EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 12 JULY

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EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS - 12 JULY
12 Jul 2018

EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 12 JULY

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Summer 2018 Interim Economic Forecast: Resilient Growth amid increased uncertainty

The Spring 2018 Economic Forecast published today shows that growth is set to remain strong in 2018 and 2019, at 2.1% this year and 2% next year in both the EU and the euro area. However, after five consecutive quarters of vigorous expansion, the economic momentum moderated in the first half of 2018 and is now set to be 0.2 percentage points lower in both the EU and the euro area than had been projected in the spring. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “European economic activity remains solid with 2.1% GDP growth forecast for the euro area and the EU28 this year. Nevertheless, the downward revision of GDP growth since May shows that an unfavourable external environment, such as growing trade tensions with the US, can dampen confidence and take a toll on economic expansion. The growing external risks are yet another reminder of the need to strengthen the resilience of our individual economies and the euro area as a whole.” Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Growth in Europe is set to remain resilient, as monetary policies stay accommodative and unemployment continues to fall. The slight downward revision compared to the spring reflects the impact on confidence of trade tensions and policy uncertainty, as well as rising energy prices. Our forecast is for a continued expansion in 2018 and 2019, although a further escalation of protectionist measures is a clear downside risk. Trade wars produce no winners, only casualties.” The full press release is available in all languages here. The Summer 2018 Interim Economic Forecast is available here.

 

Preparation of the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings, 12-13 July 2018

Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici will represent the Commission at the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings taking place today and tomorrow. Today’s Eurogroup meeting will provide the Commission with an opportunity to present the Summer 2018 Interim Economic Forecast. The Eurogroup will discuss the budgetary situation in the euro area as a whole, focusing on the prospects for 2019 and receive a presentation from the Chairman of the European Fiscal Board (EFB), Niels Thygesen, on the EFB’s recently published report. The Commission and the European Central Bank will present the main findings from their post-programme surveillance missions to Ireland and Spain. The Eurogroup will also discuss the outcome of the June Euro Summit and issues related to the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the press conference following the meeting. At tomorrow’s ECOFIN meeting, the Council will discuss the Commission’s proposal to introduce more flexibility for Member States to apply the same low VAT rates to e-publications as they can currently apply to traditional books. Ministers are expected to look at a proposal which would introduce the possibility for Member States to apply a temporary reverse charge mechanism for VAT. They will also exchange views on the outcome of the June meeting of the European Council. Finally, the Austrian Presidency will present ministers with its work programme in the field of economic and financial affairs. Vice-President Dombrovskis will participate in the press conference following the ECOFIN meeting.

 

Member States’ compliance with EU law: room for improvement

Today’s 35thAnnual Report on monitoring the application of EU law sets outhow the Commission monitored and enforced EU law in 2017. The online Single Market Scoreboard (edition 2018), also published today and marking the 25th anniversary of the EU Single Market, shows that whilst most barriers to the free movement of persons, services, goods and capital are being eliminated, in some fields the situation is stalling or even worsening. Each failure to correctly and timely apply EU law denies citizens and businesses the rights and the benefits they enjoy under EU rules. On the EU infringements proceedings, the Annual Report for 2017 shows a slight decrease by 5.91% of open infringement cases compared to the previous year. On the Single Market Scoreboard, the best performing countries were Finland, Denmark and Slovakia, while the highest number of red cards (performance below average) was given to the Czech Republic, Ireland and Greece. The Single Market remains Europe’s most precious asset for the millions of citizens and businesses, and the Commission is committed to ensure, by checking on the implementation of EU Single Market rules, that they benefit each day from the freedom to live, work, shop and trade across the Member States. For the 2017 Annual Report, a full press release and an EU-28 fact sheet are available online as well as 28 fact sheets by country. For the EU Single Market Scoreboard (edition 2018), see the performance overview and the performance per Member State (28 EU + 3 EEA). Finally, answers on the frequently asked questions on the general EU infringement procedure are available here.

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.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

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.

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