News

Poland: MEPs call for the primacy of EU law to be upheld | EU Parliament Press

Parliament asks the Commission to act immediately to defend Polish citizens and the foundations of EU law, by triggering the conditionality mechanism.

In a heated plenary debate with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Slovenian Foreign Affairs Minister Anže Logar, most MEPs condemned the contentious ruling of 7 October by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. They called into question the independence of the court itself and warned against the Polish government’s regressive path towards totalitarianism. MEPs stressed that all EU countries voluntarily agree to common rules when they join the Union and insisted that there is no conflict between the EU legal order and the Polish Constitution.

On behalf of the Slovenian Presidency, Minister Logar said that the primacy of EU law is the foundation of the EU and the basis for living together in a common European home. He underlined that Council is intensively debating the question of the rule of law and that the Presidency is committed to advancing Article 7 proceedings.

“The ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court puts into question the foundation of the EU and is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order”, stated Commission President von der Leyen. “It is the first time that a court from a member state finds the EU treaties incompatible with a national constitution”, she continued. She announced that the Commission will act, citing infringement procedures, the conditionality mechanism and other financial tools to protect the EU budget against breaches to the rule of law, as well as the Article 7 procedure, determining a serious breach of EU values.

Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki argued that “the primacy of EU law does not extend to the constitutional system (…). The Polish Constitution is the highest legal act in Poland; it stands above any other principle of law”. He also claimed that the Constitutional courts in other member states, including Germany, France, Denmark, Spain, Italy andRomania, have in the past issued similar rulings to the one now under discussion.

Use all available tools to defend Polish citizens

A majority of MEPs asked the Commission to use all the tools at its disposal to, above all, defend Polish citizens and finally trigger the rule of law conditionality mechanism. They also asked for infringement procedures to be launched and for Council to finally act in accordance with Article 7 (TEU). MEPs voiced their strong support for Polish citizens who are taking to the streets to fight for rule of law and judges and prosecutors that continue to apply EU law, and called on Polish authorities to listen to and respect them.

On the other side, some MEPs criticised the EU institutions for worrying about the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers only in certain member states, saying that the primacy of EU law is being used to give more powers to the EU than originally defined in the treaties.

Rule of law: President von der Leyen says the Commission will act to protect EU citizens’ rights and common values | EU Commission Press

This morning, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, gave a speech at the European Parliament plenary debate on the rule of law crisis in Poland and the primacy of EU law. Speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg, the President addressed the recent ruling of the Polish Constitutional Court which the Commission is currently assessing in detail: “I am deeply concerned. This ruling calls into question the foundations of the European Union. It is a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order.” President von der Leyen warned of the serious consequences for Polish citizens, who are less protected and whose rights are at stake without independent courts. She underlined that “Polish people must be able to rely on fair and equal treatment in the judicial system, just like any other European citizen”. Recalling the Commission’s role as guardian of the Treaties, the President said: “It is my Commission’s duty to protect the rights of EU citizens, wherever they live in our Union. The rule of law is the glue that binds our Union together. It is the foundation of our unity. It is essential for the protection of the values, on which our Union is founded: democracy, freedom, equality and respect for human rights. And this is what all 27 Member States have signed up to as part of this Union, as sovereign countries and free people. We cannot and we will not allow our common values to be put at risk. The Commission will act.” In her remarks, she set out the three options for Commission action: infringements, the conditionality mechanism and other financial tools, as well as the Article 7 procedure. Read the full speech online in EnglishFrenchGerman and Polish, and watch it back here

Cybersecurity: Council adopts conclusions on exploring the potential of a joint cyber unit | EU Council Press

The Council today adopted conclusions inviting the EU and member states to further develop the EU cybersecurity crisis management framework, including by exploring the potential of a joint cyber unit.

In its conclusions, the Council emphasises the need to consolidate existing networks and to establish a mapping of possible information sharing gaps and needs within and across cyber communities. This should subsequently lead to an agreement on possible primary objectives and priorities of a potential joint cyber unit. It is an incremental, transparent and inclusive process which is essential to enhance trust. The Council has an instrumental role in the policy-making and coordination function regarding the further development of the EU cybersecurity crisis management framework and will monitor the progress and provide guidance for complementing this framework.

The Council also stresses the need to establish adequate working methods and governance to allow for the participation of all member states in the deliberations, development and effective decision-making processes. A potential joint cyber unit would need to respect the competences, mandates and legal powers of its possible future participants and any participation by member states would be of a voluntary nature.

The Council calls for further reflection on individual elements of the recommendation on the joint cyber unit, including regarding the ideas of EU cybersecurity rapid reaction teams and an EU cybersecurity incident and crisis response plan.

Background

On 23 June, the European Commission presented a recommendation on building a joint cyber unit to tackle the rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, businesses and citizens across the EU. Under this recommendation, the joint cyber unit would act as a platform bringing together resources and expertise from the different cyber communities in the EU and its member states to effectively prevent, deter and respond to mass cyber incidents.

EU-US Trade and Technology Council: Commission launches consultation platform for stakeholder’s involvement to shape transatlantic cooperation | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission launched an online consultation platform on the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), allowing stakeholders to share their views and provide common proposals on the work ahead.

Following their first meeting in Pittsburgh last month, representatives of the European Union and the United States agreed on the importance of and commitment to consulting closely with diverse stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic on their coordinated approaches to key global technology, economic, and trade issues. It is in this context that the Commission has set up a one-stop-shop on its online “Futurium” platform, to collect input from all interested parties relating to the TTC.

Businesses, think tanks, labour, non-profit and environmental organisations, academics, and other parties that form the civil society at large are invited to contribute, as essential actors to successful EU-US cooperation. The platform is open to everyone after a simple registration. It allows interested parties to have their voice heard in the work of the ten specific TTC Working Groups. Via this website, they can not only feed in their views, but also receive important information and updates on the progress of the different working groups.

Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Robust and regular engagement with all interested parties on both sides of the Atlantic is an absolute must for the success of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council. Following a promising inaugural meeting in Pittsburgh, we are happy to open a structured channel for input, feedback and expertise. This new platform will ensure transparency and allow enhanced participation, helping shape our common approaches for a successful transatlantic cooperation in digital and tech.”

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “The EU – US Trade and Technology Council is a critical initiative to cement transatlantic leadership on these key topics. We want it to become a successful platform with a broad stakeholder’s involvement by listening to everyone who has a stake in these issues. This platform is only part of our outreach. In line with our transparency commitments on trade issues, we will also be taking stock on a horizontal basis with civil society through our regular Civil Society Dialogues.”

Background

The European Union and the United States launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at their summit in Brussels on 15 June 2021. The TTC serves as a forum for the EU and the US to coordinate approaches to key global trade, economic and technology issues, and to deepen transatlantic trade and economic relations based on shared democratic values. The working groups include the following topics: Technology Standards; Climate and Clean Tech; Secure Supply Chains, Information and Communication Technology and Services (ICTS) Security and Competitiveness; Data Governance and Technology Platforms; Misuse of Technology; Threat to Security and Human Rights; Export Controls; Investment Screening; Promotion of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME); Access to and Use of Digital Tools; Global Trade Challenges.

On 29 September 2021, an inaugural meeting of the TTC took place in Pittsburgh, USA. It was co-chaired by Commission Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, together with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Following the meeting, a joint statement was published, with a first set of concrete deliverables, i.e. declarations on investment screening, export controls, artificial intelligence, semiconductors and global trade challenges. The next meeting of the TTC is planned in 2022.

For More Information

TTC Futurium platform

EU-US Trade Relations

EU and US Launch TTC

TTC General Factsheet

TTC Inaugural Meeting Factsheet

TTC Inaugural Joint Statement

Commission collects views on making liability rules fit for the digital age, Artificial Intelligence and circular economy | EU Commission Press

The Commission has launched a public consultation on the rules on compensation for damage caused by defective products. A specific focus will be on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in products and services. The Commission invites interested parties to express their views on the revision of the Product Liability Directive and on whether other national liability rules still provide legal certainty and consumer protection in an age of smart and AI-based products and services. This is especially important since the safety of these products and services does not depend only on their design and production, but also on software updates, data flows and algorithms. The public consultation covers questions such as which economic operator should be liable for harm. Another important aspect is the upgrade and refurbishment of products and components, something that is becoming more and more important in our transition to a circular economy. The current liability rules are based on two pillars: the Product Liability Directive and non-harmonised national liability rules. The Product Liability Directive protects consumers who suffer injury or property damage from defective products and covers products ranging from garden chairs to medicines, cars and AI-driven products. The non-harmonised national liability rules include various differing liability rules, which cover different types of damage and claims against any liable person.  The consultation is open for 12 weeks and will run until 10 January. For more information on liability rules, see herehere and here

Aviation: EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement | EU Commission Press

The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.

Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”

Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
  • EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
  • Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
  • The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.

The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.

Background

Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.

In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.

Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

For More Information

Questions and answers on the EU-Qatar air transport agreement

International aviation relations of the EU

Invitation only | How to design marketplace-related provisions in the Digital Services Act for the benefit of consumers, traders and platforms (October 26)

on behalf of the following EUTA marketplaces

We are pleased to invite you to participate in an online workshop which will be held on the 26th of October 2021 at 15:00 and will last around one hour and a half.

In December 2020, the European Commission proposed an ambitious reform of the digital space which included a comprehensive set of new rules for all digital services, including online marketplaces and other online platforms that operate in the European Union.

With the Digital Services Act (DSA), the European Commission aims to create a modern rulebook across the single market which shall increase online safety of European consumers.

This workshop is a timely opportunity to discuss the question of how to balance obligations for online platforms to achieve the legislative goal and at the same time not to impede the competitiveness of European players on the digital single market.

To guarantee the right choice of products and services for European consumers it is necessary to discuss how European  e-commerce platforms will operate in the foreseeable future, with special regard to the questions of their liability exemption, Know Your Business Customer (KYBC) obligations and the online marketplace definition

 

PROGRAMME

Welcome to the audience

15:00

Introduction of the speakers

Magdalena Piech, Regulatory Affairs Director, Allegro, Chair of EUTA

Marjolein Verkerk, Manager for Corporate Affairs, bol.com

Cécile Barateau, Deputy Director for External Relations, Cdiscount

Daniela Borlea, Head of EU Affairs, eMAG

Petra Wikstrom, Director of Public Policy, Schibsted

 

European Tech Alliance’s (EUTA) representatives session

Defining prerequisites for liability exemption to safeguard open and fair marketplace model

KYBC obligations which do not create entry barriers for traders

A future-proof definition of online marketplaces

 

Q&A Session

16:00 – 16.30

Conclusive remarks

The EU Digital COVID Certificate: a global standard with more than 591 million certificates | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission adopted a report on the EU Digital COVID Certificate  and its implementation across the EU. The report shows that the EU certificate has been a crucial element in Europe’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 591 million certificates generated. The certificate, which covers COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery, facilitates safe travel for citizens, and it has also been key to support Europe’s hard-hit tourism industry. The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a success worldwide: it has set a global standard and is currently the only system already in operation at international level. 43 countries across four continents are plugged into the system, and more will follow over the coming weeks and months.

As said by President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union Address, the EU Digital COVID Certificate shows that “When we act together, we are able to act fast.”

The success of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system in figures:

  • EU Member States have issued more than 591 million EU Digital COVID Certificates
  • 43 countries are already connected to the EU system: 27 EU Member States, 3 European Economic Area (EEA) countries, Switzerland, and 12 other countries and territories. In total, the Commission was approached by 60 third countries interested in joining the EU system. Beyond the ones already connected, technical discussions are ongoing with 28 of these countries.
  • The air transport sector greatly benefited from the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which became operational just in time for the summer peak travel period. The association of Airports Council International (ACI Europe) reported that in July 2021 a total passenger volumes more than doubled compared to July 2020. ACI Europe attributes this change to the rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate along with the easing of travel restrictions.
  • According to an EU Parliament’s Eurobarometer survey, about two thirds (65%) of respondents agreed that the EU Digital COVID Certificate is the safest means for free travel in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 20 EU Member States also use the EU Digital COVID Certificate for domestic purposes, such as for the access to large events and restaurants, cinemas and museums, with an additional national legal basis.

Members of the College said:

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate system has helped mitigate negative economic effects during the pandemic. It gave travellers the confidence to travel safely in the EU and boosted travel this summer. Europe has swiftly and successfully set an innovative, privacy-friendly global standard, in times of crisis, with many countries around the globe interested in joining the system.”

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton added: “In record time, the European Union has set up a digital, secure and interoperable COVID certificate system. This has been a key driver for the recovery of the tourism ecosystem and its many small and family-owned businesses across Europe. Beyond that, the EU system is adopted by countries around the world, demonstrating how Europe can set global standards through decisive and coordinated action”,

Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides underlined: “The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a symbol of an open and safe Europe. The quick roll-out of the system, not just in the EU but internationally, is an example of the EU cooperating and delivering in extraordinary circumstances. It is a strong European tool that has allowed us to move towards the reopening of our economies and societies and the exercise of free movement in a safe and coordinated way.”

Next steps

The Commission will continue to monitor closely the validity of vaccination and recovery certificates as well as the use of antibody and rapid antigen tests for recovery certificates, and reconsider options once new scientific guidance is received.

Technical work to improve the functionalities of the EU Digital COVID Certificate system will continue within the framework of the eHealth Network. The Commission will:

  • Continue its efforts to connect additional countries to the EU system;
  • Work with Member States at technical level to implement the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation
  • Seek guidance from ECDC and European Medicines Agency (EMA) on relevant developments as regards the scientific evidence.

By 31 March 2022, the Commission will submit another report on the application of the Regulation. This report may be accompanied by a legislative proposal to extend the period of application of the Regulation, taking into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation. The Commission does not exclude that it will put forward such a proposal already at an earlier stage, in order to ensure that the necessary legislative procedure can be concluded sufficiently in time.

Background

On 14 June 2021, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Regulation requires the Commission to submit a report to the European Parliament and to the Council by 31 October 2021.

The Regulation sets out a common framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable certificates for COVID-19 vaccination, test or recovery certificates to facilitate free movement of EU citizens and their family members during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is accompanied by Regulation (EU) 2021/954, which extends the EU Digital COVID Certificate framework to third-country nationals who are legally staying or residing in a Member State’s territory and who are entitled to travel to other Member States in accordance with EU law.

On 31 May, the Commission proposed an update to the Council Recommendation on the coordination of free movement restrictions in the EU, which were put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the epidemiological situation was improving and vaccination campaigns were speeding up all over the EU, the Commission proposed that Member States gradually ease travel measures, including most importantly for the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Council agreed to the updated Recommendations on 14 June.

More information

Report on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates 

Annex to the report

EU Digital COVID Certificate webpage

Commission and UEFA launch #EveryTrickCounts campaign to tackle climate change | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission is launching a new public awareness campaign with UEFA, focused on individual actions to tackle climate change. Through this partnership, a video featuring famous footballers performing tricks to save energy and cut emissions will be broadcast in 57 countries in TV advertising breaks during the UEFA Champions League and other major competitions. The video, which will also be shown in stadia during the matches, will be aired for the first time tomorrow, 19 October. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said: “Football brings our continent and our planet together. To keep enjoying our favourite game, we need to win the fight against climate change, as a team. I’m delighted that UEFA and the European Commission are kicking off this campaign to assist our climate goals. With the European Green Deal, we are pressing for the big, structural changes necessary to make our economy and society ready for a climate-neutral future. But we will not succeed without everybody tackling the issue, by taking small, individual steps like getting to the pitch or stadium sustainably, recycling the waste from our half-time snacks, or turning off a couple of lights as we glue our eyes to the match on TV. Let’s kick our bad habits, for the sake of our planet.” More details about this partnership are available on the Commission’s website here and the video can be watched here.

Media pluralism: Commission launches call for proposals to extend media ownership monitoring system to all Member States | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission has launched a second call for proposals for the media ownership monitoring system, a project co-funded by the EU. This call will complement the coverage of the first ongoing pilot project and provide a country-based database on media ownership in the remaining 12 Member States not covered by the first edition. The media ownership monitoring system will systematically assess relevant legal frameworks, as well as risks to media ownership transparency. It will also show potential risks to media pluralism and provide valuable information for a better understanding of the news media market. This tool will make this information available to everyone through an interactive online platform, displaying results in formats adapted to the needs of the different users. Interested consortia working in the field of media freedom and pluralism at a European, regional, and local level can apply for this call until 15 December. The maximum amount of EU support allocated to this project is €500,000. This initiative is part of a broader effort in the field of media freedom and pluralism, as outlined in the European Democracy Action Plan. More information on this and other calls related to the field of media, either ongoing or under preparation, is also available.