. Negotiators made good progress across the board on all chapters, particularly on the chapters on government procurement, rules of origin, customs and trade facilitation, rules related to trade in food, animal and plant products, technical barriers to trade, as well as questions related to sustainable development. The next round of negotiations is planned in March 2020 in Indonesia. The sixth round of negotiations for an EU-New Zealand trade agreement took place in Wellington, New Zealand from 10 to 13 December 2019. The discussions allowed for gaps to be bridged between both sides’ positions in a number of areas. The discussions covered various chapters of the future Agreement with a focus on Geographical Indications, services, Investment Liberalisation and Capital Movements, Energy and Raw Materials, Small and Medium Enterprises and Dispute Settlement and legal issues. The next round is planned for spring in Brussels. The reports published today provide an overview of the progress in each area. More information about EU trade negotiations can be found here. More information about EU trade negotiations can be found here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel.: +32 229 51383)

CALENDAR – Commissioner’s weekly activities

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here

State aid: Commission consults stakeholders on prolongation of EU State aid rules applicable to the agriculture, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors

The European Commission is inviting comments on a draft regulation prolonging by one year the validity of the existing EU State aid rules applicable to the agriculture, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors. These rules include the Block Exemption Regulations applicable to State aid in the areas of agriculture, forestry, fishery and aquaculture as well as the regulation on de minimis aid for fishery and aquaculture. The Commission is also inviting comments on a draft Commission notice prolonging the EU Guidelines on State aid for agriculture, forestry and rural areas by one year.Existing State aid rules for agriculture, forestry, fishery and aquaculture are due to expire on 31 December 2020. These rules are currently being reviewed by the Commission (see here and here). The design of the future rules will largely depends on the outcome of the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Given that the future legal frameworks of the CAP and the CFP are still in the process of adoption, the Commission considers it necessary to extend the validity of the current State aid rules beyond 31 January 2020. This will allow the Commission to complete its review of the rules after the adoption of the new CAP and CFP legal frameworks. The consultation documents are available on the Commission’s website. Responses to the consultation can be submitted until 20 February 2020. (For more information: Arianna Podesta – Tel. +32 229 87024; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here

Commissioners Kyriakides and Wojciechowski at the International Green Week in Berlin

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, and Janusz Wojciechowski, Commissioner in charge of Agriculture, will be attending the International Green Week in Berlin on 16-17 January. On Thursday, Commissioner Kyriakides will meet with Mr Jens Spahn, Federal Minister for Health of Germany. Commissioner Kyriakides will also participate in the 1 million-genome signature event with Minister Jens Spahn and Ms Anja Karliczek, Minister of Education and Research. Meanwhile, Commissioner Wojciechowski will meet Members of the Bundestag. Later on that day, at 16:00 CET, the Commissioners will hold a joint press conference, which can be followed on EbS. Commissioner Wojciechowski will then deliver the keynote speech at the Green Week opening ceremony. On Friday, both Commissioners will visit the EU Farm to Fork stand at the fair. Commissioner Wojciechowski will participate in the EU High-Level Panel “The Development Potential of Agri-Food Trade: A win-win Opportunity for Africa, EU and the World”. Hosted by Commissioner Kyriakides, Commissioner Wojciechowski will also attend the conference “The Future of Global Pork Production under the Threat of African Swine Fever”. Commissioner Wojciechowski will then deliver a speech at the reception of organic farming. (For more information: Vivian Loonela – Tel: +32 229 66712; Daniel Rosario – Tel +32 229 56185; Darragh Cassidy – Tel.: +32 229 83978; Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here

President von der Leyen and College of Commissioners take the oath today in Luxembourg

This afternoon, President von der Leyen and the members of the College will officially take the oath in Luxembourg, before the Court of Justice of the European Union. By this solemn oath, the members of the Commission undertake to comply with the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and to exercise their responsibilities in full independence and in the general interest of the Union. President von der Leyen said: “We must be proud of our treaties and our charter and today we vow to respect and protect our common values, which make Europe a place without equal in the world. We take an oath before the judges, who represent the law and the rule of law, the foundations of our Union. And by this oath we also commit ourselves before the European citizens to work for an ever closer rapprochement between them and the European institutions and for the greatest transparency. The swearing in will take place around 3 p.m. and will be broadcast live on EbS. The President’s speech will also be available here after the ceremony. (For more information: Eric Mamer – Tel .: +32 229-94073; Dana Spinant – Tel .: +32 229 90150)

 

Pesticides: Commission bans a neonicotinoid from EU market

Today, the European Commission decided not to renew the approval of a neonicotinoid called thiacloprid, following scientific advice by EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) that the substance presents health and environmental concerns. This is the 4th neonicotinoid, out of 5 that were approved earlier for use in the EU, for which restrictions of use or a ban have been adopted since 2013. Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, in charge of Health and Food Safety,said: “The scientific advice from EFSA is clear: there are environmental concerns related to the use of this pesticide, particularly its impact on groundwater, but also related to human health, in reproductive toxicity. Today’s adoption is yet another clear demonstration of the Commission’s commitment to protect the health of EU citizens and our environment, with evidence of this priority being the farm to fork strategy within the European Green Deal.” The Regulation adopted today will be published in the Official Journal in the coming days. (For more information: Vivian Loonela – Tel.: +32 229 66712 – Darragh Cassidy – Tel. +32 229 83978)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here


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