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Omnibus regulation: Council adopts new, simplified, agricultural rules

On 1 January 2018 a series of technical improvements to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will enter into force which will simplify the life of European farmers and national administrations. The agricultural part of the so-called omnibus regulation was adopted today by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, following the informal agreement reached with the European Parliament on 12 October.

“We promised to come up with a rapid agreement on new rules which will make the lives of European farmers easier. Today I am pleased to announce that we kept that promise, and the agricultural provisions of the omnibus regulation will enter into force on 1 January 2018.”

The agricultural part of the omnibus regulation amends the four CAP regulations: direct payments, rural development, common market organisation and the horizontal regulation.

Here are some of the key changes:

  • Direct payments: the rules on permanent grassland have been modified so as to provide greater flexibility for member states. Certain elements of greening will also become simpler. In addition, the distinction between active and non-active farmers will become optional, thereby allowing member states where it resulted in an excessive administrative burden to discontinue it;
  • Rural development: risk management measures will become more attractive as some thresholds are lowered while support rates are increased. Also, the use of financial instruments will be simplified;
  • Common market organisation: some prerogatives of producer organisations such as planning production, optimising production costs, placing on the market and negotiating contracts for the supply of agricultural products on behalf of members, will be extended to all sectors with a view to improving the position of farmers in the supply chain. These prerogatives already exist in sectors such as olive oil, beef and arable crops. The option of collectively negotiating value sharing terms in contracts will be extended to sectors other than sugar and will be voluntary.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many thanks Sven to you and the rest of your team.

Minister Mikser and I have just had a good discussion with the Ministers of the EU27, three days before a crucial European Council.

Together, we took stock of the progress that was achieved last Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May on citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement.

It was an opportunity for me to thank the Ministers for their continuous support. Our strong unity played a key role in Friday’s agreement.

Tomorrow, I will be in the European Parliament, and as always I look forward to their Resolution.

Ladies and gentlemen, Friday’s agreement was an important step forward. It was a first result in the negotiations.

It puts the talks with the UK on a better track to organise the withdrawal in an orderly manner.

However, I would recommend that everyone remains cautious and calm:

It will be for the European Council to decide on Friday first if sufficient progress has been made based on the Commission’s recommendation.

Even if the European Council does recognise sufficient progress on Friday, we will have a final agreement only if the political commitments taken by Theresa May on behalf of the British government last Friday are respected. We will be vigilant.

We will not accept any backtracking from the UK on commitments in the Joint Report. All our points of agreement are now closed.

Our working method has been successful so far because we have put things in the right order.

We need to keep the same method in phase 2.

First, we will need to ensure that the Joint Report is translated into legally binding and precise language for the Withdrawal Agreement. What I told Ministers is that we will be ready to present a draft of the withdrawal agreement early in the new year.

Secondly, if the European Council adopts additional guidelines for a transition and if the Council gives us the mandate to do so at the next General Affairs Council end of January, we will start negotiations on the transition arrangements.

Thirdly, we have discussed with Ministers the need to continue our internal preparations on the different elements for the future relationship. Many Ministers said that the UK must clarify what it wants.

One last point: « sufficient progress » does not mean « full progress ». There are other points to discuss for the UK’s orderly withdrawal, for instance:

The governance of the Withdrawal Agreement itself, including dispute settlement and measures in case of non-compliance;

Other separation issues which have either not been finalised – such as on Euratom – or have not yet started – such as on the protection of data which have been processed before Brexit;

And of course Ireland, where the UK has made important commitments, but where much work remains to be done in a distinct strand of negotiations. On this, all Ministers agree. Ireland requires specific solutions because it is in a unique situation.

Thank you very much.

SPEECH/17/5249

Main results

The Council, in EU27 format, was informed by the EU Brexit Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the state of play of the negotiations with the UK. Ministers took note of the Commission’s assessment of the progress achieved in the first phase of negotiations, as reflected in the communication from the Commission and the joint report by the EU and the UK negotiators on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The EU heads of states or governements will now decide whether sufficient progress has been made to advance to the second phase.

Ministers then finalised the preparations for the European Council (Article 50) on 15 December 2017 with a discussion on the draft guidelines for further negotiations with the UK.

The agreement last Friday is an essential milestone in the Brexit negotiations. It provides certainty to 4,5 million citizens, enables us to seek solutions to the Irish border question and provides clarity on the financing of common commitments that we have undertaken with the UK. It is at the same time important to note that any further progress requires full respect of the commitments in the first phase.

MAIN NEWS

College meeting: Glyphosate: Commission responds to European Citizens’ Initiative and announces more transparency in scientific assessments

With the Communication adopted today, the Commission replies to the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides” and commits to presenting a legislative proposal in 2018, to further increase the transparency and quality of studies used in the scientific assessment of substances. Following a thorough scientific assessment of all available data on glyphosate concluding that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans, and a positive vote by Member States’ representatives on 27 November 2017, the Commission today adopted a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for 5 years. In addition, in responding to the European Citizens’ Initiative, the European Commission announces measures to make the process to authorise, restrict or ban the use of pesticides more transparent in the future. Today’s Communication sets out the way forward: it provides a detailed explanation of EU rules on pesticides, and announces a legislative proposal for spring 2018 to enhance the transparency, quality and independence of scientific assessments of substances. It furthermore announces future amendments to the legislation to strengthen the governance of the conduct of relevant studies. The press release in all EU languages as well as MEMO are available online.

 

A new Eurostat publication – Facts and figures about economic globalisation – Patterns in EU trade and investment

Globalisation, which can be defined as an increasingly integrated world economy, includes movements of goods, services, people, capital and technology. It has an impact on businesses, governments and citizens, as globalised trade and investment notably changes our consumption and production patterns, triggers the transformation of labour markets, supports technology transfer as well as industrial restructuring. Statistics can help to better understand how significant these impacts are. More information here

Commission unveils Action Plan for the Planet

Two years after the Paris Agreement, the EU is firmly in the lead in fighting climate change. To that end the Commission announced a series of initiatives for a modern and clean economy at the One Planet Summit in Paris today.

The Commission participated in the “One Planet Summit“, hosted by the French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris today. At the Summit the Commission presented its new Action Plan for the Planet, which includes 10 transformative initiatives for a modern economy and a fair society. They are all reflected under the 10 political priorities of the Juncker Commission. More information here

Commissioner Navracsics visits Ireland

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, will be in Dublin tomorrow, 13 December, for a series of high-level meetings and events. Tomorrow morning at Dublin Castle, he will open the Creative Ireland Forum, hosted by Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, in the presence of the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar. The Forum is also the platform for launching the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 in Ireland where the Heritage Council is the national coordinator. In the afternoon, the Commissioner will hold a Citizens’ Dialogue on youth and the future of Europe with Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, at the Royal Irish Academy before addressing the Joint Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Committee on EU Affairs on recent developments in education policy. He will then visit Dublin City University where he will among others learn about a project funded by the Erasmus+ programme that supports teachers in working with gifted students in regular classrooms.

 

College meeting: Security Union: Commission closes information gaps to better protect EU citizens

Today, the European Commission has proposed to close information gaps by upgrading EU information systems for security, border and migration management and making them work together in a smarter and more efficient way. The measures will enable information exchange and data sharing between the different systems and ensure that border guards and police officers have access to the right information exactly when and where they need it, whilst ensuring the highest data protection standards and full respect of fundamental rights. In the context of recent security and migratory challenges, the proposal will ensure greater safety of EU citizens by facilitating the management of the EU’s external borders and increasing internal security. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “At this moment our EU information systems for security and border management are working separately which slows down law enforcement. With our proposal they will become fully interoperable.” Commissioner for Migration, Citizenship and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Today we are delivering the final and most important element of our work to close gaps and remove blind spots in our information systems for security, borders and migration.” Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King said:“This is an ambitious new approach to managing and using existing information: more intelligent and targeted; connecting the dots to protect EU citizens while also protecting data by design and by default.” The press conference by Commissioner for Migration, Citizenship and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos andCommissioner for the Security Union Julian King will take place in Strasbourg today at 16:00 and will be streamed live on EbS. A press release, Q&A and factsheets on closing the information gap and EU Information Systems are available online. The Commission is today also reporting on progress made on other security related priority files in its 12th Security Union report, taking stock of actions to deny terrorists the means to act, strengthen cyber resilience, counter radicalisation online and offline and build up the external security dimension. A video highlighting the actions taken by the Commission to better protect Europeans is also available online.

 

College meeting: EU proposes a modernised partnership with Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific countries

The European Commission has today presented a recommendation to the Council, including a proposal for negotiating directives. This is an important milestone towards opening negotiations with the countries of the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP). High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, stated: “The EU and the ACP countries represent together more than 100 countries, and more than half of the United Nations member states. Together, we have an important role in shaping the global agenda and international cooperation. As an essential part of our commitment to multilateralism, modernising our ACP-EU partnership will allow us to jointly tackle today’s global challenges of building peaceful and resilient states, ensuring respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic principles.” Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, stated: “Renewing our partnership with the ACP countries is a unique opportunity to shape a true partnership of equals, moving beyond traditional donor-recipient perceptions. Only together can we achieve sustainable development. Only our joint commitment can lead us to tangible results in areas such as economic growth, jobs and investment or climate change and bring forward the sustainable development agenda.” The recommendation by the Commission sets out the basis and the main orientations for a modernised political partnership between equals, focusing on common interests and values, and going beyond development policy only. A press release and a MEMO are available online.

 

#InvestEU: Commission and European Investment Bank Group welcome final adoption of extended and improved European Fund for Strategic Investments

Today Members of the European Parliament voted to adopt the Regulation to extend and enhance the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. This successful final step follows the agreement in principle reached by the European Parliament and Member States on 13 September. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “The Investment Plan has brought real benefits to companies across Europe. And we want to do more. We listened to the feedback we received on how the European Fund for Strategic Investments works and we have made some improvements. We are making the EFSI’s investment decisions even more transparent and providing more technical support at a local level. We are also extending the EFSI’s lifetime to end-2020 and its investment target to €500 billion. The EFSI has already helped create 300,000 jobs – let’s keep up the momentum”. The extended EFSI will in particular provide even more financial support to smaller companies. Moreover, a provisional agreement was found this morning between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council on how to simplify the blending of EFSI with Cohesion Policy funds. (For more information on EFSI 2.0 see the press release, Q&A and factsheet.

 

Cohesion Policy: negotiators agree on more flexibility, less red tape and simpler blending with the EFSI

Today, the negotiators of the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the mid-term review of the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy regulation. Key objectives of this review were cutting red tape for the beneficiaries of the funds and simplifying combination with the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Juncker Plan, to help finance riskier yet promising projects. “I welcome this agreement,” said Commissioner Crețu,“Making Cohesion Policy even simpler and more flexible is high on our agenda, also for the post 2020 period; we are doing it for entrepreneurs, businesses and citizens.” On the basis of the High Level Group on Simplification‘s proposals, to get reimbursed by the EU, beneficiaries will now be able to use estimates, such as flat rates for certain categories of costs; staff, insurance or rent, for instance. As regards simpler blending with EFSI, negotiators decided to bring further clarifications on the existing possibilities and to give incentives to national and local authorities managing EU-funded projects: from now on Cohesion Policy funds invested in EFSI projects won’t require national co-financing anymore. The revised regulation will also open the possibility for combined financial instruments where Cohesion Policy contribution covers the first loss.  Finally, the agreement also includes the possibility of introducing a new priority for investments entirely dedicated to the integration of migrants in Cohesion Policy programmes across Europe. “The migration challenge showed that flexibility in Cohesion Policy investments is more needed than ever; this new provision will help Member States deal with this challenge in the long-term,” added Commissioner Crețu.

 

European Defence Fund: Commission welcomes Member States’ agreement

The Commission welcomes EU Ministers’ agreement (‘general approach’) on its proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), a key pillar of the European Defence Fund announced by President Juncker in September 2016 and launched in June 2017. Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “We are making great strides in developing the European Security and Defence Union that our citizens expect. By developing defence capabilities together, Member States will spend taxpayer money more efficiently and produce cutting-edge, fully interoperable technologies and equipment.” Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: “We have made rapid progress thanks to the very efficient Estonian Presidency and the engagement of the Member States. I now count on the European Parliament’s support, and invite Member States and industry to start putting forward project proposals eligible for funding. In parallel, we are already making progress on defence research, where we hope to sign the first grant agreements in the coming weeks.” As part of the European Defence Fund, the Commission presented a legislative proposal for a dedicated defence and industrial development programme. With this programme, the EU will create incentives for Member States to cooperate on joint development of defence equipment and technology through co-financing from the EU budget (€500m for 2019 and 2020). Some of the collaborative defence projects under Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), formally established yesterday, may be eligible and receive a higher rate of co-financing if they fulfil the criteria of the programme. The capability strand of the European Defence Fund is complemented by full and direct EU funding for defence research, with €90m from the EU budget (2017-2019) allocated for defence research grants. The first research grants in the areas of drones, strategic technology foresight and protection and equipment for soldiers will be signed in the coming weeks. President Juncker has been calling for a stronger Europe on security and defence since his election campaign, and made the case for creating a fully-fledged European Defence Union by 2025, most recently in his 2017 State of the Union address. More information on the European Defence Fund is available here.

 

 

Commission challenges researchers and innovators to turn sunlight into sustainable fuel

The Commission launched today a competition on artificial photosynthesis. The €5 million award will go to the best prototype that produces sustainable fuel by combining sunlight, water and carbon from the air. The competition was opened during the high-level One Planet Summit in Paris. Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Europe is the world leader in innovative clean energy solutions that help tackle climate change. This new prize and other EIC Horizon Prizes will move these efforts up a gear by challenging bright minds to think outside the box and come up with novel technologies that improve our daily lives and help protect the planet.” Artificial photosynthesis, considered one of the most promising breakthrough technologies for producing clean energy, mimics the process of natural photosynthesis. Once fully developed, this technology will provide sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels for a range of applications in industry, housing and transport. Overall, the EU will invest €2.2 billion during the next three years in developing sustainable clean energy technologies under Horizon 2020. These investments will focus on four interrelated areas: renewables, energy efficient buildings, electro-mobility and storage solutions, including €200 million to support the development and production in Europe of the next generation of electric batteries. The prize is the second of six European Innovation Council (EIC) Horizon Prizes and is run under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. More information is available in a news item, the prize page and the EIC website.

 

Plan d’investissement pour l’Europe: premier financement vert dans le secteur du transport maritime, 150 millions d’euros à Brittany Ferries

  

EU Trust Fund for Africa: new actions to support refugees and foster stability in the Horn of Africa

The European Commission will announce today a set of new actions under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to support refugees and host communities in the Horn of Africa region. At this occasion, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “The European Union stands by refugees and local populations in the Horn of Africa. With these new actions, we are stepping up our support – to protect vulnerable migrants, to create economic opportunities on the ground and to foster stability in the region.” The new actions will focus for example on providing energy access to refugees and local populations, delivering basic social services in refugee-hosting districts, as well as help to provide education in emergencies and create employment opportunities on the ground. The new measures build on previously approved programmes, worth a total of €665 million. They are aimed at providing regional sustainable solutions to irregular migration and forced displacement under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. A press release and a MEMO will be available around 18.00 today.

 

Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of Skybox by CVC and Providence

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Skybox Security, Inc. (‘Skybox’) of the US by CVC Capital Partners SICAV-FIS S.A. (‘CVC’) of Luxembourg and Providence Equity Partners, L.L.C. (‘Providence’) of the US. Skybox is active in IT security and IT vulnerability management. CVC provides investment advice and manages investments. Providence is a private equity investor in the media and communications sectors globally. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are only limited overlaps between the activities of the companies. 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.8706.

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Commission appoints two Directors to its digital department

The Commission decided today to appoint Mr Pearse O’ Donohue to the position of Director for Future Networks and Ms Lucilla Sioli to the position of Director for Digital Industry, respectively, in its Communications Networks, Content and Technology department (DG CNECT). Mr O’ Donohue, an Irish national, joined the Commission in 1995. After having worked on labour law issues for some time, including as member of the private office of Commissioner Padraig Flynn, most of Mr O’ Donohue’s career focused on telecommunications, including as deputy head of the private office of Vice-President Neelie Kroes. He first became Head of Unit in 2008 being responsible for Radio Spectrum Policy and is currently Head of Unit for Cloud and Software in DG CNECT, in addition to being acting Director for Future Networks there. Ms Lucilla Sioli, an Italian national, joined the Commission first in 1997. Throughout her career Ms Sioli worked on issues relating to the digital economy, including broadband, as well as country monitoring, through the Digital Economy and Society Index and the European Semester. Since 2015, she led the development of digital skills policies, managing the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition and heading the reflection on digitisation and labour markets. She first became Head of Unit in 2009 being responsible for Economic and Statistical Analysis in DG CNECT and is currently Head of Unit for Digital Economy and Skills there.

 

Commissioner Jourová in Japan to make progress on data flows

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, will visit Japan from 13 to 15 December. The main focus of her visit will be to make progress on the data protection discussions with the aim to reaching an adequacy decision as soon as possible in 2018.  To that end, she will meet the Personal Information Protection Commissioner, Masao Horibe and Members of the Japanese Parliament working on data protection. She will also discuss the entry into force of the General Data Protection Rules with the Japan Business Federation, Keidanren. Her visit will be an opportunity to build ties with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Vice Minister Ogushi on digital topics, such as Artificial Intelligence or robotics. As first Justice European Commissioner to visit Japan, Commissioner Jourová will meet the Ministry of Justice’s Senior Vice Minister Hanashi to discuss the existing judicial cooperation with Japan. She will exchange views with Minister for internal affairs and communication Noda and with Members of the Parliament on gender equality policy. Finally, she will also discuss data privacy with civil society organisations, including consumer groups.

 


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