News

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the European Council meetings on 21 and 22 March 2019 | EU Council Press

Today leaders discussed how to best prepare the EU for increasing global economic competition. This means strengthening the European single market and industrial base, which is key for job creation. We also agreed on the need for an open and assertive trade policy. In this context, the European Council called to resume the discussion on the public procurement instrument. We want to reinforce European capacity to deal with technology theft and cybersecurity threats, and we look forward to the Commission’s recommendation on the security of 5G networks.

We also discussed the priorities for next month’s summit with China. Our aim is to focus on achieving a balanced relation, which ensures fair competition and equal market access. In this context, we hope to persuade China to include industrial subsidies as a crucial element of the WTO reform.

Additionally, leaders were univocal in their determination to tackle climate change with urgency and ambition. Our ministers will intensify work on the EU’s climate strategy, to implement the goals set down by the Paris Agreement. We will come back to this issue in June.

As regards Brexit, the European Council formalised last night’s decisions by the EU27 and the UK, to delay the cliff-edge and allow for an extension. Personally, I am really happy about this development. As I said yesterday, it means that until the twelfth of April, anything is possible: a deal, a long extension – if the UK decided to re-think its strategy – or revoking Article 50, which is a prerogative of the UK Government. The fate of Brexit is in the hands of our British friends. We are, as EU, prepared for the worst, but hope for the best. As you know, hope dies last. Thank you.

Statement by President Donald Tusk on Brexit | EU Council Press

Today I received a letter from Prime Minister May, in which she addresses the European Council with two requests: to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement between the UK and the European Commission, and to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June 2019. Just now I had a phone call with Prime Minister May about these proposals.

In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons. The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal, of 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow. When it comes to the approval of the Strasbourg agreement, I believe that this is possible, and in my view it does not create risks. Especially if it were to help the ratification process in the United Kingdom.

At this time I do not foresee an extraordinary European Council. If the leaders approve my recommendations, and if there is a positive vote in the House of Commons next week, we can finalise and formalise the decision on the extension in a written procedure. However, if there is such a need, I will not hesitate to invite the members of the European Council for a meeting to Brussels next week.

Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking – until the very last moment – a positive solution, of course without opening up the Withdrawal Agreement. We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events, and I am confident that, also now, we will not lack the same patience and goodwill, at this most critical point in this process. Thank you.

INVITATION | How can Europe ensure the long-term sustainability of transport infrastructure? (April 1st)

We are most pleased to invite you to participate in an evening of discussion on how Europe can ensure the long-term sustainability of its transport infrastructure with our distinguished speakers Ms Pia Nieminen, Policy Advisor, European Investment Bank, Ms Inés Ayalasender MEP (S&D/ES), Mr Laurent Zylberberg, Director, Groupe Caisse des Dépôts, Mr Thierry Goger, Secretary General, FEHRL, and Mr Christophe Nicodème, General Director, ERF.

Mr Riccardo Viaggi, Secretary General, CECE will hold an introductory speech.

The debate will be moderated by Mr Helmut von Glasenapp, Secretary General, European Long-Term Investors Association.

This event is kindly sponsored by

About the debate

Transport is the cornerstone of regional and social cohesion, as well as of the competitiveness of the EU as a global economic actor. The sector is not only an enabler of European integration and of the smooth functioning of the EU’s internal market, but it has also proved crucial for its added value to growth and jobs as a main element of the EU’s economic activity, as well as an important industrial domain in its own right. In addition, the availability and the quality of transport services have strong implications for both European industry and the EU’s choice of trading partners. Against this backdrop, the question of transport infrastructure has become essential in view of Europe’s ageing transport network, the necessity of assuring sufficient investment at the EU level in everyday needs, and for the modernisation of the Union’s transport system: all inextricably linked to the environmental and digital transformation of economy and society. To this end, the European Commission has launched the negotiations for the next Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027, which comes at a time of renewed dynamism and of great challenges for Europe.

The Connecting Europe Facility, the main funding instrument to implement European transport infrastructure policy, has confirmed the importance of infrastructure maintenance and modernisation by increasing funds for infrastructure-related investment and by creating specific allocations in the field of digital infrastructure. However, as highlighted by a European Commission discussion paper on the state of infrastructure maintenance: “while most EU member states had been steadily stepping up their transport infrastructure maintenance efforts, prior to the 2008 crisis, this trend was mostly reversed in the years since”. The analysis of spending trends in infrastructure maintenance has also revealed differing degrees of allocation by sector, namely road or rail, and by geographical location, as well as a volatile financial environment closely related to the interplay of financial and political factors in each member state. Furthermore, differences in approach stemming from diverging governance structures and methods of evaluating the state of infrastructure have highlighted the need for further convergence and common approaches at EU level.

As recognised by the Commission itself, the Union is compelled “to act decisively in the wake of the financial and economic crisis in order to lay solid foundations for a sustainable recovery”, while increasing the focus “on delivering efficiently and fairly on the things that really matter in the daily lives of citizen”. Within this context, and as highlighted by several commentators, the questions of transport, mobility and of the competitiveness of European industry cannot be considered unrelated if the long-term sustainability of both transport infrastructure and the EU economy is to be ensured.

This event will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the attendees may be revealed. For this reason, unless explicitly authorised by PubAffairs Bruxelles, the filming and/or the recording of the event by any means are strictly forbidden.

The event will commence with a welcome drink at 7.00pm, followed by a panel debate at 7.30pm. After the panel debate there will be an opportunity for questions and discussions.


We look forward to seeing you at 7.00pm on the 1st of April at The Office, rue d’Arlon, 80, Brussels.

All our debates are followed by a drink in a convivial atmosphere.

INVITATION | Trade and the European elections: what is at stake? (April 10)

We are most pleased to invite you to participate in an evening of discussion on how the main political groups will address the question of trade throughout their campaigns with our distinguished speakers Mr Piero Rizza, Policy Advisor, EPP Group, Mr Francesco Ronchi, Information Department, S&D Group, Ms Ursa Pondelek, Policy Advisor, ALDE Group, Ms Andrea Cepova-Fourtoy, Head of Unit, ECR Group and  Mr Martin Köhler, Advisor, Greens.

The event will be moderated by Poppy Carnell, Chief Correspondent, MLex.

This event is kindly sponsored by

About the debate

Trade and its role in promoting sustainable growth and jobs is one of the key topics in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Indeed, in light of recent challenges to the international rules-based trading system and the resurgence of protectionist views in Europe and around the globe, the EU will need to find convincing arguments and new approaches to preserve its ability to formulate and to push for an ambitious, forward-looking trade policy in the years ahead.

As shown during the public debates on TTIP and CETA, such an approach will also need to take into account both the creation of effective strategies and the often critical demands of civil society. In this respect, the European Parliament has played an increasingly important role by promoting openness with regard to the global trade model, while acting as a prominent forum for voicing citizens’ concerns.

The questions of how to deal with a potential resurgence of protectionism, how to maintain open global markets while considering the perspectives of current partners, and of how to use trade as a conditionality tool will continue to feature high on the agenda of the Parliament. As a result, several commentators have raised the question of the approach of the main political families and their “Spitzenkandidaten” regarding trade policy and what the next EU’s trade agenda should be.

 

This event will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the attendees may be revealed. For this reason, unless explicitly authorised by PubAffairs Bruxelles, the filming and/or the recording of the event by any means are strictly forbidden.

 

The event will commence with a welcome drink at 7.00pm, followed by a panel debate at 7.30pm. After the panel debate there will be an opportunity for questions and discussions.


We look forward to seeing you at 7.00pm on the 10th of April at The Office, rue d’Arlon, 80, Brussels.

All our debates are followed by a drink in a convivial atmosphere.

Capital Markets Union: Council confirms final agreement on easier access to financial markets for SMEs | EU Council Press

As part of the capital markets union, the EU will soon have in place a new framework to help small and medium businesses access new sources of funding.

EU ambassadors today confirmed an agreement reached between the Romanian presidency and the European Parliament on 6 March, aimed at providing cheaper and easier access to public markets for SMEs. The initiative concerns specifically access to “SME growth markets”, a recently introduced category of trading venue dedicated to small issuers.

Thanks to the deal reached with the European Parliament, we will make it easier for our small and medium businesses to get the finance they need to grow and create jobs in the EU. By agreeing this reform we are putting in place yet another building block of the Capital Markets Union.

Eugen Teodorovici, minister of public finance of Romania, which currently holds the Council presidency

Of the 20 million SMEs in Europe, only 3,000 are currently listed on stock-exchanges. This is partially due to high compliance costs on the one hand and insufficient liquidity on the other. The proposed rules therefore aim at reducing the administrative burden and cut red-tape faced by smaller companies.

The proposal contains amendments to the market abuse and the prospectus regulations which make the obligations placed on SME growth market issuers more proportionate while preserving market integrity and investor protection.

The new rules adapt and reduce reporting obligations, in particular as regards persons that have access to price-sensitive information(“insiders’ lists”). They also extended the possibility to use a lighter “prospectus” more suited to SMEs that have already been listed on an SME growth market.

The Parliament will vote on the agreement during the April plenary. The text will then undergo a legal linguistic revision. Parliament and Council will be called on to adopt the proposed regulation at first reading.

General Affairs Council |19th March 2019 | Main Results: MFF, European Semester, March EU Council, Brexit | EU Council Press

Main results

Next multiannual financial framework

Ministers held a policy debate on the multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027 (MFF). They provided their views on the measures envisaged in the MFF on climate mainstreaming and migration.

The shared objective is to provide the June European Council with a streamlined draft negotiating box, with a view to achieving an agreement in the European Council in autumn 2019. The draft negotiating box brings together those elements which are most likely to require political guidance from the EU leaders with a view to the Council reaching its position.

The Presidency also presented to the Council a progress report outlining developments achieved in the negotiations on MFF-related sectoral proposals.

Work on the MFF is steadily progressing. Today’s discussion on climate mainstreaming and migration addressed some of the key elements in the proposed MFF and will feed into the leaders’ discussion in June. At the same time, the common understandings reached by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council with the current European Parliament on MFF related sectoral programmes will contribute later on to the preparation and timely implementation of the next programmes.

George Ciamba, Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs

Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance

Ministers agreed a partial general approach on the Regulation establishing the instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III). 

IPA III is a part of the multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027. It supports the beneficiaries in adopting and implementing key political, institutional, social and economic reforms to comply with EU values and to progressively align to its rules, standards and policies. 

The agreed text does not cover financial and horizontal issues which will depend on the overall agreement on the next multiannual financial framework.

March European Council 

The Council finalised preparations for the European Council meeting on 21 and 22 March by discussing draft conclusions. 

The Spring European Council will focus on strengthening the European economic base. EU leaders will also discuss climate change, the upcoming summit with China and ways to tackle disinformation. 

At the start of the meeting, the representative of the Member State currently holding the presidency of the Council, will provide an overview of progress on the implementation of earlier European Council conclusions.

European Semester

The Council examined a presidency report summarising the contributions of the Council configurations on the 2019 European Semester package. The European economy is entering its sixth year of uninterrupted growth. However, further action is still needed to protect the economy from global instability and medium- and long-term challenges.

The Council also agreed to forward a draft recommendation to the European Council inviting the euro area member states to pursue policies aimed at boosting economic growth in 2019-2020.

Brexit contingency measures 

The Council adopted without discussion a series of legislative acts as part of its contingency preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit scenario.

The aim of these acts is to limit the most severe damage caused by a disorderly Brexit in specific sectors where it would create a major disruption for citizens and businesses, such as social security, youth mobility, transport and fisheries.

These measures are temporary in nature, limited in scope and adopted unilaterally by the EU. They are in no way intended to replicate the full benefits of EU membership or the terms of any transition period, as provided for in the withdrawal agreement. In some areas, they are conditional upon the UK’s reciprocal action.

Preventing misuse of personal data in EP elections 

The Council adopted without discussion new rules aimed at preventing European political parties from misusing personal data in EP elections.

The rules will allow for financial sanctions to be imposed on European political parties and foundations that deliberately influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of EP elections by taking advantage of breaches of data protection rules.

Brexit: Council adopts a series of contingency measures for a “no-deal” scenario | EU Council Press

The Council today adopted a series of legislative acts as part of its contingency preparations for a “no-deal” Brexit scenario. The aim of these acts is to limit the most severe damage caused by a disorderly Brexit in specific sectors where it would create a major disruption for citizens and businesses. They come on top of other measures, such as on citizens’ rights, adopted by member states as part of their preparations for a “no-deal” scenario.

These measures are temporary in nature, limited in scope and adopted unilaterally by the EU. They are in no way intended to replicate the full benefits of EU membership or the terms of any transition period, as provided for in the withdrawal agreement. In some areas, they are conditional upon the UK’s reciprocal action.

Social security coordination

The legislative acts adopted today include a regulation which is intended to safeguard, in case of “no deal”, the social security rights of citizens of EU member states in the UK and UK nationals in the EU27 who have benefited from the right of free movement before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

It will apply to:

  • nationals of member states, stateless persons and refugees, to whom the legislation of one or more member states applies or has applied in the past or who are or have been in a situation involving the UK before Brexit, as well as their family members and survivors;
  • UK nationals, to whom the legislation of one or more member states applies or has applied before Brexit, as well as their family members and survivors.

Erasmus+ and PEACE programmes

The EU also wants to ensure that young people who are participating in the Erasmus+ programme can complete their studies and continue to receive the relevant funding or grants in the event of “no deal”. The regulation on Erasmus+ adopted today covers both EU27 participants in the UK and UK participants in the EU27 at the time of the UK’s withdrawal.

Another regulation ensures the continued funding, until 2020, of the PEACE and INTERREG VA programmes between the border counties of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Fisheries

In order to help mitigate the impact of “no-deal” Brexit on EU fisheries, a new regulation will allow EU fishermen and operators to receive compensation under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the temporary stop of their activities in the event of a sudden closure of UK waters to EU fishing vessels.

Another regulation is aimed at ensuring that the EU can grant UK vessels access to EU waters until the end of 2019, under the condition of reciprocal action by the UK. It also includes a simplified authorisation procedure valid for both parties.

Transport

The EU has taken temporary measures to ensure basic air transport connectivity and basic road freight and road passenger connectivity in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit. These measures require reciprocity from the UK side. Rules are also in place to make sure that flying between the EU and the UK remains safe.

In addition, the EU has adapted its trans-European transport networks to ensure continuity for infrastructure investment. Amended legislation on ship inspection organisations will provide legal certainty for ship operators when the UK leaves the EU.

Dual-use items

The Council has also adopted an amendment to the regulation for the export of certain dual-use items to include the UK under the list of low-risk third countries covered by the EU general export authorisations.

Dual-use items are materials, equipment and technology which can be used for both civilian and military purposes, including the proliferation and delivery of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Under EU law, their exports to third countries are controlled. EU general export authorisations allow for the export of these items to low-risk countries under certain conditions.

Entry into force and application

The legislative acts adopted today will enter into force a day after publication and start to apply the day after the UK’s withdrawal in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

Legislative acts

Press releases

Visit the meeting page

Taxation: Council revises its EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions | EU Council Press

The Council adopted a revised EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. In addition to the 5 jurisdictions that were already listed, the revised EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions now also includes the following 10 jurisdictions: Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Dominica, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu.

Those jurisdictions did not implement the commitments they had made to the EU by the agreed deadline.

Annex II of the conclusions, which covers jurisdictions with pending commitments, also reflects the deadline extensions granted to 11 jurisdictions to pass the necessary reforms to deliver on their commitments.

Today we completed our first comprehensive revision of the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions. Since it was first adopted in late 2017, the list has proven its worth in promoting forward in a cooperative manner the EU’s agenda of improving global tax practices, fighting tax avoidance and improving good governance and transparency: more than 30 jurisdictions have already delivered on their commitment to pass tax reforms.

Eugen Teodorovici, minister for finance of Romania

The list, which is part of the EU’s external strategy for taxation as defined by the Council, is intended to contribute to ongoing efforts to prevent tax avoidance and promote tax good governance worldwide.

Work on the list started in mid-2016 within the Council’s working group responsible for implementing an EU code of conduct on business taxation. In November 2016, the Council agreed on the process to be followed and laid down criteria for screening third country jurisdictions, namely:

  • what a jurisdiction should fulfil to be considered compliant on tax transparency;
  • what a jurisdiction should fulfil to be considered compliant on fair taxation;
  • that OECD anti-BEPS (tax base erosion and profit shifting) minimum standards are being implemented.

On this basis, the Council approved and published conclusions containing an EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions in December 2017. It also agreed on the further process, and recommended ‘defensive’ measures with regard to the listed jurisdictions.

The first list was established following a screening of the 92 third country jurisdictions concerned conducted during 2017 and composed of the jurisdictions that did not take meaningful commitments to address deficiencies identified by the EU.

Most commitments taken by third country jurisdictions were with a deadline of end 2018, whilst their enactment in national law was carefully monitored at technical level by the Code of Conduct Group on business taxation until the beginning of this year. The Council adopted the revised EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions resulting from this exercise and endorsed a revised state of play with respect to pending commitments.

The work on the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions is a dynamic process. The Council will continue to regularly review and update the list in the coming years, taking into consideration the evolving deadlines for jurisdictions to deliver on their commitments and the evolution of the listing criteria that the EU uses to establish the list.

Visit the meeting page

Remarks by M. Centeno following the Eurogroup meeting of 11 March 2019 | EU Council Press

Good evening. We had an interesting meeting today, lots of different topics on a long agenda.

We kicked off with a thematic discussion on housing markets in the euro area. This is not a usual topic for the Eurogroup, but we looked at it from a macroeconomic perspective. For that we invited the distinguished Professor Lars Svensson, well known for his work on macroeconomics and monetary policy. He spoke to us about the assessment of risks to financial and macroeconomic stability that emerge from household debt.

The Commission’s analysis shows that the present situation in housing markets in the euro area is quite different than before the crisis. There are no major signs of overvaluation, according to the Commission. At the same time, given the lessons of the recent crisis we cannot be careful enough, we need to monitor house prices and household debt very closely.

We have been making progress in the euro area to ensure housing markets function better and to make our economies more resilient, notably through macro-prudential policies. But there is still room to improve and we can learn from sharing national experiences, which we did today.

Let me add that I’m happy that we now have these open discussions on horizontal topics in the Eurogroup from time to time. This broadens the scope of our exchanges with valuable input from external experts. And judging by the lively discussion, this view is shared by ministers.

You may recall that last month we welcomed the new Finance Minister of Latvia, Jānis Reirs. Today, we reviewed his updated draft budget and agreed with the Commission’s Opinion that it is broadly compliant with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact.

We also discussed Greece. It’s been a while since we talked about Greece. A lot of water has passed under the bridge. For instance, Greece has recently issued a long term bond, 10 year maturity. This is a milestone in the country’s return to normal market functioning and it reinforces Greece’s fiscal buffer. Also, the budget for 2019 was adopted projecting that the primary surplus target of 3.5% of GDP will again be achieved. It will be the fourth year in a row that Greece will deliver on this target. This shows that the government’s commitment with sound public finances outlives the programme.

Today we focused on the second enhanced surveillance report presented to us by the Commission, who then briefed us on reform implementation since the publication of the report on 27 February.

Overall, there has been very good progress. For instance, on measures to strengthen and better control spending in the health system, the initiative to modernise investment licensing and on important privatisation transactions.

At the same time, there are still a couple of points where details need to be fleshed out. The main outstanding issue is a potential new scheme for the protection of primary residences.

We invite the upcoming EWG to examine whether this important scheme has been agreed with the institutions. If all reform commitments are met, the Eurogroup will in April consider the implementation of further debt relief measures envisaged in our June 2018 meeting.

Finally we took stock of the economic situation in the euro area, which shows a temporary slowdown – that is less good news. The ECB presented to us its latest staff projections. It is clear that the euro area economic expansion has slowed its pace, but there are some green shoots out there. Wages and employment are still going up, investment growth is now close to pre-crisis levels, and the latest figures show services sector are rebounding. Macroeconomic policies are also supporting economic activity. The risks we face are well known, but the underlying fundamentals of the euro area are strong. Importantly, the ECB and the Commission both forecast growth will pick up next year, which is why we still see this slowdown as temporary.

Our last point was also the longest. We picked up on our ongoing discussions on the key features of the budgetary instrument for convergence and competitiveness that was agreed by Leaders in December. Today we focused on the expenditure-related aspects.

There is broad agreement that this tool should support both structural reforms and public investment, in line with priorities and challenges identified in the European Semester. Many of us favour an integrated approach, which would allow packages of investment programs and reform measures backed by financial support, to be proposed by members. Overall, the preferred form of delivery is via grants but there is also some support for loans.

This tool needs to encourage ownership. It must promote an efficient allocation of resources, good quality investment projects and efficient reforms.

There is some support to establish as requirement that Member States co-finance a portion of the investment and reform package at the national level. There is also support to explore the possibility of reducing member states co-financing rates in case of severe downturns.

More technical work is needed to agree all these details. We will come back to this issue in our future discussions.

In April we will focus on governance aspects. Our aim is to agree on the key features of this new instrument and report back to Leaders in June.

Visit the meeting page

SAVE THE DATE | Trade and the European elections: what is at stake? (April 10)

We are delighted to invite you to a debate organised by PubAffairs Bruxelles which will be held on Wednesday, 10th of April at 19.00 at the premises of The Office, rue d’Arlon, 80, Brussels.

The event will consist of a debate on how the main political groups will address the question of trade throughout their campaigns.

Although speakers and event details will be announced in the coming days, we are publishing this event now to make sure you save the date.

This event is kindly sponsored by

About the debate

Trade and its role in promoting sustainable growth and jobs is one of the key topics in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Indeed, in light of recent challenges to the international rules-based trading system and the resurgence of protectionist views in Europe and around the globe, the EU will need to find convincing arguments and new approaches to preserve its ability to formulate and to push for an ambitious, forward-looking trade policy in the years ahead.

As shown during the public debates on TTIP and CETA, such an approach will also need to take into account both the creation of effective strategies and the often critical demands of civil society. In this respect, the European Parliament has played an increasingly important role by promoting openness with regard to the global trade model, while acting as a prominent forum for voicing citizens’ concerns.

The questions of how to deal with a potential resurgence of protectionism, how to maintain open global markets while considering the perspectives of current partners, and of how to use trade as a conditionality tool will continue to feature high on the agenda of the Parliament. As a result, several commentators have raised the question of the approach of the main political families and their “Spitzenkandidaten” regarding trade policy and what the next EU’s trade agenda should be.

 

This event will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the attendees may be revealed. For this reason, unless explicitly authorised by PubAffairs Bruxelles, the filming and/or the recording of the event by any means are strictly forbidden.

 

The event will commence with a welcome drink at 7.00pm, followed by a panel debate at 7.30pm. After the panel debate there will be an opportunity for questions and discussions.


We look forward to seeing you at 7.00pm on the 10th of April at The Office, rue d’Arlon, 80, Brussels.

All our debates are followed by a drink in a convivial atmosphere.