President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday attended the European Council meeting, where EU leaders discussed Brexit, only hours after an agreement was reached at negotiator level on the Withdrawal Agreement. This agreement included a revised Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland and a revised Political Declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship. President Juncker held a press conference with President of the European Council Donald Tusk, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. President Juncker said: “What we have agreed on is much more than a deal, it is a legal text, which provides legal certainty to the problems created by Brexit. The text we agreed on protects the rights of our citizens and it protects peace and stability on the island of Ireland. Fundamentally, today’s deal is about people and peace.” Leaders then discussed relations with Turkey and the perspectives of EU enlargement. Conclusions can be found here and here. Today, leaders discussed the EU’s next long-term budget and climate change. President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, who had been invited to attend the European Council meeting, presented the priorities of the new Commission. President Juncker held today a joint press conference with President Tusk during which he said: “It is an historical error not to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania […] On the next EU long-term budget, I reminded leaders that they have to conclude this debate quickly. If we wait until the end of next year, we will lose two more years during which researchers will not be able to do their work and students will not be able to go on Erasmus.” The press conference can be followed here. Today’s conclusions can be found here.
EU institution news
The European Commission has approved a €130 million investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to expand the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal in Świnoujście, northwest Poland. The project will increase the terminal’s capacity to convert LNG into its gaseous form, store it, and ensure that it is easily transported. The ERDF financing was possible notably due to an important regional dimension of the project. LNG from the terminal will be transported through the newly constructed interconnectors to other countries including the Baltic States, Slovakia, Czechia and Ukraine. Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: “I applaud Poland’s commitment to diversification policy that lies at the center of our Energy Union Strategy. It is yet another key step in strengthening security of supply of entire Central and South Eastern Europe, increasing competition on the regional gas market and providing industry as well as households with secure, reliable and affordable energy.” The LNG terminal’s construction was supported by a €224 million ERDF grant in the previous EU budget period. The development of the terminal is part of ongoing efforts to achieve energy independence and the EU Climate Goals.
Today, the European Commission has approved the disbursement of €14.35 million in budget support assistance to help deliver much-needed reforms that are being taken forward by the new government in the Republic of Moldova. This assistance will support police reform, the fight against corruption and anti-money laundering, the modernisation of the energy sector and a more efficient and transparent public finance policy.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations commented: “Today’s assistance package demonstrates the EU’s commitment to the Moldovan citizens, who have long demanded that such reforms are put in place. The Moldovan authorities are intensifying their work to combat corruption in an effective way and to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and prosecution services. This is vital for public trust and needs to move forward at full speed. The Moldovan people can count on the EU’s full support to accompany the process.”
This new payment follows the budget support payments made in July 2019 (€14.54 million), the recently announced first instalment of Macro-Financial Assistance (€30 million), and the EU-Moldova Association Council, last 30 September 2019.
To recall, the Commission resumed its budget support payments to the Republic of Moldova in July this year, following a nearly two-year period during which such payments had been put on hold due to a deterioration of the rule of law situation in the country. Following the change of government in June 2019, the Moldovan authorities have engaged in a significant and substantial structural reform process, which has provided the necessary conditions for the EU to resume its budget support and macro-financial assistance to the Republic of Moldova.
The EU recognises the important steps the government has taken in addressing the problem of significant politisation of state institutions, corruption and the lack of independence in the judiciary and prosecution services. With these steps, the coalition government has addressed many of the EU’s concerns identified already in the Council Conclusions of 26 February 2018. In particular, positive developments have taken place in the reforms in the electoral system, the draft law on the reform of the Supreme Court of Justice and the legislation on the Prosecutor General. Moreover, the Republic of Moldova has sought the opinion of the Venice Commission on its draft laws, which is a positive development. Public consultations also remain important. The new government has also re-established relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On 20 September, the IMF completed the fourth and fifth reviews of its programme with Moldova.
The European Commission and the European External Action Service will continue to monitor closely the political situation and assess the fulfilment of the conditions ahead of any future budget support payments.
Background on the new EU assistance package
The amount of €14.35 million corresponds to budget support disbursements that will reinforce the following three programmes:
Support to the Reform of the Energy Sector: with EU support under this programme, Moldova has made good progress on the legal approximation of the electricity, gas sector and energy efficiency/renewable energy sectors in line with the EU-Moldova Association Agreement. With regard to the interconnection to EU energy networks, the construction of the strategic Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline has been progressing, albeit slowly. In addition, the construction of the electricity interconnection between Moldova and Romania, loan agreements with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank were signed and ratified at the end of 2018. Initial preparatory work has started with EU support.
Support to Police Reform in the Republic of Moldova: this EU programme has supportedpilot projects of community policing, including in cities outside Chisinau. In addition, all police inspectorates have been equipped with and are using a secure voice and data communication network to facilitate intelligence-led policing. Thirdly, the Ministry of Internal Affairshas established anti-corruption and anti-money laundering units within the police, to promote the principles of zero tolerance to corruption in the police force.
Support to public finance policy reform: with EU support under this programme, Moldova made progress in the way it is managing its public ﬁnances and preparing its budget in a more transparent manner. For instance the authorities have improved access of citizens to budget information by preparing a citizen budget. They also have been improving control and reporting of expenditures and reinforcing debt management. The Court of Accounts also took actions to make its audits more eﬀective and ensure a stronger oversight of the budgetary implementation.
For more information
The European Union is today launching the International Platform on Sustainable Finance (IPSF) together with relevant authorities from Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Kenya, and Morocco. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, will introduce the newly-created platform in the presence of Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), together with IPSF members’ and observers’ representatives, at the IMF and World Bank Group Annual Meetings, in Washington D.C. This initiative is part of the international efforts to meet the Paris Agreement commitments. Vice-President Dombrovskis said: ”While public funding will be vital for the green transition, it cannot pay the massive investment bill alone. We also have to tap private capital, and greatly scale up green investment so that it can help address the climate emergency.” To reach the Paris targets, trillions of investments in sustainable infrastructure will be needed over the next decades. For Europe alone, additional financing in the range of EUR 175 and 290 billion per year will be necessary. The launch of this Platform is essential to stimulate investment and redirect capital flows towards our climate objectives at the scale required for the most important economic transition of our times. It will act as a forum for facilitating exchanges and, where relevant, coordinating efforts on initiatives and approaches to environmentally sustainable finance, while respecting national and regional contexts. It will focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives in particular in the areas of taxonomies, disclosures, standards and labels, which are fundamental for investors to identify and seize green investment opportunities worldwide. The IPSF is supported by the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, the Network for Greening the Financial System, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations Environment Programme – Finance Initiative, in their role of observers. See the Joint Statement and the Q&A
Following the move by the U.S. today to apply countermeasures against imports from the EU in consequence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Airbus dispute, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström made the following statement: “We regret the choice of the US to move ahead with tariffs. This step leaves us no alternative but to follow through in due course with our own tariffs in the Boeing case, where the U.S. has been found in breach of WTO rules. Imposing tariffs on each other serves nobody’s long term interest. It will inflict very significant damage to the highly integrated supply chain of the aircraft sectors in the U.S. and the EU and will result in collateral damage to many other sectors already suffering under the current trade tensions. The EU and U.S. have both been found in breach of WTO rules. As the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, the EU and the U.S. have a joint responsibility to sit down and negotiate a settlement that is balanced and compliant with the WTO. The EU has, this July, shared concrete proposals with the U.S. on clearly identified existing aircraft subsidies and on future support to our respective aircraft sectors. This offer remains on the table. The Commission will monitor the impact of the announced U.S. countermeasures on the European products concerned, notably in the agricultural sector. The European Commission is committed to defending European companies, farmers and consumers.” The Statement is also available online. For more information please see available material on the WTO decision authorising countermeasures, the history of the dispute, the parallel WTO dispute on Boeing and potential EU countermeasures.
Last night the leaders discussed enlargement. The overwhelming majority wanted to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. However, such a decision requires unanimity, and there was no unanimity yesterday. That is why the EU will revert to this issue before the Zagreb summit in May 2020.
Let me be very clear: North Macedonia and Albania are not to blame for this. And the Commission reports are also clear that both these countries did what they were asked to do. And the adoption of the Prespa Agreement was a truly extraordinary achievement. So both countries have the right to start EU negotiations as of today. They are ready. Unfortunately, a few member states are not ready yet. This is why we didn’t manage to reach a positive decision. Personally, I think it was a mistake, but I will not comment on it further.
Today I would like to send a message to our Macedonian and Albanian friends: please do not give up. I fully understand your frustration, because you did your share and we haven’t. The EU is a complex political entity, and it is true that sometimes it takes too long to decide. But I have absolutely no doubt that one day you will become full members of the European Union.
Today leaders also discussed the priorities of the new Commission with President-elect von der Leyen, as well as the future EU budget. It was an important discussion that will continue in the following months. However, without Jean-Claude and myself around the European Council table, as you know. On this note, I want to thank Jean-Claude, my colleague and friend, for our friendship, for your loyalty and solidarity and for our really great cooperation. And I also want to thank you, the media, for your tough but fair questions, for your patience, for staying up so late with us. And for laughing at some of our jokes. Never funny, frankly speaking. Thank you for everything.
The European Council on 17 and 18 October 2019 adopted conclusions on the MFF, the next institutional cycle, climate change, enlargement, Turkey, illegal drilling activities and MH17.
Today, the European Council appointed Christine Lagarde to be the President of the European Central Bank for a non-renewable term of 8 years.
Christine Lagarde will replace the outgoing President, Mario Draghi, as of 1 November 2019.
On 2 July 2019, the European Council considered Christine Lagarde to be the appropriate candidate for President of the European Central Bank. The Council (Economic and Financial Affairs) then issued a formal recommendation on 9 July 2019. The European Parliament and the European Central Bank delivered their opinions to the European Council, respectively on 17 September 2019 and on 25 July 2019.
Article 283(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union specifies that appointments to the ECB executive board are made “by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, from among persons of recognised standing and professional experience in monetary or banking matters, on a recommendation from the Council, after it has consulted the European Parliament and the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.”
The ECB executive board is responsible for the implementation of euro area monetary policy, as laid down by the ECB governing council. It is composed of the President, the Vice President and four other members, all appointed for a non-renewable 8-year term. The governing council is composed of six executive board members and the governors of national central banks of the euro area member states.
5. The European Council endorses the Council conclusions of 14 October 2019 on North East Syria.
6. The EU condemns Turkeyʼs unilateral military action in North East Syria which causes unacceptable human suffering, undermines the fight against Daʼesh and threatens heavily European security. The European Council notes tonightʼs US-Turkey announcement on a pause for all military operations. It again urges Turkey to end its military action, to withdraw its forces and to respect international humanitarian law. Following the Council conclusions of 14 October 2019, it recalls that Member States have decided to halt arms export licensing to Turkey.
7. The European Union remains engaged in its efforts towards effectively addressing the serious humanitarian and refugee crisis in light of evolving needs, including by supporting those Member States that are facing the most serious challenges in terms of migratory flows in the Eastern Mediterranean.
8. The European Council will remain seized of this matter.
V. Illegal drilling activities
9. The European Council also endorses the Council conclusions of 14 October 2019 on Turkeyʼs illegal drilling activities in Cyprusʼ Exclusive Economic Zone and reaffirms its solidarity with Cyprus.
10. The European Council will remain seized of this matter.
11. With reference to the conclusions of 20 June 2019, the European Council reiterates its full support for all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability for the victims of the downing of MH17 and their next of kin and calls on all States to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2166.