|EU and Georgia strengthen cooperation in civil protection and disaster risk management
The European Commission and the Emergency Management Service of Georgia will sign an administrative arrangement in Tbilisi enhancing ties in civil protection and disaster risk management. The administrative arrangement outlines key areas of cooperation on disaster prevention, preparedness and response on issues such as forest fires, floods and search and rescue missions. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “The signature of this arrangement is an important step to foster even closer cooperation between the EU and Georgia. To protect people, property and environment from disasters more effectively, we all need to be better prepared. I am very pleased to seal during my visit to Tbilisi our renewed and strengthened cooperation in civil protection”. To attend the signing of the agreement Commissioner Stylianides is visiting Tbilisi where he will also meet with the Prime Minister Mr Mamuka Bakhtaze, the Speaker of the National Parliament Mr Irakli Kobakhizde and other officials. Read the full press release here.
eGoverment: Commission welcomes agreement on Single Digital Gateway
The Commission welcomes the vote today in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) of the European Parliament on the Regulation establishing a Single Digital Gateway, following the agreement reached by the co-legislators. The gateway is part of the EU’s effort to make it easier for citizens and companies to benefit from all the opportunities that the Single Market has to offer. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs said: “The initiative will greatly benefit EU citizens living, studying or working in another EU country and businesses which are active cross-border, but also the many people and companies who decide to stay in their home country. It is estimated that the gateway could help companies save more than €11 billion per year, and EU citizens up to 855.000 hours of their time annually.” The Single Digital Gateway will be a central, online and easily accessible entry point for people and companies looking for complete, accurate and up-to-date information, administrative procedures and assistance services linked to their Single Market rights. The gateway will not only provide citizens and businesses with information about applicable rules, but also direct them towards assistance services when further help is needed and allow them to complete national administrative procedures online. Any procedure currently available online for domestic users will be accessible to users from other Member States. Information and explanations will be made available in an EU language that is understandable for cross-border users. 21 key administrative procedures will have to be made fully available online, including requests for a birth certificate, to register a car, to declare income tax or enrol for university. The Single Digital Gateway will also reduce cross-border red tape by introducing the ‘once-only’ principle. This means that if citizens and businesses need to submit supporting data or documents as part of administrative procedures, they can ask for this to be exchanged directly between authorities. Overall, the gateway incentivises Member States to adopt ambitious e-government strategies to offer modern and efficient public service. An agreement was reached by EU negotiators only a year after the proposal was put forward by the Commission. Formal approval by the Parliament and the Council is expected in September. The Single Digital Gateway will be launched two years later in 2020. More information here.
Cambodia: EU mission assesses human rights and labour situation
A delegation of the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) visited Cambodia from 5 to 11 July 2018 to evaluate the situation following recent worrying human rights and labour rights developments in the country. The European Union will now analyse as a matter of priority the information gathered during the mission to consider further steps. The mission took place in the framework of the EBA trade scheme that allows Cambodia to export all products (except arms and ammunition) into the EU, free of quotas and tariffs provided respect of a number of international conventions. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “The Everything But Arms initiative has had a significant impact on development and poverty eradication in Cambodia. Nevertheless, the recent worrying developments in the country have called for a closer assessment of whether Cambodia is fulfilling its commitments. The discussions during our EU mission have focused on the serious decline in the area of political and electoral rights, as well as a curbing of civil society activities. There are also deficiencies when it comes to land dispute resolution mechanisms, and serious threats to freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. We will now analyse the facts and consider further steps. Removing Cambodia from the trade scheme is a measure of last resort, if all our other efforts have failed to address these concerns.” The EU is the main export destination, accounting for 40% of Cambodia’s overall exports. The EBA has brought important benefits to the Cambodian economy. EBA has contributed in particular to significant job creation and growth in the textile sector, which accounts for 75% of Cambodia’s exports to the EU. The EU has stepped up its engagement with Cambodia (GSP report of January 2018) in response to serious concerns about the continuing deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, as flagged also by the European Parliament and the Council.See Commission websitefor more information on EU-Cambodia trade relations and the Everything But Arms scheme. Press release is also available online.
State aid: Commission approves public funding for five ferry connections between Croatian islands and mainland
The European Commission has found Croatian plans to grant HRK 250 million (€34 million) to ensure regular ferry connections on five routes between Croatian islands and the mainland to be in line with EU State aid rules. The public support will be granted to maritime companies, which will be selected through public tenders organised by the Agency for Coastal Lines and Maritime Traffic (Agencija za obalni linijski pomorski promet) and will cover the difference between revenues from ferry tickets and the cost of operating the ferries regularly throughout the year so as to allow, for example, the islands’ inhabitants to commute daily to work or study. The Commission assessed the measures under EU State aid rules on services of general economic interest (SGEI) and EU rules on maritime cabotageand found that the State aid in question will contribute to the connectivity and development of the islands without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “For citizens living on Croatian islands, a connection to the mainland is essential. So I’m happy that we are approving public support for ferry connections ensuring the link between five Croatian islands and the rest of Croatia not only during the peak tourist season in the summer, but throughout the year.” The full press release is available online here
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Reydel by Samvardhana Motherson Group
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Reydel Automotive Holdings B.V. and Reydel Automotive Management B.V. (together ‘Reydel’) by Samvardhana Motherson Automotive Systems Group B.V., all of the Netherlands. Reydel is a designer and manufacturer of automotive interior products, including instrument panels, door panels, console modules, cockpit modules and decorative parts. Samvardhana Motherson develops, produces and distributes exterior mirrors, interior mirrors, blind spot detection systems, plastic components such as automotive exterior and interior modules, and is a supplier of instrument panels, cockpit modules, door panels, floor consoles and bumpers. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market position resulting from the proposed transaction. 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.8911.
Vice-President Šefčovič convenes trilateral gas talks with Russia and Ukraine in Berlin
On the initiative of Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič trilateral ministerial talks with Russia and Ukraine on the long-term transit of gas to Europe will take place on 17 July in Berlin, Germany. Ministers of the respective governments – namely Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin – as well as representatives of the two relevant commercial entities will be present. The EU is committed to facilitating this trilateral process which in the past, proved to be effective in reaching tangible, successful results. Ahead of the meeting, Vice-President Šefčovič said: “Constructive and stable cooperation between Russia and Ukraine in the field of energy is of utmost importance for both countries and the European Union. The need for a continued, long-term transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to the EU in a reliable, commercially viable way is an indispensable part of it. It is clear that time is of the essence. The negotiations that lie ahead of us are complex and therefore, require full attention and constructive engagement. As proven in the past, a trilateral process is the most effective platform to seek a satisfactory solution to the gas matters important for involved parties and to gas transit via Ukraine beyond 2019.” The trilateral meeting starts at 14:30 CET and takes place in the premises of the Commission’s Representation in Berlin. While the talks are not be open to the media, Vice-President Šefčovič will debrief during a subsequent press point there. Europe by Satellite will transmit it LIVE. Media accreditation is required by registering at Laura.BETHKE@ec.europa.eu and sending the surname, passport/national ID number and the media organisation title. The deadline is Monday 16 July 16:00 CET.