Daily News 25/02/2016

President Juncker on official visit to Italy, Friday 26 March

President Juncker‘s first official state visit to Italy coincides with the second anniversary of Prime Minister Renzi’s government. On Friday, he will meet with Prime Minister Renzi to cover a number of issues, from economic matters to progress on the European response to the refugee crisis and, more generally, the current state of European affairs. President Juncker will also meet with the President of the Republic, Mr Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Senate, Mr Pietro Grasso, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Ms Laura Boldrini, and the former President of the Republic, Mr Giorgio Napolitano. Information on the agenda and in IT can be found here. (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382)


The February infringements’ package: Commission acts for full, proper and timely implementation of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses

To help citizens and businesses benefit fully from the internal market, the European Commission continuously engages with and, if necessary, initiates infringements’ procedures against Member States which do not respect European law. The European Commission also closes pending cases where a Member State concerned, in cooperation with the Commission, has solved the problem and ensured compliance with EU law, thus rendering a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU unnecessary. This month, as part of its monthly package of infringement decisions, the Commission took a number of decisions (including 34 reasoned opinions, three referrals to the Court of Justice of the EU, and on 108 closures). Among the policy areas covered are energy efficiency, environmental protection, transport as well as the freedom of establishment, and to provide services.  A summary of the key decisions as well as the contact details of the relevant Spokespersons and the corresponding press releases can be found in the fact sheet. On the general EU infringement procedure an infograph and a memo are available here. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Uldis Šalajevs – Tel.: +32 229 67560)


How digital is your country? New figures show action needed to unlock Europe’s potential

Today the European Commission published the results of the 2016 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The findings show that Member States have made progress in areas such as connectivity and digital skills, as well as in public services, since the publication of the Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy last year. While highlighting improvements, the results released today also show that the pace of progress is slowing down. Action is needed, both at the EU and national levels, to remove the obstacles which prevent EU Member States from fully benefitting from digital opportunities. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “More and more people, businesses and public services are going digital. But too many of them still face problems such as a lack of high-speed internet coverage or cross-border e-government, as well as difficulties in shopping and selling across borders. We need to fix this. This is what our Digital Single Market Strategy aims to do. The first proposals under the Strategy will boost e-commerce and connectivity. All our proposals will be on the table this year and I encourage EU Member States to lose no time in supporting them. These proposals will help them boost their digital performance and economies“. Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “The EU makes progress, but too slowly. There is no room for complacency. Action is needed if we want to catch up with Japan, the USA and South Korea. Based on today’s Index, we will come forward in May with concrete recommendations for EU Member States to improve their national performances. With this, combined with our work to create a Digital Single Market, I am sure that the EU as a whole and its Member States will do much better in the coming years”. The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is an online tool to measure the progress of EU countries towards a digital economy and society. As such, it brings together a set of relevant indicators on Europe’s current digital policy mix. A press release in all EU languages and a Q&A are available online. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay – Tel.: +32 229 64532)

Eurostat: Annual inflation up to 0.3% in the euro area

Euro area annual inflation was 0.3% in January 2016, up from 0.2% in December 2015. In January 2015 the rate was -0.6%. European Union annual inflation was 0.2% in January 2016, stable compared with December. A year earlier the rate was -0.5%. These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. A Eurostat press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)


Vice-President Dombrovskis on Semester visit to Croatia

Vice-President Dombrovskis is in Zagreb on Thursday and Friday for a European Semester country visit. The Vice-President will meet with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković, Finance Minister Zdravko Marić and other government ministers. He will meet with the President of the Parliament Željko Reiner and will give an address to the members of Parliament. The Vice-President will also meet with Governor of the Croatian National Bank Boris Vujčić and hold discussions with social partners. Together with the Prime Minister, Vice-President Dombrovskis will hold a press conference at 12.30 on Friday, which will be available to watch on EbS. (For more information contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)

Commissioner Moscovici is attending the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting

The Chinese G20 presidency will hold its first finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Shanghai from 26 to 27 February 2016. Commissioner Moscovici will represent the European Commission at the meetings, where the agenda includes: the outlook for the global economy; progress in implementing the G20 growth strategy agreed in Brisbane in 2014; the roll-out of the G20 anti-tax avoidance agenda in which the EU is playing a leading role; and combating terrorist financing. Referring to the meetings, Commissioner Moscovici said: With the global economy facing risks and market volatility, it is particularly important that the G20 send a strong signal that it is willing and able to act in a coordinated and determined manner. We need to reaffirm our commitment to boosting global growth, strengthening the international financial architecture and supporting investment. I will also update the G20 on the most recent steps in the EU’s efforts to promote fairer taxation and ensure a level playing field for all businesses and countries.” In addition, during his visit to China, Commissioner Moscovici, together with Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem and ECB President Mario Draghi, will hold discussions with senior Chinese policymakers including Vice Premier Ma Kai, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei and Governor of the People’s Bank of China Zhou Xiaochuan. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)


Statement by Commissioner Jourová welcoming the signature of the Judicial Redress Act by President Obama

On the occasion of the signature of the Judicial Redress Act, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová said: “I welcome the signature of the Judicial Redress Act by President Obama today. This new law is a historic achievement in our efforts to restore trust in transatlantic data flows. The Judicial Redress Act will ensure that all EU citizens have the right to enforce data protection rights in U.S. courts, as called for in President Juncker‘s political guidelines. (…) The entry into force of the Judicial Redress Act will pave the way for the signature of the EU-U.S. Data Protection Umbrella Agreement. This agreement is crucial to keep Europeans safe through efficient and robust cooperation between the EU and the U.S. in the fight against crime and terrorism. In parallel, the Commission is working to put in place the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, ensuring a high level of data protection for commercial data transfers, as agreed on 2 February.” More information on the Umbrella Agreement is available in a Q&A. Full statement is available here. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)

Commissioner Corina Crețu visits Greece for the third time

From today until Saturday, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu is in Greece. She will meet with Geogios Stathakis, Minister of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism, Alexis Charitsis, Deputy Minister in charge of EU funds, members of the Parliament and regional stakeholders. She will also deliver a speech at the Delphi Economic Forum. “I’m here to show that the Commission is standing side by side with Greece and will provide all the necessary support for the implementation a new growth strategy. 2016 is a crucial year: we need to lead the 2007-2013 period towards successful closure, and some projects, especially in the fields of transport and environment, need to be completed as soon as possible. We also need to swiftly and strategically implement the 2014-2020 period. My visit will focus on the concrete steps we need to take to make this happen,” the Commissioner said. The possibility to modify Structural Funds programmes to address the refugee crisis and opportunities to combine European Structural and Investment Funds with the EFSI will be among the subjects the Commissioner will discuss with the Greek authorities.More information on ESI Funds in Greece is available online. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in London

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is today in London where this morning she gave a lecture at the Policy Network Symposium ‘Britain, the EU and global trade’. This was followed by a Q&A session led by Peter Mandelson, president of the Policy Network and former EU Trade Commissioner. The Commissioner’s lecture is available here. During the morning, the Commissioner also met with the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee of the House of Commons. This afternoon, she will participate in the China Association Talk ‘Europe and China: trade and investment in the global economy’. Before returning to Brussels, she will meet with Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Lord Maude, Minister of State for Trade and Investment. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185, Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)