EU council

The Council, in an EU27 format, will prepare the European Council (Art. 50) on 22 June 2017 | EU Council Press

Agenda highlights

The Council, in an EU27 format, will prepare the European Council (Art. 50) on 22 June 2017. Ministers will discuss the state of play of Brexit negotiations, after the first round of talks with the UK which is expected to take place ahead of the Council meeting.

In the margins of the meeting, ministers will discuss the procedure to decide on the relocation of the two EU agencies currently based in the UK:

  • the European Medicines Agency (EMA)
  • the European Banking Authority (EBA)

The future location will need to be decided by common agreement of the EU27 member states. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have suggested a specific procedure for this. This involves a vote by the 27 member states in the autumn following an assessment of the applications based on objective criteria. The EU27 leaders are expected to endorse the procedure in the margins of the European Council (Art. 50) on 22 June.

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Remarks by President Donald Tusk at the panel discussion called “European (Dis)Union?” during the Globsec forum in Bratislava | EU Council press

On 28 May 2017, European Council President Donald Tusk participated in a panel debate called “European (Dis)Union?”  during the Globsec forum in Bratislava with Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, and Bohuslav Sobotka, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

Below you can find some of President Tusk’s main quotes from the debate. At the bottom is also a link to the full recording of the debate.

On the G7 Summit and transatlantic relations

“I think that our meeting in Taormina as G7 is the best evidence that rumours about the decline of the west is a clear exaggeration. “

“I feel more optimistic now after the G7 meeting than I had personally  expected, and this optimism includes relations with our new partners around the table and I mean especially with President Trump.”

“My impression after this meeting is that cooperation among G7 members, including the transatlantic cooperation between Europe and the United States, can be easier than what we expected immediately after the elections in the United States.”

On multi-speed Europe

“There is nothing new and nothing extravagant in talking about specific and different political or legal formats in the EU. First of all, the possibility of enhanced cooperation among a group of member states is foreseen by the treaties and the most spectacular examples of this enhanced cooperation could be the Eurozone or Schengen. It is quite natural for such a very complex political system like the EU to have differences and different levels of integration.  We also have different political clubs like the Visegrad group, the Weimar triangle, the Benelux or the Nordic countries.  My previous experience as PM is that they were and are very useful in the process when we are looking for a compromise.”

“In fact, the real threat to the European Union today is not the different speeds, being two or multi-speeds, or the different levels of integration – this is already our political reality,  it was always our reality and it will remains our reality in the EU. The real threat is the different destinations or different directions. For me the biggest problem in Europe is that we today have some political parties, some governments, politicians, media etc. who are questioning the essence of the EU, the essence of Europe. By essence, I mean the values of liberal democracy, freedom, tolerance, freedom of speech.”

On the migration crisis and terrorism

“Europe is still the most open continent or the most open place in the world for refugees and migrants. We have thousands and thousands of people, organisations, and institutions deeply engaged in humanitarian assistance. Europe, of course, is not perfect but is still the best example in the world when it comes to the readiness to sacrifice something, not only money but also our time and emotions.”

“When it comes to the Muslim minority, I see a very visible risk that some political elites and political groups are ready to claim that in fact Islam is the synonym of terrorism. We can’t agree with this kind of simplification.”

“On the other hand, we should understand also the emotions especially after such an event like Manchester or other attacks in Europe. My advice or rather suggestion is that we have to start a genuine discussion with the Muslim minorities representatives on how we can cooperate together to exclude Islamic radicals from our societies. I think it is not enough today to show Muslim solidarity after the attacks. Without a deep engagement from the Muslim communities in our countries, we have no chance to eliminate this radical part of the Islam world.”

On leaks from meetings

“As you know, I am not here to be part of this new culture of permanent leaks. From time to time we also need some discretion and personal encounters.”

Link to full video of the debate

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Remarks by President Donald Tusk before the G7 summit in Italy | EU Council Press

e are meeting here in Taormina as the G7 to discuss the most pressing global issues. There is no doubt that this will be the most challenging G7 summit in years. It is no secret that leaders who are meeting today, sometimes have very different positions on topics such as climate change and trade. But our role as the EU is to do everything to maintain the unity of the G7 on all fronts.

Most importantly, unity needs to be maintained when it comes to defending the rules-based international order. Each day we are confronted with these strategic global problems that pose a threat to peace and security in Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East. From the war in Syria and Russian aggression in Ukraine, to nuclear and ballistic missile tests in North Korea, and land reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea. If our group is not determined and united enough, the situation in the world can really get out of hand.

I expect that the G7 will demonstrate unity regarding the conflict in Ukraine. We fully support Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. A solution to this conflict can only be reached with the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Since our last G7 summit in Japan we haven’t seen anything that would justify a change in our sanctions policy toward Russia. Therefore, I will appeal to the other G7 leaders to reconfirm this policy.

The G7 should also remain united when it comes to ending the brutality in Syria. We should be ready to increase our efforts to defeat terrorism in Syria, and to find a political settlement. A special responsibility rests on the shoulders of those who, like Iran and Russia, have become involved in the crisis and cooperate with the Assad regime. Instead of wasting time, they should use their influence to enact a real ceasefire, stop the use of chemical weapons and ensure safe and immediate humanitarian access to all the people in need.

Finally, let me say that we also need G7 unity in managing the migration crisis. This is a global challenge, but here in Sicily it is also a real, local problem. The EU’s goal has been to at least keep the current level of international cooperation in addressing this crisis. Whether we will succeed, remains an open question. Thank you.

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G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, 26th-27th of May | EU Council Press

On 26 and 27 May 2017, Italy will host the meeting of the G7 leaders. The summit will focus on the global economy, foreign policy, security of citizens, and environmental sustainability. European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will represent the EU at the summit.

The theme of the Italian G7 presidency in 2017 is ‘Building the foundations of renewed trust’. The presidency highlights that governments should adopt policies aimed at meeting their citizens’ expectations. The work programme of the presidency is based on these three pillars:

  • citizen safety
  • economic, environmental and social sustainability and reduction of inequalities
  • innovation, skills and labour in the age of the next production revolution

Background

The G7 summit is a forum that plays an important role in shaping global responses to global challenges, complementing the global economic coordination carried out by the G20. It brings together leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU.

This summit follows the G7 Summit in Japan in 2016 and the summit  hosted exceptionally by the EU in Brussels in 2014.

Leaders have been meeting in the G7 format since 2014 following the Russian Federation’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The EU as G7 member

In 1977, representatives of the then European Community began participating in the London summit. Originally, the  role of the EU was limited to those areas in which it had exclusive competences, but this role has expanded over time. The EU  has gradually been included in all political discussions on the summit agenda and , from  the Ottawa summit (1981) onwards, has taken part in all summit working sessions.

The EU has all the responsibilities of membership. The summit communiqué is politically binding on all G7 members.

The rotation of the presidency is as follows: Japan in 2016, Italy in 2017, Canada in 2018, France in 2019, and the USA in 2020.

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Economic and Financial Affairs Council of Tuesday 23rd of May | Agenda Highlights | EU Council Press

Agenda highlights

Taxation dispute resolution mechanisms in the EU

The Council is expected to reach an agreement on the proposal for the Council directive on taxation dispute resolution mechanisms in the EU.

The proposal aims to make the EU’s existing dispute resolution mechanisms more effective and efficient by introducing a number of clarifications and timelines and strengthening the enforceability of decisions, and by making the system more accessible to the taxpayers (i.e. companies) as well as more transparent.

Common corporate tax base

The Council will be briefed on the progress achieved in the technical examination of the proposal for a Council directive to introduce a common corporate tax base in the EU.

Ministers will be asked to provide guidance for future work on the proposal.

The aim of the proposal is to establish a single set of rules for taxing corporate profits in the EU. This would reduce administrative costs and increase legal certainty for businesses, and would make the calculation of their taxable profits uniform in all EU countries.

European Semester 2017

The Council will adopt conclusions on the results of the in-depth-reviews of macroeconomic imbalances. The conclusions will also review the implementation of the country-specific recommendations from 2016.

This year the in-depth reviews were carried out in 13 EU countries. Such reviews are necessary to determine whether the macroeconomic imbalances exist and if so, what their nature is.

The main findings of 2017 reviews:

  • Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy and Portugal are experiencing excessive economic imbalances
  • Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden are experiencing economic imbalances that are not considered excessive
  • Finland is not experiencing economic imbalances

In 12 member states, where macroeconomic imbalances have been identified, a specific monitoring will be carried out.

The in-depth-reviews are part of the macroeconomic imbalances procedure which is carried out annually under the European Semester process – policy coordination mechanism among the EU countries.

Greece is not included in the reviews, because it is currently implementing a macroeconomic adjustment programme, which is monitored under a different arrangement.

Movement of capital

The Council will exchange views on two reports related to the movement of capital in the EU:

  • a 2016 report by the Economic and Financial Committee on the movement of capital and the freedom of payments
  • a report by the European Commission on addressing national barriers to capital flows to facilitate the establishment of the Capitals Markets Union

The European Commission’s report follows up on both the capital markets union initiative and hence the EU’s investment plan for Europe initiative. It maps out national barriers to cross-border capital flows, identified together with experts from the member states, and proposes action to address them.

International meetings

The Council will be briefed on the outcomes of the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors which took place on 20-21 April 2017, and of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which took place on 21-23 April 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°3543
  • Brussels
  • 23/05/2017
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Report by President Donald Tusk to the European Parliament on the Special European Council (Art. 50) of 29 April | EU Council Press

would like to report the outcome of the first formal meeting of the European Council of 27, which took place on 29th April. Our main purpose was to adopt political guidelines for the Brexit negotiations. A mandate that sets out the overall principles, objectives and process. And a mandate that the European Council will update as necessary, as the talks get under way.

A key element of the guidelines is the need to conduct the talks on the basis of a ‘phased approach’. This means simply that there will be no discussion of the framework for our future relations with Britain, before sufficient progress is made on ensuring an orderly withdrawal. Leaders fully supported this logic.

To ensure an orderly withdrawal, we first and foremost need to address the situation of more than four million people, whose lives will be directly impacted by Brexit, on both sides. In a very real way, their futures depend on the outcome of these talks. It is our particular responsibility to secure the best guarantees for citizens – citizens of the Union – and for their families. That means guarantees that are effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive, accompanied by simple and smooth administrative procedures. There is a need to act quickly, and so we are ready. Now we must move from sharing objectives to actually ensuring that citizens get the necessary guarantees. That’s also why I welcome the fact that the Commission has already listed a number of detailed requirements.

The second priority in the first phase is the need to agree that all financial commitments undertaken by the EU of 28 will also be honoured by the UK. And thirdly, in order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we must aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Only once there is sufficient progress on these priorities, can we proceed to the next phase of the negotiations about our future relations. And it will be for the European Council of 27 to assess and decide if – and when – we have achieved sufficient progress.

When it comes to our future, the European Council shared the United Kingdom’s desire to establish a close partnership. It is obvious, however, that a relationship between the European Union and a non-Member State cannot offer the same benefits as EU membership. It is clear that a free trade agreement between the EU and the UK, which is what the UK has chosen, even if it is ambitious and wide-ranging, cannot mean participation in the Single Market or its parts. And at the same time, the UK must be aware that any free trade agreement will have to ensure a level playing field, and encompass safeguards against unfair competitive advantages through, inter alia, tax, social, environmental and regulatory measures and practices. Today it is too early to tell much more about our common future, but we will make our guidelines more precise when the time comes, namely when sufficient progress in the first phase is achieved.

Leaders responded with the urgency that the situation requires. There will be very little time to conclude withdrawal talks within the framework foreseen by the Treaty. Time is of the essence here, and much is at stake.

Next Monday, the Council will adopt a set of negotiating directives, proposed by the chief negotiator, on the basis of the guidelines we adopted on April 29th. These cover the three issues I have just mentioned, plus a number of other matters that need to be addressed in the first phase of the negotiations.

Since the referendum in June last year, we – the EU27 – have been united, consistent, and demonstrated solidarity with one another. What was – and remains – most important for me, is that our conduct in these talks will show the European Union at its best: in terms of unity, political solidarity and fairness towards the United Kingdom.

Finally, I can only praise the European Parliament and its leaders for the role they have played. Sincere thanks and appreciation for your constructive assistance. This bodes well – not only for the future of the negotiations, but our future as a Union of 27. Thank you.

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Capital markets union: new prospectus rules adopted | EU Council – Press

On 16 May 2017, the Council adopted new rules on prospectuses for the issuing and offering of securities.

The new rules are aimed at lowering one of the main regulatory hurdles that companies face when issuing equity and debt securities. Replacing directive 2003/71/EC, they set out to simplify administrative obligations related to the publication of prospectuses but in a manner that still ensures that investors are well informed.

“This regulation is another element contributing to the improvement of the business environment, so important for realising a capital markets union in Europe”, said Edward Scicluna, minister for finance of Malta, which currently holds the Council presidency. “It will help enable a strengthened role for market-based finance, alongside bank finance, in the funding of European companies.”

The regulation was adopted at a meeting of the General Affairs Council, without discussion.

The European Parliament approved the text on 5 April 2017, following an agreement between Council and Parliament representatives on 7 December 2016.

Most provisions will apply 24 months after entry into force.

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Money market fund rules adopted | EU Council – Press

EU rules are to be introduced on money market funds, aimed at supporting the role that the €1 trillion market plays in financing the economy.

On 16 May 2017, the Council adopted a regulation to ensure the smooth operation of the short-term financing market. This follows initiatives by the G20 and the Financial Stability Board.

“These rules will go a long way in improving supervision and regulation of a largely unregulated sector”, said Edward Scicluna, minister for finance of Malta, which currently holds the Council presidency. “Whilst money market funds are vital to investors and issuers alike, the crisis showed us that they can also be vulnerable to shocks.”

The regulation lays down rules and common standards to:

–  ensure stability in the structure of money market funds;
–   guarantee that they invest in well-diversified assets of a good credit quality;
–  increase the liquidity of money market funds, to ensure that they can face sudden redemption requests.

It was adopted at a meeting of the General Affairs Council, without discussion.

The European Parliament approved the text on 5 April 2017, following an agreement between Council and Parliament representatives on 7 December 2016.

Most provisions will apply 12 months after entry into force.

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Invitation letter by President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council (Art. 50) | EU Council – Press

Following the United Kingdom’s notification of withdrawal from the European Union, we will meet on Saturday for the first time as the formal European Council of 27 to adopt guidelines for the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Let me highlight one element of our proposed guidelines, which I believe is key for the success of these negotiations, and therefore needs to be precisely understood and fully accepted. I am referring to the idea of a phased approach, which means that we will not discuss our future relations with the UK until we have achieved sufficient progress on the main issues relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is not only a matter of tactics, but – given the limited time frame we have to conclude the talks – it is the only possible approach.

In other words, before discussing our future, we must first sort out our past. We need to secure the best guarantees for our citizens and their families. Guarantees that are effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive, and which should be accompanied by simple and smooth administrative procedures. We should also agree with the UK that all financial obligations undertaken by the EU of 28 will be honoured also by the UK. Finally, in order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we should aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Only once we collectively determine in the European Council that sufficient progress has been made on all these issues, will we be in a position to hold preparatory talks on the future relationship with the UK. I would like us to unite around this key principle during the upcoming summit, so that it is clear that progress on people, money and Ireland must come first. And we have to be ready to defend this logic during the upcoming negotiations.

Our meeting will start at 12.30 with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament. Following this exchange, we will gather for a working lunch, where we will adopt the guidelines and have a broader debate on Brexit to help inform the future negotiations. Given the constructive attitude that you have shown during our preparations, I expect that we will be able to conclude by 16.00.

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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

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