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Facilitating the use of EU cohesion policy funding

Ministers welcomed the adoption by the Council on 14 November of a regulation that allows member states experiencing financial difficulties to take advantage of higher EU co-financing rates under cohesion policy. The regulation will help Cyprus, Greece and any other countries that might receive financial assistance to make easier use of EU cohesion policy funding. It does not increase the total amounts for these countries.
Ministers were also informed by the Presidency of the state of play of work within the Council on a regulation simplifying the rules governing the European structural and investment (ESI) funds – the so-called omnibus regulation.

Results and first assessment of new elements of EU cohesion policy

Ministers exchanged views on the results achieved in the years 2007-2013 and on a first assessment of new elements of cohesion policy and ESI funds for the period 2014-2020. The discussion focused on the main objectives of the policy, the measures taken to achieve them and how the results have been communicated to citizens.

Mid-term review of the multi-annual financial framework 2014-2020

The Council gave broad support to the Slovak presidency’s latest proposal on the mid-term review of the multi-annual budgetary framework. One member state still has a reservation and could not yet give its agreement. The presidency proposal provides for increased financial support to help the EU to cope with current challenges. Additional budgetary flexibility would allow the EU to deal more effectively and quickly with unforeseen events. The proposed changes would also help to avoid the excessive accumulation of unpaid bills.

“Our compromise is designed to make the EU’s budgetary framework fit for the remaining years of the 2014-2020 period by providing more money to address the migration crisis, reinforce security, boost growth and create jobs. And it would avoid undue pressure on member states’ national budgets at a time of continuing efforts to consolidate public finances. We are now going to inform the European Parliament about all the elements supported by the Council. The revised regulation needs the Parliament’s consent, and we hope we will get it soon.”

Ivan Korčok, chief negotiator for the MFF of the Slovak Presidency of the Council

December European Council

Ministers started preparations for the December European Council by discussing an annotated draft agenda. At their meeting on 15 December EU leaders will address four items:

  • migration, where they will set orientations for further work on partnership frameworks, assess the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement and discuss the reform of the EU asylum system
  • security, with a focus on the implementation of the security agenda and EU cooperation on external security and defence
  • economic and social development, youth, where they will take stock of progress on the European fund for strategic investments and on the fight against youth unemployment
  • external relations with a focus on Russia and the Netherlands referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement

 Rule of law mechanism

Ministers exchanged views on the experience so far of the Council’s annual rule of law dialogue established in December 2014 to promote and safeguard the rule of law. The presidency will draft a note reflecting the views expressed and suggestions made to further improve the rule of law dialogue.

IFA President Joe Healy will open an important solar energy seminar in Portlaoise on 14th July by emphasising the need for greater policy certainty from Government regarding REFIT tariffs and increased community participation in future renewable energy projects.

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Many media outlets are reporting this morning about supposed leaks from our negotiations with the United States on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). As there seems to be quite a number of misconceptions floating around, a few things might be worth pointing out.

 

First of all, and contrary to what many seem to believe, so-called “consolidated texts” in a trade negotiation are not the same thing as an outcome. They reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the EU and the US have different views. As I pointed out on this blog last week – there are areas in the TTIP negotiations where we have come a long way, but in others we are simply not in agreement.

It is only normal that both parties in a negotiation want to achieve as many of their own objectives as possible. That does not mean that the other side gives in to those demands. That does not mean that the parties will meet halfway. In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree. In that sense, many of today’s alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup.

In the past year, the European Commission has opened up the negotiations to make our positions on all matters in the negotiations public. After each negotiating round, we publish round reports as well as our position papers and textual proposals. So the positions of the EU are well-known and nothing new.

Take our proposal for regulatory coherence, for example. Our latest proposal – tabled during the February round and made public shortly thereafter – includes references to the precautionary principle, and points out our well-established public consultation procedures that are open to all stakeholders.

And no, the EU industry does not have greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders. We take into account submissions by industry, but exactly the same applies to submissions by trade unions, consumer groups or health or environmental organisations – all of which are represented in the advisory group that regularly meets our negotiating team.

It begs to be said, again and again: No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment. Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment.

Any EU trade deal can only change regulation by making it stronger. We might agree with a partner that rules on the safety of medicines would be tougher than before, for example, but never weaker. No trade deal will limit our ability to make new rules to protect our citizens or environment in the future.

I am simply not in the business of lowering standards. I have a clear negotiating mandate for the negotiations given to the Commission by 28 EU governments, that clearly spells out what a successful agreement has to look like, and what our non-negotiable red lines are. And as always, the end result of a negotiation would have to be cleared by those 28 Member States and the European Parliament before becoming reality.

(Update: While I am in Geneva today, EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero met the press in Brussels to comment both on last week’s TTIP round and this morning’s reports. Watch the video here.)

 

TTIP Leaks
Greenpeace Netherlands has released what they say are secret TTIP negotiation documents. They say they done so to provide much needed transparency and trigger an informed debate on the treaty.   Download the documents here

IFA has teamed up with ŠKODA Ireland for a competition to give away a brand new ŠKODA 4 x 4 to a lucky IFA member.

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