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Daily News 27 / 11 / 2017

African Union – European Union Summit to start in Côte d’Ivoire

President Juncker will lead the European Commission delegation at the 5th African Union – European Union Summit starting on 29 November in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The President will be joined by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica. The EU is Africa’s main partner, and the summit will be an opportunity for both sides to scale up their partnership. The African Union (AU) and the EU need to tackle the common challenges of today, from fostering sustainable development and strengthening peace and security to boosting investment in the African continent and better managing migration. Under President Juncker’s leadership, the Commission has added new innovative tools on top of its traditional cooperation instruments, bringing EU cooperation with Africa to a new level. On this occasion, President Juncker said: “What happens in Africa matters for Europe, and what happens in Europe matters for Africa. Our partnership is an investment in our shared future. It is a partnership of equals in which we support each other, help each other to prosper and make the world a safer, more stable and more sustainable place to live.” The summit will be held under the overarching theme of “Youth”, and young people have played a vital role on the run up to the AU-EU Summit, notably through the Youth Summit, which took place in Abidjan on 9-11 October. The participants have developed a Youth Declaration, with concrete recommendations for European and African leaders. A selected group of young fellows have continued to work on these in the EU-funded intercontinental AU-EU Youth Plug-In Initiative. Tomorrow, on 28 November 2017, ministers of Foreign Affairs from Europe and Africa will gather in Abidjan for a Ministerial meeting. During the AU-EU Summit itself, 29-30 November, leaders will discuss many areas that shape our common agenda: Peace and Security; Migration and Mobility; Connectivity and Job creation. A factsheet is available on the EU’s key partnership with Africa. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

 

Europe and Africa are in business! Investing in opportunities at 6th business forum

Business leaders, investors, innovative startups, young and female entrepreneurs from Africa and Europe are coming together for the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President responsible for the EU’s Digital Single Market, delivered this morning a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Business Forum, which takes place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, ahead of the African Union – European Union Summit (29-30 November). Vice-President Ansip said: “This Business Forum will look at areas where the situation could be improved. Not only how to create the best conditions for long-term private investment, but also how to support jobs for young people – especially women.” At this occasion, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “Improving the conditions for investment in Africa is essential to create jobs for Africa’s youth and promote sustainable development. This is a key focus of the AU-EU Summit, where the EU will present its new External Investment Plan. This innovative plan will help to unlock €44 billion of investment for decent jobs and sustainable growth.”High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will give closing remarks at the Business Forum, which will be available on EbS. Vice-President Ansip‘s keynote address is available here as well as via@Ansip_EU. This year Forum is dedicated to “Investing in job creation for Youth” and is centered around youth and women, sustainable investment in Africa, agriculture, sustainable energy and digital economy. The EU-Africa Business Forum contributes to the AU-EU Summit through high level discussions and concrete project proposals with a focus on developing solutions for youth employment and entrepreneurship, innovative financing instruments, public-private dialogue and digital policy development. For example, the Forum hosts a Startup Fair, a pitching session, a high level roundtable on the digital economy, investment workshops and many other activities designed to reinforce the digital links between the EU and Africa. Participants will furthermore develop a declaration with concrete recommendations to leaders on how to improve the business and investment climate. The Forum provides a unique platform for young European and African entrepreneurs and startups to express their vision for the future, to exchange views with mature companies and to interact with government representatives. More information on the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum can be found online atwww.euafrica-businessforum.com. Join the debate on Twitter#EABF2017. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083)

 

Payment services: Consumers to benefit from safer and more innovative electronic payments

The Commission has today adopted rules that will make electronic payments in shops and online safer. This will also allow consumers to access more convenient, cost-effective and innovative solutions offered by payment providers. These rules implement the EU’s recently-revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) which aims to modernise Europe’s payment services so as to keep pace with this rapidly evolving market and allow the European e-commerce market to blossom. Today’s rules allow consumers to use innovative services offered by third party providers, also known as FinTech companies, while maintaining rigorous data protection and security for EU consumers and businesses. These include payment solutions and tools for managing one’s personal finances by aggregating information from various accounts. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said: “We have struck the delicate balance between security and convenience. Thanks to these new rules, there will be exciting new opportunities for all market players, old and new, to offer better consumer services. At the same time, the new rules will make electronic payments safer.” A key objective of PSD2 is to increase the level of security and confidence of electronic payment. In particular, PSD2 requires payment service providers to develop strong customer authentication (SCA). Today’s rules therefore have stringent, built-in security provisions to significantly reduce payment fraud levels and to protect the confidentiality of users’ financial data, especially relevant for online payments. A full press release and MEMO can be found online. (for more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini – Tel.: +32 229 51958)

 

Une compétitivité économique accrue en Pologne grâce à de meilleures connexions de transport financées par l’UE

66,3 millions d’euros du Fonds de Cohésion sont investis dans l’amélioration du réseau ferroviaire au sud de la Silésie, près de la République tchèque, entre les communes de Chybie, Żory et Rybnik et entre Nędza et Turze. Dans cette région polonaise industrielle, notamment autour de la ville de Rybnik, de meilleures connexions permettront de réduire les temps de trajet, tant pour le transport de fret que pour les passagers. La Commissaire à la politique régionale Corina Creţu a commenté: “Ce projet, qui promeut une mobilité propre en Silésie, contribuera directement à la croissance locale, en facilitant le transport des biens.Investir dans de meilleures connexions ferroviaires, c’est investir directement dans l’économie régionale.” Certaines sections du réseau régional font partie du réseau global de transport transeuropéen (RTE-T). L’UE finance la rénovation des voies sur sept sections différentes ainsi que la construction de 30 ponts et viaducs. Le projet devrait être opérationnel d’ici l’été 2019.  (Pour plus d’informations: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

Commission launches public consultation on a European Labour Authority, as well as a European Social Security Number

Today the European Commission has launched a public consultation to gather views of the broader public on setting up a European Labour Authority and the introduction of a European Social Security Number. Both initiatives were announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address. The European Labour Authority should ensure that EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way. Concretely, building on existing structures, the Authority would support national administrations, businesses, and mobile workers by strengthening cooperation at EU level on matters such as cross-border mobility and social security coordination. It would also improve access to information for public authorities and mobile workers and enhance transparency regarding their rights and obligations. The European Social Security Number (ESSN) aims at simplifying and modernising citizens’ interaction with administrations in a range of policy areas. An EU Social Security Number would facilitate the identification of persons across borders for the purposes of social security coordination and allow the quick and accurate verification of their social security insurance status. It would facilitate administrative procedures for citizens by optimising the use of digital tools. Legislative proposals for both initiatives are announced in the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2018 and planned to be tabled by spring 2018. Find more information on the European Labour Authority in this factsheet and online. The public consultation can be found here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

Publication of latest agri-food trade figures: EU agri-food trade balance has an increasing surplus

The latest monthly trade report published today by the European Commission, shows that the value of EU agri-food exports in September 2017 kept its very high level, now at €11.7 billion. The trade balance further improved to a surplus of €2.8 billion, with agri-food imports to the EU going down to a monthly value of €8.8 billion. Over the past 12 months, wine and milk powders exports have been performing very well, while exports of wheat and other cereals decreased. Agri-food imports from third countries increased by 4% compared to the same period one year ago. Imports from Indonesia increased most significantly. The full report is online.(For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52509)

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Spain’s support for coal power plants

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether Spain’s “environmental incentive” for coal power plants is in line with EU State aid rules. At this stage, the Commission has concerns that the support has been used to implement mandatory environmental EU standards as regards sulphur oxide emissions, which applied to coal power plants at the time. If confirmed, this means that the scheme did not actually have any environmental incentive effect. Furthermore, the financial support may breach an established principle of EU State aid rules, namely that Member States may not grant State aid to companies to meet mandatory environmental EU standards. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “If you pollute, you pay – this is a long-standing principle in EU environmental law. EU State aid rules do not allow Member States to relieve companies of this responsibility using taxpayer money. We currently believe that this Spanish scheme did not incentivise coal power plants to reduce harmful sulphur oxide emissions – they were already under an obligation to do so under EU environmental law. Therefore, we are concerned that the support gave these coal power plants an unfair competitive advantage. We will now investigate this issue further.” The opening of an in-depth investigation gives Spain and interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and ES. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of EXIM Holding by DER Touristik Deutschland

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over EXIM Holding A.S. of the Czech Republic by DER Touristik Deutschland GmbH of Germany. EXIM is a Czech company with four subsidiaries active in the tourism sector in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. DER Touristik forms part of the Travel &Tourism Division of REWE Group of Germany, which operates in the tourism sector as well as in the food and non-food retail sector via a separate branch. DER Touristik was already jointly controlling EXIM before the transaction. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited changes it brings to the market. 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.8668. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

 

Mergers: Commission clears a joint-venture between Deutsche Alternative Asset Management and M&G Alternatives Investment Management

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Belmond JV by Deutsche Alternative Asset Management (Global) Limited (“DAAM”) and M&G Alternatives Investment Management Limited (“MAGAIM”), all three of the UK. Belmond JV will be established as a full-function joint venture and will be active in the operational leasing of rolling stock to the West Midlands rail franchise in the UK and, potentially, in associated ancillary capital investments. DAAM is an affiliate of the Deutsche Bank Group of Germany and provides investment management and fund management services. MAGAIM is the investment management division of Prudential Group of the UK in Europe. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited changes it brings to the market. 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.8667.(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Study on digital public services points out room for development in using eIDs and eDocuments

The new 2017 eGovernment Benchmarking report shows that European countries are providing better digital public services, but they still need to improve on their use of supporting technology to boost cross-border accessibility and transparency. The study found that public administrations across 34 countries in Europe score highly (80%) in the provision of readily available, mobile and user friendly online public services. The study also reveals that there is progress in cross-border availability of digital services but suggests that these services could further benefit from increased use of key enablers like eIDs or eDocuments. The report is based on the findings from EU Member States but also from Iceland, Norway, Montenegro, Serbia, Switzerland, and Turkey. The study implies that more needs to be done to inform users about issues such as the duration of administrative processes or when personal data is used to complete an administrative task. To address these areas, the development of the proposed Single Digital Gateway regulation will give EU Member States centralised access to people and businesses to information on cross-border rights and procedures. This study confirms once again the need for more action – a point which Member States agreed to tackle in the recently adopted Tallinn declaration on eGovernment which will help to improve better digital public services in the EU. Furthermore, the annex to the Tallinn declaration contains user-centricity principles agreed on by the Member States, which puts citizens and businesses at the centre of digital public services. Further details on the report are available here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Inga Höglund – Tel.: +32 229 50698)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Andriukaitis to award NGOs for initiatives that promote vaccination

Today Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety,will present the EU Health Award 2017 for NGOs promoting vaccination, at the Health Policy Platform annual meeting in Brussels. To see the results as they happen, tune-in live. In the run-up to the award ceremony, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “Immunising people against diseases caused by viruses or bacteria is one of the most cost-effective public health measures available today. Yet, worryingly, misconceptions and scepticism about the need to vaccinate is growing. The public-facing role of Non-Governmental Organisations is crucial in the effort to ensure high vaccination coverage. Picking the top three initiatives was a challenging task for the jury, and while I will be proud to announce the overall winners, all 10 NGOs on the shortlist should be proud of their contribution to better public health through vaccination.”  For more information:EU Health award for NGOs 2017, EU action on vaccination. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229  91269; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

 

Commissioner Andriukaitis on official visit to Veghel, the Netherlands

On 28 November,European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis is in Veghel, the Netherlands. He will visit Agrifirm, member of the Dutch association of former foodstuff processors.  Later on Tuesday, he will visit Three Sixty, Ecosystem for circular economy in action, together with Ms Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands. The Commissioner will also meet with the Dutch Taskforce Circular Economy in Food. For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

 

Commissioner Avramopoulos in Lisbon to discuss security on land, at sea and on the internet

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Lisbon on 28 November to meet the directors of the nine EU agencies working on justice and home affairs – Europol, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), eu-LISA, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the European Police College (CEPOL), Eurojust, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). They will discuss their collaboration on migration and security issues with a focus on border management and the fight against organised crime. The meeting is being hosted by the EMCDDA and is part of the ongoing close cooperation between the agencies, formally established in a network since 2006. Commissioner Avramopoulos will also meet the newly-appointed Portuguese Minister of Internal Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita, and the Director of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre, Michael O’Sullivan. In a press conference at 11:45 CET Commissioner Avramopouloswill present a report on drugs and the darknet co-authored by Europol and the EMCDDA, together with the directors of the two agencies, Rob Wainwright and Alexis Goosdeel respectively. The press conference will be available on EbS. (For more information:Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 2 296 74 56, Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Thomas Kramer – Tel.: +32 229 58602)

Commissioner Bulc hosts the EU-Turkey High Level Transport Dialogue

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc today received Mr Ahmet Arslan, Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication of Turkey, for the EU-Turkey High Level Transport Dialogue. Together, they discussed a number of issues of mutual interest, including the infrastructure connections between the EU and Turkey, road safety and aviation cooperation. They also agreed on a concrete roadmap to pursue and deepen the High-Level dialogue in the future. Commissioner Bulc said, “Transport clearly is an area of common interest for the EU and Turkey. The High-Level dialogue can create a new momentum in our cooperation, and I look forward to continue building on this positive agenda.” Press statements by Commissioner Bulc and Minister Arslan will shortly be available on EBS. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Alexis Perier – Tel.: +32 229 6 91 43)

Commissioner Bulc and EESC President Dassis launch platform for equal opportunities in the transport sector

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and Georges Dassis, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will be joined by Kadri Simson, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure of Estonia and Karima Delli, Chair of the Transport Committee of the European Parliament, for the launch of the EU Platform for Change later today in Brussels. This initiative aims to increase female employment and equal opportunities in the transport sector. The Platform was developed in cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee to give transport companies and organisations the possibility to highlight their initiatives for gender equality and to exchange good practices. To show their commitment, organisations dedicated to equal opportunities in transport will sign an official Declaration at the event. The Declaration will also be opened for signature online. Commissioner Bulc said: “Only 22% of transport workers are women. There is a huge potential for the sector to improve equal opportunities and I am excited that companies and organisations agree on this and are committing themselves to the increase of female employment. By engaging women and men together towards gender equality we will ensure that our societies will flourish at all levels.” More information here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Alexis Perier – Tel.: +32 229 6 91 43)

Commissioner Jourová participates in the European Platform for Roma Inclusion on the transition from Education to Employment

Tomorrow and Wednesday, the European Commission is organising the 11th European Platform for Roma Inclusion. On Tuesday morning, Commissioner Jourová will open his edition dedicated to the topic of the transition of young Roma from education to employment, as Roma are still the most underrepresented group on the labour market. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said ahead of the Platform: “Europe cannot afford to let young Roma fail to fulfil their potential. The growing proportion of young Roma not in education, employment or training is worrying. Policy-makers need to look carefully at the causes and address them. Poverty, low levels of education, discrimination in both education and employment constitute serious barriers for Roma to obtain stable jobs.” Over these two days, government representatives, local and regional authorities, civil society organizations, international organizations, and European institutions representatives participants will engage in debates related to the transition of young Roma from education to employment. The outcomes of the discussions will be presented to decision makers, representatives of education, employers, businesses and other stakeholders. More information about the event can be found here. You can follow the event live online here. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253;Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)

 

Commissioner King to speak at meeting of National Parliaments

Tomorrow Commissioner King will be in Tallinn, Estonia, where he will take part in a meeting of the Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the EU (COSAC), hosted by the Estonian Council Presidency. Commissioner King will deliver a keynote speech on “State of play – building an effective and sustainable Security Union” during the fourth session of the conference. More information is available on the COSAC website here.(For more information:Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Kasia Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

Speech by Michel Barnier at the Centre for European Reform on 'The Future of the EU'

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Centre for European Reform, and its Director, Charles Grant, for inviting me today.

If I may say so, it is good to see that this UK-based centre is stepping up its presence in Brussels. Good timing!

It feels a bit unusual to speak about Brexit here.

Because this is a conference on the future of the EU.

And Brexit is about disentangling the UK from the EU, and settling the past.

But Brexit could prove to be a turning point in the European project.

For future historians, the year 2016 – with the UK referendum, the change of power in Washington, geopolitical tensions, terrorist attacks, and the rise of populist parties – will perhaps be seen as a time of awakening.

2016 could become the moment when the EU realised that it had to stand up for itself. And that nobody would do for us what we don’t do for ourselves.

In 2012, the UK Prime Minister published a table to show his strong support of the Single Market and incidentally his support for the Commissioner in charge of the Single Market.

It shows that, in 2050, there will be no European countries left in the G8. But by remaining together, the 27 will stay, in the long term, in the top 5.

We need to continue speaking with one voice in the world. Even though we speak many different languages, as the novelist Fernando Pessoa said. Otherwise we will not sit at the table where decisions are made.

And we also need to act together to build a stronger Europe.

  • The Eurozone needs a more complete Banking Union and a fiscal capacity with a finance minister. The EU needs a more integrated Capital Markets Union. Such increased risk sharing needs common rules and common enforcement.
  • The EU needs a stronger capacity to prevent and tackle internal and external threats – with stronger cooperation in fighting terrorism, but also with respect for fundamental rights.
  • The EU needs a truly common foreign policy and European defence.
  • The EU needs to lead on global challenges, from climate change to openness in trade based on its social market economy. And it needs to continue leading in global financial regulation, to make finance work for the real economy.
  • And we need more solidarity in our Union – with a humane and efficient migration policy, and a strong pillar of social rights, as agreed last Friday in Gothenburg.

This stronger European Union will want to have a close relationship with the UK.

We have a shared history – it started long before the last 44 years.

That is why the “no deal” is not our scenario. Even though we will be ready for it.

I regret that this no deal option comes up so often in the UK public debate.

Only those who ignore, or want to ignore, the current benefits of European Union membership can say that no deal would be a positive result.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are three keys to building a strong partnership with the UK.

First, we need to agree on the terms for the UK’s orderly withdrawal.

The 27 Member States and the European Parliament have been always very clear on what this means.

And we have been consistent:

  • on citizens’ rights;
  • on settling the accounts accurately; we owe this to taxpayers as well as to all those benefiting from EU-funded projects, in the UK and the EU;
  • on Ireland.

Let me say a few words on Ireland specifically.

We need to preserve stability and dialogue on the island of Ireland.

We need to avoid a hard border.

I know that this point is politically sensitive in the UK.

It is not less sensitive in Ireland.

Some in the UK say that specific rules for Northern Ireland would “endanger the integrity of the UK single market”.

But Northern Ireland already has specific rules in many areas that are different to the rest of the UK.

Think of the “all-Island” electricity market, or of the specific regulations for plant health for the whole island of Ireland.

Think of rules that prevent and handle animal disease, which I know well as a former Minister for Agriculture.

There are over one hundred areas of cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland.

Such cooperation depends in many cases on the application of common rules and common regulatory space.

We have nearly finished our common reading of the Good Friday Agreement. We have agreed on the principles for the Common Travel Area.

The UK and the EU have recognised that Ireland poses specific challenges. And that the unique circumstances there require a specific solution.

On the EU side, we must preserve the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union at 27. The rules for this are clear.

The UK said it would continue to apply some EU rules on its territory. But not all rules.

What is therefore unclear is what rules will apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit. And what the UK is willing to commit to, in order to avoid a hard border.

I expect the UK, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to come forward with proposals.

The island of Ireland is now faced with many challenges.

Those who wanted Brexit must offer solutions.

***

The second key is the integrity of the Single Market.

Public debate on what leaving the EU means needs to be intensified. Everywhere. Not only in the UK.

There are two contradicting sound bites from ardent advocates of Brexit:

  • The UK will finally “set itself free” from EU regulations and bureaucracy, some claim.
  • Others claim that – after Brexit – it will still be possible to participate in parts of the Single Market. Simply because we have been together for more than four decades, with the same rules, and we can continue to trust each other.

None of these views seems to offer a sound basis for going forward.

The same people who argue for setting the UK free also argue that the UK should remain in some EU agencies. But freedom implies responsibility for building new UK administrative capacity.

On our side, the 27 will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together. They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the EU Treaties which the UK decided to leave.

Those who claim that the UK should “cherry-pick” parts of the Single Market must stop this contradiction.

The Single Market is a package, with four indivisible freedoms, common rules, institutions and enforcement structures. The UK knows these rules like the back of its hand. It has contributed to defining them over the last 44 years. With a certain degree of influence…

We took note of the UK decision to end free movement of people.

This means that the UK will lose the benefits of the Single Market. This is a legal reality.

The EU does not want to punish, once again.

It simply draws the logical consequence of the UK’s decision to take back control.

On financial services, UK voices suggest that Brexit does not mean Brexit –Brexit means Brexit, everywhere.

They say there would be no changes in market access for UK-established firms.

They say joint UK-EU Rules would be decided in a new “symmetrical process” between the EU and the UK, and outside of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

This would contradict the April European Council guidelines, which stress the autonomy of EU decision-making, the integrity of our legal order and of the Single Market.

The legal consequence of Brexit is that UK financial service providers lose their EU passport. This passport allows them to offer their services to a market of 500 million consumers and 22 million businesses.

But the EU will have the possibility to judge some UK rules as equivalent, based on a proportional and risk-based approach. And in those areas where EU legislation foresees equivalence.

The global financial crisis was not so long ago.

It destroyed value and millions of jobs.

It was the cause of social suffering, including in the UK.

Let’s not have a short memory! We will not compromise on financial stability – we will never compromise on financial stability – in the EU and in the Eurozone.

Globally, we will continue our regulatory cooperation in the G20, in the Financial Stability Board, and perhaps even through bilateral regulatory dialogues, like we have with the United States.

We will remain committed to convergence of global rules. And avoid fragmentation of financial markets.

Once again, the integrity of the Single Market is not negotiable.

The Single Market is one of our main public goods. It is the main reason why countries around the world – such as China, Japan, and the US – look to us as a strong partner.

***

Ladies and gentlemen,

The UK will, of course, have access to the Single Market. But this is different from being part of the Single Market.

And a good deal on our future relationship should facilitate this access as much as possible. And avoid a situation where trade would happen under the WTO rules for goods and services.

To achieve this, there is a third key: we need to ensure a level playing field between us.

This will not be easy. For the first time ever in trade talks, the challenge will be to limit divergence of rules rather than maximise convergence.

There will be no ambitious partnership without common ground in fair competition, state aid, tax dumping, food safety, social and environmental standards.

It is not only about rules or laws. It is about societal choices – for health, food standards, our environment and financial stability.

The UK has chosen to leave the EU. Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it?

The UK’s reply to this question will be important and even decisive because it will shape the discussion on our future partnership and shape also the conditions for ratification of that partnership in many national parliaments and obviously in the European Parliament. I do not say this to create problems but to avoid problems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we manage to negotiate an orderly withdrawal, fully respect the integrity of the Single Market, and establish a level playing field, there is every reason for our future partnership to be ambitious.

This is our preferred option. This is why we have started internal preparations with Member States. To be ready to talk about the future, as soon as we will have agreed on how to settle the past.

The EU will of course be ready to offer its most ambitious FTA approach.

And the future partnership should not be limited to trade. It should be based on our common values. We need to work together to protect the security of our citizens, to combat crime and terrorism, in Europe and globally and logically we will need to cooperate on foreign and defence challenges.

But in none of these fields, the EU will wait for the UK. We must continue to advance.

We are negotiating new free trade agreements in addition to the ones we already have with 60 countries.

We will continue to develop our internal market and to make it fit for digitalisation; we will step up our investment in research and innovation; we will continue to use the strength of this internal market to shape globalisation.

We will continue to show solidarity to refugees, while better protecting our external borders and tackling root causes of migration, notably by continuing our development policy, in particular with Africa, where the EU and the UK will keep a mutual interest.

And we are developing our defence cooperation, with unprecedented steps taken to set up a European Defence Fund and, last week, to finally launch the Permanent Structured Cooperation on which I worked closely with Chris Patten at the time – a very different time.

Against the backdrop of global turmoil in an interconnected world, Europe is today more necessary than ever. The future of Europe is more important than Brexit.

But in all these fields, the EU is willing to cooperate with the UK. And it will be in the UK’s interest to have a strong EU as a close partner.

I hope that these ideas and orientations will help the discussion that John Bruton, Monique Ebell, Peter Mandelson and also Paul Adamson with now have on squaring the Brexit circle, in which I find myself.

Thank you for your attention.

Latest daily news

L’UE investit pour une eau potable plus saine et accessible en Roumanie

155 millions d’euros du Fonds de Cohésion sont investis dans 6 grands projets d’infrastructure afin d’améliorer la collecte, le traitement et la distribution de l’eau à travers le pays. La Commissaire à la politique régionale Corina Creţu a déclaré: « La politique de Cohésion investit pour que chacun ait en permanence accès à une eau saine ; c’est la santé de nos citoyens et notre environnement que nous préservons ainsi. »  Ces 6 projets comprennent : (1) 51 millions d’euros pour améliorer l’accès à l’eau pour 179 000 habitants, dans le comté de Vaslui. Ce projet, qui concerne les zones urbaines de Vaslui, Barlad, Husi et Negresti, comprend la construction et rénovation de plus de 130 km de réseau. (2) 46 millions d’euros pour, notamment, la construction et modernisation de 7 stations de traitement de l’eau dans le comté de Prahova, pour le bénéfice de 167 000 habitants. (3) 12.6 millions d’euros pour un meilleur accès à l’eau potable dans le comté de Satu Mare, avec notamment le forage de 4 puits et 40 km d’extension du réseau d’égout. (4) 21 millions d’euros pour des travaux dans le comté de Maramureş, avec en particulier l’extension sur près de 60 km du réseau de distribution d’eau, pour une population de 230 000 personnes. (5) Dans le comté de Dâmbovița, 6.3 millions d’euros pour, notamment, la rénovation de 2 réservoirs et 10 km de réseau de distribution d’eau additionnel. (6) 18 millions d’euros pour, entre autres, la construction et rénovation de 18 puits et de 3 stations de traitement de l’eau dans le comté d’Argeș, pour près de 200 000 personnes. (Pour plus d’informations: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

Smoother, faster road connections in Greece thanks to EU investments

The Commission welcomes the inauguration today of the Ionian Highway, construction of which has been 100% supported by Cohesion Policy funds thanks to the exceptional measures the Commission put forward in the 2015 “A New Start for Growth and Jobs in Greece” plan. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: “The EU invests to improve the everyday lives of Greek citizens with safer roads and reduced travel time. Better transport connections also mean new economic opportunities and faster growth. The Ionian Highway is a new token of steadfast EU solidarity and friendship with Greece.” The new, 200 km-long highway connects the city of Ioannina in the region of Epirus (North-Western Greece) to Antirrio, in Western Greece, and cuts travel time by two hours. The highway reaches the Peloponnesus peninsula in the South, via the EU-funded Rio-Antirrio bridge and, in the North, allows smoother access to Greece’s neighbours countries in the Western Balkans. The Ionian highway is one of the 5 EU-funded motorway concessions in the country, with the Moreas Motorway in the Peloponnesus, the Aegean Motorway linking Athens to Thessaloniki, the Olympia Motorway from Corinth to Patras and the middle section of the E65 Motorway in Central Greece. They have been supported with €3.6 billion of EU funds. By seamlessly connecting Greece with the rest of Europe along a strategic trans-European network and allowing a smooth flow of people and goods, those 5 motorways make a key contribution to a steady economic growth in the country. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

State aid: Commission approves German rescue aid to Air Berlin

The European Commission has endorsed under EU State aid rules Germany’s plans to grant Air Berlin a temporary €150 million bridging loan. The measure will allow for the orderly wind-down of the insolvent airline Air Berlin without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. The purpose of the loan is to allow Air Berlin to continue operations in the coming months, with the aim of maintaining its services while it concludes ongoing negotiations to sell its assets. At the end of the process, Air Berlin is expected to cease operating and exit the market. Rescue and restructuring aid are among the most distortive types of State aid and can only be granted to companies once these have exhausted all other market options. The Commission found that the measure will help to protect the interests of air passengers and to maintain air passenger services. At the same time, the strict conditions attached to the loan, its short duration and the fact that Air Berlin is expected to cease operations at the end of the process, will reduce to a minimum the distortion of competition potentially triggered by the State support. The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is compatible with EU State aid rules. The full press release is available online in EN, DE and FR. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Mergers: Commission clears the creation of a joint venture by Centerbridge Partners and Enel in the Greek wind power sector

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture by Centerbridge Partners, L.P. of the USA and Enel S.p.A. of Italy. The joint venture does not carry out any business activity yet, its object is to build and operate seven wind farms at Kafireas (Euboea) in Greece with a total installed capacity of 154 MW. Centerbridge Partners is an investment management firm focused on private equity and distressed investment opportunities. Enel is an Italian multinational company active in the production and distribution of electricity and gas. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the limited overlaps 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.8592. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Eurostat: Le volume des ventes du commerce de détail en baisse de 0,3% dans la zone euro, en baisse de 0,2% dans l’UE28

En juillet 2017 par rapport à juin 2017, le volume des ventes du commerce de détail corrigé des variations saisonnières a diminué de 0,3% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 0,2% dans l’UE28, selon les estimations d’Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. En juin, le commerce de détail avait progressé de 0,6% dans la zone euro et de 0,5% dans l’UE28. En juillet 2017 par rapport à juillet 2016, l’indice des ventes de détail s’est accru de 2,6% dans la zone euro et de 2,7% dans l’UE28. Un communiqué de presse Eurostat est à votre disposition en ligne. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278)

 

Application for 2018 edition of the Women Innovators Prize opens today

The European Commission launches today the fifth edition of the EU Prize for Women Innovators which will be awarded to women entrepreneurs who successfully brought their outstanding innovations to market. The first prize is €100.000, second and third prizes of €50.000 and €30.000 respectively and a special prize of €20.000 will be dedicated to the Rising Innovator Award. Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “The EU Prize for Women Innovators gives public recognition to outstanding women entrepreneurs and inspires other women to follow in their footsteps. We have seen some exceptional achievements since the start of the competition. For example, the 2017 winners created an innovation lab bringing together scientists and artists, or invented the first ever digital tablet for blind users. I look forward to seeing many more fresh ideas and talent in the new edition of the contest.” The contest is open to women across the EU or from countries associated to Horizon 2020 who have founded or co-founded their company and benefitted from public or private research and innovation funding. Applications have to be submitted by 15 November 2017 and the winners’ names will be announced on International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018. Further information for the competition can be found here. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: + 32 229 56182; Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278; Maud Noyon – Tel.: +32 229 80379)

 

STATEMENTS

Statement on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides has issued a statement on the ongoing situation in Myanmar: “Unrestricted humanitarian access, including for aid workers, is critical to reaching 350,000 vulnerable people in Rakhine State. They must be allowed to do their job to try to prevent the further deterioration of an already serious humanitarian situation. I call on all sides to de-escalate tensions and fully observe international human rights law, and in particular to refrain from any violence against civilians. Many Rohingya civilians are suffering greatly and are now fleeing the violence across the border into Bangladesh. They must not be turned back or deported. We greatly appreciate the hospitality extended by the Government and people of Bangladesh for many decades. The assistance and protection of the Bangladeshi authorities regarding these new refugees is crucial until the situation in Rakhine State has stabilised and they can safely return. The European Union is committed to supporting all efforts to bring a return to aid deliveries in Rakhine State and is working tirelessly with all stakeholders to achieve this.” The statement is available here. Commissioner Stylianides visited Rakhine State in Myanmar in May earlier this year where he announced EU humanitarian funding. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

Report – State of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers – A8-0119/2017 – Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development

on the state of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers

(2016/2141(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 21 January 2015 entitled ‘Land grabbing – a wake-up call for Europe and an imminent threat to family farming’,

–  having regard to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of 12 May 2012,

–  having regard to Petition No 187/2015 to the European Parliament on the protection and administration of European agricultural land as shared wealth: a call by civil society organisations for a sustainable and fair EU land use policy,

–  having regard to the study on the Extent of Farmland Grabbing in the EU by the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development(1),

–  having regard to the infringement proceedings against the Member States Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, which the Commission is either planning or has already brought,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0119/2017),

A.  whereas in 2013, in the 27-member EU, only 3.1 % of farms controlled 52.2 % of farmland in Europe, and whereas, by contrast, in 2013, 76.2 % of farms had the use of only 11.2 % of the agricultural land; whereas this trend runs counter to the European sustainable, multifunctional agricultural model, in which family farms are an important feature;

B.  whereas this places inequality of land use in the EU – with a Gini coefficient of 0.82 – on a par with that of countries such as Brazil, Columbia and the Philippines(2);

C.  whereas this unequal distribution of farmland is the counterpart of unequal distribution of CAP subsidies, as direct payments – which account for a large proportion of CAP expenditure – are mainly made per hectare;

D.  whereas the actual distribution of land and subsidies could be even more unequal, as the statistics available do not make it possible to establish anything about the ownership and control of farms;

E.  whereas access to land and the possibility of ownership are essential rights established by the national law of each Member State;

F.  whereas access to land is essential for the realisation of a number of human rights, and has an impact on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

G.  whereas land is on the one hand property, on the other a public asset, and is subject to social obligations;

H.  whereas there is no exclusive or shared competence of the EU on land, as various EU policies deploy different political, social, cultural and environmental aspects of land management, creating the need for a more holistic approach to land governance at EU level;

I.  whereas the German Constitutional Court already ruled in its judgment of 12 January 1967 (1 BvR 169/63, BVerfG 21, 73-87) that trade in rural land need not be as free as trade in any other capital, because land is unrenewable and indispensable, and an equitable legal and social order requires the public interest in land to be taken into account far more than in the case of any other property(3);

J.  whereas land is an increasingly scarce resource, which is non-renewable, and is the basis of the human right to healthy and sufficient food, and of many ecosystem services vital to survival, and should therefore not be treated as an ordinary item of merchandise; whereas land is, furthermore, doubly threatened, on the one hand by the loss of agricultural land through soil sealing, urban development, tourism, infrastructure projects, changes of use and afforestation and the spread of desertification caused by climate change, and, on the other hand, by the concentration of land in the hands of large-scale agricultural undertakings and investors from outside the farming sector; whereas, at the same time, it is the responsibility of the authorities to control and limit the loss of agriculture land through such activities;

K.  whereas land resources are a source of conflict not just over use, but also as a result of rivalry between farming and non-farming investors, and between generations of farmers, given that young people seeking to establish themselves have greater difficulty, owing to cost, in gaining access to land, especially when they do not come from farming families;

L.  whereas the Member States are responsible for the fact that the land market policy and the farmland market is regulated in different ways in the individual Member States, and whereas this can have a serious impact on the competitiveness of farms on the internal market;

M.  whereas land is a costly production factor to finance; whereas it is linked to national inheritance rules, which entail the necessity of refinancing whenever a new generation takes over; whereas land prices affect land concentration; and whereas it can happen that farmers with no family, at the end of their working lives, will sell their farms to the highest bidder in order to bolster their modest pensions;

N.  whereas, in its Special Report No 25/2016, the Court of Auditors of the EU stresses the fact that the systems used to map farmland in order to calculate eligibility for aid on a land-area basis need to be improved;

O.  whereas existing statistical tools at EU level, such as the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN), the Eurostat Farm Structure Survey and the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) gather data on different aspects of land tenure; whereas comprehensive, up-to-date, transparent and high-quality data on land tenure, property structures, leasing structures, and price and volume movements on land markets, as well as relevant social and environmental indicators at European level, have so far been lacking and, in some Member States, are collected and published only incompletely;

P.  whereas sufficient market transparency is essential, including with regard to the rational distribution of land, and should also extend to the activities of institutions active on the land market;

Q.  whereas the sale of land to non-agricultural investors and holding companies is an urgent problem throughout the Union, and whereas, following the expiry of the moratoriums on the sale of land to foreigners, especially the new Member States have faced particularly strong pressures to amend their legislation, as comparatively low land prices have accelerated the sale of farmland to large investors;

R.  whereas a broad distribution of agricultural land is an essential founding principle for the social market economy, and an important precondition for social cohesion, job creation in rural areas, high agricultural value added and social peace;

S.  whereas farmland areas used for smallholder farming are particularly important for water management and the climate, the carbon budget and the production of healthy food, as well as for biodiversity, soil fertility and landscape conservation; whereas around 20 % of European farmland is already suffering as a result of climate change, water and wind soil erosion and poor cultivation; and whereas, owing to global warming, some regions of the EU, particularly in southern Europe, are already exposed to drought and other extreme weather events, which will cause soil deterioration and limit access to good-quality land and/or land fit for agricultural use;

T.  whereas there is a substantial imbalance in the distribution of high-quality farmland, and whereas such land is decisive for the quality of food, food security and people’s wellbeing;

U.  whereas the demand for food and feed, non-fossil fuel and renewable raw materials for the fuel, chemicals and textiles industries, and for the bioeconomy, is constantly increasing, as is, therefore, the price of land;

V.  whereas small and medium-sized farms, distributed ownership or properly regulated tenancy, and access to common land, are the best way of ensuring a responsible relationship with the land and sustainable land management, and of fostering identification and a sense of belonging; whereas such forms of tenure encourage people to remain in rural areas and enable them to work there, which has a positive impact on the socio-economic infrastructure of rural areas, food security, food sovereignty and the preservation of the rural way of life; whereas the unequal distribution of, and access to, land and natural resources increase the risk of divisions within society, social imbalances, loss in the quality of work and life, and impoverishment; whereas the high concentration of power in sectors within the EU’s food market could affect consumer rights negatively and reduce farmer incomes; whereas farmers who do not own their land should be ensured leases that are robust enough, and of sufficient duration, to safeguard a return on their investments;

W.  whereas the aim of Europe’s agricultural policy is to preserve the European model of farming, based on a multi-functional agriculture characterised primarily by small to medium-sized family and cooperative farms with land ownership; whereas a broad distribution of assets, secure tenure and access to common land, which are managed sustainably, guarantee fair access to resources and a diverse, residence-based agricultural structure with traditions, legal certainty and responsibility for the benefit of society; whereas such a model safeguards traditional products and food sovereignty, and fosters innovation while protecting the environment and future generations;

X.  whereas, in addition to producing food, family-run farms fulfil very important social and environmental functions that an industrialised farming cannot always provide; whereas small and medium-sized agriculture run by families alone, or with the support of consumers, is a very promising model for the future, including from the economic point of view, as such farms often feature a good deal of internal diversification, making them resilient, and contribute to a high level of added value in rural areas;

Y.  whereas the concentration of farmland has an adverse effect on the development of rural communities and the socio-economic viability of rural areas, and results in the loss of agricultural jobs, thus decreasing the standard of living for the agricultural community and the availability of food supplies, and creating imbalances in territorial development and in the social sphere;

Z.  whereas the future of the agricultural sector depends on the younger generation, and on its willingness to innovate and invest, which is decisive for the future of rural areas as it represents the only way to halt the ageing of the farming population and to secure farm succession, without which the intergenerational contract also loses validity; whereas, on the other hand, it is particularly difficult for young farmers and new entrepreneurs to gain access to land and to credit, which is liable to make the sector less attractive;

AA.  whereas access to land is the primary precondition for setting up a farm, which in turn will create jobs and foster social and economic development;

AB.  whereas farmland prices and rents have in many regions risen to a level encouraging financial speculation, making it economically impossible for many farms to hold on to rented land or to acquire the additional land needed to keep small and medium-sized farms viable, let alone to start new farms, as there is hardly any land available on the market;

AC.  whereas differences among the Member States in farmland prices further accentuate concentration processes, and whereas the trend in land prices does not follow economic trends in other sectors;

AD.  whereas in many Member States, sale prices and, in some cases, rents for farmland are no longer based on the incomes that can be derived from food production;

AE.  whereas rents are often no longer based on the incomes that farms can sustain, meaning that capital requirements are too high, and have too much risk attached to encourage entry to farming;

AF.  whereas the demand for food and feed is supplemented by a rising demand for raw materials for the ‘bioeconomy’, such as biofuels and materials for the chemical and textile industries, which inspires interest in acquiring farmland on the part of new operators;

AG.  whereas, given that some Member States are yet to establish effective land policies, EU policies and subsidies can in some cases encourage concentration phenomena, as direct area payments are of greater benefit to large farms and to farmers who are already well established, and the use of these funds leads to a rise in land prices, which tends to put the land market beyond the reach of young people, of new entrants seeking land on which to set up farming, and of small and medium-sized undertakings that are often less well off financially; whereas this means that, not uncommonly, European agricultural funds, which are also intended for medium-sized and small farms, end up in the wrong pockets;

AH.  whereas the concentration of land in the hands of a small number of producers is distorting production and market processes, and is liable to have a counterproductive effect on farming in the Member States and/or in the EU as a whole;

AI.  whereas the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as reformed in 2013, has also helped to limit these effects by introducing an increased payment for the first hectares, with phased reduction of support; whereas, moreover, these direct area payments play an essential role in enabling European farms meeting high production standards to be competitive and sustainable;

AJ.  whereas the purchase of farmland has been seen as a safe investment in many Member States, particularly since the 2007 financial and economic crisis; whereas farmland has been bought up in alarming quantities by non-agricultural investors and financial speculators, such as pension funds, insurance companies and businesses; and whereas land ownership will remain a safe investment even in the event of future inflation;

AK.  whereas a number of Member States have adopted regulatory measures to protect their arable land from being purchased by investors; whereas cases of fraud have been recorded in the form of land purchases involving the use of ‘pocket contracts’, in which the date of the conclusion of the contract is falsified; whereas, at the same time, large amount of land has been acquired by investors;

AL.  whereas the creation of speculative bubbles on farmland markets has serious consequences for farming, and whereas speculation in commodities on futures exchanges drives up farmland prices further;

AM.  whereas there are various contributory factors involved in land grabbing, including increasing globalisation, population growth, a growing demand for foodstuffs and natural raw materials, and the counter-productive effects of agricultural policy;

AN.  whereas the uncontrolled concentration of farmland is resulting in large farms oriented towards achieving the highest profits possible from agricultural production, often while causing significant and irreversible damage to the environment;

AO.  whereas one consequence of the concentration of ownership of farmland is the transfer of profits and tax payments from rural areas to the headquarters of large businesses;

AP.  whereas existing rules on the capping of direct payments above EUR 150 000 become inoperative if legal persons own multiple agricultural subsidiaries, each of which receives less than EUR 150 000 in direct payments;

AQ.  whereas limited companies are moving into farming at an alarming speed; whereas these companies often operate across borders, and often have business models guided far more by interest in land speculation than in agricultural production;

AR.  whereas the problems described above apply not only to farmland but also, with a similar degree of urgency, to forests and fisheries;

1.  Points out that land, its management, and urban development rules are matters for the Member States; calls on the Member States, therefore, in their public policies, to take better account of farmland conservation and management, and to transfers of land;

2.  Calls on the Commission to establish an observatory service for the collection of information and data on the level of farmland concentration and tenure throughout the Union, noting that it should be tasked with: recording purchase prices and rents, and the market behaviour of owners and tenants; observing the loss of farmland following changes in land use, trends in soil fertility and land erosion; and issuing regular reports;

3.  Considers that the Member States should regularly communicate to each other, and to the Commission, information about their national legislation regarding land, land use changes and, in particular, cases involving speculative land purchases;

4.  Calls on the Commission to set up a high-level task force to examine the problem of farmland concentration, to conduct a study on the impact that the policy measures taken by the EU and the Member States have on land concentration and agricultural production, and to analyse the risks that land concentration poses for food supply, employment, the environment, soil quality and rural development;

5.  Calls on the Member States to focus their land-use policies on using available tools – such as taxation, aid schemes and CAP funding – to maintain a family-farm-based agricultural model throughout the EU;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to regularly collect data on rent levels and land prices of comparable quality, including the acquisition of land by means of share purchases and on transactions involving large areas of land, the loss of tenure, infringement of land tenure rights, and speculative price rises, in all Member States; calls on the Commission to publish guidelines on the harmonisation of accounting practices, and to encourage the sharing of best practices in national legislations, in order to identify measures to safeguard farmland and farm activities;

7.  Considers it necessary for the Member States to create harmonised farmland inventories in which all ownership rights, and rights of use in respect of farm land, are recorded in an up-to-date, accurate and comprehensible manner – while fully respecting the data protection rights of the parties involved – and presented in the form of anonymised, publicly accessible statistics;

8.  Calls on the Commission, on this basis, to report at regular intervals to the Council and Parliament on the situation regarding land use and on the structure, prices and national policies and laws on the ownership and renting of farmland, and to report to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) concerning the EU’s implementation of the CFS’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT);

9.  Notes that programmes to consolidate fragmented parcels of land, using differing types of procedure in the framework of an integrated land management system that takes account of local and regional conditions, is an indispensable instrument for improving agricultural structures and settling land-use disputes; recommends, in this regard, that where land consolidation is delivered through the renting of land, rental prices be linked to productive capacity and profitability, as being the most appropriate for the agricultural economy, and calls on the Member States to share their experiences of farmland management;

10.  Considers that well-considered and coordinated land market policies, implemented with the instrument of regional and local land use planning, should help to reduce non-agricultural land use;

11.  Acknowledges that while land policy is essentially a matter for the Member States, it may be affected by the CAP or relevant policy areas, with serious impact on the competitiveness of farms on the internal market; considers that land policy must help to ensure a broad, fair and equitable distribution of land tenure and access to land, as well as the status of tenant farmers within an appropriate framework, as this has direct implications for rural living, working conditions and quality of life; draws attention to the important social function of land tenure and management over generations, given that a loss of farms and jobs will lead to the collapse of European smallholder agriculture and the demise of rural areas, and thus lead to structural changes that are undesirable for society as a whole;

12.  Calls on the Member States, in order to attain the objectives of the CAP, to give small and medium-sized local producers, new entrants and young farmers – while ensuring equal gender access – priority in the purchase and rental of farmland, including pre-emptive rights where established, as the ownership of as much as possible of the land they farm is in the interest of a sustainable and reliable development of their farms, particularly at a time when non-farmers are increasingly interested in purchasing agricultural plots, very often for purely speculative purposes; encourages the Member States to promote small-scale family farms and sustainable production methods;

13.  Recalls that high investment costs hamper the acquisition and leasing of farmland and forested area for small to medium-sized family and cooperative farms;

14.  Recognises the importance of small-scale family farms for rural life, since they play an active role in the economic fabric of rural areas by conserving the cultural heritage and maintaining rural life, sustaining social life and making sustainable use of natural resources, in addition to producing a sufficient amount of healthy and high-quality food, and ensuring a broad distribution of land ownership in such areas; points out the problems that arise in the transfer of farms from one generation to another, with particular reference to the transfer of farms outside the family, and calls on the Member States to collect data on these phenomena and to create the legal framework to tackle such problems;

15.  Recalls the encouragement for young farmers enshrined in the CAP, the purpose of which is to promote their access to farming; calls, moreover, for a comprehensive approach that helps enable skilled young farmers, women and others wishing to take up farming to take over or start farms; notes, however, that new entrants still face obstacles related to structural barriers such as high land prices or high taxation of extra-familial farm succession;

16.  Stresses the relevance of European structural policy to promoting rural areas, for example with a view to ensuring, with regard to access to farmland, special assistance to small and medium-sized individual firms and cooperatives, young people and, in particular, women;

17.  Stresses the difficulties of accessing credit in order to acquire land or tenure, especially for new entrants and young farmers; calls on the Commission to provide proper instruments, in the framework of the CAP and related policies, that facilitate their entry into farming by ensuring fair access to sustainable credit;

18.  Considers that local communities should be involved in decisions on land use;

19.  Calls on the Member States to provide incentives for urban farm development and other forms of participatory farming and land-sharing arrangements, taking into account, on the one hand, the limited access to farmland in rural areas and, on the other, the growing interest in urban and peri-urban agriculture;

20.  Encourages the Member States to engage more efforts in knowledge transfer through research and innovation projects with a view to improving soil quality through the application of agri-environmental practices, in recognition of the fact that farmland is the basis for food production, lasting ecosystems and thriving rural areas;

21.  Calls on the Member States to shape their land market policies in such a way as to permit access to ownership or tenure under financial conditions appropriate to farming, and to monitor farmland prices and rents; calls, furthermore, for transactions on farmland to be subject to an ex-ante procedure checking the conformity with regard to national land legislations, which would also apply to mergers, splits and the establishment of foundations; takes the view that there should be stricter checks on lease contracts, a requirement to report irregularities, and the possibility of penalties, since renting is often the first step to purchasing; urges the Member States to ensure that leasing policy includes the requirement for tenants to engage in farming; considers that land-market policy should help to prevent the establishment of dominant positions on land markets;

22.  Encourages all Member States to use such instruments to regulate the market in land as are already being used successfully in some Member States, in line with EU Treaty provisions, such as state licensing of land sales and leases, rights of pre-emption, obligations for tenants to engage in farming, restrictions on the right of purchase by legal persons, ceilings on the number of hectares that may be bought, preference for farmers, land banking, indexation of prices with reference to farm incomes, etc.;

23.  Underlines that national judicial systems need to protect all parties’ rights in view of irregularities with lease contracts, and that national authorities should take steps to eliminate any loopholes in existing national legislations that make contract abuse possible;

24.  Recalls the positive measures taken by some Member States in regulating their land markets in order to avoid speculative land transactions; reminds the Member States that tax legislation gives them an effective leverage with which to regulate the land market;

25.  Calls on the Member States to shape land market regulation policies in such a way as to curb the rise in farmland prices and rents; calls, furthermore, for these prices to be subject to an authorisation procedure that would also apply to mergers, splits and the establishment of foundations; takes the view that there should be stricter checks on lease contracts, a requirement to report irregularities, and the possibility of penalties, since renting is often the first step to purchasing;

26.  Calls on the Member States to support or create appropriate institutions with state participation and public supervision for land management;

27.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to support all innovative land-sharing measures favourable to enabling young farmers to establish themselves, in particular by means of investment funds, based on the principle of solidarity, that enable savers to invest their funds in a socially useful manner by assisting young people without sufficient resources to acquire land and to embark on careers in farming;

28.  Calls on the EU and its Member States, in the interest of developing a clear EU guiding principle for the structure of farming, to implement the VGGT, ratified by all Member States; calls, in particular, on the Member States to consider the wider social, economic and environmental objectives, and to avoid the undesirable impacts that land speculation and concentration have on local communities, when taking measures regarding the use of, and control over, state-owned resources; calls on the Member States to report to the Commission on the use and application of these guidelines in their land governance policies;

29.  Suggests, in this regard, that the Commission adopt recommendations on EU land governance, in line with the VGGT and taking into account the horizontal EU frameworks on agriculture, the environment, the internal market and territorial cohesion;

30.  Suggests that direct payments would offer better value for money if they were payable based on the environmental and socio-economic public goods a farm holding delivers, rather than solely on the land area it covers;

31.  Points out the possibilities open to the Member States of reducing the part of direct payments exceeding the upper limit of EUR 150 000 by at least 5 %, as set out in Article 11 of Regulation No 1307/2013 (the Direct Payments Regulation);

32.  Believes that, under the reformed CAP, ceilings should be introduced, and the direct payments scheme adjusted, in such a way as to give added weight to the first hectares, and that steps should be taken to facilitate investment and the disbursement of direct aid to small farms; calls on the Commission to introduce a more effective aid redistribution system in order to guard against farmland concentration;

33.  Encourages the Member States to make greater use of the scope already available to them to cap and redistribute CAP funds, such as the possibility of having 30 % of direct payments payable on the first hectare, as a way to strengthen small-scale and family farming, provided that they, at the same time, apply the requirements of Articles 41 and 42 of the Direct Payments Regulation; proposes that the favourable treatment of the first hectares should be calculated not per farm but per parent company; calls, therefore, on the Commission to publish information, in line with data protection rules, not only on owners of farms that receive CAP subsidies, but also on beneficiaries such as land owners/parent companies;

34.  Highlights the importance of a distinctive definition throughout the EU of ‘active farmer’ that is clearly linked to the notion of work on a farm and that makes an accurate distinction between eligible and non-eligible land (e.g. airports, industrial open areas, golf courses); calls on the Commission to ensure that only active farmers are beneficiaries of direct support;

35.  Calls on the Commission to monitor all relevant policy areas, such as agriculture, energy, environment, regional development, mobility, finance and investment, to see whether they promote or counteract the concentration of agricultural land in the EU and, with the participation of farmers and their organisations as well as other relevant civil-society actors, to launch a consultation procedure to assess the existing situation with regard to the administration of farmland in line with the VGGT and the terms of reference adopted by the CFS;

36.  Recommends that the Member States undertake a targeted examination of the national implementation of the existing CAP with a view to identifying any undesirable effects of the concentration of land;

37.  Endorses the Commission’s finding that land is a finite resource that is already under much pressure as a result of climate change, soil erosion and over-exploitation or change of use, and therefore supports eco-social measures to protect the land, while underlining that land is a matter for which sole responsibility is vested in the Member States;

38.  Calls for farmland to be given special protection with a view to allowing the Member States, in coordination with local authorities and farmers’ organisations, to regulate the sale, use and lease of agricultural land in order to ensure food security in line with the EU Treaties and the case law of the European Court of Justice on land tenure and access to land, and also with regard to the four fundamental European freedoms and to the public interest;

39.  Suggests that, in the interests of interinstitutional transparency, the Commission should give Parliament better insight into the documents on infringements of the Treaties and the preliminary proceedings in connection with regulation of the land market by the Member States;

40.  Calls on the Commission, in conjunction with the Member States and stakeholders, to publish a clear and comprehensive set of criteria, including farmland transactions on capital markets, that ensure a level playing field and make it clear to the Member States which land market regulation measures are permitted, taking into account the public interest and the four freedoms of the European Union, with a view to ensuring easier acquisition by farmers of land for farming and forestry; calls on the Commission to consider a moratorium on the ongoing proceedings aimed at assessing whether Member States’ legislations on farmland trading comply with EU law until the aforementioned set of criteria are published;

41.  Calls on the Commission to raise the awareness of the Member States about, and support them in combating, tax evasion, corruption and illegal practices (such as ‘pocket contracts’) in connection with land transactions; draws attention to the abuses under investigation by judicial authorities in certain Member States concerning the farm land acquisition process;

42.  Welcomes the proposal to simplify the CAP, in particular those measures aimed at reducing costs and administrative burdens for family farms, as well as for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas;

43.  Calls on the Commission to maintain, during the development of the draft CAP for the period after 2020, measures to combat the concentration of agricultural land and to develop additional measures in support of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises;

44.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1)

Study entitled ‘Extent of Farmland Grabbing in the EU’ by the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, p. 24 (PE 540.369).

(2)

ibid.

(3)

Landwirtschaftliche Bodenmarktpolitik: Allgemeine Situation und Handlungsoptionen Bericht der Bund-Länder-Arbeitsgruppe ‘Bodenmarktpolitik’ gemäß Beschluss der Amtschefinnen und Amtschefs der Agrarressorts der Länder vom 16. Januar 2014 (March 2015), p. 37.

Text adopted – Opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement – P8_TA-PROV(2016)0061 – Thursday, 25 February 2016 – Brussels – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the opening on 13 October 2015 of negotiations on an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement,

–  having regard to Article 21 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and Articles 3, 207 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the statements made by Commissioner Malmström on 13 October 2015 in Tunis at the opening of the negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Tunisia,

–  having regard to the decision of 9 October 2015 to award the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the National Dialogue Quartet representing Tunisian civil society,

–  having regard to the EU Council conclusions of 20 July 2015 on Tunisia(1) ,

–  having regard to Recommendation No 1/2015 of the EU-Tunisia Association Council of 17 March 2015 on the implementation of the EU-Tunisia Action Plan (2013-2017) implementing the privileged partnership within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy(2) ,

–  having regard to Decision No 534/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 providing macro-financial assistance to Tunisia(3) , and to the making available of a first instalment on 26 April 2015,

–  having regard to the trade sustainability impact assessments carried out by Ecorys in support of negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the European Union and Tunisia(4) ,

–  having regard to the sustainability impact assessment on the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area, Final Report of the SIA-EMFTA Project, Consultation Draft September 2007, carried out by the Impact Assessment Research Centre Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester(5) ,

–  having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part(6) ,

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 18 November 2015 entitled ‘Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy’,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the Union for the Mediterranean and the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, and in particular that of 10 May 2012 on ‘Trade for Change: the EU trade and investment strategy for the Southern Mediterranean following the Arab Spring revolutions’(7) ,

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution by the Committee on International Trade,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Euro-Tunisian relations are close and date back a very long time, whereas the EU is Tunisia’s largest trading partner, and whereas Tunisia is the EU’s 34th largest trading partner;

B.  whereas the first trade cooperation agreement between the two partners was concluded in 1969, and whereas in 1995 Tunisia was the first of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to sign an association agreement with the European Union;

C.  whereas on 13 October 2015 the EU and Tunisia opened negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement on the basis of the mandate unanimously adopted on 14 December 2015 by the EU Member States, and whereas the first round took place from 19 to 22 October 2015;

D.  whereas the preliminary discussions between the European Union and Tunisia on the DCFTA lasted four years, and whereas Tunisia set up a national commission to identify its priorities;

E.  whereas the deepening of EU-Tunisia trade relations through the conclusion of an ambitious trade partnership represents an opportunity for growth and closer ties between the economies of Tunisia and the EU; whereas this partnership must contribute to the political and democratic stabilisation of Tunisia;

F.  whereas the trade partnership is part of the wider framework of neighbourhood relations between the EU and Tunisia governed by the 1995 Mediterranean Association Agreement, which provides for the establishment of a free trade area and contains provisions on agriculture and services; whereas on 17 March 2015 the EU-Tunisia Association Council adopted a new action plan implementing the privileged partnership, with a view to achieving a significant measure of economic integration; whereas the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy must promote the EU’s and Tunisia’s common values and interests and seek to support inclusive social and economic development, bring about job creation for young people and lead to economic stabilisation;

G.  whereas Tunisia, the birthplace of the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’, is the only country in the Middle East/North Africa region to have implemented a process of democratic and political transition and, as such, represents an example for the entire region;

H.  whereas political stability and economic development go hand in hand, and whereas this trade agreement must seek to offer real prospects for the economies of Tunisia and the EU;

I.  whereas, in parallel with these negotiations, the EU must continue and increase its aid to Tunisia and provide the country with appropriate financial and technical assistance, during the negotiations and, subsequently, during the implementation of the agreement’s provisions, by developing a genuine partnership in which the interests of people on both shores of the Mediterranean can be taken into account;

J.  whereas Tunisia and the EU have every interest in promoting and strengthening ‘South-South’ regional integration processes between Tunisia and its neighbours, in particular through the Agadir Agreement, and whereas the EU-Tunisia free trade negotiations must complement those efforts;

K.  whereas Tunisia’s democratic transition remains an example for other countries in the region; whereas on 26 January 2014 the National Constituent Assembly adopted a new Constitution for Tunisia; whereas that Constitution provides exemplary protection of rights and freedoms; and whereas on 21 December 2014 Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi was elected President of the Republic of Tunisia in a free, pluralist and transparent election;

L.  whereas Tunisian civil society, through its dynamism and level of education, has played a vital role in the country’s transition to democracy; whereas it should continue to be closely involved in the process of political decision-making, including in the DCFTA negotiations;

M.  whereas the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet represents an acknowledgement of the efforts made to consolidate democracy, and an incentive to continue on that path; whereas it is vital that an exemplary agreement should be concluded in order to allay the concerns voiced by civil society;

The economic, political and social situation in Tunisia

1.  Condemns in strong terms the terrorist attacks committed in Tunisia in recent months, which have claimed many lives; considers that Tunisia faces a very serious terrorist threat, and notes that the attack carried out on the presidential guard bus on 24 November 2015 and the terrorist attacks of 26 June 2015 in Sousse and of 18 March 2015 at the Bardo Museum caused a collapse in the tourism prospects for the summer of 2015 when tourism and related sectors account for 15 % of the country’s GNP; expresses its full solidarity with Tunisia and reaffirms its support for the efforts of the Tunisian authorities in their fight against terrorism, in compliance with human rights standards and the rule of law;

2.  Notes that the Tunisian economy faces major difficulties, that GDP grew by 2,3 % in 2014, that the unemployment rate in 2015 was 15 % of the active population, that 28,6 % of graduates have no jobs and that unemployment among young Tunisians is rising;

3.  Notes that there is a clear demographic and economic imbalance between the European Union and Tunisia, and that this justifies an asymmetric and progressive approach in the negotiations;

4.  Notes that in Tunisia there are significant regional disparities between the capital, Tunis, and other parts of the country, with very significant development gaps between the coast and the central areas of the country, in particular with regard to the unemployment rate and access to healthcare and education, and that these disparities could be worsened by climate change;

5.  Notes the employment gap in Tunisia today between the various sectors covered by the trade agreement, and points out that if this is not corrected, it will lead to over-employment in the agricultural sector, while other sectors important to the diversification of Tunisia’s economy, such as manufacturing and mining, will disappear;

6.  Notes that Tunisia’s democratic transition process is the most successful in the region and that the country has opted for a political and economic development model which is unique among the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and calls on the Commission to take account of these facts in the negotiations; considers it essential that the EU should take all possible measures to support Tunisia’s democratic transition to a stable pluralist society;

7.  Notes that Tunisia faces a very unstable regional environment, particularly as a result of the conflict in Libya and the sporadic violence in Algeria, both of which are neighbouring countries;

8.  Notes that Tunisia has taken in more than 1,8 million Libyan refugees, which is equivalent to 16 % of the total population of Tunisia;

Criteria for a successful trade agreement between the EU and Tunisia

9.  Welcomes the opening of negotiations in the autumn of 2015 with a view to the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the EU and Tunisia, on the basis of the mandate adopted by the Council in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring; notes that since 2011 Tunisia has consolidated its democratic transition, with the proclamation of the new Constitution on 26 January 2014 and with parliamentary and presidential elections held on 26 October and 23 November 2014 respectively;

10.  Considers that this agreement has more than just a trade dimension, and that it should seek to contribute to the stability of Tunisia, to the consolidation of its democracy and to the reinvigoration of its economy by having a positive impact on consumer prices, employment and the wages of skilled and unskilled workers and by reducing inequalities; urges that no agreement which does not address these issues should be concluded;

11.  Urges the negotiators to conclude a progressive and asymmetrical agreement which takes account of the significant economic disparities between the parties, to demonstrate flexibility, responsiveness, openness to innovation, transparency and adaptability in the negotiations, and to bear in mind that the agreement must benefit the economies and societies of Tunisia and the EU, while taking proper account of the specific differences and sensibilities, and socioeconomic and cultural contexts, of both parties and without distorting Tunisia’s intra-regional trade;

12.  Welcomes the presentation by the Tunisian Government of a five-year plan (2015-2020) of economic reforms designed to reduce unemployment and regional disparities in the country and to diversify the economy; believes that the free trade agreement must be consistent with the objectives of this plan;

13.  Points out that this is the first trade negotiation of this magnitude for Tunisia, and that it is important, therefore, that the various sectors of the country’s economy should be opened up gradually and asymmetrically, that transitional periods should be provided for sensitive sectors and that certain products which the parties deem sensitive should be excluded from the negotiations;

14.  Considers it essential that Tunisia should receive substantial financial and technical assistance from the EU so that it can properly implement the provisions of the free trade agreement; calls for the financial aid to be granted in a transparent manner and for steps to be taken to ensure that it actually benefits its recipients;

15.  Welcomes the support provided by the European Investment Bank to numerous projects in Tunisia; stresses that this support is contributing to Tunisia’s economic diversification and helping to create jobs, particularly for young people;

16.  Welcomes the fact that the EU has made Tunisia one of the priority countries in its neighbourhood policy vis-à-vis the countries of the southern Mediterranean, and that it has granted Tunisia a loan of EUR 300 million in the form of macro-financial aid to carry out economic reforms;

17.  Calls, nevertheless, on the EU, as well as the Member States, the EIB and the EBRD, to continue to stand alongside the Tunisians and to step up aid and assistance programmes, including through the introduction of exceptional autonomous trade measures, to help Tunisia consolidate its democratic process; welcomes the establishment by some Member States of ‘partnerships for the transformation’ of Tunisia; calls on the EU to continue its programme to reduce regional inequalities in access to basic medical care in Tunisia;

18.  Calls on the EU to take account of Tunisia’s specific situation in these negotiations, in particular as regards the fragile nature of the democratic transition and the difference in economic development between the EU and Tunisia, always bearing in mind that solutions that benefit both partners are best;

19.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the negotiations quickly produce tangible gains for the EU and Tunisian economies in key sectors and for all stakeholders, including SMEs and VSEs;

20.  Emphasises that this agreement must contribute to the development and diversification of the Tunisian economy, which is currently heavily dependent on agriculture, and to a reduction in regional disparities, and must provide tangible benefits for all Tunisians and Europeans;

21.  Welcomes the fact that Tunisia has launched significant social and economic reforms; insists that these reforms continue even during the negotiation period so that the country can draw maximum benefit from the future agreement;

22.  Considers that the agreement should contribute to the deepening of economic cooperation between the EU and Tunisia, which is already well advanced thanks to the abolition of tariffs on industrial goods in accordance with the association agreement; proposes, therefore, the new name of ‘economic partnership between the EU and Tunisia’;

23.  Strongly encourages the Commission and the Tunisian Government to implement a clear and detailed process for involving Tunisian and European civil society throughout the negotiations, and to take an innovative approach to this issue; in that connection, declares itself satisfied with the role played by Tunisian civil society in the first round of negotiations, and calls for the consultation process to be open and transparent and to take greater account of the diversity of Tunisian civil society, drawing on best practices employed in similar negotiations;

24.  Welcomes, in that connection, the setting-up by the Ministry of Trade and Crafts of a website to provide information about the DCFTA to the public and the willingness of the negotiators to publish a trilingual version of the final text; considers that Tunisian civil society could also be involved in the negotiations through an impact assessment supervisory committee;

25.  Urges the Council to make public the negotiating mandate unanimously adopted by the Member States on 14 December 2011;

26.  Hopes for regular dialogue to be established between Tunisian and European parliamentarians and to continue throughout the negotiations; with that aim in view, welcomes the setting-up of an EU-Tunisia Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which will play a central role and enable European and Tunisian parliamentarians to meet regularly and monitor effectively the negotiations on the free trade agreement;

27.  Hopes that this dialogue will make it possible to assess more effectively the expectations and concerns of both parties, and thus to improve the terms of the agreement;

28.  Points out that the Union for the Mediterranean supports the development of practical projects in the region and can therefore provide expertise during the negotiation of the agreement;

29.  Calls for impact assessments and sectoral evaluations to be carried out, on both sides, including by the European Parliament working with Tunisian experts, of the impact of the agreement in various areas, including services, public procurement, SME competitiveness, employment, agriculture, the environment or any other priority sector; notes Tunisia’s wish to involve its own experts from the outset in order to ensure that the impact assessment figures are credible in Tunisia itself;

30.  Calls for these impact assessments and sectoral evaluations to be funded by the European Union and, as requested by a number of Tunisian civil society organisations, for them possibly to be preceded by an ex-post evaluation of the socio-economic impact of the 1995 Association Agreement;

31.  Urges the Commission to determine as soon as possible whether the agreement is to be mixed or exclusive, and calls on it to involve the Member States’ national parliaments in the debate from the start of the discussions;

32.  Emphasises that environmental conditions in the Mediterranean basin, in particular the shortage of water, which makes farming more difficult, must be taken into account in the negotiations and that an economic model must be promoted which is environmentally sustainable and makes for sustainable management of natural resources;

33.  Stresses that the trade negotiations with Tunisia form part of the wider context of Euro-Mediterranean trade relations; insists that the 10th Conference of Trade Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean, postponed indefinitely since 2013, take place soon in order to reconsider trade issues in the region and the work priorities to be established for the next few years;

Sectoral approach to the negotiations

34.  Calls for the agreement to accord proper importance to the services sector, which offers significant growth potential for the Tunisian economy and which should attract strategic investments; considers, in light of the fact that this is the first trade negotiation of this magnitude for Tunisia, that negotiations on the services chapter should be based on a positive-list approach for both market access and national treatment;

35.  Notes that the public sector is of fundamental importance for Tunisia and is the biggest provider of skilled employment in the country;

36.  Notes that Tunisia has many start-ups, micro-enterprises and highly dynamic SMEs in high-tech fields, and calls for the agreement to promote their capacity to develop and internationalise; notes the call made by the Tunisians that the agreement should incorporate ambitious and balanced provisions concerning online trade;

37.  Calls on both parties to boost employment levels, including through joint initiatives, as this is essential to Tunisia’s economic recovery and political stability;

38.  Believes that the agreement should be beneficial to small-scale producers and entrepreneurs in Tunisia, who are vital to the country’s economy; calls for regular dialogue to be developed between entrepreneurs, professional organisations and training bodies, so that good practices can be promoted and the difficulties and expectations of each side better understood;

39.  Believes that it is important to take a cautious, progressive and flexible approach to the negotiations on the competition chapter, given the strategic significance of State aid for Tunisia’s economic development;

40.  Draws attention to the importance of setting up bilateral chambers of commerce to provide permanent forums in which the stakeholders can establish partnerships and develop their economic and commercial activities;

41.  Calls on the Commission to facilitate the granting of short-term visas for performing ‘Move IV’-type services requiring the movement of natural persons for a limited period of time in accordance with precise conditions stipulated by contract and by domestic legislation; emphasises that nothing in the agreement should prevent the EU and its Member States from applying measures to regulate the entry of natural persons into, or their temporary stay on, its territory, including those measures required to ensure the orderly movement of natural persons beyond its borders, such as admission conditions;

42.  Hopes that the agreement will help permanently establish in Tunisia a favourable climate which acts as an incentive to long-term investments in key and dynamic economic sectors, such as tourism, energy, including renewable energy sources, high-tech services, the digital economy and data exchange; urges the Commission to include a chapter on investment, with a view to facilitating direct foreign investment between the EU and Tunisia, and to speed up the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean trade and investment facilitation mechanism, which will make it possible for relevant data to be collected, strengthen trade partnerships and benefit Tunisia in particular;

43.  Takes the view that the agreement should incorporate provisions on public procurement which reflect a cautious approach to the opening-up of markets on both the European and the Tunisian side and which take account of the structure of and specific conditions in the Tunisian economy;

44.  Believes that the EU and Tunisia have everything to gain from better reciprocal access to their agricultural markets and that the agreement should help to reduce customs tariffs, eliminate non-tariff barriers and improve export procedures;

45.  Notes that Tunisia has focused on developing organic farming, and stresses that the agreement should provide opportunities for Tunisian organic farming products to gain access to new markets;

46.  Urges that the negotiations should not harm the economy of either of the parties; Calls on the EU and Tunisia to take into account the fact that there are several sensitive agricultural products on both sides of the Mediterranean, for which exhaustive lists will have to be agreed upon in the negotiation process, and to provide for transitional periods and appropriate quotas for these sensitive products, or even for their exclusion from the negotiations;

47.  Encourages the Commission to negotiate the establishment of rigorous, stringent standards in the fields of health and plant health and the resolution of veterinary problems and problems relating to checks on meat and fruit and vegetables in Tunisia; calls on the Commission to include in the agreement specific technical assistance provisions to help Tunisian producers meet the EU’s stricter health and plant health standards;

48.  Believes that the agreement should help to define stringent standards in the area of sustainable development, particularly with regard to social standards;

49.  Looks to the Tunisian Government and the EU institutions to establish suitable provisions on the identification of the origin and provenance and on the traceability of Tunisian products, providing greater transparency for producers, middlemen and consumers;

50.  Hopes that the agreement will include an ambitious chapter on intellectual property rights, including the recognition and enhanced protection of geographical indications, ensuring full recognition of the geographical indications of the EU and Tunisia, traceability of the products concerned and the protection of manufacturers’ know-how;

51.  Calls on the Commission to extend the protection of geographical indications to non-agricultural products, including for this agreement, given that, for its part, Tunisia recognises them;

52.  Hopes that the agreement will enable Tunisian industry to modernise and gain expertise, so that it can cover more of the supply chain for manufactured goods and therefore make use of higher skill levels and employ better qualified staff locally;

53.  Urges the Commission to include in the agreement an ambitious chapter on energy and raw materials, so that research and cooperation can be stepped up in the electricity, gas, wind, solar and other renewables sectors;

54.  Hopes that the agreement will contain provisions to help strengthen scientific cooperation, particularly between universities and research centres in Europe and Tunisia, in the areas of research, innovation, the development of new technologies and, more generally, culture and education, and that these initiatives may also play a part in supporting the Tunisian labour market;

55.  Welcomes the fact that Tunisia has been included in the Horizon 2020 European research programme, and urges the Commission and the Tunisian Government to include in the agreement an ambitious chapter on sustainable development, promoting high social and labour standards in accordance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and the environmental standards laid down in the relevant multilateral agreements;

56.  Points out that Tunisia has ratified all the ILO conventions, but that, according to an independent monitoring body, it must step up its efforts to promote high labour standards; hopes that the DCFTA will help Tunisia develop more protective social and labour standards, particularly as regards trade union rights; expects the DCFTA, in the Tunisian context of democratic transition and terrorist threat, to encourage a strengthening of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of association, expression and information;

57.  Calls on the Commission to include in the agreement the human rights clause, on the strength of which the EU may suspend the agreement unilaterally should the other contracting party commit any breach of human rights;

58.  Calls on the parties to consider introducing a tax good governance clause, based on the work of the Commission’s Platform for Tax Good Governance, to rule out any instance of double non-taxation;

59.  Welcomes the shared interest in deepening the Mobility Partnership established on 3 March 2014, and hopes that a visa facilitation agreement and a readmission agreement will be finalised;

60.  Calls on the EU institutions to introduce appropriate compensation measures in the event that actual or possible damage is done to one or more of the trade sectors covered by the agreement;

o
o   o

61.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and to the Commission.

(1) Conclusions 11076/15 RELEX 626 of the Council of the European Union of 20 July 2015.
(2) OJ L 151, 18.6.2015, p. 25.
(3) OJ L 151, 21.5.2014, p. 9.
(4) http://www.trade-sia.com/tunisia/the-study/?lang=fr.
(5) http://www.sia-trade.org/emfta.
(6) OJ L 97, 30.3.1998, p. 2.
(7) OJ C 261 E, 10.9.2013, p. 21.