Do you want to know what progress the EU made in delivering on its priorities in 2016? And how the EU citizens benefited from the Union? Today the European Commission published the 2016 edition of the General Report on the activities of the European Union. The General Report complements the White Paper on the future of Europe, providing an insight into the major EU events, initiatives and decisions of 2016. President Juncker said “Our ambition now, as the European Union, must not be to adapt to a changing world, but to shape it. Our goal is not only to protect what we have today, but to build a better society for tomorrow. Our children deserve a Europe that preserves their way of life. They deserve a Europe that empowers and defends them. They deserve a Europe that protects. It is time we — the institutions, the governments and the citizens — all took responsibility for building that Europe. Together.” The Report is available in all official EU languages here.
This morning, in the margins of the third meeting of the European Union-Ukraine Association Council, the European Commission and Ukraine signed a number of agreements, further demonstrating the EU’s ongoing commitment to Ukraine and to the ongoing reform efforts that Ukraine is undertaking. The agreement supporting Ukraine’s public administration reform is worth €104 million, and is one component of a larger package totalling €300 million of EU support for accountable and transparent governance in Ukraine. In addition, a series of cross-border cooperation agreements were signed, confirming Ukraine’s participation in EU-funded programmes involving Romania; Poland and Belarus; Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, and the Black Sea region. These programmes will promote continued economic and social development in regions on both sides of common borders and addressing common challenges in a range of priority areas, as well as to ensure efficient and secure borders. For more information on the agreements, visit the website. This afternoon the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Ukraine will sign the latest set of loans, totalling approximately €600 million and underpinned partly by EU grants, in the total €3 billion financial assistance programme for 2014-2016. This is part of the €11 billion EU support package announced by the EU in March 2014, and demonstrates the EU’s commitment to helping Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation, increase resilience, and act as a catalyst for prosperity for the citizens of Ukraine. The Association Council was held one month after the successful 18th EU-Ukraine Summit, and a week after the EU released a joint report examining the state of play of Ukraine’s implementation of its Association Agenda since 1 January 2015 (press release available here). For more information on the European Union’s relations with Ukraine, see the factsheet and visit the website of the EU Delegation in Ukraine and the European Commission’s Support Group for Ukraine.
Today, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on new, integrated ways to collect and use statistics on farms so as to better support policy making in general and agricultural policy in particular. The proposed framework Regulation on Integrated Farm Statistics will improve the analysis of the state, trends and impacts of European agriculture and contribute to EU responses in the areas of climate change, environmental policies, rural development, and food security. The proposed framework Regulation will increase the comparability and coherence of EU statistics on the structure of European farms, speed up data transmission, and allow for a more elegant, flexible and targeted data collection which reduces the burden on farms in the EU. It is an important step forward to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs and requirements for European agricultural statistics, while also reducing the costs and burdens of data collection. Agriculture uses almost half of the land area of the European Union. It has a large impact on climate change and the environment, and many rural communities depend on agriculture. The EU needs the most accurate information in this field to design policies that benefit all citizens of Europe. The European Commission is strongly committed to supporting sustainable development and fighting climate change, and the proposal helps to achieve these goals.
The European Parliament and the Council found an agreement on having Intergovernmental Agreements in the field of gas and oil assessed by the Commission before they are signed. The proposal for a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement Decision is an important part of the sustainable energy security package proposed by the Commission in February 2016. Its key objective is to increase transparency on the gas market, make sure Intergovernmental Agreements are in line with EU law and strengthen the EU’s resilience to gas supply disruptions. Securing an agreement today, in record time after the proposal was tabled by the Commission, is a major political achievement. Energy security is one of the cornerstones of the Energy Union strategy, a key political priority of this Juncker Commission. Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, said: “One of the Energy Union’s main objectives is to enhance energy security, solidarity and trust. Practice has shown that renegotiating Intergovernmental Agreements, once they have been concluded, is very difficult – to the detriment of the Member State concerned and the European Union. Today’s Agreement ensures that rather than assessing whether international agreements comply with EU law after they are signed, Member States will now do so in advance. This is a big political and legislative achievement”. Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said: “Today’s agreement, only nine months after the Commission adopted this proposal, is a major achievement for the EU’s energy security. This significant first deliverable of the Energy Union Strategy, achieved in record time, shows the Commission’s commitment to ensuring compliance with EU law and transparency on the energy agreements between EU and non-EU countries. The new rules, agreed by the negotiators of the European Parliament and the Council, will allow the Commission to guarantee that no energy deal jeopardises the security of supply in an EU country, or hampers the functioning of the EU’s energy market”.
The EU has decided to impose provisional anti-dumping duties on seamless pipes and tubes of iron and steel from China. This product is typically used in power plants, in construction, and in the oil and gas industry. The Commission’s investigations confirmed that the Chinese products had been sold in Europe at heavily dumped prices. To provide EU companies with necessary breathing space, the Commission imposed duties ranging between 43.5% and 81.1%. This should prevent damage to the European companies involved in the production of the steel tubes and pipes. The investigation was initiated on 13 May 2016 following a complaint submitted by the industry. The Commission will decide within the coming six months whether these measures would become definitive and apply for a period of five years. The EU currently has an unprecedented number of trade defence measures in place targeting unfair exports of steel products from third countries, with a total of 40 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, 18 of which on products originating from China. 14 more investigations concerning steel products are still ongoing, including three cases for which duties are being provisionally applied.
In a historic move, EU ministers on 30 September approved the ratification of the Paris Agreement by the European Union. The decision was reached at an extraordinary meeting of the Environment Council in Brussels. This decision brings the Paris Agreement very close to entering into force. Once approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday 4 October, the EU will be able to deposit its ratification instrument before national ratification processes are completed in each Member State. President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today’s decision shows that the European Union delivers on promises made. It demonstrates that the Member States can find common ground when it is clear that acting together, as part of the European Union, their impact is bigger than the mere sum of its parts. I am happy to see that today the Member States decided to make history together and bring closer the entry into force of the first ever universally binding climate change agreement. We must and we can hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies. This is not a dream. This is a reality and it is within our reach. Today we are closer to it.” Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “They said Europe is too complicated to agree quickly. They said we had too many hoops to jump through. They said we were all talk. Today’s decision shows what Europe is all about: unity and solidarity as Member States take a European approach, just as we did in Paris. We are reaching a critical period for decisive climate action. And when the going gets tough, Europe gets going.” So far, 61 countries, accounting for almost 48% of global emissions have ratified the deal. The Agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global emissions have ratified. The EU, which played a decisive role in the adoption of the Paris Agreement last December, is a global leader on climate action. The European Commission has already brought forward the main legislative proposals to deliver on the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions in the European Union by at least 40% by 2030.
A busy Ministerial Week at the 71st United Nations General Assembly will come to an end today. On Thursday, the European Union delegation continued its dynamic engagement with participation in a large number of high-level meetings and bilateral conversations. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans had an exchange with Mr George Soros and met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini chaired a ministerial meeting of the Joint Commission on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the so-called Iranian nuclear deal). Read the full remarks here. She also participated in the International Syria Support Group meeting on ministerial level as well as at the ministerial meeting on Libya, and held a large number of bilateral meeting, including with the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Bruno Rodriguez, Special Advisor of the UN Secretary General for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide as well as Foreign Ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva and Commissioner Christos Stylianides participated in the event “Beyond the World Humanitarian Summit: advancing the Agenda for Humanity”. Vice-President Georgieva also gave a speech at the International Peace Institute on how institutions can cope in a changing global environment. Commissioner Stylianides addressed a high-level event on South Sudan and an event calling to action on Protection from Gender-based violence in emergencies: Turning world health organisation commitments into action. Commissioner Neven Mimica joined the EU delegation in New York on Thursday, and delivered a speech at the EU hosted event on the EU’s efforts in integrating a youth dimension in preventing and countering violent extremism and at the event on Pathways to zero hunger. Audio-visual coverage of the events can be found on EBS.
Customs authorities across the EU seized an estimated five million more counterfeit items in 2015 than the previous year, according to new figures released today by the European Commission. This means that the number of intercepted goods grew by 15% compared to 2014. More than 40 million products suspected of violating an intellectual property right were detained at the EU’s external borders, with a value of nearly €650 million. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “I’ve witnessed first-hand the excellent work of customs officials across the EU in dealing with counterfeit and sometimes dangerous goods.But the criminal activity which swamps our internal market with fake and illegal products shows no sign of abating. The Commission will continue to work with customs authorities, international partners and industry to ensure a high level of protection for intellectual property rights in the EU.” Cigarettes remain the top category (27%) of articles detained, while everyday products which could be dangerous to the health and safety of consumers such as food and beverages, toiletries, medicines, toys and household electrical goods account jointly for 25.8% of the total. Once again, China was the main originating country for counterfeit goods (41%), followed by Montenegro, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Benin.
Commissioner Jourová met yesterday with Dr. Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz, Member of the Board of Management of the VW group, following her discussion with 31 consumer organisations in Brussels two weeks ago. Volkswagen committed to an EU-wide action plan to bring the affected cars back into conformity. Volkswagen agreed to inform the customers by end 2016 and to have all cars repaired by autumn 2017. Commissioner Jourová said: “Volkswagen committed to an EU-wide action plan today, which is an important step towards a fair treatment of consumers in the EU. I will closely monitor this commitment and continue to work with consumer organisations, authorities and Volkswagen.” This is an important first step, which the Commission will be closely monitoring. Therefore it was agreed to have another meeting on the same level soon to take stock of the progress. Also the conference with consumer organisations next week in Brussels and the meeting with enforcement authorities in early October will be occasions to hold Volkswagen accountable to these commitments.
Today, the UN General Assembly Ministerial Week officially kicks off, again with high-level EU participation. On Monday, at the UN Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants in New York City, the European Union highlighted its strong engagement in managing the global migration challenge. Specific angles of responsibility sharing were discussed in several round tables, following President Tusk’s intervention during the plenary meeting. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans chaired the discussion on a global compact for responsibility-sharing for refugees. He reiterated the European Union’s approach of co-responsibility as guiding principle in advancing a rules-based global order in a more connected world. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini spoke at the round table on a global compact for safe regular and orderly migration: towards realising the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. She underlined the need to work together to explore the opportunities human mobility can offer and the win-win solutions that can only be agreed in partnership with third countries. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos participated in the round table on addressing vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants in their journeys from their countries of origin to the countries of arrival. He stressed in particular the need to provide protection closer to the country of origin or to develop resettlement to reduce the risk of abuses. Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva attended the plenary session of the summit, while Commissioner Johannes Hahn participated in the round table on addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements, and highlighting the positive contribution of migrants. All interventions are available on EbS.
EU side events
Yesterday HR/VP Mogherini and Vice-President Georgieva presented the new European External Investment Plan at the EU hosted side event entitled ‘Investment in partnership: a new investment plan to address root causes of migration and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’. The HR/VP underlined that investing in the most fragile states and provide opportunities to young people can help addressing root causes of migration, prevent radicalisation and counter criminal organisations; it is also an investment in the future of everyone. Vice-President Georgieva explained how the experience with the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) can be put to good use with partner countries and invited participants to take stock of results achieved in a year from now. Coverage of this event can be found here.
Bilateral meetings & Events
In the margins of the summit, EU representatives had a busy schedule with many bilateral meetings and events around New York City. First Vice-President Timmermans met with UNICEF President Anthony Lake. Together with Vice-President Georgieva he also attended a round table on the World’s forced migration and refugee challenges, hosted by the ONE campaign. HR/VP Mogherini participated in the panel discussion ‘Partnering for global prosperity‘, organised by the Clinton Global Initiative, with U2 singer Bono among others. She also chaired an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers and together with Commissioner Hahn, participated in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – a donor coordination group in support of the Palestinian economy. Both HR/VP Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn held a large number of bilateral meetings. Commissioner Avramopoulos met with the Foreign Minister of Niger, Mr Yacoubou, as well as with the Minister of Interior of Mali, Mr Sallay. The Commissioner also signed a visa weaver agreement with Micronesia. Commissioner Stylianides addressed the UN event entitled ‘Supporting greater dignity and protection: Self-reliance in Food Security & Nutrition in Protracted Refugee Situations’. Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis attended the meeting of the UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic growth.