Tag Archives: CompetitionPolicy

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Cristal by Tronox

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, responsible for competition policy, said: Titanium dioxide is used in everyday products, including paints, plastics and paper, and many different manufacturers need to buy it from a small number of suppliers. We will carefully assess whether the proposed merger between Cristal and Tronox would affect competition in the titanium dioxide market and ultimately lead to higher prices for many everyday products, or less choice for consumers.

Tronox and Cristal are both active in manufacturing titanium dioxide pigment. They also own titanium feedstock facilities, from which they source the raw material for their pigment production. Titanium dioxide is a white pigment used in numerous products, such as paints, paper and plastics. It is used to add opacity and brightness, and to ensure consistency of colour.

The proposed merger would create the largest supplier of chloride-based titanium dioxide in the European Economic Area (EEA) and globally.

The Commission’s preliminary competition concerns

The Commission’s initial market investigation raised several issues relating in particular to a reduction in the number of suppliers of titanium dioxide pigment produced via the chloride-based process. The market is already concentrated and Tronox and Cristal are close competitors. The Commission is concerned that the transaction could lead to less choice for customers and potentially to higher prices for the products concerned.

Different types of titanium dioxide pigment are suitable for use in different products. For some of them, such as paints for buildings and specific types of plastics and paper, the number of suppliers of titanium dioxide is particularly limited. In some of these markets, the Commission is concerned that the acquisition would reduce the number of effective competitors from four to three.

The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation into the effects of this transaction to further explore its initial concerns.

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 15 November 2017. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 15 May 2018, to take a decision. The opening of an in-depth investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Companies and products

Tronox, registered in Australia and headquartered in the US, is active in mining and in the production of minerals and chemicals, including titanium dioxide. It owns mines in Australia and South Africa, and operates production sites in Europe, the US and Australia.

Cristal (The National Titanium Dioxide Company Ltd.) is headquartered in Saudi Arabia and is part of the Tasnee industrial company. Cristal is active in mining and in the production of titanium dioxide and other titanium chemicals. It owns mines in Australia and Brazil, and operates production sites in Europe, the US, China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Merger control rules and procedures

The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions that have been referred to it by EU Member States (see Article 4(5) of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.

The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).

In addition to the current transaction, there are five ongoing Phase II merger investigations: the proposed acquisition of Ilva by ArcelorMittal, the proposed merger of Essilor and Luxottica, the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer, the proposed creation of a joint venture by Celanese and Blackstone, and the proposed acquisition of NXP by Qualcomm.

More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.8451.

Minutes – Monday, 20 November 2017 – PE 613.621v01-00 – Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection

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Text adopted – Towards a digital trade strategy – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0488 – Tuesday, 12 December 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS),

–  having regard to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA),

–  having regard to the WTO Work Programme on E-commerce,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration by G7 ICT Ministers at the Meeting in Takamatsu, Kagawa on 29 and 30 April 2016,

–  having regard to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy in Cancun in 2016,

–  having regard to the Dynamic Coalition on Trade at the Internet Governance Forum,

–  having regard to the ongoing EU trade negotiations with third countries,

–  having regard to the agreement in principle announced by the Commission on 6 July 2017 on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,

–  having regard to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce)(1)

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(2)

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for All: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘Digitising European Industry’ (COM(2016)0180),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 entitled ‘European Cloud Initiative – Building a competitive data and knowledge economy in Europe’ (COM(2016)0178),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 23 June 2017 on trade and investment barriers (COM(2017)0338),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 January 2017 entitled ‘Building A European Data Economy’ (COM(2017)0009),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications and repealing Directive 2002/58/EC (Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications) (COM(2017)0010),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 13 September 2017 for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a framework for the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union (COM(2017)0495),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 2 May 2017 entitled ‘Digital4Development: mainstreaming digital technologies and services into EU Development Policy’ (SWD(2017)0157),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(3)

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 February 2016 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Commission on the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)(4)

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 containing the European Parliament’s recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)(5)

–  having regard to the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development and the outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 entitled ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),

–  having regard to the upcoming 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 10 to 13 December 2017, where e-commerce is likely to be discussed,

–  having regard to the UN International Telecommunication Union’s initiatives in support of Developing Countries (ITU-D),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 8(1) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and to Article 16(1) of the TFEU,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of freedom of speech on Freedom of Expression and the private sector in the digital age (A/HRC/32/38) and on the role of digital access providers (A/HRC/35/22),

–  having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted by the Council (Foreign Affairs) on 12 May 2014,

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, European Treaty Series No 108, and the additional protocol thereto,

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 May 2016 on transatlantic data flows(6)

–  having regard to the Commission report to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the implementation of the Trade Policy Strategy Trade for All – Delivering a Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalisation (COM(2017)0491).

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0384/2017),

A.  whereas technological developments, access to the open internet and the digitalisation of the economy are an engine for growth as they enable companies particularly start-ups, micro-enterprises and SMEs, to create new opportunities in developing, ordering, producing, marketing or delivering products and services, and to reach customers all over the globe at a faster pace and lower cost than ever before; whereas emerging technologies such as distributed ledger technology have the potential to enhance digital trade by improving the transparency of international contracts and expediting the transfer of value; whereas trade in physical goods has been replaced by increasing amounts of cross-border transfers of digital content, sometimes blurring the distinction between goods and services;

B.  whereas data collection, data aggregation and the ability to transfer data across borders has the potential to be a key driver of innovation, productivity and economic competitiveness;

C.  whereas the globalisation and digitalisation of our economies and of international trade have enabled businesses to grow and provided economic opportunities for citizens; whereas the digitalisation of traditional industries affects supply chains, manufacturing and services models, which could lead to job creation in new industries, but could also disrupt current jobs and lead to precarious working conditions as more and more tasks traditionally performed by humans are either automated or off-shored, or both; stresses in this regard that the necessary social flanking measures must be put in place for them to benefit the whole society, such as strong education and training policies, active labour market policies and measures to overcome the digital divide;

D.  whereas the digital economy requires a rules-based framework, including modern trade rules which can reconcile the rapid changes in the market with the rights of consumers, providing the policy space and room for new regulatory initiatives needed by governments to defend and strengthen the protection of human rights;

E.  whereas access to a free, open and secure internet is a prerequisite for rules-based trade and development in the digital economy; whereas the principle of net neutrality should be a key part of the EU’s digital trade strategy in order to allow for fair competition and innovation in the digital economy, while ensuring freedom of speech online;

F.  whereas investment in infrastructure and access to skills remain key challenges to connectivity and, therefore, digital trade;

G.  whereas the UN’s SDGs stress that providing universal and affordable access to the internet for people in least developed countries by 2020 will be crucial for fostering development, as the development of a digital economy could be a driver of jobs and growth, e-commerce being one opportunity to increase the numbers of small exporters, export volumes and export diversification;

H.  whereas women can benefit as entrepreneurs and as workers from better access to global markets, and as consumers from lower prices, whereas many challenges and inequalities still hinder women’s participation in the global economy, as many of women in low- and middle-income countries, still have no access to the internet;

I.  whereas e-commerce is also booming in developing countries;

J.  whereas governments around the world are engaging in digital protectionism by putting up barriers that hinder market access and direct investment, or create unfair advantages for domestic companies; whereas a number of broad measures in third countries taken in the name of national (cyber)security have an increasingly negative impact on trade in ICT products;

K.  whereas foreign companies currently benefit from far greater access to the European market than Europeans do to third countries; whereas many of our trade partners are increasingly closing their domestic markets and resorting to digital protectionism; whereas the EU should anchor its digital trade strategy in the principles of reciprocity, fair competition, smart regulation and transparency with a view to restoring consumers’ trust and restoring a level playing field for businesses;

L.  whereas geo-blocking should be put to an end and no forms of unjustified discrimination based on a customer’s nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market should take place in the future;

M.  whereas the building blocks that preserve the open internet in the EU’s digital single market, including principles such as fair competition, net neutrality and intermediary liability protections, should be promoted in all trade negotiations; whereas the global dimension of digital trade makes the WTO the natural venue for the negotiation of a rule-based multilateral framework; whereas the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2017 provides the platform for launching such a process;

N.  whereas the European Union is bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including Article 8 thereof on the right to the protection of personal data, by Article 16 TFEU on the same fundamental right, and by Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); whereas the right to privacy is a universal human right; whereas high data protection standards help to build trust in the digital economy among European citizens and thus foster the development of digital trade; whereas promoting high data protection standards, in particular as regards sensitive data, and facilitating international trade must go hand in hand in the digital era, in order to support freedom of expression and information, e-commerce, and encryption, and to reject digital protectionism, mass surveillance, cyber espionage and online censorship;

O.  whereas digital trade must protect endangered wildlife species, and whereas online market places must ban the sale of wildlife and wildlife products on their platforms;

P.  whereas private companies are increasingly setting norms and standards in the digital economy, which will have a direct impact on citizens and consumers, as well as on domestic and international trade and at the same time accelerate the development of technological solutions to safeguard business and customers;

Q.  whereas the OECD recommendations against base erosion and profit shifting and the EU’s plans for a common consolidated corporate tax base have highlighted the need to address a number of tax challenges, including those posed by the digital economy; whereas taxes should be paid where profits are made; whereas a more transparent, efficient and fair system for calculating the tax base of cross-border companies should prevent profit shifting and tax avoidance; whereas a coherent EU approach to taxation in the digital economy is necessary to achieve fair and effective taxation of all companies and to create a level playing field; recalls that trade agreements should include a clause on tax good governance that reaffirms the parties’ commitment to implementing agreed international standards in the fight against tax evasion and avoidance;

R.  whereas, according to the OECD, up to 5 % of goods imported into the EU are counterfeited, resulting in substantial losses in jobs and tax revenues;

S.  whereas sensitive sectors such as audio-visual services, and fundamental rights such as the protection of personal data, should not be subject to trade negotiations;

T.  whereas digital trade must also aim to promote the growth of SMEs and start-ups, and not only that of multinationals;

U.  whereas Mexico fulfils the conditions for accession to Council of Europe Convention No 108 on data protection;

V.  whereas the protection of personal data is non-negotiable in trade agreements, and whereas data protection has always been excluded from EU trade negotiation mandates;

W.  whereas trade agreements can be a lever to improve digital rights; whereas the inclusion of provisions on net neutrality, a ban on forced unjustified data localisation requirements, data security, security of data processing and data storage, encryption and intermediary liability in trade agreements can strengthen, in particular, the protection of freedom of speech;

1.  Underlines that the EU, as a community of values and the world’s biggest exporter of services, should set the standards in international rules and agreements on digital trade flows based on three elements: (1) ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries, (2) ensuring that trade rules create tangible benefits for consumers and (3) ensuring and promoting respect for fundamental rights;

2.  Stresses the need to bridge the digital divide in order to minimise potential negative social and development impacts; underlines, in this regard, the importance of promoting female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), of removing barriers to lifelong learning, and of closing gender gaps in access to and in the use of new technologies; calls on the Commission to explore further how current trade policy and gender equality are linked and how trade can promote women’s economic empowerment;

3.  Notes that the network effect of the digital economy enables one company or a small number of companies to hold a large market share, which could lead to excessive market concentration; stresses the importance of promoting fair and effective competition in trade agreements, in particular between digital service providers such as online platforms, and users such as micro-enterprises, SMEs and start-ups, and of promoting consumer choice, reducing transaction costs, ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of all market players and avoiding the creation of dominant positions that distort the markets; stresses, in this context, the importance of including net neutrality as a key part of its digital trade strategy; considers that a digital trade strategy must be complemented by a reinforced and effective international framework for competition policy, including by increased cooperation between competition authorities and strong competition chapters in trade agreements; calls on the Commission to ensure that businesses and companies comply with competition rules and that there is no discrimination against competitors to the detriment of consumers’ interests;

4.  Stresses that access to secure broadband internet connectivity and digital payment methods, effective consumer protection, in particular redress mechanisms for online cross-border sales, and predictable customs procedures, are essential elements in relation to enabling digital trade, sustainable development and inclusive growth;

5.  Considers that trade agreements should provide for increased cooperation between consumer protection agencies and welcomes initiatives to foster consumer trust-enhancing measures in trade negotiations, such as disciplines on electronic signatures and contracts and unsolicited communications; highlights that the rights of consumers must be protected and must not in any event be diluted;

6.  Underlines that SMEs in developing countries make up the majority of businesses and employ the majority of manufacturing and service sector workers; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development;

7.  Recalls that nothing in trade agreements shall prevent the EU and its Member States from maintaining, improving and applying its data protection rules; recalls that personal data can be transferred to third countries without using general disciplines in trade agreements when the requirements – both at present and in the future – enshrined in Chapter IV of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(7)
and in Chapter V of Regulation (EU) 2016/679, are fulfilled; recognises that adequacy decisions, including partial and sector-specific ones, constitute a fundamental mechanism in terms of safeguarding the transfer of personal data from the EU to a third country; notes that the EU has only adopted adequacy decisions with four of its 20 largest trading partners; recalls the importance of guaranteeing, in particular through adequacy dialogues, the transfer of data from third countries to the EU;

8.  Calls on the Commission to prioritise and speed up the adoption of adequacy decisions, provided that third countries ensure, by reason of their domestic law or their international commitments, a level of protection ‘essentially equivalent’ to that guaranteed within the EU; calls on the Commission to adopt, and to make public, updated and detailed binding procedures with a specific timeframe for reaching these decisions, while fully respecting the powers of national supervisory authorities and the opinion of Parliament;

9.  Recalls that the ability to access, collect, process and transfer data across borders has become increasingly important for every type of company that delivers goods and services internationally; notes that this matters for both personal and non-personal data and includes machine-to-machine communication;

10.  Urges the Commission to draw up rules for cross-border data transfers as soon as possible which fully comply with the EU’s existing and future data protection and privacy rules; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to incorporate into the EU’s trade agreements a horizontal provision, which fully maintains the right of a party to protect personal data and privacy, provided that such a right is not unjustifiably used to circumvent rules for cross-border data transfers for reasons other than the protection of personal data; considers that such rules and provisions should form part of all new and recently launched trade negotiations with third countries; stresses that any disciplines in this regard should be exempted from the scope of application of any future chapter dealing with investment protection;

11.  Calls on the Commission to strictly prohibit unjustified data localisation requirements in free trade agreements (FTAs); considers that the removal of such requirements should be a top priority, and emphasises that the relevant data protection legislation should be adhered to; regrets attempts to use such requirements as a form of non-tariff barrier to trade and as a form of digital protectionism; considers that such protectionism seriously hampers opportunities for European businesses in third country markets and undermines the efficiency benefits of digital trade;

12.  Calls on the Commission to put forward, as soon as possible, its position on cross-border data transfers, unjustified data localisation requirements, and data protection safeguards in trade negotiations, in line with Parliament’s position, so as to include it in all new and recently launched negotiations and to avoid the EU being sidelined in international trade negotiations;

13.  Calls on the Commission to combat measures by third countries, such as ‘buy local’ policies, local content requirements or forced technology transfers, to the extent that they are not justified by UN-led programmes on closing the digital divide or TRIPS-related exceptions, so as to ensure that European companies can operate in a fair and predictable environment;

14.  Stresses that the EU should continue to pursue its efforts at bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral level to ensure that third countries offer a level of openness towards foreign investments equivalent to that of the EU, and that they maintain a level playing field for EU operators; welcomes the EU’s proposal for a regulation establishing a framework for review of foreign direct investments into the Union and supports its objectives to better protect critical infrastructures and technologies;

15.  Underlines that a digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of net neutrality and safeguard the equal treatment of internet traffic, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application; recalls, moreover, that traffic management measures should be permitted only in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary, and only for as long as necessary, to comply with legal requirements, preserve the integrity and security of the network or prevent impending network congestion;

16.  Strongly deplores third country practices which make market access conditional on the disclosure and transfer to state authorities of the source codes of the software that companies intend to sell; considers that such measures are disproportionate as a blanket requirement for market access; calls on the Commission to prohibit signatory governments to FTAs from engaging in such activities; stresses that the foregoing should not prevent state authorities from promoting transparency of software, encouraging the public disclosure of source code through free and open-source software, as well as sharing data through open data licenses;

17.  Recalls that in some cases local presence requirements are necessary to ensure effective prudential supervision or regulatory oversight and enforcement; reiterates its call on the Commission, therefore, to undertake limited commitments in Mode 1, so as to avoid regulatory arbitrage;

18.  Notes that pro-development technology transfer requirements should not be ruled out by disciplines on digital trade;

19.  Calls on the Commission to prohibit third country authorities from requiring the disclosure or transfer of details of the (cryptographic) technology used in products as a condition of manufacturing, selling or distributing these products;

20.  Notes that the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights and investments in R&D are a precondition on the EU’s knowledge-based economy, and that international cooperation is key to combating the trade in counterfeited goods throughout the entire value chain; encourages the Commission, therefore, to push for the worldwide implementation of international standards such as the WTO TRIPS Agreement and the WIPO Internet Treaties; recalls that legal protection throughout the EU, both online and offline, is needed for new creations since it will encourage investment and lead to further innovations; stresses, however, that trade agreements are not the place to extend the level of IP-protection for rights holders by providing for more extensive copyright enforcement powers; stresses that access to medicines in third countries should not be challenged on the basis of IP protection; stresses that trade in counterfeited goods requires a distinctly different approach to IP infringements in the digital economy;

21.  Exhorts the Commission to keep a close eye on ICANN’s gTLD Program, which expands domain names to thousands of generic names, and to guarantee, in line with its commitment to a free and open internet, the protection of rights holders, in particular those relating to geographical indications;

22.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to prevent parties from imposing foreign equity caps, to lay down pro-competitive wholesale access rules for incumbent operators’ networks, to provide transparent and non-discriminatory rules and fees for licensing, and to secure genuine access to last-mile infrastructures in export markets for EU telecom providers; recalls that rule-based competition in the telecommunications sector leads to higher quality services and lower prices;

23.  Calls on the Commission to continue its efforts towards developing a set of binding multilateral disciplines on e-commerce in the WTO, and to continue focusing on concrete and realistic deliverables;

24.  Calls on the Commission to urgently re-launch TiSA negotiations in line with Parliament’s adopted recommendations; espouses the view that the EU should seize the window of opportunity to take the lead to set state-of-the art global digital standards;

25.  Recalls that, since 1998, members of the WTO have upheld a moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions; stresses that such tariffs would entail unnecessary additional costs for businesses and consumers alike; calls on the Commission to transform the moratorium into a permanent agreement on banning tariffs on electronic transmissions, subject to careful analysis of the implications in the area of 3D printing;

26.  Calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to promote the interoperability of ICT standards that benefit both consumers and producers, notably in the context of a secure Internet of things, 5G and cybersecurity, while not circumventing legitimate fora for multi-stakeholder governance which have served the open internet well;

27.  Considers that particular consideration should be given to the increasing number of consumers and individuals who are selling and buying items on the internet and are caught up in burdensome customs procedures for goods purchased online; recalls the need to put in place simplified, tax- and duty-free customs treatment of items sold online and returns unused; recalls that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to speed up customs procedures and improve their accountability and transparency; stresses the need to digitise customs information and management via online registration and operation of information, which should facilitate clearance at the border, cooperation in fraud detection, anti-corruption efforts and transparency of prices relating to customs; believes that the broader use of tools such as online dispute settlements would be beneficial for consumers;

28.  Calls on the Commission to encourage signatories of trade agreements to include, in the telecommunications chapter of their FTAs, provisions making both international roaming fees and the fees applied to international calls and messages transparent, fair, reasonable and consumer-oriented; calls on the Commission to support policies that promote cost-oriented retail prices for roaming services with a view to reducing prices, promoting transparency and preventing commercial practices that are unfair or in any way negative for consumers;

29.  Recognises that the principles of the E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) have contributed to the development of the digital economy by creating favourable conditions for innovations and by guaranteeing freedom of speech and the freedom to conduct a business; recalls that the Commission is bound by the EU acquis
in its trade negotiations;

30.  Calls on the Commission to further mainstream digital technologies and services into the EU’s development policy, as outlined, inter alia, in the Digital4Development agenda; calls on the Commission to use trade agreements to improve and promote digital rights; recognises that only 53,6 % of all households worldwide have access to the internet; deplores the fact that there is still a significant digital divide; calls on the Commission to increase investments in digital infrastructure in the Global South in order to bridge this digital divide, including by stimulating public-private partnerships, but while still respecting the development effectiveness principles; notes in this context the contribution of the UN ITU-D in the creation, development and improvement of telecommunication and ICT equipment and networks; urges the Commission to make investments in broadband infrastructure in developing countries contribute integrally to, and contingent on, respect for a free, open and secure internet and to develop adequate solutions to promote mobile internet access; stresses that such investments are particularly important for local micro, small & medium enterprises, especially in developing countries, in order to enable them to interact digitally with multinational enterprises and to access global value chains; recalls that facilitating cross-border e-commerce can have a direct impact on improving livelihoods, fostering higher living standards and boosting economic development; recalls the contribution that such endeavours could make to gender equality since a great number of these companies are owned and run by women; reiterates that digital trade could also be a resource for public administrations and thus support the development of e-government;

31.  Stresses that it is imperative that any digital trade strategy must be fully in line with the principle of policy coherence for development, and should in particular seek to promote and enable start-ups and micro, small & medium enterprises to engage in cross border e-commerce, recalling the contribution this could make to gender equality;

32.  Considers that digital issues should also feature more prominently in the EU’s Aid for Trade policy to facilitate the growth of e-commerce via increased support for innovation and infrastructure and access to financing, notably via micro finance initiatives, as well as assistance in increasing online visibility for e-commerce businesses in developing countries, facilitating platform access and promoting the availability of e-payment solutions and access to cost-effective logistics and delivery services;

33.  Stresses that any digital trade strategy, including its flanking measures, must be fully in line with and contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; notes that SDG 4 on quality education: providing free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education to all girls and boys, SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, SDG 8.10 on promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, in particular by strengthening the capacity of domestic financial institutions and expanding access to financial services, as well as SDG 9.1 on developing reliable and resilient infrastructure with a focus on equitable access for all and SDG 9.3 on increasing the access of small enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets, are particularly relevant in this regard;

34.  commits to updating its digital trade strategy every 5 years;

35.  Highlights that the deployment of and access to infrastructure, especially in rural, mountainous and remote areas, that is adequate in coverage, quality and security and supports net neutrality, is crucial for digitising European industry and increasing e-governance;

36.  Supports the Commission communication of 19 April 2016 on ICT standardisation priorities for the digital single market (COM(2016)0176); stresses that while ICT standardisation must continue to be primarily industry led, voluntary and consensus driven, based on the principles of transparency, openness, impartiality, consensus, effectiveness, relevance and coherence, a clearer set of priorities for ICT standardisation, together with high-level political support, will boost competitiveness; notes that this process should make use of the instruments of the European Standardisation System and involve a wide range of stakeholders, both within the EU and at international level, to ensure delivery of improved standard-setting processes, in line with the Joint Initiative on Standardisation; calls on the Commission to foster the emergence of global industry standards under EU leadership for key 5G technologies and network architectures, notably through the exploitation of the 5G public-private partnership (5G PPP) results at the level of key EU and international standardisation bodies;

37.  Notes the efforts made by the WTO to advance its work programme on e-commerce; asks the Commission to seek the further expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement to include more products and more WTO members, and takes note of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires scheduled for December 2017; asks the Commission to consult European businesses and Member States as soon as possible on its position on e-commerce and other digital trade matters to be agreed at the conference in order to ensure a united European position;

38.  Believes that digital trade should be further facilitated in procurement policies, including by taking advantage of possibilities to provide services remotely and by enabling European companies, particularly SMEs, to obtain access to public and private procurement;

39.  Stresses the importance of international standards on digital equipment and services, especially in the area of cybersecurity; asks the Commission to work to ensure the introduction of basic cybersecurity measures into Internet of things products and cloud‑based services;

40.  Stresses that even though the Digital Single Market strategy addresses many of the problems facing digital trade, EU companies still face significant global obstacles such as non-transparent regulations, government intervention and unjustified data location or data storage; points out that some of the key actions of the Digital Single Market strategy, such as the EU cloud initiative and the copyright reform, have an international dimension that could be addressed in a European digital trade strategy;

41.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the EEAS.

(1) OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0299.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0041.
(5) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 35.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0233.
(7) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.

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)


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)

Daily News 24 / 11 / 2017

5th Eastern Partnership Summit set to consolidate strong ties

The 5th Eastern Partnership Summit kicked off this morning in Brussels with leaders focussing on the way in which the initiative – which brings together the EU institutions, the 28 EU Member States, and the six Eastern partner countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine – can continue to be a Partnership of added value for citizens across the continent. “I expect that the relationship between our neighbours and the European Union will be consolidated”, said the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker upon arrival to the Summit. Ahead of the Summit, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn said: “It is in the EU’s interest for its neighbours to have peace, stability and prosperity. The way to do this is through strong partnerships, to support our neighbours in their reform efforts, and to focus on bringing real and concrete results that are positively felt by ordinary people. Results so far show that we are doing this, and today will be a time to make sure this trend continues.” Leaders will discuss a forward-looking agenda, the 20 deliverables for 2020, which span the four focus areas of the Eastern Partnership: stronger economies; stronger governance; stronger connectivity; and stronger societies. They will also look back on a number of significant achievements since the last Summit in Riga (May 2015) and take forward a number of agreements with the individual partner countries. President Juncker will, together with President Tusk and the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, hold a joint press conference at 15:30, which will be live on EbS. A number of factsheets are available on the Summit website. (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Maja Kocijančič – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Adam Kaznowski – Tel.: +32 229 89359; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887)

Energy Union – the year of engagement

The Third Report on the State of the Energy Union shows that Europe’s transition to a low-carbon society is becoming the new reality on EU’s ground. The Third State of the Energy Union Report published today tracks the progress made over the past year after the publication of the Second State of the Energy Union in February 2017 and looks forward to the year ahead. The Third Report on State of the Energy Union also confirms that energy transition is not possible without adapting the infrastructure to the needs of the future energy system. To address this, the Commission today adopted a Communication on the 2030 electricity interconnection target of 15%. It also adopted the third list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI). Commenting on the report Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, said: “The Energy Union will only succeed if we all pull in the same direction. The aim is to deliver on our commitment to complete the Energy Union by the end of the Commission’s current mandate. By 2019, the Energy Union must no longer be a policy but a daily reality benefitting every European citizen. This will require increased ownership by all parts of society. Therefore, I see the next year as the year of engagement”. Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said: “Europe’s energy transition is well underway, with record levels of renewable energy and rapidly falling costs. But Europe’s energy infrastructure must develop in the same direction and with the same speed to fully support this energy transition. That’s why we are proposing to focus the new list of projects on key electricity interconnections and smart grids. Today’s steps to boost clean energy infrastructure are another important move towards making our energy system more sustainable, more competitive and more secure – providing genuine European added value”. The full press release is available online in all languages. The MEMO on PCIs is available online in EN, FR, DE.(For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)

La Commissaire Bulc à Varsovie pour le lancement de projets de transport d’une valeur de 800 million d’euros

La Commissaire en charge des Transports Violeta Bulc est aujourd’hui à Varsovie où elle a ouvert une conférence sur le thème des investissements de transport. Durant cette conférence, la Commission a officiellement lancé 10 nouveaux projets pour la Pologne qui recevront un total de 800 millions d’euros du budget européen, dans le cadre du Mécanisme pour l’Interconnexion en Europe (MIE). Ces projets amélioreront les infrastructures, ferroviaires en particulier, et encourageront la transition vers une mobilité à faible émission. Ils stimuleront en outre l’investissement à des fins de création d’emplois, ce qui est une priorité de la Commission Juncker. La Pologne est le principal bénéficiaire du MIE pour la période 2014-2020, avec un total de 4.2 milliards d’euros soutenant 41 projets. La Commissaire Bulc a déclaré à ce sujet, “Avec les 10 projets lancés aujourd’hui, le MIE offre à nouveaux des résultats concrets pour la Pologne. C’est une excellente nouvelle pour les Polonais qui bénéficieront d’un transport plus rapide et respectueux de l’environnement. Je suis également ravie que l’Union Européenne joue un tel rôle dans les progrès effectués par la Pologne en matière d’infrastructure. Nous devons maintenant construire sur ces succès pour préparer les défis de mobilité et d’investissement de demain”. Plus d’information est disponible ici. Aujourd’hui, la Commissaire s’est également entretenue avec un certain nombre de membres du gouvernement polonais. Ensemble, ils ont discuté des dossiers actuels, et plus particulièrement des paquets mobilité présentés par la Commission en Mai et Novembre de cette année. (Pour plus de renseignements: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Alexis Perier – Tel.: +32 229 6 91 43)

EU protecting the rights and safety of women migrant workers in South East Asia with €25 million

The Commission launched a new regional programme to make labour migration safe and fair for all women migrants in South East Asia. This programme is part of the new EU-UN “Spotlight Initiative” to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls worth €500 million. With a financial support of over €25 million, the new programme “Safe and Fair” will contribute to improving the labour migration conditions for women in the ASEAN region. Together with UN Women and the International Labour Organization, the EU will work with governments, community-based organisations, civil society and service providers to improve labour laws, access to information and services, and ultimately prevent and put an end to violence and trafficking of women and girls. The programme will also aim at improving data and knowledge on the rights and contributions of women migrant workers. Through targeted awareness raising campaigns, the EU will actively promote the change in attitudes of relevant stakeholders to ensure safety, well-being and fair treatment of women migrant workers in the region. “Our Spotlight Initiative is a movement without precedent in the global fight to end violence against women and girls”, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica commented. “With Safe and Fair programme we want to empower female migrant workers in the ASEAN region so that they become less vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking, violence and abuse. Through our €25 million contribution, and in cooperation with our international and local partners, we are investing in a brighter future that fully respects and protects all women and girls.” The programme was officially launched at the occasion of the ASEAN-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Development in Bangkok, Thailand, on 17 November 2017, ahead of the International Day on the elimination of violence against women on 25 November. Read the full press release here. (for more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)


REFIT Platform continues its work to make EU law more effective and efficient

Meeting today for its annual Plenary meeting, the Commission’s REFIT Platform has adopted a further 11 Opinions, with concrete suggestions on how to make existing EU law more effective and efficient in delivering our ambitious policy objectives for European citizens. Cohesion Policy was one of the main areas of focus, and the meeting, chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, also benefitted from the contribution of former Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, who now chairs the High-Level Group on Simplification for beneficiaries of EU structural and investment funds. Other issues featured in the recommendations from the REFIT Platform today include the clarification of divergent national rules on copyright levies, the SME test, the Consumer Rights Directive, and, the Citizenship Directive. Today’s REFIT Platform Opinions bring the total number of recommendations made to the Commission to 69. The Commission analyses all the REFIT Platform’s recommendations and explains how it intends to follow them up, including through its annual Work Programme. All the Opinions can be found on the REFIT Platform website, and a video on the Platform’s role is available here.(For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tim McPhie – Tel. +32 229 58602)

Migration and border management: Commission awards additional €40 million in emergency funding to support Italy

The European Commission has today awarded €39.92 million in emergency assistance to support Italy in better managing the migratory flows from the Central Mediterranean Route. With the additional support, the Commission is delivering on the commitment made on 4 July 2017 in its Action Plan to support Italy, reduce migratory pressure and increase solidarity. Commenting on funding decision, EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos said: “With this decision, the European Commission once again delivers on its commitment to support Italy in its efforts to provide humanitarian support to migrants and refugees rescued in the Central Mediterranean.  Italy is one of the countries most affected by migration flows due to its geographical position, but the problem is not Italian, it is global. The European Union is founded on the principles of solidarity and sharing of responsibility which is why Italy can count on our support in its response to migration.”  Channelled through 11 projects, the funding will contribute to improving services provided to migrants and asylum seekers including medical assistance, interpretation and inter-cultural mediation in the hotspots and other arrival areas. Financial support will also be provided for human resources and equipment in existing and future reception centres as well as additional support for the authorities responsible for sea border surveillance and search and rescue. The assistance will also fund the provision of specialised equipment for security checks and equipment to address smuggling and trafficking in human beings. Additionally, the Commission is currently evaluating an additional project proposal submitted by the Italian authorities for assistance for vulnerable migrants, such as victims of trafficking and unaccompanied minors. The €39.92 million awarded today brings the total emergency assistance made available by the Commission to Italy under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) to €189 million. This comes on top of the €634.25 million already allocated to Italy under the 2014-2020 national programmes under the home affairs funds (€381.49 million from AMIF and €252.76 million from ISF). A factsheet on EU financial support to Italy to manage migration is available online. (For more information:Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 2 296 74 56, Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Thomas Kramer – Tel.: +32 229 58602)

State aid: Commission approves joint capacity mechanism for Ireland and Northern Ireland

The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules the new capacity mechanism for the jointly operated Irish and Northern Irish electricity market. Under the capacity mechanism, power plants and othercapacity providers will obtain a payment for being available to generate electricity or, in the case of demand response operators, for being ready to reduce their electricity consumption to help balance demand with supply. It helps to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet electricity demand at all times in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The joint Irish and Northern Irish capacity mechanism will help ensure security of electricity supply in the years to come. I think it is a good thing that this mechanism is operated across national borders and fosters competition among all potential capacity providers, to the benefit of consumers.” The Commission assessed the measure under the 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy. It concluded that the capacity mechanism complies with EU State aid rules, in particular because it is open to all potential types of capacity providers, including demand response. Furthermore, the measure will keep costs for consumers in check thanks to the regular, competitive auctions to allocate capacity contracts. The press release is available online in EN, FR, DE, GA. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

State aid: Commission approves Greece’s plan to exchange its Eurobank preference shares with Tier 2 bonds

The European Commission has endorsed, under EU State aid rules, a plan notified by Greece to exchange the State’s existing preference shares in Eurobank for Tier 2 bonds. The Greek authorities considered that this exchange does not involve State aid but notified the measure to the Commission for legal certainty. In May 2009, Eurobank received a capital injection of €950 million in the form of preference shares under the recapitalisation measure of the Greek Banks Support scheme. The Commission found that, compared to these preference shares, the terms of the new Tier 2 Bonds imply an improvement for the Greek State. In particular, while the preference shares have a high nominal coupon, its payment is subject to conditions and in practice the coupon has not been paid since 2011 and is not expected to be paid in the future. In contrast, the coupon payment of the new Tier 2 Bonds can be waived only in very limited circumstances. The Commission concluded that a private investor would accept the exchange at the envisioned terms and therefore the exchange does not result in additional State aid to Eurobank. On this basis, the Commission has approved the exchange under EU State aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.49459. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of a real estate portfolio in Poland by Oaktree and PIMCO

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of a real estate portfolio consisting of 28 commercial properties located in Poland by Oaktree Capital Group LLC and Pacific Investment Management Company LLC (PIMCO), both of the US. Oaktree is a global investment manager specialising in alternative investments in distressed debt, corporate debt (including high yield debt and senior loans), convertible securities, real estate and listed equities. PIMCO is a global investment manager providing its services, among others, to governments, insurance companies, high-net-worth investors, financial institutions, retail investors and investment vehicles. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market structure. 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.8661. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

European Union and Moldova agree on €100 million assistance programme

Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has signed, on behalf of the EU, a Memorandum of Understanding for a second Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme with the Republic of Moldova worth €100 million. MFA is an exceptional EU crisis-response instrument available to the EU’s neighbouring partner countries experiencing severe balance of payments problems. As laid out in the agreement reached by the co-legislators in September 2017 and the Memorandum of Understanding, disbursements under the programme are tied to respecting of democratic mechanisms, the rule of law and human rights. Disbursements are also dependent on the implementation of specific policy measures in areas such as public governance, financial sector governance, energy sector reforms and tackling corruption. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)


En finir avec la violence à l’égard des femmes: Déclaration de la Commission européenne concernant la Journée internationale pour l’élimination de la violence à l’égard des femmes

À la veille de la Journée internationale pour l’élimination de la violence à l’égard des femmes, la Commission a publié la déclaration suivante: “Nous le réaffirmons une nouvelle fois: la violence doit cesser maintenant. Des femmes et des jeunes filles souffrent encore tous les jours de violences, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur de l’Union européenne.(…) Pour éliminer ces violences à caractère sexiste une fois pour toutes, nous devons améliorer l’éducation et la législation et modifier les normes sociales. Nous avons consacré l’année 2017 à l’action européenne pour l’élimination de toutes les formes de violence exercées contre les femmes et les jeunes filles, tant dans la sphère publique que privée. Des praticiens du droit, des médecins, des enseignants et des policiers, notamment, sont formés pour soutenir les victimes et prévenir les violences à caractère sexuel, grâce au concours financier fourni par l’UE à diverses ONG. Agissant au-delà de nos frontières, nous avons lancé avec les Nations unies l’initiative Spotlight, qui bénéficie d’un investissement de départ inégalé de 500 millions d’euros. Cette initiative s’attaque à l’échelle mondiale aux causes profondes des violences faites aux femmes et aux jeunes filles, vient en aide aux victimes et leur offre les moyens de contribuer à des sociétés plus sûres, plus résilientes, plus riches et plus libres. L’élimination des violences à l’égard des femmes et des jeunes filles est une première étape vers la paix et la sécurité dans le monde et est au cœur du programme de développement durable à l’horizon 2030. (…) L’Union européenne continuera d’œuvrer sans relâche, avec toute la panoplie d’instruments dont elle dispose, à l’élimination de la violence à l’égard des femmes et des jeunes filles et à faire en sorte que celle-ci appartienne au passé. Enfin, ce soir et demain soir, le bâtiment de la Commission européenne, le Berlaymont, et le bâtiment du Service européen pour l’action extérieure seront éclairés en orange pour soutenir la campagne de l’Organisation des Nations Unies contre la violence à l’égard des femmes. La déclaration et un Q&A sont disponibles en ligne. Plus d’informations se trouvent sur un site dédié aux actions de 2017. (Pour plus d’informations:Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Maja Kocijancic– Tel.: +32 229 86570; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 5865)



Vice President Šefčovič and Commissioner Crețu at the 3rd Cities Forum in Rotterdam

During this major two-day event (27-28 November) dedicated to urban policy and hosted by the Commission, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of the Energy Union, and Regional policy Commissioner Corina Crețu will meet ministers and mayors from many EU countries in order to feel the pulse of Europe’s cities. Exchanges will focus on the progress achieved under the Urban Agenda for the EU in light of the recent Commission report, on how to best support cities in planning their own investment strategies and on the future Cohesion policy after 2020, especially as regards the access and management of EU funds by cities. Participants will also discuss the concrete role of cities in the implementation the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “Cities and local governments are essential to turn our pledges under the Paris agreement into concrete action. They are vulnerable to impacts of climate change, but they are also hubs for innovation and will benefit from the transition – through new jobs, improved air quality, less traffic congestion, and improved attractiveness of cities and regions for people and investors alike,” said Vice President Šefčovič. “Cities should be smart, cities should be clean, safe, but they should also be inclusive,” added Commissioner Crețu, “Strengthening the integration of our most vulnerable communities in cities, including migrants, is high on our agenda. This is a challenge the future Cohesion Policy will have to continue addressing.” One of the highlights of the Forum will be the launch of a new advisory service designed to help cities maximise the investment potential at their disposal. More information on the programme of the forum, including speakers and workshops, is available here. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169;Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


L’innovation au service d’une Europe plus sociale

Les 27 et 28 novembre prochains, la Commission européenne accueillera à Lisbonne, avec le gouvernement portugais et la Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, la Conférence sur l’innovation sociale. La conférence rassemblera des entrepreneurs sociaux, des représentants de la société civile, des décideurs politiques, des innovateurs et des investisseurs. Ils discuteront des opportunités pour stimuler l’innovation sociale en Europe et pour promouvoir des politiques publiques inclusives et créatrices de ressources. Marianne Thyssen, la commissaire en charge de l’emploi, des affaires sociales, des compétences et de la mobilité des travailleurs, et Carlos Moedas, le commissaire en charge de la recherche, de la science et de l’innovation, prononceront les discours d’ouverture et de clôture de cette conférence. Réaliser une Europe plus sociale et plus juste est une des priorités majeures de la Commission Juncker, ainsi définie dans le document de réflexion sur la dimension sociale de l’Europe. Lundi, la Commission lancera un prix Horizon 2020 pour l’innovation sociale, doté de deux millions d’euros. Le concours vise à encourager la création de solutions de mobilité innovantes pour les seniors. La Commission offre déjà un financement direct pour soutenir l’innovation sociale grâce au Programme pour l’emploi et l’innovation sociale, du programme de recherche et d’innovation Horizon 2020, des Plates-formes de sensibilisation collective ou des fonds structurels et d’investissement européens. Toutes les sessions du programme de la conférence peuvent être suivies en direct. Mme Thyssen visitera également sur place un projet financé par l’UE dans le cadre du Programme pour l’emploi et l’innovation sociale, qui facilite l’accès aux structures d’accueil pour les enfants issus de familles défavorisées. (Pour plus d’informations: Lucía Caudet – Tél.: +32 229 56182, Christian Wigand Tél.: +32 229 62253, Victoria von Hammerstein – Tél.: +32 229 55040, Sara Soumillion Tél.: +32 229 67094, Maud Noyon – Tél.: +32 229-80379)

Commissioner Thyssen attends closing and award ceremony of Vocational Skills

Today, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will give a keynote speech at the closing event of the second European Vocational Skills Week. The Commissioner will also hand out awards to people, institutions and projects that can be considered as outstanding examples of what Europe has to offer in the field of vocational education and training. The aim of the awards is to showcase the excellence, quality and benefits of vocational education and training. On the occasion of the Award ceremony, Commissioner Thyssen said: “Over the past week, more than 1,300 events have taken place across Europe, reaching out to almost 1 million people. I would like to thank you all for putting vocational education and training in the spotlight that it deserves. Students, business and society all need these skills. VET is a great first choice for a first-rate career.” In the context of this year’s Vocational Skills Week, over 1,300 events took place in 45 countries (including all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, the Balkans, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) under the banner ‘Discover Your Talent’. In addition to the national events, two Pan-European and 15 national Ambassadors are raising awareness of the Week and excellence in vocational education and training. More information on the Skills week can be found here. The list of award-winners is available here. The closing and award ceremony will be broadcast here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

Le commissaire Navracsics se rendra en Croatie pour les célébrations du 30ème anniversaire d’Erasmus

Le Commissaire à l’éducation, la culture, la jeunesse et au sport, Tibor Navracsics, se rendra lundi à Zagreb, en Croatie, où il prononcera le discours d’ouverture d’un événement célébrant les 30 ans du programme Erasmus+ et de ses prédécesseurs. Avant sa visite, le Commissaire Navracsics a déclaré: “Les célébrations se déroulent non seulement au niveau européen, mais aussi au niveau national et local, et je suis ravi d’avoir l’occasion de visiter la Croatie en cette année du 30ème anniversaire du programme Erasmus. Depuis que la Croatie a rejoint l’UE en 2013, plus de 50 000 Croates ont bénéficié directement du programme et nous devons nous assurer que beaucoup d’autres en auront l’opportunité à l’avenir. Au cours de sa visite, le Commissaire aura des entretiens bilatéraux avec le ministre des Sciences et de l’Education, Blaženka Divjak, la ministre de la Culture, Nina Obuljen Koržinek, et la ministre de la Démographie, de la Famille, de la Jeunesse et des Politiques sociales, Nada Murganić, afin de discuter des développements actuels dans les domaines de l’éducation, la culture et la jeunesse. (Pour plus d’informations: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tél .: +32 229 67083, Joseph Waldstein – Tél .: +32 229 56184)


The Commissioners’ Weekly Activities

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