News

Closer cooperation and reinforced solidarity to ensure security of gas supply | EU Council- Press Room

The Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a proposal for a revised regulation concerning measures to safeguard the security of gas supply. The agreement will have to be confirmed by the member states Permanent Representatives (Coreper). 

The general purpose of the regulation is to minimise the impact of a potential gas disruption by improving the cooperation between member states and thus contributing to a better functioning internal energy market. The proposal translates into concrete actions the first dimension of the Energy Union, “energy security, solidarity and trust”.

The proposed regulation, as well as the decision regarding intergovernmental agreements (IGA”s), are two of the main building blocks of the Energy Union strategy.

This legislation will make a major contribution to our energy security. It will reduce our dependency on others for our energy supplies and enable us to deal more quickly and efficiently with any gas supply crises. It will also contribute to build greater trust and solidarity both within the EU and with our partners from the Energy Community”

  Konrad Mizzi  Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta

The main new elements of the regulation are:

  • enhanced regional cooperation and coordination set on risk-based groups of member states
  • mandatory regional preventive action plans and emergency plans, as well as regional risk assessments, to be prepared jointly by all member states within the same risk-group
  • a solidarity mechanism which will have a mandatory application in extreme crisis scenarios
  •  increased monitoring of provisions in the gas supply contracts
  • specific obligations of EU member states towards the Energy Community, as well as Commission powers to coordinate the application of the legal framework between the EU and the Energy Community

Following extensive work under the Netherlands and Slovak presidencies and four trilogues during the Maltese presidency, an agreement was reached on the following key issues:

  • regional cooperation: will include the concept of Emergency Supply Corridors in the simulations to be prepared by ENTSO-G. The Commission will give support to members in the risk groups in the preparation of prevention action plans and emergency plans
  • solidarity: it will be used as a last resort mechanism after all the emergency measures have been exhausted and it will give rise to adequate compensation. The member state requiring solidarity will be able to seek the most advantageous offer if there are several delivering member states. The concept of “solidarity protected customer” is introduced.
  • information exchange: long-term gas contracts, which provide 28% of annual natural gas consumption will be notified to the competent authority in the member state concerned. For commercial agreements only details of the contract will be provided. Existing contracts will be notified 12 months after the regulation enters into force. If the competent authority has doubts about the impacts of such contract on the security of gas supply in the member state and in the region, it shall notify the Commission
  • In case of key gas supply contracts which may jeopardise the security of supply of a member state, region or of the Union as a whole, the Commission may request the undertaking to provide the details of the contract.

Next steps

Following approval by the Coreper, the Chairman of Coreper will then send a letter to the Chairperson of the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee.

That letter will indicate that, if the Parliament adopts at its plenary session the compromise text as approved by the Coreper, the Council will adopt the text in first reading without amendments.

The legislative act will enter into force after being published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Background

The European Council of March 2015 agreed on the commitment for the EU to build an Energy Union and called for inter alia accelerating infrastructure projects, including interconnections, in particular to peripheral regions, for electricity and gas to ensure energy security and a well-functioning internal energy market.

The Commission presented its proposal on 16 February 2016, replacing Council regulation 994/2010.

The European Parliament’s ITRE Committee voted on the report together with the EP negotiation mandate on 13 October 2016.

In its meeting of 5 December 2016 the Energy Council set out the political guidelines which allowed for the negotiations to start with the European Parliament

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

New beginnings: reassessing EU-Turkey relations | European Parliament – Press Room

rom trade to Nato, the EU and Turkey have enjoyed a productive relationship in many domains for decades. However, recently relations have turned frosty as concerns mount over the state of democracy in the country with media outlets being closed and journalists being jailed. MEPs also keep a close eye on developments and wonder if it may not be time to rethink how the EU cooperates with Turkey. Read on for an overview of the options.

Relations hit a new low with the referendum in Turkey on 16 April to give the president additional powers, which could disrupt the balance of powers in the country.

EU membership

Turkey has been an associate member of the European Economic Community since 1963 and applied to join in 1987.  It was recognised as a candidate for EU membership in 1999, but negotiations didn’t start until 2005. So far 16 out of 35 chapters have been opened and only one has been closed. Last November MEPs adopted a resolution asking for the negotiations to be temporarily suspended while repression continues in Turkey.

During a debate on the situation in Turkey on 26 April  President Antonio Tajani said: “The European Union does not intend in any way to close the door to the Turkish people, who remain our friends.” At the same time we cannot look the other way when events proceed in the opposite way of European construction. “Freedom of the press, freedom of expression, are vital rights for anyone wanting to join the European Union and the death penalty, similarly, is an inviolable red line.”

  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses cheering supporters after unofficial referendum results were announced, in Istanbul, late Sunday, April 16, 2017. ©Yasin Bulbul/AP Photos/European Union-EP

Some MEPs proposed to go even further. Manfred Weber (EPP, Germany) said: “Turkey is going in the wrong direction. It’s time for us to reassess our relationship.  For the EPP full membership of the EU for Turkey is no longer realistic. We have to put an end to any form of hypocrisy. “ Meanwhile

Syed Kamall (ECR, UK) said: “We need to be honest with Turkey that it may never be a member of the EU.”

Dutch S&D member Kati Piri, Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey’s accession progress, argued against formally ending membership talks. “There are millions of people in Turkey that do share the same European values . Millions that do want the EU to remain the anchor for reforms in their country.”

Association agreement

The EU has the option of concluding association agreements with nearby countries, such as Iceland, Tunisia. These agreements set up a framework for cooperation in different field and the EU already has one with Turkey. During the debate on 27 April Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, Belgium) proposed creating a new association agreement with Turkey focussing on trade and restoring civil society. “I think it’s critical now to go into a new cooperation and to do a new proposal to Turkey.”

Customs union

Last December the European Commission proposed updating the existing customs union with Turkey and extending bilateral trade relations.  Once negotiations have been completed, the agreement would still have to be approved by the Parliament before it could enter into force.

Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, Germany) said the talks on the customs union should be used to improve the human rights situation in Turkey: ”We should not upgrade [the customs union] before substantial improvements on human rights.”

The EU is by far Turkey’s largest export market (44.5%), while Turkey is the EU’s fourth largest export market (4.4%).

Other forms of cooperation

Both Turkey and most EU countries are members of Nato. In addition they work together on issues such as migration. In March 2016 the EU and Turkey concluded an agreement to tackle the migration crisis. The deal led to significantly fewer migrants reaching Europe illegally.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Photo Album | Debate | The ‘two-speed Europe’ project and the Brexit negotiations: a combined unity test?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Thank you for attending our debate ‘The ‘two-speed Europe’ project and the Brexit negotiations: a combined unity test?’

PubAffairs Bruxelles was delighted to host on the 26th of April the debate ‘The ‘two-speed Europe’ project and the Brexit negotiations: a combined unity test?’ between our distinguished speakers Ms Danuta Maria Hubner MEP (EPP/PL) and Mr Michael Theurer MEP (ALDE/DE).

We would like to thank our distinguished guests and our moderator, Graham Bishop, leading expert in EU and UK Economic, Financial and Government Affairs.

We hope that all the contributors, attendees, as well as our present and future members will join us for our next debate.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Will London Survive Brexit? by H.Davies | Project Syndicate

building-partnerships

Brexit has set a hungry cat among the financial pigeons of the City of London. No one yet knows what kind of access to the European Union’s single financial market UK-based firms will have, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a general election to be held on June 8 has further clouded the picture, at least in the short term. But there is a nagging assumption that things cannot remain the same, and that there will be a price to be paid for leaving the EU. So UK-based financial services firms, especially those that have chosen London as their European headquarters precisely in order to secure access to the whole EU market from one location, are reviewing their options. Indeed, regulators are obliging them to do so, by asking how they will maintain continuity of service to their clients in the event of a “hard” Brexit. (May’s government prefers to talk of a “clean” Brexit, but that is semantics). Rival European centers have spotted an opportunity to claw some of this business back to the continent (or to Ireland). Other governments have long resented London’s dominance. It was galling to have to acknowledge that the principal center for trading in euro-denominated instruments lay outside the eurozone.

Read the full Article here

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Indicative programme – General Affairs Council (Art. 50) of 27 April 2017 | EU Council Press Room

Place:        European Convention Center Luxembourg
Chair:        Louis Grech, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs of Malta

All times are approximate and subject to change

from 09.30
Arrivals (live streaming)

+/- 09.55
Doorstep by Deputy Prime Minister Grech

+/- 11.00
Beginning of Council meeting
 (roundtable)
Draft guidelines following the United Kingdom’s notification under Article 50 TEU

+/- 13.00
Press conference
 (live streaming)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Commission presents European Pillar of Social Rights and launches reflection on the social dimension of Europe by 2025 | European Commission – Press Release

Today, the European Commission presents the European Pillar of Social Rights. Building a fairer Europe and strengthening its social dimension is a key priority for this Commission. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. The Pillar is designed as a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe. It is primarily conceived for the euro area but applicable to all EU Member States wishing to be part of it. President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “As Commission President, I have been seeking to put social priorities at the heart of Europe’s work, where they belong. With the European Pillar of Social Rights and the first set of initiatives that accompany it, we are delivering on our promises and we are opening a new chapter. We want to write this chapter together: Member States, EU institutions, the social partners and civil society all have to take on their responsibility. I would like to see the Pillar endorsed at the highest political level before the end of this year.” The Pillar is presented both as a Commission Recommendation, effective as of today, and as a proposal for a joint proclamation by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The Commission will now enter into discussions with the European Parliament and all the Member States in the Council to work towards broad political support and high-level endorsement of the Pillar. More information on the European Pillar of Social Rights can be found in the press release and memo online. In addition, the Commission flanks the Pillar with a number of concrete legislative and non-legislative initiatives, such as on the work-life balance of parents and carers, on the information of workers, on access to social protection and on working time. More information can be found in this press release and memo. In parallel, following the launch of the discussion on the future of Europe via the Commission’s White Paper presented on 1 March, today the Commission also zooms in on the social dimension of Europe by 2025. Today’s reflection paper on Europe’s social dimension will mark the start of a reflection process with citizens, social partners, the European institutions and governments, that seeks to identify responses to the challenges our societies and citizens face in the coming years. Today’s paper is also an effort to clarify the contribution of the EU level in addressing these challenges. More information can be found in this press release. During the College readout, Vice-President Dombrovskis will present the reflection paper, and then Commissioners Thyssen and Jourová will present the European Pillar of Social Rights and its accompanying initiatives (live here). First Vice-President Timmermans, Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Thyssen will present the package to the European Parliament later this afternoon (live here)

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Fundamental rights in Hungary: debate with Timmermans and Orban | European Parliament – Press Room

Today from 15.00, MEPs will discuss the fundamental rights situation in Hungary with Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Political group leaders and MEPs will take the floor to give their views on a new law, perceived as targeting the Central European University, media pluralism, the independence of the judiciary and the tightening of rules for non-governmental organisations and asylum seekers.

You can follow the debate on EP Live or EbS+

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

E-commerce: ending unjustified geo-blocking across the EU | European Parliament – Press Room

MEPs beefed up rules to ensure that buyers of goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers in a committee vote on Tuesday.

The draft law defines specific situations in which geo-blocking will not be allowed. This means that online sellers will not be able to discriminate against consumers elsewhere in the EU with regard to general terms and conditions, including prices, on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or even their temporary location, MEPs added.

Treating EU buyers abroad like locals

Without paying more, buyers from another EU country than the trader would be able to:

  • buy goods (e.g. household appliances, clothes) even when the trader does not deliver them in the consumer’s member state of residence, if there is an option to collect the goods at an agreed location in another EU country (the proposal does not introduce an obligation to deliver across the EU),
  • receive online from the trader services not protected by copyright, such as cloud services, firewalls, data warehousing, website hosting,
  • (added by MEPs) receive e-books, e-music, games or software (i.e. non-audiovisual copyrighted content) if the trader has the right or a licence to use such content for the countries concerned, and
  • make a booking outside the consumer’s place of residence (e.g. hotel stays, sports events, car rental, music festivals or leisure park tickets).

Automatic re-routing to another website without the consumer’s prior consent would also be banned, except if an EU or national provision, e.g. related with minors, would make it necessary.

Movies and football matches not covered for now

Sectors such as audiovisual services (including broadcasts of sports events provided on the basis of exclusive territorial licenses), or financial, transport, electronic communication or healthcare services are excluded from the scope of the draft regulation for the time being. However, the EU Commission must assess within three years of its entry into force whether they should be covered in the future, added the committee.

Quote

“Our work aims at a gradual opening of the European market for consumers and for traders by giving them clear rules. Consumers will have better access to goods and services online and for traders it will be less burdensome to sell to consumers from different member states”, said Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee rapporteur Róża Thun (EPP, PL).

Next steps

The committee’s vote gives its negotiating team, led by Ms Thun, a mandate to start three-way talks (trilogues) with the Council and the Commission, with a view to reaching an agreement on the final law. The mandate was approved by 31 votes to 2, with 1 abstention.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn