EU INSTITUTIONS NEWS

Russia: EU prolongs economic sanctions by six months | EU Council press

On 28 June 2017, the Council prolonged economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 January 2018.

This decision follows an update from President Macron and Chancellor Merkel to the European Council of 22-23 June 2017 on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. This paved the way for the renewal of sanctions for a further six months.

The Council formalised this decision today by written procedure and, in line with the rule for all such decisions, unanimously.

The measures were originally introduced on 31 July 2014 for one year in response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine. They were strengthened in September 2014. They target the financial, energy and defence sectors, and the area of dual-use goods.

On 19 March 2015, the European Council agreed to link the duration of the sanctions to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, which was foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015. Since this did not happen, and given that the Minsk agreements have still not been fully implemented, the Council has extended the sanctions.

The economic sanctions prolonged by this decision include:

  • limiting access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for 5 major Russian majority state-owned financial institutions and their majority-owned subsidiaries established outside of the EU, as well as three major Russian energy and three defence companies;
  • imposing an export and import ban on trade in arms;
  • establishing an export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia;
  • curtailing Russian access to certain sensitive technologies and services  that can be used for oil production and exploration.

In addition to these economic sanctions, several EU measures are also in place in response to the crisis in Ukraine including:

  • targeted individual restrictive measures, namely a visa ban and an asset freeze, currently against 150 people and 37 entities until 15 September 2017;
  • restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2018.
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In the European Parliament Agenda this week: Helmut Kohl, migration and terrorism

Helmut Kohl
On Saturday, the European Parliament commemorates Helmut Kohl – the former chancellor of Germany. Parliament in Strasbourg hosts the European memorial ceremony for the Honorary Citizen of Europe. President Tajani, Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and former president of the United States Bill Clinton are among the speakers.

Migration
On Monday the LIBE Committee presents the draft report on the mission to Greece hotspots and Athens that took place in May 2017. On the same day the Commission discloses its Thirteenth report on relocation and resettlement and the Sixth Report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement.

Terrorism
On Thursday, the Eurojust President Michèle Coninsx presents and discusses the main points of the 2016 report on foreign terrorist fighters before the civil liberties committee.

Inter-dialogue
Parliament presents a seminar on the future of Europe on Tuesday. It is part of a series of inter-religious dialogues organised by the European Parliament – in collaboration with Europe’s churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations. First Vice-President Mairead McGuinness and Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans are to participate.

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Energy efficient buildings : increased energy savings and better living conditions | EU Council Press

The Council agreed today its position on a proposal for a revised directive on the energy performance of buildings. This agreement will allow for the start of negotiations with the European Parliament under the Estonian presidency.

Buildings are the largest single energy consumer in Europe, consuming 40% of final energy. The aim of the proposal is to promote energy efficiency in buildings and to support cost-effective building renovation with a view to the long term goal of decarbonising the highly inefficient existing European building stock. This will also be a major contribution to reaching the EU’s 2020 and 2030 energy efficiency targets.

In particular, the proposal requires member states to establish long-term renovation strategies, addressing also energy poverty. It strengthens the links between energy efficiency policy and financing.

Another important feature of the revised directive is the promotion of electro-mobility, by requiring at least one charging point per ten parking spaces for electric vehicles in non-residential buildings and pre-cabling for every parking space in residential buildings. These requirements will apply to buildings with more than ten parking spaces.

The introduction of a smartness indicator for buildings is proposed and the inspection of heating and air conditioning systems is simplified.

The proposal underlines the importance of aligning the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union agendas, as digitalisation of the energy system is quickly changing the energy landscape, from the integration of renewables to smart grids and smart buildings.

We welcome this agreement which is crucial to reach our European objectives in energy efficiency and will also benefit citizens and businesses by significantly reducing their energy bills. This agreement is also important for further promoting electro-mobility in both non-residential and residential buildings.”

Joe Mizzi, Maltese minister for Energy and Water Management

Background

The proposal on the energy performance of buildings amends Directive 2010/31/EU and was presented by the Commission in December 2016. It’s part of the implementing legislation of the Energy Union Strategy and it has close links with the energy efficiency directive.

The general aim of the Energy Union strategy is to move towards the decarbonisation of the EU economy by 2030 and beyond, whilst strengthening economic growth, consumer protection, innovation and competitiveness.

The conclusions of the European Council of October 2014 set an indicative target of at least 27% increase in energy efficiency at Union level in 2030. This target should be reviewed by 2020 having in mind an Union level of 30%.

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Commission takes further steps to enhance business transparency on social and environmental matters | European Commisson – Press release

The Commission has today adopted guidelines on the disclosure of environmental and social information. These guidelines will help companies to disclose relevant non-financial information in a consistent and more comparable manner. The aim is to boost corporate transparency and performance, as well as encourage companies to embrace a more sustainable approach. The new guidelines will support companies in fulfilling their reporting obligations under current non-financial disclosure requirements and will promote smart company reporting. Appropriate non-financial disclosure is also an essential element to enable sustainable finance. This builds on the Commission’s goal to develop an overarching and comprehensive EU strategy on sustainable finance as part of the Capital Markets Union. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Euro and Social Dialogue, Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union, said: “Europe needs to take the lead in making economies greener and more sustainable. This is why we are today proposing flexible guidelines to boost corporate transparency across all sectors. By providing relevant information on their environmental and social credentials, companies are doing themselves a favour and helping their investors, lenders and society at large.” The adoption of today’s guidelines will supplement the already existing EU rules on non-financial reporting (Directive 2014/95/EU). Companies falling within its scope have to disclose relevant information on policies, risks and results as regards environmental matters, social and employee-related aspects, as well as respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery issues, and diversity on the boards of directors. A full press release and MEMO are available online.

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Commission’s report on trade and investment barriers shows rising protectionism | European Commission – Press release

Today, the European Commission has released the ‘Report on Trade and Investment Barriers’ stating that 36 more trade barriers were created in 2016. This amounts to an overall increase of 10% bringing the current total number of trade obstacles to 372. This could affect EU exports that are currently worth around 27 billion Euro. G20 members figure prominently among countries having created the highest number of import obstacles. Thanks to its effective Market Access Strategy, the Commission however succeeded in 2016 to remove as many as 20 different obstacles hindering European exports. Commenting on the report, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “We clearly see that the scourge of protectionism is on the rise. It affects European firms and their workers. […] At the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, the EU will urge leaders to walk the talk and resist protectionism. Europe will not stand idly by and will not hesitate to use the tools at hand when countries don’t play by the rules.” The ‘Trade and Investment Barriers Reports’ are published annually since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis. This year’s edition is fully based on concrete complaints received by the Commission from European companies. They concern a wide range of products covering everything from agri-food to shipbuilding industries. A press release andmore information on trade barriers will be online as of 12h30

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More robust anti-dumping rules to defend EU industry and jobs | European Parliament Press Room

  • Trade defence to give level playing field to EU companies
  • Compliance with international fiscal, labour and environmental standards
  • No additional burden of proof on EU companies than at present

Protecting EU jobs and industry against unfair competition requires tougher anti dumping rules, Trade Committee MEPs say in a resolution adopted on Tuesday.

An exporting country’s fiscal, social and environmental standards need to be taken into account when assessing its trade practices, MEPs say. Accordingly, they amended a Commission proposal responding to the controversy around China’s market economy status and to unfair trade practices from other third countries with a heavy state interference in the economy.

Laying down new rules for the calculation of import duties, MEPs, among other things, propose:

  • Anti‑dumping investigations need to take into account the exporting country’s compliance with international labour, fiscal and environmental international standards, potential discriminatory measures against foreign investments, effective company law, property rights and tax and bankruptcy regime,
  • The EU Commission must issue a detailed report describing the specific situation in a certain country or sector for which the calculation of duties will be applied.
  • There should be no additional burden of proof on EU companies in anti‑dumping cases, on top of the current procedure to be followed when asking the Commission to launch an investigation.

The amendments were approved by 33 votes to 3 with 2 abstentions.

Quote

“EU businesses deserve better protection from unfair trade practices, which endanger jobs and investments all over Europe. Free global trade is only to our benefit if everyone play by the rules. By creating clear and tough anti-dumping rules, we can protect citizens from the negative effects of globalisation”, said rapporteur Salvatore Cicu (EPP, IT).

Next Steps

Parliament will start talks with EU ministers based on this mandate, if there are no objections at the July plenary session in Strasbourg.

Quick facts

The expiry in December 2016 of parts of China’s 2001 World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession protocol called into question whether WTO members can treat China as a non-market economy and calculate anti‑dumping measures accordingly. The new rules would use the same anti‑dumping methodology for all WTO members regardless of whether they have market economy status, but will target countries where “significant market distortion” exists, i.e. where prices are not market-based due to state interference.

EU jobs and businesses have been under immense pressure due to China’s excess production capacity and subsidised economy, especially in the steel sector. Most anti-dumping cases launched by the EU have been against Beijing. MEPs urged the Commission to counter unfair competition from China in a way that complies with WTO rules in a resolution in May 2016. Broader plans to update the EU’s “trade defence instruments” with a view to raising tariffs against dumped or subsidised imports are currently being negotiated with EU ministers.

Procedure:  Co-decision, first-reading

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European Council 22-23 June: Leaders discuss migration, security, defence and economy | European Commission – Press release

Today and tomorrow, EU leaders will discuss a number of priorities that figure on the European agenda, including migration, security, defence, the economy and the digital single market. They will also – at 27 – discuss and decide on the procedure and the criteria for the relocation of the two EU agencies from London (the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority). The June European Council will focus on making Europe a more secure, sustainable and prosperous place for its citizens. It will build on the Union’s forward momentum, unity and shared sense of purpose as it makes progress on a number of priorities set out in the Bratislava, Malta and Rome Declarations. The meeting will be an opportunity for the leaders to reaffirm their commitment to a strong, open and global EU that stands up for a rules-based international system and fights for fairness at home and abroad. The European Commission’s recent proposals on migration and defence will be the basis for leaders’ discussion on migration, defence and internal security. The spectre of recent attacks will sharpen the focus for the discussions on internal security and the fight against terrorism. On migration, leaders will take stock of progress since March, focusing notably on the Central Mediterranean route and the ongoing talks on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. Aspects linked to the single market, the economy, external affairs and digital Europe will also be discussed. A press conference by President Juncker and President Tusk is scheduled for 18:30 CET today and tomorrow at 12:30 CET, President Juncker will hold a joint press conference with President Donald Tusk and Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat. Both events will be webstreamed live via EbS.

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Climate Change: the Council reaffirms that the Paris Agreement is fit for purpose and cannot be renegotiated | EU Council Press

Council conclusions on climate change following the United States Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement

1. The Council deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the United States Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Council also welcomes the numerous strong statements of commitment to the Paris Agreement from countries ranging from major economies to small island states.

2. The Paris Agreement brought us together in very challenging times. It is an unprecedented multilateral agreement between nearly 200 parties, supported by regions, cities, communities, companies as well as other non-state actors across the world, to address a problem that threatens us all. It demonstrates, along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our collective responsibility towards the entire planet, for this and future generations, and our commitment to act accordingly.

3. The Council reaffirms that the Paris Agreement is fit for purpose and cannot be renegotiated. The Agreement is ambitious yet not prescriptive and allows each Party to forge its own path, in contributing to the goals that serve to combat climate change, which threatens development, peace and stability around the world.

4. The Council reiterates the European Union’s steadfast support for the United Nations as the core of a rules-based multilateral system. The European Union and its Member States remain united and absolutely committed to full and swift implementation of the Paris Agreement, recall the particular responsibility of major economies, accounting for some 80% of global emissions, and call on all partners to keep up the momentum created in 2015 towards successful results at COP 23 and COP 24.

5. The world can continue to count on the EU for leadership in the global fight against climate change, holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The EU will lead through its ambitious climate policies and through continued support to those who are particularly vulnerable, to build strong and sustainable economies on the path towards achieving greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in the second half of the century, and societies resilient to climate change. The EU and its Member States are the largest contributors of climate financing and remain committed to mobilise their share of the developed countries’ goal to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries, from a variety of sources.

6. The EU is strengthening its existing global partnerships to this end and will continue to seek new alliances, from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. Our partnerships will include the many businesses, regions, cities, citizens and communities that have voiced their support for the Paris Agreement both worldwide and in the US and are taking ambitious climate action.

7. Together, we will implement the Paris Agreement because it is our common interest and responsibility. We see the Paris Agreement and the low greenhouse gas emission and climate resilient transition for what it is, the driver of an irreversible process of sustainable growth for our economies and the key to protecting our planet. The EU stands ready to cooperate with all parties to this end.

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Brexit negotiations kick off – European Parliament reactions | EU Parliament Press

Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt stressed the need to protect citizens in reaction to the start of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Any withdrawal agreement concluded would require the approval of the European Parliament to take effect.

President Tajani said:

“The European Parliament’s position is clear. Preserving the rights of the millions of EU citizens affected by Brexit, securing the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland and honouring the financial commitments made by the British government will be indispensable in securing the European Parliament’s approval of a potential exit deal.

Negotiations detailing the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union must now begin in earnest, and I expect that they will be conducted in an orderly manner and in a spirit of co-operation.”

Mr Verhofstadt said:

“I am glad that we are sticking to the negotiating timetable which is already quite tight. Let’s now, first of all, make progress in the field of citizens’ rights and create legal certainty for both our people and our companies.”

The European Parliament’s priorities

In April, the European Parliament, with an overwhelming majority, adopted a resolution outlining its priorities and conditions for the negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.  MEPs gave absolute priority to fair and equal treatment for EU and British citizens.  They also stressed that the UK will need to meet all of its financial commitments, including those that may run beyond the withdrawal date. MEPs emphasized that the EU’s four freedoms – of goods, capital, services and people – are indivisible. Finally, the resolution states that any transitional arrangement must not last longer than three years.

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Brexit negotiations will start of Monday 19th of June 2017 | European Commission – Statement

The following joint statement has been issued by the Department for Exiting the European Union and the European Commission:

“Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, and David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday, 19 June.”

For More Information

Q&A on Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union

Task Force on Article 50 Negotiations with the United Kingdom (TF50) webpage

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