Tag Archives: ClimateChange

A hard row to hoe for Nigeria to reach food self-sufficiency

On the outskirts of Nigeria’s northern city of Kano is bustling Dawanau, West Africa’s largest grain market. Fortunes change hands here daily, with sacks of millet, sorghum, and cowpeas loaded onto trucks for delivery to countries as far afield as Chad, Mali, and Senegal.

But away from the hubbub of Dawanau, the smallholder farmers who produce more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s food face an uphill battle to maintain that supply.

Northern Nigeria’s vast plains are ideal for agriculture – and rice is an especially lucrative crop. The staple is a must-have at any social event and a cornerstone of some of the country’s most popular dishes, including the ubiquitous spicy favourite, “Jollof”.

Nigeria is both the largest rice producer in Africa and the continent’s biggest importer. The supply shortfall is made up with imports – mainly from Thailand and India – valued at more than $8 million per day.

As with rice, so with wheat, maize, and other grains: Nigeria, with a population of 190 million, is a significant producer, but also a net importer.

So given its abundant arable land, why can’t Nigeria support its farmers to grow more food and plug the foreign exchange drain?

The answer lies in the dominance of oil. Until the country’s oil boom in the 1970s, agriculture was Nigeria’s economic mainstay, able to meet both local demand as well as generate export earnings.

Crude oil changed that. With staggering amounts of easy money sloshing through the political system, agriculture languished.

Today, Nigeria’s annual food import bill is around $20 billion.

But a combination of dwindling oil revenues and dollar shortages has persuaded the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to make agriculture a priority again.

Grow-your-own

Under the slogan of “We must produce what we eat”, the government is encouraging agribusiness as a way to drive economic growth, and as the path out of poverty and food insecurity for millions of smallholder farmers.

The government has set ambitious targets of becoming self-sufficient in rice production by 2018, and turning a net exporter by 2020.

To create incentives for domestic production, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has restricted the allocation of dollars for the imports of 41 food items, and hiked import duties – from 10 to 60 percent in the case of rice. It has also restricted imports across land borders to crack down on smuggling.

When Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, announced earlier this year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production, it seemed to vindicate the government’s approach.

The Dangote Group plans to produce one million tonnes of parboiled milled rice over the next five years, equivalent to 16 percent of domestic demand.

Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos-based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill in August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, and Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output.

A number of government initiatives are in place to promote small-scale agriculture. They include the CBN’s $300 million Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, introduced in 2015 to provide cheap loans and input subsidies for hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers.

The World Bank is also supporting the government’s agricultural transformation strategy with a $200 million loan to support small- to mid-scale rice production.

The government’s grow-your-own push seems to be working. Cereal production has increased, despite the impact on farming of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, and rice yields are also up, helped along by higher rice prices.

Hard work with little help

But most Nigerian farmers still struggle, noted Mahmoud Daneji, managing director of the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.

He is critical of the government’s top-down approach. “You may have a very laudable programme, but in as much as there is no input from the potential beneficiaries, it will definitely fail,” he told IRIN.

Daneji ticked off a list of problems farmers face that includes the lack of access to quality seeds, fertiliser, effective agricultural extension systems, and access to credit for those who need it.

Despite the raft of initiatives aimed at boosting output, farmers still typically work with their bare hands in fields lacking irrigation, live in areas with poor roads that limit their access to markets, and are facing a growing threat of climate change without advice on how to adapt.

In a survey last year, farmers cited the lack of fertiliser as their biggest problem by far, despite a long-running government input programme. Nearly three quarters of respondents said they were unaware of any government interventions aimed at helping them.

Abdulrashid Magaji, chair of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, told IRIN that’s because the bulk of government programmes rarely reach their intended target. They go instead to “political favourites and close associates of politicians,” he alleged.

For example, the CBN launched the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending in 2013 to increase access to bank credit.

But this year only 3,700 farmers out of 523,000 in Kano are on track to receive the loans. The vast majority are unaware of how to access the much-needed financing through NIRSAL, said Magaji.

Nigeria’s disconnected farmers have to rely on middlemen, reducing their profits, because of a broken value chain, inadequate storage facilities, and a lack of organised market information systems.

“Here, our farmers are left on their own,” said Jibrin Jibrin, director of the Centre for Dryland Agriculture at Kano’s Bayero University. “Economists from the World Bank will tell you not to protect the market, but the system doesn’t work for our farmers.”

Dangote’s rice and tomatoes

Dangote’s rice initiative is taking on some of these issues. Its “outgrower scheme” plans to provide inputs such as seeds and fertiliser, as well as training for nearly 50,000 medium and smallholder farmers who then provide their land and labour.

The company says it will pay the farmers the average market price for their rice at harvest, after recouping the cost of the inputs it provided.

But the majority of the smallholders who spoke to IRIN in Kano were unconvinced by the scheme. They doubted they would really get a fair price, and that they could meet the company’s quality control standards.

Some pointed to the failure of an earlier Dangote project, a $13 million tomato paste factory set up in Kano last year, as reason to be concerned.

The plant is currently lying idle even though it signed deals with some 5,000 farmers to supply the tomatoes that would be turned into an annual production of over 400,000 tonnes of paste. 

On paper it made perfect sense. Nigeria produces some 1.5 million tonnes of tomatoes each year, tomato paste is an ingredient in most Nigerian meals, and, with the government threatening to ban imported paste, a local factory seemed an investment winner.

But farmers were unable to produce the quality and quantity of tomatoes the state-of-the-art plant needed.

Firstly, a pest, the Tuta absoluta moth, wiped out much of the harvest. But then it was the same old underlying problems – a lack of fertiliser, poor irrigation, low quality seed, difficult roads and no cold storage – that really undermined progress.

The poverty of rural infrastructure means Nigeria’s post-harvest losses could be as high as $9 billion annually – much of that burden falling on small-scale producers.

Since the 1970s there have been a raft of high-profile government campaigns to fix agriculture. Incrementally, Nigeria seems to be slotting the pieces into place, but getting to the final stage – a country able to feed itself – still eludes policy-makers.

“I pity myself, I pity farmers, I pity the association, because we have a lot of problems,” said Magaji, chair of the farmers’ union. “Sincerely speaking, we have a long way to go.”

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Managing earth: The land-water-energy nexus

But we need farms for our food and roads to get around, which put enormous pressure on land, water and energy resources, endangering the environment and our economic security at the same time. It is a hard balance to strike, as policies that focus on relieving one challenge might add to pressure to another. 

Surely the key is to develop policies that better reflect the linkages between these different resources­. A new modelling approach, focusing on the “land-water-energy nexus”, has been advanced to help do just that, and the readings are quite stark.

The model, which assesses the biophysical consequences and economic costs of the nexus in 2060, shows how shocks to one part of the system affect other parts of the system. It reminds us that everything is intrinsically interdependent.

It traces, measures and anticipates how use and regulation of one resource creates bottlenecks for others. Water management, for instance, leads to trade-offs between needs for energy production and irrigation for agriculture, particularly (but not only) in water-stressed regions. Urban sprawl eats away at the land available for growing food, but so do green policies promoting biofuels. Clearly we need to take into account the effects on the land-water-energy nexus for more holistic and effective policies that work for everyone concerned.

Linking a physical representation of bottlenecks with a global economic model

This nexus is perhaps best viewed through the prism of agriculture. Take water for instance. Unregulated groundwater pumping for irrigation, which occurs in many countries, can lead to a depletion of aquifers. This depletion is fastest in drier, water-stressed regions where farmers rely on groundwater, but rising demand for food and urbanisation have led to water pressures for farming even in rainier climates, with farm intensification hardly helping.  

There is likewise more demand to protect natural areas, but like urbanisation, this can also lead to increasing pressure on land markets. As green belts around major cities show: protected areas can either put existing agricultural land out of production, prevent its expansion or shift agricultural production to unprotected lands. In many countries, demand for land for food production has led to deforestation, destroying ecosystems and further driving climate change. Sprawl can also lead to lower crop yields when the most productive croplands disappear.

Increased biofuel production also affects our nexus. On the one hand, biofuels are an economic opportunity and have the potential to grow fast in countries like Brazil and Russia, with their abundant land and rain-fed agriculture. But in many cases biofuels reduce land availability for food crops. This “indirect land use change” can have several effects. It can push up global and regional food prices as supply is squeezed, with particular impacts in regions where food security is already vulnerable, such as India and northern Africa. More biofuels can also lead to higher energy prices, and cause new vulnerabilities among producers.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

By understanding the linkages between resources and economic choices, we can adapt agricultural practices more strategically, allowing them to adjust to shocks in a more integrated manner and to manage impacts and costs. This would help improve policymaking aimed at managing competing land uses, at local, regional and global levels. From California to the Caspian region, and through Africa and India, alarm bells, for water notably, are ringing loudly, calling for policies that address the land-water-energy nexus.

As climate change advances, the multiplication of extreme weather events and their growing unpredictability will directly impact agriculture, transform irrigation requirements and add pressure to groundwater resources. In the electricity sector, heat waves will require ever more balancing of supply and demand to cope with less water for power plant cooling and high energy demand for air conditioning and water pumping.

The effects of climate change can also be studied in a nexus scenario as an overarching bottleneck. Climate change exaggerates the nexus bottlenecks especially in regions where it is the most acute, such as India, North and Sub-Saharan Africa (see graph above). In these regions, the depletion of groundwater resources will increase people’s vulnerability where precipitation is low and boost global dependency on regions with rain-fed agriculture. Our global economic welfare depends on getting this balance right.  

Clearly, the costs and consequences are only a part of the nexus story. The nexus is about local hotspots, where different bottlenecks come together, but whose consequences can spread globally to affect all sectors in all regions. The land-water-energy nexus not only points the way to better policies for managing our environmental and economic interdependency, but could give rise to new, effective techniques, initiatives and innovations–technological, political and organisational–for managing resources and ensuring better lives for all.

References

OECD (2017), Land-water-energy nexus: Biophysical and Economic Consequences, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264279360-en

©OECD Observer No 312 Q4 December 2017


Rising sea levels: Will we adapt or drown?

In Europe alone, there are at least €0.5 to 1 trillion of assets located within 500 metres of the coast, a 2009 estimate of property values that has almost certainly gone up. Moreover, if the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets break up, we will be looking at over two metres of sea-level rise by 2100. That is enough to flood, if not submerge, major cities from Miami to Shanghai, not to mention delta countries such as Bangladesh.

Ultimately, the only way to reduce the risk of unmanageable, catastrophic impacts is for countries to meet the global commitment of keeping temperature rises well below 20C. In addition to this, what else can policymakers do to prevent the worst from happening?

For a start, they need to assess clearly what is at risk if their coastlines are hit. People are clearly the most important, but policy must also be about safeguarding (and possibly relocating) so-called fixed assets too, which our towns and cities, and often whole regions rely on: hospitals, power generators, art and heritage, business and transport equipment, data centres, and much more. And they must do more to discourage people from settling and building up new assets in these vulnerable zones in the future.

More implementation needed

Many countries are developing national and sub-national strategies for adapting to climate change that consider how they will prepare for sea-level rise. For instance, The Netherlands’ Delta programme is investing over €1billion per year to manage the risk of flooding from the sea and rivers. All OECD countries have strategies that are either ready or under development, including plans for adapting to climate change.

However, time is ticking and it is important to advance on these strategies and assure their implementation sooner rather than later. Just look around: in poorer countries and in some rich ones too, we are still building in high-risk areas, and many infrastructures being developed are simply not sustainable or able to resist rising sea levels. And, in some cases, disaster compensation agreements continue to use national funds to rebuild destroyed areas exactly as they were before, with no adaptation schemes and, so it would seem, no lessons learned.

In the poorest and most vulnerable regions, climate resilience and adaptation plans are impeded by inadequate institutional capacity, human resources and financing. They are further hampered by rampant, unplanned urbanisation, with informal settlements typically located in the riskiest areas. International financial resources are starting to be mobilised to support adaptation. Vanuatu is re-vegetating parts of its coast with international support. In Tuvalu, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Green Climate Fund are supporting the government’s efforts to protect the coast through ecosystem restoration and hard defences, such as sea walls.

But even in wealthy countries, a range of financial and institutional constraints and policy inconsistencies are not only getting in the way of implementation, but paving the way for future disasters. For example, local governments may have limits on how much they can borrow financially, and often receive most of their funding from property taxation. As a result, they may baulk at measures that stop new coastal developments, particularly in high-value beachfront areas, no matter how vulnerable these coasts may be to erosion and flooding. Real estate markets can be oblivious to flood and erosion risks, with properties in the most precarious places commanding very high prices. For instance, in 2009, a local government in Australia was considering buying properties in a high-risk coastal area in order to protect the assets, but could not afford to do so as the property values were so high.

Seeing where we are heading

Better information is important, but so is policy action. Thankfully, pro-active adaptation is starting to happen, and the OECD has developed a framework to support such initiatives, to improve spatial planning, for instance, as well as identify assets and utilities, and build cost-effective resilience mechanisms into infrastructure investment. New York has been adding new green spaces, adapting waste-water treatment plants and reworking hard surfaces on roads and roofs of buildings to allow faster collection and run-off of excess flood water.  Other countries, including France and South Africa, have implemented a range of innovative nature-based solutions to coastal risk such as restoring and protecting wetlands that absorb excess water, and coastal erosion-reducing dunes and reefs.  

Better monitoring and assessment can also help inform future policy and improve practices. In the UK, the national climate change risk assessment includes an evaluation of people and property at risk of coastal inundation and erosion alongside measures to reduce that risk.

In 2017 the oil city of Houston was flooded after the passing of a major hurricane, with scores of casualties and costly damage to property and other assets. At around the same time, Bangladesh was struck by severe flooding which killed over a thousand people. How bad do things have to get before we begin to take pro-active development decisions to safeguard our coastal communities and homes from rising sea levels? It is not enough to be warned. For as Albert Einstein once said, while a clever person solves a problem, a wise person seeks to prevent it.

References and links

Vallejo, L. and M. Mullan (2017), “Climate-resilient infrastructure: Getting the policies right”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 121, OECD Publishing, Paris,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/02f74d61-en.

OECD (2015), National Climate Change Adaptation: Emerging Practices in Monitoring and Evaluation, OECD Publishing, Paris,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264229679-en.

OECD (2015), The Economic Consequences of Climate Change, OECD Publishing, Paris,
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264235410-en.

Read “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Coastal Zone in Vanuatu” at www.pacific.undp.org/content/pacific/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/Van_CAP.html.

Rigg, Kelly (2012), “Waking up to climate change”, OECD Observer. Read at http://oe.cd/29c.

Holloway, Cas (2011), “Beautiful waterways for the Big Apple”, OECD Observer. Read at http://oe.cd/29b.

©OECD Observer No 312 Q4 December 2017


Record temperatures, refugee wishlists, and a grim anniversary for South Sudan: The cheat sheet

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:

War without end

Few anniversaries offer less cause for celebration than that marked today in South Sudan. On 15 December, 2013, a simmering power struggle between the country’s president and sacked vice-president erupted into gunfire that quickly degenerated into a full-scale civil war. As the conflict enters its fifth year, no peace in sight, the data associated with the humanitarian crisis is numbing:  7.6 million people in the country need assistance for their day-to-day survival; 2.1 million have fled to live as refugees in neighbouring states; 1.9 million are displaced within South Sudan; 4.8 million are estimated to be severely food insecure (a figure expected to rise in the coming months); and almost 1.1 million children under five are acutely malnourished. For those still inside South Sudan, “violence and human rights violations continue unchecked and have become a persistent reality for civilians,” the UN’s emergency aid coordination arm, OCHA, said, as it put the cost of addressing needs at $1.7 billion. Meanwhile, the economy is tanking and the cost of living soaring, especially in urban areas. In the capital, Juba, inflation topped 180 percent this year. A cholera epidemic of record duration – it began in June 2016 and is expected to continue into 2018 – is just one example of the country’s major health crisis. Here at IRIN we’ve been keeping a close watch on the conflict, highlighting, for example, its spread into previously peaceful regions such as Equatoria with multimedia reportage, examining the impact on neighbouring states of vast refugee flows, assessing the impact of hate speech from the diaspora, and critically analysing fruitless efforts to bring about peace.

What refugees really want

Efforts launched 15 months ago to improve international refugee response moved into higher gear recently. A series of five thematic discussions was held between July and November, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi this week gathered some 500 representatives to take stock of the consultations so far. Most absent perhaps: the opinions of refugees themselves. This timely report from the Norwegian Refugee Council remedies that. During two months of research in 10 city and camp locations in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, NRC researchers spoke to almost 300 refugees from nine countries, collecting their perspectives on gaps and challenges and trying to understand why so many moved to urban areas with little support or undertook risky migration journeys rather than accept the relative protection and assistance of camps. Strikingly, it is not material concerns such as food or even healthcare that dominate but more fundamental issues such as status and freedom and movement. What bothers the refugees most is the ability to secure refugee status in the first place, and then the freedom to move and work. Protection, basic assistance, and services are all rendered fairly meaningless without the ability to live and work in asylum countries. Major concerns cited include: government policies apparently designed to make it more difficult to claim asylum; delays in refugee determination procedures; and documentation problems that make it impossible to establish a legal identity and register births. The report called on the new Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, or CRRF, to look at efforts to secure status and documentation as a priority. It also highlighted frustrations over lack of freedom of movement and the inability to work, earn an income, and be self-reliant, noting how often the words ‘prison’ and ‘imprisonment’ were used. The report’s recommendations should be essential reading as the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, leads formal consultations on the new framework from February, ahead of its proposal to the General Assembly later in 2018. But it is the pull quotes at the side (the words of the refugees themselves) that leave the longest mark. As one Eritrean interviewee put it: “We are not living here, we are just breathing while dying inside.”

The allure of Yemen

The number of irregular migrants travelling from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and Saudi Arabia dwarfs the number migrating from the Horn towards Europe, says a new report by the Institute for Security Studies. Despite Yemen’s vicious war, the humanitarian crisis, a vigorous kidnapping and torture-for-ransom industry, and threats of deportation by Yemeni and Saudi authorities, migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia continue to travel to Yemen in the hope of reaching labour markets in the Gulf.  In 2016, a record 117,107 irregular arrivals were recorded in Yemen, 83 percent of which were Ethiopians, the rest Somalis. Based on the average payment to smugglers ($200–$500 from Ethiopia to Yemen via Djibouti), at a conservative estimate the smuggling networks earned $4.5 million in 2016. Revenues generated by migrant smuggling from Somalia to Yemen was in the range of $10 million. What’s hard to calculate are the earnings from smuggling people from Yemen and on to Saudi Arabia, the report noted. It points out that there are few incentives for governments in source countries to crack down on migration because of the remittances it generates. Similarly, transit countries also benefit economically from the smuggling business. And, for destination countries, there is a clear demand for cheap labour. The report, as now seems routine, calls for policies “that address the underlying drivers of migration” rather than simplistic and counter-productive law enforcement measures.

Building the case for human-caused disasters
 

Record global temperatures in 2016, including an extreme heatwave through large swathes of Asia, would have been impossible without the impacts of human-caused climate change, according to a recently released collection of peer-reviewed studies. The report by the American Meteorological Society analysed extreme weather in 2016. It underscored how human-caused climate change exacerbated the impacts or boosted the likelihood of extreme weather throughout the world, including drought recorded in Africa, extreme rain in China, and tinder-dry conditions that led to wildfires in North America and Australia. But the studies also found that multiple extreme weather events would have been impossible without human influence – a first for the annual report. These include extreme heatwaves, such as one in Southeast Asia that triggered record temperatures in Thailand. Drought that year impacted millions throughout the region, including two million people in Vietnam, where the worst drought in nearly a century forced the country to ask for international aid. The report adds to the growing body of research around “event attribution” science, which examines climate change as a cause of specific weather events. This research is particularly important for smaller vulnerable countries that have long called for a global system to compensate for destruction associated with climate change. During November’s climate change summit in Bonn, larger countries were accused of squashing progress toward a so-called “loss and damages” compensation scheme. But these discussions will carry on in 2018 as countries continue to thrash out how to implement climate commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Read IRIN’s recent reporting on attribution science and climate change here.

Did you miss it?

Counting the dead

Barred from investigating claims of ethnic cleansing within Myanmar, rights groups, NGOs and UN officials have instead relied on the accounts of some of the 655,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh since late August. This week, a study from Médecins Sans Frontières attempted to quantify widespread claims of razed villages and mass killings in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. Using data from household surveys in Rohingya camps, MSF researchers estimated that between 6,700 and almost 9,900 people were killed violently in the weeks following a sweeping Myanmar army crackdown. The findings, MSF says, represent a staggering tally showing that killings peaked in the week immediately following 25 August, when a small group of Rohingya fighters attacked police and border posts in Rakhine. 

Myanmar has continued to stonewall the UN fact-finding mission tasked with investigating rights abuses in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country. Instead, investigators have turned their attention to other countries where people have sought refuge: the UN investigators recently interviewed Rohingya and other minority groups in Malaysia

(TOP PHOTO: A Rohingya patient is treated for injuries at an MSF clinic in Kutupalong, Bangladesh in September 2017. CREDIT: Antonio Faccilongo/MSF)

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Latest daily news

Conseil Européen, 14-15 Décembre 2017

Aujourd’hui et demain, les Chefs d’état et de gouvernement de l’Union européenne se réuniront à Bruxelles pour des discussions qui constitueront une étape importante dans la feuille de route pour une Union plus unie, plus forte et plus démocratique. Le Conseil Européen débutera aujourd’hui avec le lancement historique de la coopération structurée permanente en matière de défense. Ensuite, les chefs d’état de gouvernement tourneront leur attention vers l’éducation et la culture suivant le succès du sommet social de Göteborg en novembre. Ce soir, la politique européenne en matière de migration figurera en tête de l’ordre du jour. Aujourd’hui à 14:40 CET, le Président Juncker signera la nouvelle déclaration conjointe sur les priorités législatives de l’UE pour 2018-2019, aux côtés du président du Parlement européen, Antonio Tajani, et du Premier ministre estonien, Jüri Ratas. La déclaration énonce 31 nouvelles propositions législatives présentées par la Commission qui seront traitées en priorité par le Parlement et le Conseil pour adoption ou progrès substantiels au moment des élections du Parlement européen en 2019. La cérémonie de signature sera transmise par EbS. Vendredi, les 27 chefs d’État ou de gouvernement de l’Union Européenne se réuniront pour le sommet de la zone euro dans la matinée, un autre jalon important sur laroute vers Sibiuque le Président Juncker a exposé dans son discours sur l’État de l’Union 2017. Les dirigeants devraient également tenir une première discussion sur nos propositions visant à approfondir l’Union économique et monétaire européenne. Lors d’une session de travail dédiée, les 27 dirigeants discuteront les derniers développements dans les négociations au titre de l’article 50 avec le Royaume-Uni suite à la recommandation de la Commission européenne du 8 décembre de conclure que des progrès suffisants avaient été accomplis au cours de la première phase des négociations. Une conférence de presse est prévue pour demain, vendredi 15 décembre, vers 13:00 CET avec le Président Juncker, le Président Tusk et le Premier ministre estonien Ratas et sera transmise en direct sur Ebs. (Pour plus d’informations : Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456)

President Juncker meets with the Visegrád 4 leaders and Prime Minister of Italy, Paolo Gentiloni

Only two months after the first meeting in October, President Juncker, together with Prime Minister Gentiloni, met again with the leaders of the four Visegrád countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – ahead of today’s European Council. Together they reaffirmed their joint determination to address common challenges together.  Migration featured prominently on the agenda of the meeting, particularly the EU Trust Fund for Africa. At the October European Council, all EU Member States agreed to contribute more to fill gaps in the Fund and today the Visegrád 4 made good on that commitment, announcing a further €35 million contribution to the North Africa window of the Fund. This constitutes a clear expression of solidarity and commitment towards the EU’s external action to manage and address the root causes of migration. In his statement today, President Juncker said: “I want cooperation to be as close as possible between the Visegrád Four countries and the Commission. Today I am happy that there are results. The V4 countries did deliver on this point, which is important. This is the proof that the Visegrád Four countries are fully aligned when it comes to solidarity with Italy and with others.” The North Africa window of the Fund has already helped more than 14,000 vulnerable migrants return voluntarily from Libya to their countries of origin and this figure should reach 18,000 by the end of 2017. The Fund has also provided medical help and direct support to more than 20,000 migrants inside and outside detention centres. The Africa Trust Fund – and the Visegrád contribution to it, is one part of the collective European solution to irregular migration on our shores. Last week the Commission proposed a political roadmap to reach a comprehensive agreement by June 2018 on how to pursue a sustainable migration policy, contributing to the European Council where this evening Member States will discuss the topic. Watch President Juncker’s statement here. More information on the roadmap here.  (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456)

 

Commerce électronique: accord pour une livraison de colis plus abordable

Les négociateurs européens sont parvenus hier soir à un accord provisoire pour améliorer la livraison transfrontière de colis. Le nouveau règlement est une étape essentielle pour stimuler le commerce électronique en Europe, en permettant aux consommateurs et aux entreprises, en particulier les PME, d’acheter et de vendre des produits et des services en ligne plus facilement et en toute confiance dans un marché en évolution. Le vice-président Andrus Ansip, en charge du marché unique numérique, a déclaré: «Les prix élevés des livraisons sont un problème majeur pour les consommateurs et les entreprises, en particulier les PME. Une transparence accrue et un rôle plus important accordé aux autorités réglementaires permettront de faire face à ce problème. Cette bonne nouvelle s’inscrit dans la série d’accords visant à améliorer la protection des consommateurs, à simplifier les règles de la TVA et à lutter contre le blocage géographique injustifié.» La commissaire Elżbieta Bieńkowska, chargée du marché intérieur, de l’industrie, de l’entrepreneuriat et des PME, a ajouté: «Des millions d’Européens font le choix d’acheter leurs cadeaux en ligne, mais ils se heurtent toujours à de nombreux obstacles, notamment des prix de livraison élevés et des possibilités de renvoi peu claires. Grâce à l’accord conclu aujourd’hui, nous nous rapprochons d’une solution qui aidera les consommateurs et les entreprises à tirer pleinement parti du marché unique de l’UE et du commerce électronique transfrontière.» Dorénavant, les entreprises prestataires devront communiquer les tarifs des services fréquemment utilisés par les consommateurs et les petites entreprises, que la Commission publiera sur un site web dédié. Un communiqué de presse et des questions et réponses précisent ces nouvelles dispositions. (Pour plus d’informations: Lucía Caudet – Tél.: +32 229 56182; Maud Noyon – Tél.: +32 229-80379; Victoria von Hammerstein – Tél.: +32 229 55040)

 

WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires: A missed opportunity

The 11th biannual ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ended last night in Buenos Aires. In a statement made at the final meeting of Heads of Delegations, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “All WTO Members have to face a simple fact: we failed to achieve any of our objectives, and did not achieve any multilateral outcome. The sad reality is that we did not even agree to stop subsidising illegal fishing. Now, I hope that several WTO members, whose actions here in Buenos Aires prevented an outcome, will use the time following this Ministerial meeting for valuable self-reflection.” Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, also attending the conference, said: “From the agriculture perspective, it is very disappointing that a work programme could not be agreed post Buenos Aires. That means that important issues such as food security will not now be prioritised in the work of the WTO. This is not in the interest of farmers and rural people in the developing world, nor in the developed world for that matter. This is a lose-lose outcome for all involved – a negative-sum outcome. The WTO is not a zero sum game, it is a positive-sum game when everyone plays their part.” Many WTO members recognised the central role of the organisation to global trade and development. In this respect Commissioner Malmström said: “Luckily, we still have the WTO’s current agreements, its structures of cooperation, and its invaluable dispute settlement system. It is a global public good, and the EU attaches enormous value to it. In the coming months, we will do what is necessary to support it if it comes under further pressure. We also need to intensify efforts to find solutions to important issues in the international trading system, such as on e-commerce, working with all willing WTO members in an open, inclusive and transparent manner.” The full statement by Commissioner Malmström, as well as more comments on the outcome of the ministerial conference, are available online. In the run-up to the conference, the EU challenged its WTO partners to plan for substantive outcomes in Buenos Aires, with text proposals in six areas of work(For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel: +32 229 51383)

 

Commission welcomes agreement by European Parliament and Council on its proposal to make people’s skills and qualifications more visible

The European Commission welcomes the political agreement between the European Parliament and Council on the revision of the Europass Decision achieved in Strasbourg yesterday. Europass is a suite of tools and services which support the transparency of skills and qualifications across the European Union. The main aim of the revision is to make people’s skills and qualifications more visible, to not only help people into jobs, but also to better understand and anticipate labour market trends and skills needs. Following the agreement, Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: We neededto upgrade our Europass system to make it relevant for the digital age. The new Europass will be an even more effective tool to deliver for people on the ground so that they can better showcase their skills and manage their careers. With this agreement, the rollout of our European Skills Agenda is delivering and I want to thank the Estonian Presidency and the European Parliament for the excellent cooperation in achieving this result.” The political agreement has still to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council. More information on the initial Commission proposal can be found here. (For more information:Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

 

Commission welcomes agreement on key legislation to tackle climate change 

The European Parliament and Council today reached a provisional agreement on a key legislative proposal for implementing the EU’s 2030 climate objectives – on accounting of emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). They form part of the EU’s policy to drive Europe’s transition to a modern and clean economy. A robust climate policy framework is a key element of the EU’s Energy Union and a successful transition to a modern and clean economy. This is a necessary shift that will require a contribution from all sectors of the economy. Incentives for climate-friendly land use and forestry ensure the continued growth and sustainable productivity of our rural communities, which provide important services and economic benefit. A sustainably managed land use sector can supply renewable energy and materials, ensuring that the EU remains a world leader in these markets. Welcoming the political agreements, Energy Union Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: “Today is yet another milestone for the European Union in its job to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments. Today’s agreement recognising the role of land and forests in mitigating climate change puts the European Union firmly on track. Climate action must outpace climate change and we are once again setting a positive precedent that others beyond Europe can follow.” Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete added: “After long and complex negotiations, we have found an agreement to include emissions and removals from land use, land use-change and forests in our collective efforts towards the 2030 objectives and in line with our commitment under the Paris Agreement. This is yet another example of Europe’s determination to turn the Paris Agreement into a reality, through concrete policies and measures.” Read full statement here. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)

 

European Union takes over chairmanship of Kimberley Process on conflict diamonds

Today the European Union has formally taken over the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process from Australia and will head the international initiative to stem the trade in conflict diamonds during 2018. On the occasion of assuming the lead role, HR/VP Federica Mogherini said “For the European Union, the Kimberley process is part of our work for sustainable development. It is part of our work for sustainable peace – to prevent new conflicts and cut the revenues of criminal and terrorist groups. It is part of our work for human rights – to make sure that diamonds produce wealth, not modern slavery. It has spread the idea that natural resources belong to communities, not militias. The main strength of the Kimberley process has always been that it looks beyond governments, to civil society and to private sector. This is our main asset as we chart the way ahead. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders in this coming year.” More information is available here.(For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229-69140)

Appel à candidature: l’UE offre un soutien sur mesure aux régions en transition industrielle

La Commission invite aujourd’hui les régions en transition industrielle à manifester leur intérêt pour bénéficier d’un soutien sur mesure de l’Europe afin de bâtir des économies robustes et moderniser leurs industries. Mardi, dans le cadre du Plan d’Action dévoilé au sommet “One Planet” à Paris, la Commission a déjà annoncé que les régions Hauts-de-France (FR), Norra Mellansverige (SE), Piémont (IT), Saxe (DE) et Wallonie (BE) étaient sélectionnées pour bénéficier de cet accompagnement de l’UE, suite à un appel à candidature lancé par la Commission en septembre 2017. Face au nombre de candidatures reçues, la Commission a décidé de renouveler l’appel, avec un budget similaire de 2,5 millions d’euros. Cela permettra de fournir expertise et soutien à cinq autres régions, afin qu’elles élaborent et mettent en œuvre leurs propres stratégies de transformation économique, sur la base de leurs atouts de “spécialisation intelligente“. “Certaines régions paient le prix de la mondialisation sans avoir bénéficié jusqu’ici de ses avantages,” a commenté la Commissaire à la politique régionale Corina Creţu,”L’UE, à travers la politique de Cohésion, s’engage pour que toutes les régions puissent tirer leur épingle du jeu dans une économie mondialisée. Cela implique qu’elles identifient leurs atouts compétitifs et apprennent à capitaliser dessus et c’est précisément en cela que nous pouvons aider.” L’appel vise tout particulièrement les régions “en transition” et les régions “plus développées”, les régions dites “moins développées” pouvant bénéficier d’autres formes de soutien de l’UE. Les régions peuvent envoyer leurs candidatures ici jusqu’au 19 janvier 2018. Les résultats seront connus courant février. (Pour plus d’informations: Johannes Bahrke – Tel .: +32 229 58615, Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel .: +32 229 56169)

Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of Banco Popular’s real estate business by Blackstone 

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of control over the real estate business of Banco Popular Español S.A. of Spain by The Blackstone Group L.P. of the US. Banco Popular is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Banco Santander. Its real estate business mostly comprises the Spanish portfolio of repossessed properties, non-performing loans relating to the real estate sector, and certain assets, as well as the operations of Banco Popular’s real estate management company, Aliseda. Blackstone is a global asset manager. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited overlap between the companies’ activities. 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.8679. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of sole control over Getec Energie companies by EQT Fund Management

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of sole control over the Getec Energie companies of Germany by EQT Fund Management S.à.r.l. of Luxembourg. The Getec Energie companies consist of (i) Getec Heat & Power AG; (ii) Getec Wärme & Effizienz AG; (iii) Getec Media AG; (iv) Getec shared services GmbH; and (v) Getec Contracting GmbH. They are specialised in energy contracting in Germany and the Netherlands. EQT is an investment fund that seeks to make investments in infrastructure as well as related assets and businesses in Northern Europe, Continental Europe and North America. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that EQT already held joint control over the Getec Energie companies prior to the transaction. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competitionwebsite, in the public case registerunder the case number M.8729. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

 

Eurostat: Une entreprise de l’UE sur six a vendu sur le web en 2016

L’année passée, 16% des entreprises situées dans l’Union européenne (UE) et employant au moins dix personnes ont reçu des commandes via un site web ou via des applications. Ces ventes web comprennent tant les ventes aux consommateurs individuels qu’aux autres entreprises. La part des entreprises de l’UE ayant réalisé des ventes web a progressé entre 2010 et 2014, passant de 12% à environ 16%, mais est depuis restée relativement stable. Parmi ces entreprises, en 2016, la quasi-totalité (97%) a vendu au sein même de son pays, tandis que moins de la moitié (44%) a effectué des ventes à des clients situés dans d’autres États membres de l’UE et plus d’un quart (28%) à des clients extra-communautaires. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici.

 

Eurostat: La consommation par habitant a varié entre 53% et 132% de la moyenne de l’UE

La consommation individuelle effective (CIE) est une mesure du bien-être matériel des ménages. En 2016, la CIE par habitant exprimée en standards de pouvoir d’achat (SPA) s’est située, parmi les États membres, entre 53% de la moyenne de l’Union européenne (UE) en Bulgarie et 132% au Luxembourg.Ces données, publiées par Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne, sont basées sur des parités de pouvoir d’achat révisées, ainsi que sur les dernières données du PIB et de la population. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici.

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