EU institution news

Joint letter of Presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on the upcoming G20 summit | EU Council Press

Later this week we will be attending the G20 Summit in Osaka on behalf of the EU. The EU shares the same goal as Japan: upholding the rules-based international order and multilateral institutions that underpin it. By supporting the Japanese Presidency, we will address defining challenges of our times. We will call on the G20 leaders to step up action to avoid the existential climate threat, to engage in delivering free and fair global trade, to decrease inequalities, harness the effects of digitalization and to promote a sustainable development.

  1. Boosting global confidence

Economic expansion continues in the EU and globally, although the momentum slowed down in the second half of 2018. Global growth is projected to pick up later this year and continue into 2020, supported by continued accommodative financial conditions, stimulus measures in some countries and dissipating one-off factors. However, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. As the premier forum for international economic cooperation, the work of the G20 remains essential to boost global confidence. We should build on our readiness to act together in case of a sharper than expected downturn. We need to monitor risks, take action to mitigate them and stand ready to respond if they materialise. Since the biggest risks are geopolitical and trade tensions, we must use the G20 to lower them.

  1. Towards a better multilateral trading system

International trade and investment are important engines of job creation, growth, development, productivity and innovation. We need to step up non-discriminatory collective efforts to de-escalate trade tensions by addressing their main root causes while acting within the rules-based order. These include levelling the playing field, stopping unfair trade practices; tackling distributional imbalances that go beyond trade; and addressing unilateral actions that undermine the rules-based multilateral trading system.

Last year G20 leaders committed to reform the World Trade Organisation. This process should continue in Osaka. In our view, beyond taking stock of ongoing efforts in Geneva, we should also provide steer to this process by recognising that a balanced reform should cover the three functions of the World Trade Organisation: monitoring, negotiating, and dispute settlement. In this regard, it is our view that Leaders should refer to certain aspects such as the work on transparency and subsidies, e-commerce and the reinforcement of the dispute settlement function, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the two-stage binding third-party adjudication system remains efficient. Additional progress in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity is also needed to level the playing field globally We will insist on the need to prolong the mandate of the Forum in its current form to deliver on agreed commitments to reduce overcapacity and eliminate the subsidies that cause it. We will also call for an acceleration of the discussions on the International Working Group to reach an agreement on the new international export finance disciplines by next year.

  1. Harnessing the digital transformation

The Japanese G20 presidency has put forward an ambitious and overarching agenda to harness the benefits of digitalisation. During the last EU-Japan Summit, we expressed our support for the G20 “Data Free Flow with Trust” initiative, which would allow the free flow of data among countries with high levels of privacy protection. It is aligned with the agreement between the EU and Japan, in force as of January this year, which has created the world’s largest area of safe data flows. We also supported the launching of the “Osaka Track” which intends to promote international e-commerce rules. We would like to play an active role in both initiatives.

As the digital transformation of the economy accelerates, ensuring fair and effective taxation has become a global challenge. We will give the highest priority to finding a comprehensive way to tackle the taxation of the digital economy with a view of elaborating a global solution by 2020 supported by a report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. We should endorse the G20 Guiding principles on Artificial Intelligence, which are in line with the EU ethics guidelines, as well as promote our initiatives to fight online hate speech and disinformation.

  1. Addressing inequalities and ageing societies

The G20 has placed considerable emphasis on the future of work and on societal and demographic changes. These are common challenges for many G20 countries and the EU is no exception. The working-age population of Europe is projected to shrink from 333 million in 2016, to 292 million in 2070. By 2030, the average age of Europeans is estimated to be 45 – older than any other country in the world. We will therefore strongly encourage cooperation among G20 partners on issues related to ageing, including adaptation policies for longer working lives, and for healthy ageing.

We also need to cooperate in tackling inequality in all its forms. This is a priority at the heart of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which sets the framework for fair working conditions, equal opportunities and social protection in the European Union. In Osaka we will call for further efforts to ensure that growth becomes more inclusive and gender imbalances are properly addressed. In this regard, we plan to push for further efforts to meet the target that we endorsed in Brisbane of reducing the gap in labour force participation rates between men and women by 25% by 2025.

  1. Avoiding the existential climate threat and protecting the environment

We need to leave a healthier planet behind for those that follow. At home, the EU is proposing ambitious targets for reducing CO2 emissions by 2030 that are both scientifically accurate and politically indispensable. After the UN climate change conference in Katowice in December 2018, we now have a solid and balanced set of rules applying to all countries for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. In Osaka, we will reaffirm our commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and send a strong message ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit of September 2019 and the Climate Conference (COP25) in December 2019. In the same vein, we should strongly support the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue and G20 Marine Plastics Litter Implementation Framework, in line with the EU plastics strategy, to give new impetus to global actions to improve the efficient use of scarce natural resources and preserve oceans.

  1. Strengthening the global financial system

Over the last decade, the G20 has played a crucial role in promoting and coordinating reforms of financial regulation. These reforms have significantly improved the resilience of the global financial system. We will continue to support the work of the Financial Stability Board to evaluate the effects of the regulatory reforms and monitor emerging financial risks and vulnerabilities. We will also encourage further cooperation to ensure that the benefits of financial innovation can be realised, that the financial system is cyber-resilient and that finance is conducive to a green economy. We will also continue to assess the relationship between regulatory policies and market fragmentation.

We believe that the International Monetary Fund should continue to be adequately resourced to preserve its role at the centre of the Global Financial Safety Net. We will therefore continue to support the G20 commitment to a strong, quota-based and adequately resourced International Monetary Fund. We also welcome progress made on the proposals of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, in particular on the creation and implementation of effective country platforms to better coordinate development assistance, enhancing the risk insurance of development finance and the monitoring of capital flows.

  1. Realising an Inclusive and Sustainable World

In view of the upcoming United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Summit in September 2019, we would like to call upon G20 Leaders to reaffirm their commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We should express our support for the G20 Principles on Quality Infrastructure Investment that are key to ensure that infrastructure projects are economically, socially and environmentally viable, and contribute to closing the infrastructure gap in developing countries at the same time. Cooperation with Africa must remain a central issue for the G20, including through the G20 Compact with Africa, in line with the priorities set out in the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. In Osaka, we should also encourage G20 members to support stronger and more binding commitments on global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and set up sustainable financing for health systems in order to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

  1. Fighting terrorism

We will continue to enhance our cooperation to fight against terrorism. While recalling the Hamburg G20 Leaders’ Statement on Countering Terrorism, we will call on all Leaders to commit to its full implementation. We will continue our efforts to fight against terrorist financing, money laundering, online and offline radicalisation and foreign terrorist fighters. We will promote measures to ensure that Internet companies detect and swiftly remove terrorist content, while respecting fundamental rights and freedom of speech, in line with the EU measures to take terrorist content off the web within 1 hour.

  1. Promoting global responsibility on migration and displacement

In light of the 2019 Annual International Migration and Forced Displacement Trends and Policies Report prepared by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development we should highlight the need to continue discussing these issues under the next Presidencies. We would like to promote international cooperation in order to better manage global migration and address forced displacement. The discussions at United Nations level, including in view of the first Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, can contribute to these efforts. We should also step up actions to counter migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings and continue to take action against people smugglers and traffickers.

Capital markets union: Council sets its position on easier access to crowdfunding platforms | EU Council Press

As part of its efforts to improve access by investors and businesses to new financing sources, the EU is setting out a new regulatory framework for the operation of crowdfunding platforms.

This new framework makes it easier for crowdfunding platforms to provide their services across the EU. It harmonises the minimum requirements on these platforms when operating in their home market and other EU countries. The proposal also increases legal certainty by harmonising investor protection rules.

The expansion of digital tools is driving financial innovation and the development of new, easy alternatives for start-ups looking for accessible funding sources. As regulators, we need to encourage this expansion while guaranteeing a safe environment for consumers and investors.

Eugen Teodorovici, minister of finance of Romania

Crowdfunding is an emerging alternative form of financing that connects, typically via the Internet, those who can give, lend or invest money directly with those who need financing for a specific project. For start-ups and other SMEs, bank lending is often expensive or difficult to access due to the lack of credit history or a lack of tangible collateral. Crowdfunding can be a useful substitute funding source, in particular in the early stages of business.

The Council position:

  • removes barriers for crowdfunding platforms operating cross-border;
  • provides tailored rules for EU crowdfunding businesses depending on whether they provide their funding in the form of a loan or an investment (through shares and bonds issued by the company that raises funds);
  • provides a common set of prudential, information and transparency requirements to ensure a high level of investor protection;
  • defines common authorisation and supervision rules for national competent authorities.

According to the Council’s position, the proposal covers crowdfunding campaigns of up to EUR 8 million over a 12 month period as a general rule. Where member states have decided to set the threshold for prospectus obligations below EUR 8 000 000, they should be able to prohibit the raising of capital for crowdfunding projects from its residents for amounts exceeding that national threshold. Larger operations are regulated by MiFID and the prospectus regulation. Reward- and donation-based crowdfunding fall outside the scope of the proposal since they cannot be regarded as financial services.

EU Cybersecurity Act brings new EU-wide rules on cybersecurity certification | EU Commission Press

Tomorrow 27 June the European Cybersecurity Act, agreed by EU negotiators in December 2018, will enter into force. The new rules equip Europe with a framework of cybersecurity certification of products, processes and services and reinforce the mandate of the EU Agency for Cybersecurity. The European cybersecurity certification framework will boost the cybersecurity of online services and consumer devices by enabling the creation of tailored and risk-based EU certification schemes. At the same time the new permanent mandate of the EU Agency for Cybersecurity includes increased responsibilities and resources to better support Member States with tackling cybersecurity threats and attacks. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, stated: “Europe’s Digital Single Market can only be a reality if it includes robust cybersecurity commitments. This Commission has pushed forward in making sure Europe has the necessary capabilities, including by proposing a European certification framework and having financing for cybersecurity research and development under the next long-term EU budget. Work on 5G security is a particular priority, as it has the potential to impact every aspect of our future. Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, added: “The EU Cybersecurity Act has demonstrated the need for an EU approach to respond to all challenges, protect our citizens and stay competitive. In order to achieve this goal, Europe has granted a permanent mandate to the EU Agency for Cybersecurity. The Cybersecurity Act also enables EU-wide cybersecurity certification. With the Cybersecurity Act, the Directive on Security of Networks and Information Systems and the proposed European Cybersecurity Competence Centre, we have put forward a strong EU pattern, based on our democratic values and safeguarding our citizens’ interests.” In addition to the Cyber Act, the Commission proposed, in September 2018, to create aEuropean Cybersecurity Competence Network and Centre to better target and coordinate available funding for cybersecurity cooperation, research and innovation. In May 2019, the Council also established a sanctions regime, which allows the EU to impose targeted restrictive measures to deter and respond to cyberattacks which constitute an external threat to the EU and its Member States.

Chemical safety: EU rules ensure high levels of protection for citizens and the environment and contribute to efficient functioning of the Single Market | EU Commission Press

Yesterday, the European Commission has published a review of the EU chemicals legislative framework, which addresses some 40 pieces of sectoral chemicals legislation, including specific rules on chemicals found in pesticides or cosmetics, or rules on the labelling, classification and packaging of chemicals. The report, which complements the 2018 review of the EU’s REACH Regulation, confirms that the rules in place provide a high level of protection against harmful chemicals for our citizens and the environment and that they contribute to an efficient functioning of the Single Market. The EU has one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks in the world, which offers a global benchmark for chemical risk management. The EU has already significantly reduced our citizens’ exposure to harmful chemicals by banning or restricting the use of certain substances and is continuously looking to limit the risk posed by harmful chemicals. EU chemicals legislation has also been instrumental in ensuring free circulation of substances, mixtures and articles through harmonisation of standards and requirements. The report also identifies certain areas for improvement in the implementation and application of the rules, including the need for the simplification and streamlining of hazard and risk assessment processes, providing better consumer information, and supporting implementation of the legislation by the Member States. The results of the report will be further discussed on 27-28 June 2019 during a High Level Conference on “EU Chemicals Policy 2030”. These discussions will provide valuable input towards a common long-term vision and objectives of EU chemicals policy, in line with Sustainable Development Goals and the New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 to build a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe. The full report can be found hereAlso, the Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) are taking action to make sure that REACH registration dossiers are compliant with EU legal requirements. The new Action Plan launched yesterday envisages a significant increase in the number of compliance checks carried out on registration dossiers.

Council outlines principles and priorities for the future of energy systems in the Energy Union | EU Council Press

The Council today adopted a set of conclusions on the future of energy systems in the Energy Union. They identify priorities and principles for future policy-making aimed at ensuring the energy transition towards an affordable, safe, competitive, secure and sustainable energy system.

The conclusions we have agreed today provide a vision for energy policy in the EU to 2030 and beyond. We have particularly emphasised the importance of focussing our efforts and increasing investment in the areas of infrastructure, innovative technologies and sector coupling and integration. At the same time, we have to make sure that citizens and businesses lie at the heart of the energy transition process by ensuring social acceptance and international competitiveness. It is now up to the Commission to take this forward when making new proposals in the energy field.

Anton Anton, Romanian Minister of Energy and chair of the Council

As part of preparations for the next legislative term, the conclusions call on the Commission to take into account the principles highlighted in the text when presenting new legislative proposals. They also call on the Commission to carry out an analysis of sector coupling and sector integration technologies, and to reflect the efforts required to reach the EU’s energy and climate targets in the context of any future revision of the EU state aid rules.

Background

The conclusions are set against the background of the recently completed ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ legislative package and the Commission Communication ‘A Clean Planet for all’, which sets out a strategic vision for the EU’s future climate policy.

They also recall the European Council conclusions on climate change of 13-14 December 2018, 21-22 March 2019 and 20 June 2019.

The text of the conclusions was prepared by the Presidency based on a debate of energy ministers at an informal meeting in Bucharest on 2 April 2019. It was discussed extensively during several meetings of the Energy Working Party and in the Committee of Permanent Representatives on 12 June 2019.

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EU-Vietnam: Council adopts decisions to sign trade and investment agreements | EU Council Press

On 25 June, the Council adopted decisions on the signature of two agreements between the EU and Vietnam: a free trade agreement (FTA) and an investment protection agreement (IPA).

Both agreements will be signed on 30 June 2019, in Hanoi.

The FTA between the EU and Vietnam is the most ambitious free trade deal ever concluded with a developing country. It provides for the almost complete (99%) elimination of customs duties between the two blocks. 65% of duties on EU exports to Vietnam will disappear as soon as the FTA enters into force, while the remainder will be phased out gradually over a period of up to 10 years. As regards Vietnamese exports to the EU, 71% of duties will disappear upon entry into force, the remainder being phased out over a period of up to 7 years.

The FTA will also reduce many of the existing non-tariff barriers to trade with Vietnam and open up Vietnamese services and public procurement markets to EU companies, while the IPA will strengthen protection of EU investments in the country.

As one of the “new generation” bilateral agreements, the EU-Vietnam trade deal also contains important provisions on intellectual property protection, investment liberalisation and sustainable development. On this last aspect, the FTA includes commitments to implement International Labour Organisation core standards (for instance on the freedom to join independent trade unions and on banning child labour) and UN conventions relating for example to the fight against climate change or the protection of biodiversity.

Negotiations between the EU and Vietnam started in June 2012 and were concluded on 2 December 2015. However, the formal conclusion of the agreement was delayed by a pending opinion of the European Court of Justice on the division of competencies between the EU and its member states relating to the conclusion of the EU-Singapore FTA.

Following the opinion of the Court delivered in May 2017, the Commission decided to propose two separate agreements:

  • a free trade agreement, which contains areas of exclusive EU competence and thus only requires the Council’s approval and the European Parliament’s consent before it can enter into force.
  • an investment protection agreement which, due to its shared competence nature, will also have to go through the relevant national ratification procedures in all member states before it can enter into force. The time horizon for the implementation of this act is therefore expected to be much longer.

Vietnam is the EU’s second largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after Singapore, with trade in goods worth almost €50 billion a year and almost €4 billion when it comes to services. While EU investment stocks in Vietnam remain modest, standing at €8.3 billion in 2016, an increasing number of European companies are establishing there to set up a hub to serve the Mekong region. Main EU imports from Vietnam include telecommunications equipment, clothing and food products. The EU mainly exports to Vietnam goods such as machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and agricultural products.

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COLLEGE MEETING: Commission report shows sound financial management of the EU budget and tangible results delivered for citizens | EU Commission Press

Making sure that every euro from the EU budget creates added value for EU citizens is a key priority for the European Commission. It is also an important objective of the Commission proposal for the EU’s next long term budget for the period 2021–2027. The 2018 Annual Management and Performance Report (AMPR) published today shows the concrete results already achieved by the EU budget in terms of creating jobs and growth and investing in Europe’s youth. Together, the State of the Union, the General Report and the Annual Management and Performance Report provide a comprehensive picture for citizens of the European Union’s achievements and the role the EU budget plays in translating priorities into results. Through the report, which is also the starting point of the 2018 budgetary discharge procedure, the College of Commissioners takes political responsibility for the management of the EU budget. Today’s report shows that in 2018 the EU budget once again contributed to delivering on the EU’s political priorities. For example, by now it has helped mobilise a total of over €400 billion under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – the heart of the Juncker Plan. By 2020, these investments are expected to create over 1.4 million jobs in the EU. Cohesion policy funds have helped create a further 1.3 million jobs in the EU over the past 10 years and enabled a total of 8.9 million people to gain new qualifications. The EU budget has also addressed another important priority for Europeans – climate change. In 2018, spending for climate action was integrated across all EU programmes: in total 20.7% of the budget was spent on climate change-related action. In addition to singling out other achievements in areas like migration, the security union, cutting-edge research and the EU’s external action, the report also confirms that the EU budget is well-managed. The Commission has an effective toolbox in place to make sure that the budget is protected and every euro is spent in the most effective way, to the benefit of the EU’s 500 million citizens and many more people beyond the EU’s borders. Also today, the European Commission has adopted the Annual Report on internal audits carried out in the Commission in 2018. The report provides an overview of the audits conducted across the Commission by the independent Internal Audit Service. It also specifies the recommendations given, all of which were accepted, and the action taken by Commission departments to address the identified risks.

COLLEGE MEETING: Updated Code of Conduct for Commissioners delivers greater transparency, Commission report shows | EU Commission Press

The Juncker Commission has been committed to enhancing transparency from day one. In this spirit  – upon the proposal of President Juncker and after consultation of the European Parliament –, in January 2018 the Commission adopted a new Code of Conduct for Commissioners, which sets stricter rules and even higher ethical standards and introduces greater transparency in a number of areas. The Commission has today published the first annual report on the application of this Code of Conduct. It confirms that following the adoption of the updated Code, the Commission has achieved an even greater level of transparency when it comes to the conduct of its Members. More concretely, since February 2018 and every two months, the Commission publishes information on the Commissioners’ travel expenses. In February 2019, the European Commission published practical arrangements for Commissioners participating in the European Parliament elections. These came after the new Code of Conduct enabled Commissioners– all of them experienced and high-calibre politicians – to participate in the European elections campaigns without having to take a leave of absence as in the past. Finally, the Commission’s website related to ethics and integrity of the Members of the Commission was updated to provide better, clearer and more comprehensive information for interested stakeholders. Under the new Code of Conduct, a new reinforced Independent Ethical Committee was set up to give advice on all ethical issues and make recommendations related to the Code. Today’s report provides details about their work. Also today, the Commission decided to extend the mandates of the three members of the Independent Ethical Committee – Ms Dagmar Roth-Behrendt, Mr Christiaan Timmermans and Mr Heinz Zourek – as of 13 July 2019. The annual report on the application of the Code of Conduct, the declarations of interest and the CVs of the Members of the Independent Ethical Committee are available online here.

Sustainable Finance: Commission hosts stakeholder dialogue to discuss latest expert reports | EU Commission Press

The European Commission is today hosting an event to exchange views on the reports of the Technical expert group on sustainable finance (TEG) and present the new Commission guidelines on climate-related reporting published last week. This event builds on the Commission’s ongoing efforts to involve a wide range of stakeholders as it implements its Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth. Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “One of the main objectives of our Sustainable Finance policy is to harness the power of private capital to achieve a climate-neutral economy by 2050. The reports published by the technical expert group on sustainable finance and new Commission guidelines for climate-related reporting provide a thought-provoking analysis on how to bring about a rapid green transition in the financial sector.” On 18 June, the TEG delivered three major reports on the EU Taxonomy, which presents the most comprehensive classification system for sustainable activities to date; an EU Green Bond Standard, which recommends clear and comparable criteria for issuing green bonds; and an interim report that presents recommendations on Climate benchmarks and benchmarks’ ESG disclosures. On the same day, the Commission also published non-binding new guidelines to help companies disclose relevant climate-related information in a more consistent and more comparable manner. Today’s event in Brussels will give all participants the chance to discuss the substance of these publications and anticipate possible next steps in terms of the EU’s progress on sustainable finance.

Commission publishes recommendations on improving the Single Market for food | EU Commission Press

Today the Commission published the final report of the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, which provides recommendations in the areas of fair and efficient trading practices, competitiveness and price transparency. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for the Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs said: “The Forum has done important work to counter unfair trading practices, improve producer cooperation and improve transparency in the food supply chain. Today’s report points towards a number of important outstanding issues. By improving the Single Market for food, we can boost the efficiency of the food sector and create new jobs.” The Juncker Commission has been developing the industrial policy in the agro-food sector and related policy measures, which contribute to a better functioning of the food supply chain. The Forum, consisting of representatives of consumers, NGOs, food chain operators and Member States, assisted the Commission with this task. Building on the work of the Forum, the Commission has put forward proposals to address unfair trading practicesimprove producer cooperation and introduce greater price transparency. To increase transparency, the Forum proposes to create a price composition indicator to be launched in autumn. It will show how consumer expenditure is distributed within the food supply chain. The tender for this project has been opened today. The report also highlights the lack of harmonised rules and uneven enforcement in certain areas as well as problems with territorial supply constraints. Furthermore, the report provides recommendations on how to better respond to consumer concerns on dual food quality and provide better information to them. The Forum gave a mandate to the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) to develop a common methodology for comparing the quality of food products across the EU.