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Conclusions of the 51st meeting of the EEA Council | EU Council Press

The fifty-first meeting of the EEA Council took place in Brussels on 20 May 2019 under the Presidency of Mr Ștefan-Radu Oprea, Minister for Business Environment, Commerce and Entrepreneurship of Romania, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The meeting was attended by Ms Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, Mr Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, and Ms Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, as well as by members of the Council of the European Union and representatives of the European Commission and the European External Action Service. The EEA Council discussed the overall functioning of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) and held an orientation debate on Climate change: Long-term strategies towards 2050 and the implementation of the Paris agreement.

25th anniversary of the EEA Agreement

1. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the EEA Agreement, the EEA Council recognised that this unique Agreement has closely linked our societies and economies and has ensured that a high level of norms and social standards is applicable to all our citizens and workers. The EEA Agreement has been a solid basis for broad and strong relationship, and the positive spirit of cooperation has allowed for adaptations and solutions to be found, in a world of constant change. The EEA Council welcomed the statements made by the Prime Ministers of Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway and by the President of the European Council in the margins of the meeting of the heads of state and government of the European Union on 22 March to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the EEA Agreement.

Political dialogue

2. The EEA Council recognised that the special partnership between the EU and the EEA EFTA States was the best guarantee of long-term shared prosperity and has contributed to the construction of a Europe based on stability, peace, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. In this context, the EEA Council noted that, within the framework of the Political Dialogue, the Ministers had held informal exchanges of views on current foreign policy matters of mutual interest. The EEA Council underlined the importance of continuing the practice of inviting officials from the EEA EFTA States to political dialogues held at the level of the relevant EU Council working parties. The EEA Council agreed on the need to further strengthen communication efforts on the EEA Agreement and on its practical benefits for citizens and businesses.

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and the EEA Agreement

3. With regard to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the EEA Council underlined the importance of safeguarding the EEA Agreement, ensuring the continuation of a well-functioning, homogenous EEA and preserving the integrity of the Internal Market. The EEA Council welcomed the close dialogue and continuous exchange of information that has been established between the EU and the EEA EFTA States on the negotiations between the EU and the UK under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union regarding the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The EEA Council, aware of the EEA dimension of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, called for a continuation of the dialogue between the EU and the EEA EFTA States to ensure continued homogeneity in the EEA.

Cooperation in the EEA

4. The EEA Council confirmed its support for the EEA Agreement as the continued basis for future relations between the EU and the EEA EFTA States. It recognised the positive contributions made by the EEA EFTA States to the decision-shaping process of EEA-relevant EU legislation and programmes through their participation in the relevant committees, expert groups, studies and agencies, as well as through the submission of EEA EFTA Comments, and the positive contribution of the EFTA Surveillance Authority and European Commission in monitoring the compliance with the EEA Agreement in all its Member States. The EEA Council underlined the importance of inviting EEA EFTA Ministers to informal EU Ministerial meetings and Ministerial conferences relevant to EEA EFTA participation in the Internal Market and expressed its appreciation to the current Romanian and incoming Finnish Presidencies for the continuation of this practice. Recognizing the important role of parliamentary cooperation and cooperation between economic and social partners, the EEA Council noted the Resolution of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee adopted at its meeting in Strasbourg on 13 March 2019 on the Annual Report of the EEA Joint Committee on the Functioning of the EEA Agreement in 2018.

5. The EEA Council emphasised the importance of a well-functioning Internal Market in creating conditions for economic growth and new jobs throughout Europe. It underlined the indivisibility and importance of the four freedoms for the well-functioning of the Internal Market, which is in the common interest of all Contracting Parties. The EEA Council stressed the importance of the close involvement of the EEA EFTA States in the further design and development of Internal Market policies and initiatives. It furthermore stressed the importance of the two-pillar structure of the EEA Agreement. Emphasising the fact that greater knowledge of the EEA Agreement throughout the EEA was in the interest of all Contracting Parties, the EEA Council urged the EU and the EEA EFTA States to ensure that information on the EEA Agreement was made readily and easily available.

6. The EEA Council acknowledged the importance of predictable trade conditions for economic operators within the EEA. In this regard, the EEA Council welcomed the continued exemption of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway from the EU’s safeguard measures concerning imports of a number of steel products. These exemptions are compatible with both the EU’s bilateral and multilateral World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.

Incorporation of EEA-relevant EU acts

7. Noting the Progress Report of the EEA Joint Committee, the EEA Council expressed its appreciation for the work of the Joint Committee in ensuring the continued successful operation and good functioning of the EEA Agreement.

8. The EEA Council recognised that the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of EU acts awaiting incorporation into the EEA Agreement and to accelerate the incorporation process had yielded good results, and reduced the number of pending acts, especially in the area of financial services. The EEA Council noted that this positive outcome was the result of joint efforts between the EU institutions and the EEA EFTA States. The EEA Council stressed that these efforts will be upheld in order to reduce significantly and durably the number of acts awaiting incorporation and thereby continuing to ensure legal certainty and homogeneity in the EEA.

9. The EEA Council further noted that for a number of Joint Committee Decisions, the six-month deadline provided for in the EEA Agreement with regard to constitutional clearance had been exceeded. It affirmed the willingness of the EEA EFTA States to strengthen their efforts to resolve the pending cases as soon as possible and to avoid such delays in the future.

EU programmes

10. Acknowledging the contribution made by EU programmes to building a more competitive, innovative and social Europe, the EEA Council welcomed the participation of the EEA EFTA States in EEA-relevant programmes and noted their significant financial contributions under the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014-2020. The EEA Council recognised in particular the active participation and full integration of the EEA EFTA States in the European Research Area and the successful association of Norway and Iceland in Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship Programme for Research and Innovation, as well as in Erasmus+ in the field of education, youth and sport, and Creative Europe for the cultural and audiovisual sectors. The EEA Council would continue to place high importance on the integration and policy alignment of EEA EFTA States with the EU in the area of research and innovation and in education and culture.

11. The EEA Council took note of the preparations for the next MFF for 2021-2027, including the European Commission’s proposals for individual programmes. It welcomed submissions of EEA EFTA comments in this field and encouraged the EEA EFTA States to take an active part in EU programmes foreseen under the new financial framework. This participation is a means towards developing, strengthening and broadening cooperation on matters falling outside of the four freedoms, as provided for in the EEA Agreement. The terms of the EEA EFTA States’ participation in the future EU programmes for 2021-2027 shall remain based on the relevant provisions of the EEA Agreement.

The social dimension

12. The EEA Council underlined that the social dimension, including in relation to labour law, health and safety at work and gender equality, is an important part of the EEA Agreement. The EEA Council noted with satisfaction that a number of initiatives have been taken in recent years. Further efforts to ensure fair working conditions and equal opportunities in the labour market are essential, not only for the functioning of the Internal Market, but also to demonstrate and reinforce the benefits of the EEA to citizens. Following the discussions on the European Pillar of Social Rights in the context of the EEA Agreement at its last meeting in November 2018, the EEA Council noted the establishment of a new European Labour Authority aimed at strengthening cooperation at the European level in connection with cross-border mobility.

Energy and climate change

13. The EEA Council emphasised importance of continued close cooperation between the EU and the EEA EFTA States in environmental, energy and climate change policies, particularly in light of the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy and the Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy.

14. The EU and the EEA EFTA States are deeply concerned by the new evidence in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report, which unequivocally confirmed the negative impacts of climate change and the need to reduce global emissions in all sectors and take further action in mitigation and adaptation to reach the temperature goal set out in the Paris Agreement. They reaffirm their steadfast commitment to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement as the essential multilateral framework governing global action to deal with climate change and they expressed their commitment to accelerate the transition to low greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable and climate-resilient economies and societies, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption. Iceland and Norway also expressed that by extending their cooperation under the EEA Agreement to key EU climate legislation, they will take action to implement the Paris Agreement. The European Union and the EEA EFTA States are therefore determined to help raise global climate ambition and lead the way on accelerated climate action on all fronts, with a view to limiting global warming to well-below 2°C, pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°Cs. Both sides will work together for a successful outcome of the UN’s SDG and Climate change summits in September 2019.

15. While respecting the Contracting Parties’ right to determine the conditions for exploiting their energy resources, their choice between different energy sources and the general structure of their energy supply, the EEA Council recognized the role of key partners of the EU among the EEA EFTA States as a reliable supplier of energy. Moreover, the EEA Council underlined that the close cooperation should be continued in the areas of the Internal Energy Market, in addition to the cooperation in the fields of energy security, emissions trading, the promotion of competitive, climate-resilient, safe and sustainable low carbon energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), circular economy, as well as other environmental issues, such as chemicals, water resource management, biodiversity and pollution.

Digital Single Market

16. The EEA Council noted that the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy is an important step towards completing the Internal Market. In this context, the EEA Council welcomed the steps taken to incorporate new legislation, such as the new regulatory framework on telecommunication, on unjustified geo-blocking, enforcement of consumer protection law, cross-border portability of online content services and on audio-visual media services. The EEA Council took note of important legislative proposals currently under consideration, in particular the proposal for a regulation on e-privacy.

Financial Mechanism

17. The EEA Council emphasised the importance of solidarity among the countries of Europe to overcome social and economic challenges within the EEA, which is in the common interest of all Contracting Parties. In this sense, it expressed concern regarding the continued high level of youth unemployment in some EEA Member States. The EEA Council commended the positive contribution made by the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms in reducing economic and social disparities throughout the EEA and supporting a free and vibrant civil society.

18. With regard to the agreements on an EEA and a Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the 2014-2021 period, the EEA Council welcomed the conclusion of Memoranda of Understanding between the EEA EFTA States and almost all of the Beneficiary States. Furthermore, the EEA Council called for a timely implementation of the Memoranda of Understanding, while ensuring quality at entry for programmes and projects, flexibility and broad participation, in order to achieve the expected results and looked forward to projects commencing under the new mechanisms. The EEA Council recalled the importance of maintaining a close cooperation between the Beneficiary States and the EEA EFTA States, in the spirit of equal partnership between the Contracting Parties to the EEA Agreement.

Agricultural trade

19. The EEA Council acknowledged that the Contracting Parties had reaffirmed their commitment, in accordance with Article 19 of the EEA Agreement, to continue their efforts with a view to achieving the progressive liberalisation of agricultural trade. The EEA Council welcomed the Contracting Parties’ intention of conducting before the summer of 2019 a new review of the trade regime for processed agricultural products within the framework of Article 2(2) and Article 6 of Protocol 3 to the EEA Agreement, in order to further promote trade in this area.

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European Elections 2019 Campaign Tracker | EU Parliament Press

To help media keep track of the European election campaigns, the EP Press service provides a daily newsfeed on country-specific electoral facts, events and debates in all member states.

Disclaimer: this is an informal message intended to help journalists covering the work of the European Parliament. It is neither an official press release nor a comprehensive record of proceeding.

20 May

EU28. Getting Europe to the ballot box. With European elections just days away, dedicated individuals, businesses and VIPs step up their efforts to make sure as many citizens as possible cast their vote to choose their future. The streaming service Spotify has also created a dedicated “Get Vocal, Europe!” playlist, featuring one song from each of the 28 member states. Please find a full list of events organised by activists, companies and NGOs across Europe in the coming days.

EU28. Yourvotematters.eu offers a multi-lingual voting-match tool based on actual votes by MEPs over the past years. Once the user has “voted” on 25 questions that have already been tabled for plenary votes, the tool shows them which of the outgoing MEPs or fresh candidates are most aligned with their views.

EU28. All you need to know as a journalist about the election days in Brussels is available here.

AUSTRIA/SLOVENIA. Switching countries, not groups. The only Austrian ALDE MEP is re-running as a candidate, but this time in Slovenia. Angelika Mlinar is part of the Slovene minority in southern Austria.

BULGARIA. The Association of Bulgarian Football Players is an official partner of #thistimeimvoting and wants to help increase voter turnout for the upcoming elections. Watch the message from Svetoslav Dyakov, PFC Ludogorets’ captain.

CYPRUS. All Cypriot MEPs, except one, are standing for re-election: Lefteris Christoforou (EPP), Costas Mavrides and Dimitris Papadakis (S&D), Eleni Theocharous (ECR), and Neoklis Sylikiotis (GUE/NGL) will seek to renew their mandate, while Takis Hadjigeorgiou (GUE/NGL) will not be returning to the European Parliament.

DENMARK. Today, Margrethe Vestager, lead candidate for the presidency of the European Commission for ALDE’s Team Europe, will address a public event at the Danish School of Media and Journalism on the EU’s greatest challenges; including how to deal with tech giants such as Google and Facebook. Journalism students will also present a study on how to get young first time voters to the ballot box. More info here (in Danish).

GERMANY. In Germany, each of the 609,000 polling aides gets €25 “refreshment money”. They help make the election possible in 72,000 voting stations, where 64.8 million eligible voters (including 3.9 million citizens from other EU member states living in Germany) can cast their votes on Sunday between 8:00 and 18:00. Read more.

GREECE. In line with Greek legislation that sets a minimum percentage of female candidates at 40%, out of the 1,195 candidates in 40 lists, 57.3% are male and 42.7% are female. Eight lists in total include more that 45% women, and out of two of those female candidates represent at least half of the total number of candidates.

LITHUANIA. An original initiative to attract voters to participate in the upcoming EU elections has been launched in Lithuania. People can register on a particular website, bring together a team of five people and receive a seedling in their name near the Centre of Europe, close to Vilnius. All they need to do is vote in the elections and send a proof of it to the organisers, who plan to plant a special ‘election forest’.

POLAND. Non-profit organisation Alliance4Europe and the City of Warsaw will organise a debate on Culture and Art for Europe, including promotion of a cover of a classic Queen song by famous Polish artists Thursday 23 May. The event will feature VIPs, such as Anja Rubik, Agnieszka Holland, Orina Krajewska and Małgorzata Zborowska. The event will be open to media.

SPAIN. Josep Borrell, the current Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister and EP President from 2004 to 2007, is heading the electoral list of PSOE (S&D). Other candidates who have also held ministerial jobs in Spain are; Dolors Montserrat, Juan Ignacio Zoido, Pilar del Castillo, José Manuel García-Margallo, for PP (EPP), and, Juan Fernando López Aguilar for PSOE (S&D).

SWEDEN. In Sweden, approximately 7.3 million Swedish citizens, nationally registered in Sweden, are allowed to vote in the upcoming EU elections. For 489 000 young Swedes this will be their first opportunity to vote in the European elections. Previously, 70 000 of them were not old enough to vote in last year’s national parliamentary elections.

Indicative programme – General Affairs Council, 21 May 2019 | EU Council Press

Place:             Europa building, Brussels
Chair:             George Ciamba, Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs

All times are approximate and subject to change:

from 08.30
Arrivals (live streaming)

+/- 09.15
Doorstep by Minister Delegate Ciamba

10.00

Beginning of General Affairs Council meeting (Roundtable)
Adoption of agenda
Adoption of legislative (public session) and non-legislative A items

+/- 10.10
Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (public session)

+/- 11.00
Preparation of the European Council on 20-21 June 2019

+/- 13.00
Any other business:
– European Semester Conference
– Commission’s communication on further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union
– Ministerial meeting on European cultural heritage

+/- 13.30
Press conference
(Justus Lipsius building, main press room) (live streaming)

Extra-EU trade in goods by invoicing currency – Euro was the most used currency for EU exports and US dollars for EU imports in 2018 | EU Commission Press

Goods imported and exported by the European Union (EU) can be invoiced in a range of currencies. In 2018, the euro was the most used currency for EU exports with a share of 48% of the total value of goods exported to non-EU countries and a share of 35% invoiced in US dollars. The picture was reversed for imports, with 56% of imports paid in US dollars and around a third in euros (35%). For total trade (exports plus imports) the US dollar (45%) was used slightly more often than the euro (41%).

Full text available on EUROSTAT website

Juncker Fund to mobilise almost €400 billion in investment after new projects approved | EU Commission Press

Following the latest meeting of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Board of Directors, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – the Juncker Fund – is now expected to trigger €398.6 billion in investments. As of May 2019, the deals approved under the Juncker Fund amount to €73.8 billion in financing and are located in all 28 Member States. Some 949,000 start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are expected to benefit from improved access to finance. Currently, the top five countries ranked in order of investment triggered relative to GDP are Greece, Estonia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Latvia. The EIB has approved €54.3 billion worth of financing for infrastructure and innovation projects, which should generate €249.7 billion of additional investments, while the European Investment Fund, which is part of the EIB Group, has approved €19.5 billion worth of agreements with intermediary banks and funds to finance SMEs, which are expected to generate €148.9 billion of additional investments.

Main topics and media events 20 May – 2 June 2019 | EU Council Press

Overview of the main subjects to be discussed at meetings of the Council of the EU over the next two weeks.

General Affairs Council, 21 May 2019

The Council will discuss funding for external action within the next long-term EU budget (MFF) and prepare for the June European Council. Under any other business, the Commission will present its communication on strengthening the rule of law in the EU.

Education, Youth, Culture and Sports, 22 and 23 May 2019

The EYCS Council will adopt conclusions on young people and the future of work, a recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages, conclusions on young creative generations and conclusions on access to sport for persons with disabilities. Ministers will hold debates on topics in each of the four areas under the EYCS Council competence.

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade), 27 May 2019

The Council will discuss WTO reform and negotiations, EU-US trade relations, preparations for the signature of the EU-Vietnam trade agreements and other ongoing trade negotiations.

Competitiveness Council (Internal market, Industry, Research and Space), 27 and 28 May 2019

On 27 May, the Council will have public policy debates (and adopt relevant Council conclusions) on the future single market and industrial policy strategies. Furthermore, the Council will adopt conclusions on the competitiveness of the EU tourism sector. On 28 May, the Council will have a policy debate on space policy (and adopt conclusions in this field) and will discuss (in public) the impact of research and innovation on EU competitiveness. In the margins of the Council, the Space Council (EU + European Space Agency) will hold its ninth session.

Informal dinner of heads of state or government, 28 May 2019

The heads of state or government will discuss the outcome of the European Parliament elections and start the nomination process for the heads of the EU institutions.

EU-Tunisia Association Council | EU Council Press

Main results

The Association Council reviewed EU-Tunisia bilateral relations. It took stock of the EU-Tunisia privileged partnership and discussed  next steps.

Today’s meeting allowed us to review our privileged partnership. I am happy to see excellent progress in a particularly fruitful year, notably in supporting the ambition of Tunisia’s youth. Today we signed off financing of 60 million through the EU4Youth platform for Tunisian young people, especially youth in socio-economic vulnerable situations. Tunisia is a valuable example of democratic consolidation, and the EU remains more committed than ever to support Tunisia in its path of structural reform.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

The Council was an opportunity to continue dialogue with the EU on the future of EU-Tunisia relations. We presented Tunisian ambitions and the Tunisian visions for the future. We discussed how to allow our students, youth, researchers to have opportunities in the EU within a framework of a win-in partnership.

Khemaies Jhinaoui, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia

After the meeting, a joint press statement was published:

The Association Council focused on key themes of the EU-Tunisia partnership, including:

  • support for socio-economic development and trade relations, in particular the importance of the ongoing structural and socio-economic reforms
  • continuation of the democratic transition and decentralisation process, including the implementation of the Constitution and judicial reform
  • the EU-Tunisia youth partnership, to continue enlarging the economic, social and political inclusion of young Tunisians, including through the signature of a programme EU4Youth
  • mobility and migration, including legal migration and addressing the root causes of illegal migration

The Association Council also considered the future of bilateral relations, in particular in view of the partnership priorities after 2020. In addition, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, Khemaies Jhinaoui, discussed matters of common interest such as the situation in the regionsecurity and counter-terrorism.

Cyber-attacks: Council is now able to impose sanctions | EU Council Press

On 17 May 2019, the Council established a framework which allows the EU to impose targeted restrictive measures to deter and respond to cyber-attacks which constitute an external threatto the EU or its member states, including cyber-attacks against third States or international organisations where restricted measures are considered necessary to achieve the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Cyber-attacks falling within the scope of this new sanctions regime are those which have significant impact and which:

  • originate or are carried out from outside the EU or
  • use infrastructure outside the EU or
  • are carried out by persons or entities established or operating outside the EU or
  • are carried out with the support of person or entities operating outside the EU.

Attempted cyber-attacks with a potentially significant effect are also covered by this sanctions regime.

More specifically, this framework allows the EU for the first time to impose sanctions on persons or entities that are responsible for cyber-attacks or attempted cyber-attacks, who provide financial, technical or material support for such attacks or who are involved in other ways. Sanctions may also be imposed on persons or entities associated with them.  

Restrictive measures include a ban on persons travelling to the EU, and an asset freeze on persons and entities. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

European Elections 2019 Campaign Tracker | EU Parliament Press

17 May

EU-28.  Get up to date with today’s briefing on practical arrangements for media covering the election days in Brussels. See the video recording (check under Friday 17 May 2019) and watch out for the press release in the afternoon. A compilation of country-specific election facts and key candidates is also now available online.

EU28. The video “Stop scrolling” was launched on Youtube yesterday, to remind young people to go to vote. A group of volunteer young filmmakers from various EU countries teamed up to produce the 43-second film, subtitled in 24 languages.

BULGARIA. EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber will be in Sofia on Sunday (19 May) for the main campaign event of GERB (EPP) in Arena Armeec. GERB/SDS (EPP) candidates will also attend the campaign event, which is expected to gather around 14,000 members and party supporters.

CROATIA. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will join EPP lead candidate Manfred Weber at the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) rally in Zagreb, Saturday (18 May). On the following day, PES lead candidate Frans Timmermans is taking part in the election convention of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP) at Croatia’s biggest port, Rijeka.

CZECHIA. Last Sunday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said Czechia would be interested in trade or internal market portfolio in the next European Commission, in an interview for the Czech Television. Also in February, Mr Babiš noted that current Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Věra Jourová could continue as a member of the post-election EU’s executive.

FINLAND. TV debates on EU elections with the national party leaders will take place next Monday and Tuesday (20 and 21 May), hosted by the national broadcaster YLE. A final debate is also scheduled for 23 May, on YLE.

GREECE. 1,195 candidates are standing for election on 40 different lists, according to the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece (Areios Pagos) who finalised the European Elections 2019 lists, on 12 May. Next Sunday (26 May) Greek voters will also participate in the first round of the regional and municipal elections, the second round of which will take place on 2 June.

HUNGARY. Friday (17 May) 16:00 is the deadline for Hungarians with a Hungarian address but living in another EU country to register to vote on Hungarian lists. EU-expat Hungarians who have cancelled their address in Hungary cannot vote on Hungarian candidates, unlike ethnic Hungarians in Serbia and Ukraine.

IRELAND. National broadcaster RTÉ is holding a series of live televised candidate debates ahead of the European Elections. Each debate will focus on one of Ireland’s three constituencies: Ireland South on Sunday (19 May), Dublin on 20 May, and Midlands-Northwest on 21 May. Commercial station Virgin Media One are also broadcasting the televised debates.

ITALY. New rules to boost gender balance in elections will apply in Italy for the first time in the European elections 2019. These rules, introduced in 2014, say that electoral lists should be composed of male and female candidates in the same proportion (50%). The first two candidates in each list must be one man and one woman (in whichever order). If a voter marks two or three candidates, s/he must include at least one female, otherwise both the second and third preferences would be annulled.

LATVIA. A “non-political guide to EU elections” will be presented at the European Union House in Riga, on Monday 20 May. Two experts will also explain voting technicalities and the role of the European Parliament.

THE NETHERLANDS. The Ballot Boxers (“de Kiesmannen”) and their sisters act the Kiesvrouwen, are young Dutch political performers who host podcasts and political shows across the country in which they explain the EU to a young audience. Their goal is to mobilise young people for the European Elections. Their next shows are in the Amsterdam International Theater (Kiesmannen) and Utrecht (Kiesvrouwen) on 20 May.

PORTUGAL. 10.76 million voters are registered for the European elections, including citizens from other EU countries. As the number of Portuguese voters living or registered abroad increased from 300,000to 1.4 million. This increase is partially due to changes in the electoral law, which made registration automatic. Latest census data by the Home Affairs Ministry.

Code of Practice against disinformation: Commission recognises platforms’ efforts ahead of the European elections | EU Commission Press

Today, the European Commission published the reports and analysis of the progress made in April 2019 by Facebook, Google and Twitter to fight disinformation. The three online platforms are signatories to the Code of Practice against disinformation and have committed to report monthly on measures taken ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová, Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King, and Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said in a joint statement: “We recognise the continued progress made by Facebook, Google and Twitter on their commitments to increase transparency and protect the integrity of the upcoming elections. We welcome the robust measures that all three platforms have taken against manipulative behaviour on their services, including coordinated disinformation operations. They have also provided data on measures to improve the scrutiny of ad placements. However, more needs to be done to strengthen the integrity of their services, including advertising services. Moreover, the data provided still lacks the level of detail necessary to allow for an independent and accurate assessment of how the platforms’ policies have actually contributed to reducing the spread of disinformation in the EU. All three signatories have now created publicly accessible political ad libraries and enabled searches through APIs, which is a clear improvement. We regret however that Google and Twitter were not able to develop and implement policies for the identification and public disclosure of issue-based ads, which can be sources of divisive public debate during elections, hence prone to disinformation. Looking beyond the European elections, all signatories should now step up their efforts to broaden cooperation with fact checkers in all Member States as well as to empower users and the research community. In particular, online platforms need to put in practice their broader set of commitments under the Code of Practice, notably by engaging with traditional media to develop transparency and trustworthiness indicators for information sources so that users are offered a fair choice of relevant, verified information.”