EU institution news

Preserving social security entitlements in the event of no-deal Brexit: Council approves draft contingency measures | EU Council Press

The European Union is taking measures to safeguard the social security rights of citizens of EU member states in the UK and UK nationals in the EU 27 who have benefited from the right of free movement before the UK’s withdrawal from the Union.

Today, member states’ ambassadors in the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee approved the text of a draft regulation on establishing contingency measures in the field of social security coordination. Coreper will now inform the European Parliament that if it adopts its position at first reading in the same form, the Council should be able to approve the European Parliament’s position.

The measures are limited in time and scope and will be adopted unilaterally by the EU. The regulation will enter into force only if the UK leaves the Union with no withdrawal agreement in place.

“The draft regulation ensures that member states will continue to apply the core principles of EU social security coordination. The contingency measures will guarantee that EU 27 and UK nationals, who moved freely within the Union, will continue to benefit from their social security rights acquired before UK’s withdrawal from the Union”.

Marius-Constantin Budăi, Minister of Labour and Social Justice of Romania

The regulation will apply to the following persons:

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

The draft regulation is without prejudice to the existing social security conventions and agreements between the UK and one or more member states.

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Parliament to host conference on abolishing the death penalty | EU Parliament Press

The opening ceremony of the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on 27 February.

The World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised by ECPM (Together against the Death Penalty) from 26 February to 1 March, is the world’s leading abolitionist event, and brings together more than 1000 stakeholders from over 140 countries.

The official opening ceremony will take place in the European Parliament’s hemicycle on Wednesday 27 February at 10.00. It will gather MEPs, high-level guests including EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, and various governmental and civil society representatives to reflect on positive efforts in the abolition movement and address what future work must be done to convince retentionist nations to abolish the death penalty.

The ceremony will also feature a panel of Ministers of Justice from non-abolitionist countries, as well as video messages from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice and a driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty in France in 1981, and Pope Francis. See detailed conference programme.

An exhibition (The Great Witness of Abolition) and sculpture installation (Chaise LXB) will be displayed in the Menuhin Hall in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building from Monday 25 February to Friday 1 March.

Background

The European Union and its member states oppose capital punishment and its abolition is an explicit requirement to join the EU.

Opening ceremony

WHERE: EP hemicycle in the European Parliament’s Paul-Henri Spaak building in Brussels.

WHEN: Wednesday 27 February, 10.00 – 13.00 and 15.00 – 17.00.

You can follow the conference live here.

Twitter: #7CongressECPM

Practical information for journalists

Journalists that already hold permanent media accreditation with the European Parliament will be able to access the event. For those not holding permanent media accreditation, requests to attend the conference can be sent to media.accreditation@ep.europa.eu. Video and photo journalists should get special accreditation (“T-badge”) to be allowed to use their cameras during the conference.

Ensuring safe flying after Brexit | EU Council Press

The EU is taking the steps needed to continue to ensure a high level of aviation safety in its airspace in the event the UK leaves the EU without a negotiated agreement.

Member states’ representatives meeting in the Council’s Permanent Representatives Committee today approved an agreement with the European Parliament on a draft regulation aimed at ensuring the continued validity of certain aviation safety certificates.

The regulation covers aviation safety certificates for certain aeronautical products, parts and appliances issued to natural and legal persons having their principal place of business in the UK, as well as certificates issued by providers of aviation training.

The regulation extends the validity of such certificates for a period of nine months from the date of application of the regulation. If necessary, the Commission will be entitled to prolong this period further. The extension will allow the operators concerned and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)  sufficient time so that EASA can continue to issue the necessary certificates under article 68 of the regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation, taking account of the UK’s status as a third country.

EASA is responsible for the issuance of type certificates and organisation approvals in the EU. After its withdrawal, the UK will resume these tasks under its obligations as ‘State of design’ under the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

The regulation shall apply from the day following that on which the Treaties cease to apply to the United Kingdom pursuant to Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, unless a withdrawal agreement concluded with the UK has entered into force by that date. However, in order to allow for the necessary administrative procedures to be carried out as early as possible, certain provisions will apply as from the regulation’s entry into force (the day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union).

The text will now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council.

Agreed text will soon be available on this webpage.

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January 2019 – Annual inflation down to 1.4% in the euro area – Down to 1.5% in the EU | EU Commission Press

The euro area annual inflation rate was 1.4% in January 2019, down from 1.5% in December. A year earlier, the rate was 1.3%. 

European Union annual inflation was 1.5% in January 2019, down from 1.6% in December. A year earlier, the rate was 1.6%. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Full text available on EUROSTAT website

EU Budget for 2021-2027: Commission welcomes Member States’ position on InvestEU | EU Commission Press

The European Commission welcomes the political agreement among Member States on InvestEU, the proposed programme to boost private and public investment in Europe in the next long-term EU budget.

With this agreement, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission can start the interinstitutional discussion to adopt the programme. InvestEU will make EU funding for investment projects simpler to access and more efficient. It will bring together under one roof and with a single brand 14 EU financial instruments currently available to support investment.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “InvestEU is our 21st century answer to the EU’s investment needs and this agreement by Member States is a key step towards the creation of that programme. By triggering at least €650 billion of additional investment in the EU, InvestEU will boost our competitiveness in support of a smarter, circular economy, a more cohesive society and climate neutrality.”

By providing an EU budget guarantee of at least €38 billion, the InvestEU Fund will crowd in public and private resources to mobilise investments in four main areas: sustainable infrastructure; research, innovation and digitisation; small and medium businesses; and social investment and skills.

Creating jobs, boosting investment and achieving sustainable economic growth has been President Jean-Claude Juncker‘s number one priority since the Commission took office in November 2014. The Commission’s proposal for InvestEU builds on the success of the Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan – which has already mobilised almost €380 billion of investments since its launch and supported 842,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the EU.

The budgetary aspects of InvestEU are subject to the overall agreement on the EU’s next long-term budget, proposed by the Commission in May 2018.

For more information

Press release: InvestEU Programme to support jobs, growth and innovation in Europe

Memo: InvestEU Programme – questions and answers

Factsheet: What is InvestEU?

Factsheet: InvestEU – what will it finance?

Proposal for a Regulation establishing the InvestEU Programme

EU budget for the future

Follow Vice-President Katainen on Twitter: @jyrkikatainen

#InvestEU

Online shopping: Commission and consumer protection authorities call for clear information on prices and discounts | EU Commission Press

Consumer websites screened across the EU show that many consumers face unclear information on prices and discounts when buying online.

Today, the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities are publishing the results of an EU-wide screening of 560 e-commerce sites offering a variety of goods, services and digital content, such as clothing or footwear, computer software or entertainment tickets. Around 60% of these websites showed irregularities regarding the respect of EU consumer rules, predominately in relation to how prices and special offers are presented.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “Online shopping provides many opportunities for consumers.  However, more than half of the websites show irregularities, in particular on how prices and discounts are advertised. This must stop as the consumers are often led to confusion and higher price than intended. I am appalled by the high number of the websites that have these problems – I hope they are unintended. Online traders need to fully respect EU consumer rules. National consumer authorities, with the assistance of the Commission, will now take the necessary steps to stop such unfair business practices”.

For more than 31% of the websites offering discounts, consumer authorities suspected that the special offers are not authentic or they found the way the discounted price was calculated unclear.

On 211 websites the final price at payment was higher than the initial price offered. 39% of those traders did not include proper information on extra unavoidable fees on delivery, payment methods, booking fees and other similar surcharges. EU consumer law obliges traders to present prices inclusive of all mandatory costs, and where such costs cannot be calculated in advance, their existence at least needs to be clearly presented to the consumer.

Further irregularities in respect to information requirements:

  • In 59% of the 560 websites checked, traders failed the obligation to provide an easily accessible link to the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform, which is obligatory under EU law. The ODR Platform allows consumers and traders to resolve disputes without going to court.
  • In almost 30% of the websites, irregularities were found in relation to how information was presented about consumers’ right to withdrawal. According to EU law, consumers must be  clearly informed about their right to withdrawal when they buy online.

Next steps

Consumer protection (CPC) authorities will ensure full compliance of the traders concerned by activating their national enforcement procedures where necessary.

websites with irregularities

 

Websites with irregularities regarding special offers

extra fees

other issues

 

service or product

 

Background

Thanks to EU law, every consumer in the EU has the right to receive clear, correct and comprehensiblekey information from a trader about the good or service before making an online purchase. This information must include aspects such as the characteristics of the product, the price inclusive of taxes, delivery costs and the existence of a right of withdrawal or cancellation.

Every year the Commission coordinates the screening of websites, with the help of the Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) network. This network brings together the national consumer authorities of 30 countries (28 EU countries, Norway and Iceland), which are responsible for enforcing EU consumer protection laws in the EU.

This screening was carried out last November by consumer protection authorities in 24 EU Member States as well as Norway and Iceland.

An EU-wide screening of websites (“Sweep”) is a set of checks that are carried out simultaneously by consumer protection authorities in different countries. These checks show whether traders respect EU consumer protection laws. Where the checks reveal potential breaches of EU consumer law, the consumer protection authorities contact the responsible companies and ask them to make corrections. Previous “Sweeps” have focused on: airlines (2007), mobile content (2008), electronic goods (2009), online tickets (2010), consumer credit (2011), digital contents (2012), travel services (2013), guarantees on electronic goods (2014), consumer rights directive (2015), comparison tools in the travel sector (2016) and telecommunication- and other digital services (2017).

For More Information   

EU-wide screening of websites (Sweeps)

Consumer Protection Cooperation

New state aid rules: Commission increases national support to farmers up to €25,000 | EU Commission

The ceiling for national support to farmers will rise significantly, allowing greater flexibility and efficiency, notably in times of crisis and situations demanding a swift response by the public authorities.

Today the Commission has adopted revised rules on state aid in the agriculture sector (the so-called de minimis aid), increasing the maximum amount that national authorities can use to support farmers without the need for prior approval from the Commission. This decision will allow EU countries to increase support for farmers without distorting the market, while reducing the administrative burden for national authorities.

Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “The Commission’s proposal for new state aid rules for the agricultural sector reflects the value of this form of support in times of crisis. By increasing the maximum aid amount to farmers, national authorities will have more flexibility and be able to react more quickly and more effectively to support vulnerable farmers. In some cases, the amount of State aid that can be provided to individual farmers will be increased by 66%. These new rules will continue to accompany the normal rules for notified State aid, which Member States may continue to apply.

The maximum aid amount that can be distributed per farm over three years will rise from €15,000 to €20,000. In order to avoid any potential distortion of competition, each EU country has a maximum national amount which they cannot exceed. Each national ceiling will be set at 1.25% of the country’s annual agricultural output over the same three-year period (up from 1% in the current rules). This is an increase in the national ceiling of 25%.

If a country does not spend more than 50% of its total national aid envelope on one particular agricultural sector, it may increase even further the de minimis aid per farm to €25,000, and the national maximum to 1.5% of the annual output. This represents a 66% increase in the ceiling per farmer and a 50% increase in the national ceiling.

For countries that do opt for that highest ceiling, the new rules require the creation of mandatory central registers at national level. This will allow keeping track of the aids granted in order to simplify and improve the delivery and monitoring of the so-called de minimis aid. Several Member States already maintain such registers, which will allow them to apply the higher ceilings immediately.

The increased ceilings come into force on 14 March and can apply retroactively to aids fulfilling all the conditions.

Background

In EU state aid rules, EU countries shall notify state aid to the Commission and may not implement the aid measure until it has been authorised by the Commission. However, when the aid amounts are small enough, which is the case for the de minimis aid, EU countries do not need to notify or get authorisation from the Commission. Due to their size, the aid does not threaten competition and trade in the internal market.

The de minimis aid is typically used by Member States when they need to act quickly without setting up a scheme in accordance with state aid rules, notably in times of crisis. It is also commonly used for very specific purpose, for example to help prevent or eradicate animal diseases as soon as an outbreak occurs, or to compensate farmers for damages caused by animals that are not protected under EU or national law such as wild boars. The damages caused by protected species of animals (wolves, lynx, bears, etc) can be compensated under notified state aid rules.

The Commission consulted Member States and stakeholders to provide input on the revision of the de minimis rules. Those contributions were taken into account when finalising the amendments.

For More Information

State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas

Consultation on the de minimis Regulation

Technical measures in fisheries: Council confirms deal with the EP | EU Council Press

The EU is modernising its rules which govern how, where and when fishermen may fish, the so-called technical measures.

EU member states’ ambassadors today endorsed the agreement reached on 13 February between the presidency and European Parliament’s representatives on new rules on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems. These measures include specifications for fishing gears and mesh sizes, closed areas and seasons, and measures to minimize the impact of fishing on the marine ecosystem and environment.

“This agreement on simpler and better technical measures is a milestone in the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy and for the sustainability of our seas. These rules will make fishermen’s’ lives easier and allow member states and the fishing sector to have a greater say in deciding what is appropriate for different sea basins and local specificities”.

Petre Daea, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Romania and President of the Council

The regulation on technical measures will take the EU a step closer to achieving the objectives and targets set out in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) such as the reduction of unwanted catches and by catches of sensitive species. In particular the new rules will help reduce as far as possible the number of caught juveniles, and minimise the impact of fishing activities on seabeds.

In line with the CFP, the new rules set out a framework for the regionalisation of technical measures. They do that through a bottom up approach by which member states, cooperating closely with the industry in local Advisory Councils, will be able to submit joint recommendations on issues of vital importance. These joint recommendations will then be taken into account by the Commission in adopting secondary legislation.

Regionalisation will contribute to improving the environmental footprint of fishing activities. For instance regional groups of member states will be allowed to develop additional mitigation measures in their joint recommendations to reduce the impact of fishing on sensitive species and habitats. Similarly member states will have other tools at their disposal, such as real-time closures and restrictions on the construction and operation of certain fishing gears, to improve selectivity and the protection of the environment under certain conditions.
list of prohibited species that fishermen will not be able to fish is also established.

Electric pulse fishing will be prohibited after 30 June 2021. A phase out period, during which no new licences will be granted, is nonetheless foreseen in order to allow the industry to adjust to new conditions.

Scientific research will continue although it will have to be carried out in line with stringent conditions. In order not to close the door to innovation in the sector, the regulation includes the requirement of a future Commission report including ICES advice – the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea – on the impact of innovative gears on marine ecosystems, sensitive habitats and selectivity.

Next steps

The text will now undergo legal and linguistic review. The Parliament and the Council will be called to adopt the final text at a later date.

The new rules will apply on the day after their publication on the Official Journal of the European Union (mid 2019).

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InvestEU: Council agrees its position on an improved instrument to support investment, growth and jobs in the EU | EU Council Press

The EU is consolidating its financial offer to support investment and job creation in the Union in a more effective way.

EU ambassadors endorsed the Council’s position on a Commission proposal to bring together under one programme the 14 different financial instruments currently available to support investment in the EU. The agreement excludes budget-related and horizontal issues which are currently being discussed as part of the negotiations on the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the period 2021 to 2027. The position agreed today will serve as the basis for the Presidency in its negotiations with the European Parliament which are set to start as soon as possible. In parallel, the Council continues constructive work on the location of the Investment Committee Secretariat.

“Europe needs more investment to support growth and jobs. The InvestEU programme will play a significant role in helping finance ambitious and far-reaching infrastructure projects. We must ensure that as many sectors and regions as possible in Europe are able to benefit from the programme.”
Eugen Teodorovici, minister of finance of Romania

The aim of InvestEU is to encourage public and private investor participation in financing and investment operations by providing guarantees from the EU budget to address failures and sub-optimal investment situations. According to the Council’s position, this EU guarantee is divided under the following policy windows:

  • sustainable infrastructure
  • research, innovation and digitalisation;
  • SMEs;
  • social investment and skills.

InvestEU builds on the success of the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI) which was launched in July 2015 to boost investment and stimulate economic growth and employment in the EU, at a time when Europe was still recovering from the financial and economic crisis.

The main partner will be the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) which has implemented and managed the EFSI. In addition, national promotional banks and international financial institutions active in Europe will have direct access to the EU guarantee.

The Council text also provides for the possibility for member states to channel some of their allocated cohesion policy funds to the InvestEU fund, adding to the EU guarantee provisioning.

As regards governance arrangements, the Council has agreed upon a different setup for the InvestEU programme compared to the EFSI. While still reflecting the central role and expertise of the EIB, it also takes account of the fact that the new programme will be a one-stop-shop for all existing instruments and that other implementing partners than the EIB will have the possibility to directly access the EU guarantee. According to the Council position, the InvestEU programme should be governed by:

  • steering board, composed of four representatives of the Commission, three representatives of the EIB and two representatives of other implementing partners, charged with determining the strategic and operational guidance for InvestEU.
  • an advisory board consisting of representatives of the implementing partners and representatives of member states and providing advice to the Commission and the steering board.
  • on the financing and investment side, an investment committee composed of independent experts and responsible for providing external expertise in investment assessments in relation to projects.

Next steps

The European Parliament adopted its position on InvestEU on 16 January 2019. On the basis of this partial negotiating mandate, the Presidency will start negotiations with the Parliament as soon as possible.

Text of the partial negotiating mandate

Visit the website