EU institution news

Humanitarian Aid: additional €50 million to tackle drought in the Horn of Africa | EU Commission Press

The European Commission is mobilising a further €50 million in emergency humanitarian funding to help the people hit by drought in the Horn of Africa. With many in the region relying on livestock herding and subsistence farming, the prolonged drought is having devastating consequences on food availability and livelihoods. Today’s additional funding brings total EU humanitarian aid to the region to €366.5 million since 2018.

The EU is stepping up its support for the people affected by a prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa. During my several visits to countries in the region, I have seen first hand how much climate extremes are affecting this part of Africa. Our funding will help extend humanitarian assistance in the affected areas, helping communities ward off the risk of famine,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Funding from this aid package will support drought-affected communities in Somalia (€25 million), Ethiopia (€20 million), Kenya (€3 million) and Uganda (€2 million).  It will go towards:

  • emergency food assistance and assistance to address immediate food needs;
  • the provision of basic health services and the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in children under five years of age, and in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers;
  • improving water access for both human and livestock consumption; and
  • protecting households’ livelihoods.

In addition, EU aid will contribute to assisting humanitarian agencies in the region to pre-emptively scale up their actions in the hardest hit areas.

A spell of drought, following two poor rain seasons in a row, has put almost 13 million people in need of emergency food assistance across the region. Over 4 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished, in addition to around 3 million malnourished pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Background

The 2019 spring rain season in the Horn of Africa was among the top three driest on record. The ongoing drought comes just one year after the end of a major drought in 2016-2017. Within such a short time span, neither households have had time to recover, nor pastures and livestock herds to regenerate. Most of the affected communities live in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas. Scarce rainfall means that families cannot sustain themselves with their agricultural and livestock activities. Food prices have already risen across the entire region, thus further reducing poor households’ access to basic food supplies.

For More Information

Fact Sheets: Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda

Flickr Album: Somalia: WASH programme; Preventing famine in Somali, a race again…; Ethiopia: Thirsty for rain

Press releases: Humanitarian aid: Over €110 million in the Horn of Africa

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to O2 CZ, CETIN and T-Mobile CZ for their network sharing agreement | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has informed Czech operators of mobile telephony O2 CZ and T-Mobile CZ, as well as the Czech telecom infrastructure provider CETIN of its preliminary view that their network sharing agreement restricts competition in breach of EU antitrust rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: Operators sharing networks generally benefits consumers in terms of faster roll out, cost savings and coverage in rural areas. However, when there are signs that co-operative agreements may be harmful to consumers, it is our role to investigate these and ensure that markets indeed remain competitive. In the present case, we have concerns that the network sharing agreement between the two major operators in Czechia reduces competition in the more densely populated areas of the country.”

O2 CZ and T-Mobile CZ are major operators in the Czech retail mobile telecommunications market. O2 CZ’s mobile infrastructure and wholesale business have been transferred to CETIN, a network infrastructure company belonging to the same corporate group.

The network sharing cooperation between O2 CZ/CETIN and T-Mobile CZ started in 2011 and has been increasing in scope. Currently it covers all mobile technologies (i.e. 2G, 3G and 4G) and the entire territory of Czechia with the exception of Prague and Brno, thus amounting to around 85% of the population.

Network sharing is a widespread practice that can facilitate the roll out of electronic communications networks by reducing costs. In most cases, network sharing is a source of efficiencies. However, in some circumstances it may have a negative impact on competition.

The Commission assessed a number of specific circumstances in the present case, including the fact that:

  • the Czech mobile communications market is highly concentrated with only three mobile network operators,
  • the sharing parties O2 CZ/CETIN and T-Mobile CZ are the two largest operators, with their networks serving approximately three quarters of subscribers.

The Commission, therefore, has reached the preliminary conclusion that the network sharing agreement between the two main mobile operators in Czechia restricts competition and thereby harms innovation in breach of EU antitrust rules.

The Commission holds the view that in this instance, instead of leading to greater efficiencies and higher service quality, the network sharing agreement is likely to remove the incentives for the two mobile operators to improve their networks and services to the benefit of users.

If confirmed, this would infringe Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits anti-competitive agreements.

The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Background

The Commission opened a formal investigation in October 2016.

O2 CZ is a mobile communications subsidiary of the PPF Group, with more than six million lines, both fixed and mobile.

T-Mobile CZ is a mobile communications subsidiary of the Deutsche Telekom group, operating in the Czech Republic since 1996.

The Czech mobile communications market is highly concentrated, with three mobile network operators (O2 CZ, T-Mobile CZ and Vodafone) accounting for almost the whole market. Together, O2 CZ/ CETIN and T-Mobile CZ serve approximately three quarters of subscribers. Vodafone is smaller and, unlike the network sharing parties, has no meaningful presence in the fixed telecoms segment.

The Commission’s analysis is in line with the principles applied by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) in its common position on mobile infrastructure sharing of 13 June 2019.The assessment concerns current and legacy technologies (2G/3G/4G) and is without any prejudice to any future assessment of network agreements involving emerging technologies such as 5G, which may have very different characteristics.

Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement prohibit agreements and concerted practices that may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition.  The implementation of this provision is defined in the Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which can also be applied by the national competition authorities.

Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the opening of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Article 16(1) further provides that national courts must avoid adopting decisions that would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings it has initiated.

There is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the companies concerned cooperate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number 40305.

Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €127 million to boost EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme | EU Commission Press

To ensure refugees continue to be supported by the EU’s largest humanitarian programme in Turkey, the Commission has today announced an additional €127 million to the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme via the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This new funding brings the total EU contribution to the programme to €1.125 billion.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: “The EU is upholding its commitments to Turkey and the most vulnerable refugees. Our new funding will allow us to reach more than 1.6 million refugees, helping them to live in dignity in Turkey. Our financial assistance programme is a success story of innovation in humanitarian aid and has given many families a chance to build a secure future after having fled the war in Syria.”

The ESSN programme provides refugees with monthly financial assistance through a special debit card which can only be used within Turkey and whose use is strictly monitored. It helps refugees integrate into the local economy and society as they pay for basic needs themselves such as food and rent.

Background

The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council’s call for significant additional funding to support Syrian refugees in Turkey. It has a total budget of €6 billion divided into two equal tranches of €3 billion each.

Out of the funds of €6 billion, over €5.6 billion has been allocated, over €3.5 billion contracted and over €2.4 billion has already been disbursed, with over 80 projects already rolled out. EU humanitarian aid in Turkey focuses on supporting the most vulnerable refugees through projects in health, education, protection and meeting basic needs.

The ESSN programme is implemented by EU humanitarian partners, in close collaboration with the Turkish authorities. With financing from the EU over 1.6 million refugees receive around €20 per person per month, plus quarterly top-ups to help meet their basic needs such as rent and food. Registered refugees who use the debit cards are known and monitored on a regular basis.

In addition to humanitarian assistance, development projects under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey focuses on education, migration management, health, municipal infrastructure, and socio-economic support.

For More Information

Factsheet – The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey

Factsheet – Humanitarian support to refugees in Turkey

Spring 2019 Standard Eurobarometer: Europeans upbeat about the state of the European Union – best results in 5 years | EU Commission Press

Spring 2019 Standard Eurobarometer: Europeans upbeat about the state of the European Union – best results in 5 years

A new Eurobarometer survey released today shows a strong increase in citizens’ positive perception of the European Union across the board – from the economy to the state of democracy. These are the best results since the June 2014 Eurobarometer survey conducted before the Juncker Commission took office.
This latest Standard Eurobarometer survey was conducted after the European elections, between 7 June and 1 July 2019 in all 28 EU countries and five candidate countries. Amongst the main findings are a record-high support for the euro and climate change turning into the second top concern at EU level, after immigration.
1. Trust and optimism about the future at their highest since 2014 Trust in the EU is at its highest level since 2014 and remains higher than trust in national governments or parliaments. Trust in the EU has increased in 20 Member States, with the highest
scores in Lithuania (72%), Denmark (68%) and Estonia (60%). In addition, over half of the respondents “tend to trust” the EU in Luxembourg (59%), Finland (58%), Portugal (57%), Malta and Sweden (both 56%), Bulgaria and Hungary (both 55%), Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands and Cyprus (all 54%), Romania and Austria (both 52%) and Latvia and Belgium (both 51%).
Since the last Standard Eurobarometer survey in autumn 2018, the proportion of respondents who have a positive image of the EU (45%) has increased in 23 EU Member States, most strikingly in Cyprus (47%, +11), Hungary (52%, +9) Greece (33%, +8), Romania (60%, +8) and Portugal (60%, +7). A two-percentage point increase has been registered since autumn 2018 (+10 since spring 2014), reaching its highest level ever for the past 10 years. 37% (+1, compared to autumn 2018) of respondents have a neutral image of the EU, while less than a fifth have a negative image (17%, -3) –is the lowest score in 10 years.
A majority of Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU (61%, +3 percentage points), while only 34% (-3) are pessimistic. Optimism is highest in Ireland (85%), Denmark (79%), Lithuania (76%) and Poland (74%). At the other end of the scale, optimism is less pronounced in the United Kingdom (47% vs 46%) and in France (50% vs 45%). 55% of Europeans say they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU, the highest score since autumn 2004 (+5 percentage points since autumn 2018; +11 since spring 2014) while the number of those “not satisfied” has decreased by five percentage points, to 36%. A majority of Europeans agree that “their voice counts in the EU”. The EU-28 average reaches 56% (+7 percentage points since autumn 2018; +11 since spring 2018; +14 since spring 2014), with the highest scores being observed in Sweden (86%), Denmark (81%) and Netherlands (76%).
2. Record high support for the euro Support for the Economic and Monetary Union and for the euro reaches a new record high,with more than three-quarters of respondents (76%, +1 percentage point; +9 since spring 2014) in the Euro area in favour of the EU’s single currency.In the EU as a whole, support for the euro is stable at 62%. Positive opinions on the situation of the national economies prevail (with 49% judging the situation as being good and 47% judging it as being bad). The majority of respondents in 17 Member States (16 in autumn 2018) state that the national economic situation is good.
Luxembourg (94%), Denmark (91%) and the Netherlands (90%) are the countries with the highest scores. The lowest percentage of positive opinions is observed in Greece (7%), Croatia and Bulgaria (both 20%), Italy (22%), Spain (26%) and France (29%).
3.EU citizenship and free movement seen as main EU achievements In all 28 Member States, more than half of respondents feel that they are citizens of the EU. Across the EU as a whole, 73% feel this way (+2 percentage points since autumn 2018), and at a
national level the scores range from 93% in Luxembourg, 88% in Germany, 87% in Spain to 57% in both Greece and Italy and 52% in Bulgaria.
A large majority of EU citizens support “the free movement of EU citizens who can live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU” (81%, -2 percentage points since autumn 2018), and in every EU Member State more than two-thirds of respondents share this view, from Lithuania (94%) to Italy and the UK (both 68%).
4. Top concerns at EU and national level: climate change and environment on the rise Immigration remains the main concern at EU level, with 34% of mentions, despite a strong decrease (-6 percentage points since autumn 2018). Climate change, which was ranked fifth in autumn 2018, is now the second most important concern after a strong increase (+6 since autumn 2018). Three concerns obtain identical scores: the economic situation (18%, unchanged), the state of Member States’ public finances (18%, -1) and terrorism (18%, -2), followed by the environment – main concern for 13% of the respondents, registering a four-percentage point increase. Unemployment, which is now in seventh position at EU level (12%), remains the main concern at national level (21%, -2 percentage points), together with rising prices/inflation/cost of living (21%, unchanged) and health and social security (21%, +1). The environment, climate and energy issues follow very closely after a strong increase (20%, +6). Immigration, with 17% of mentions (-4 percentage points since autumn 2018, and -19 since autumn 2015), falls out of the top three concerns at national level for the first time since spring 2014. The economic situation is in sixth place (16%, +1).

Juncker Plan backs €385 million in EIB financing for 21 new wind farms in Spain | EU Commission Press

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing €385 million in financing to wind energy company Alfanar to support its plans to construct 21 new wind farms in six autonomous regions in Spain. The financing is guaranteed by the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments, which allows the EIB Group to invest in more and often higher risk operations. The new wind farms will generate 1,491 GWh of energy per year, which is equivalent to the consumption of 360,000 homes. Commissioner Arias Cañete, responsible for Climate Action and Energy, said: “The Commission is proud to support this important renewable energy project in Spain, financed under the Juncker Plan. Spain has the potential to become a leader in renewable energy, creating sustainable, long-term jobs. The clean energy generated by these 21 new wind farms in six autonomous regions is equivalent to the energy consumption of 360,000 homes, which is a significant step in the right direction.” A press release is available here. As of July 2019, the Juncker Plan has mobilised €424 billion of additional investment, including €44.8 billion in Spain. The Plan is currently supporting 967,000 small and medium-sized businesses across Europe. 

State aid: Commission approves €10 million compensation to release the 700 MHz band for 5G mobile telecommunication networks in Spain | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, Spain’s plans to compensate the direct costs incurred by digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasters to migrate from the 694-790 MHz frequency band (the “700 MHz band”) to lower frequencies. This migration follows a Decision of the European Parliament and the Council in 2017 that imposed the release of the 700 MHz band from DTT use by June 2020, to allow the deployment of 5G mobile telecommunication services. The 2017 Decision provides that Member States should ensure the availability of the sub-700 MHz band for DTT until 2030 and may compensate the direct costs incurred by DTT operators for replacing part of the transmission equipment. The Commission assessed the aid measure under EU State aid rules and found that the aid of €10 million is limited to the costs that are strictly necessary for the migration, and has no significant impact on trade and competition. Furthermore, the measure will contribute to the EU’s objective of introducing 5G mobile services, while keeping DTT services available for consumers. The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.51080 once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

EU and Japan select first Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Programmes | EU Commission Press

Today, the European Commission has announced the results of the call for proposals for Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Partnerships with Japan launched in October 2018.

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “In July 2018, I had the pleasure of launching the EU-Japan high-level policy dialogue on higher education, culture and sport, together with my Japanese counterpart, then Minister Hayashi. We stressed the importance of promoting international cooperation in higher education. I am confident that the three Joint Master Programmes we have selected, part of our new EU-Japan cooperation model in higher education, will bring superb results by nurturing students’ talents, fostering excellence and boosting science, technology and innovation. I am looking forward to seeing their positive impact in the months and years to come.”    

The Commission and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology have selected three programmes offered by international consortia involving leading universities:

  • Master of Science in Imaging and Light in Extended Reality, University of Eastern Finland (Finland) and Toyohashi University of Technology (Japan). Additional country partners: Belgium and France, as well as associated partners from Finland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
  • Japan-Europe Master on Advanced Robotics, coordinated by École Centrale de Nantes (France) and Keio University (Japan). Additional country partners: Italy and Poland.
  • History in the public sphere, Central European University (Hungary) and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan). Additional country partners: Italy and Portugal, as well as an associated partner from France.

This call for proposals, the first of its kind, is jointly implemented and financed by the Commission, through the Erasmus+ programme, and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (through the Inter-University Exchange project). It will enable high-performing students from around the world to study in at least two of the universities represented in each programme. At least one of these universities will have to be in Japan and at the end of their studies, students will receive a joint, double or multiple Master degree(s). Another element is the inclusion of partners from the business world, in addition to the academic partners.      

Background

The call for proposals for Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree Partnerships with Japan was published on 24 October 2018. Ten applications were received. A budget of €9 million is available for the three top-ranked programmes chosen today, covered equally by the EU and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology. As part of this funding, for each of the three programmes a maximum of 64 scholarships will be made available for the best students.

For More Information

Call for Proposals

Frequently Asked Questions

Erasmus+ Programme Guide

 

Capital Markets Union: new rules enter into force to foster cross-border distribution of investment funds | EU Commission Press

As of today, updated rules to remove the remaining barriers to cross-border distribution of investment funds in the EU come into force. Agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, the new rules will make cross-border distribution simpler, quicker, cheaper, and increase choice for investors while safeguarding a high level of protection. Investors will obtain more choices for better value. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said:“Today’s new rules will cut red tape and improve clarity for fund managers who want to market their products across the EU. This will lead to more choice for investors, at lower costs – an important milestone for the Capital Markets Union. To give an example, we want fund managers based in Milan to be able to easily offer their funds in Riga, without compromising on investor protection.”The updated framework takes the form of a Directive and a Regulation that complement and amend a series of existing EU legislation on facilitating cross-border distribution of collective investment funds. The updated rules are part of the European Commission’s Action Plan for a Capital Markets Union to help build a true single market for capital across the EU and create more investment opportunities for EU citizens.

Financial services: Commission sets out its equivalence policy with non-EU countries | EU Commission Press

The European Commission is today taking stock of its overall approach to equivalence in the area of financial services. EU equivalence has become a significant tool in recent years, fostering integration of global financial markets and cooperation with third-country authorities. The EU assesses the overall policy context and to what extent the regulatory regimes of a given third country achieves the same outcomes as its own rules. A positive equivalence decision, which is a unilateral measure by the Commission, allows EU authorities to rely on third-country rules and supervision, allowing market participants from third countries who are active in the EU to comply with only one set of rules. Today’s Communication also sets out how recent updates to EU legislation will ensure even greater effectiveness of the EU single rulebook, supervision and monitoring, while also fostering cross-border business in global markets. The Commission has to date taken over 280 equivalence decisions with regard to over 30 countries. 

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services, and Capital Markets Union said: ”Equivalence is one of our main tools to engage with third countries in financial services. It’s mutually beneficial because it enables us to have a robust cooperation with our partners and to open up our markets to non-EU market players and vice-versa. Our equivalence policy has proven effective so far, and we now have even better rules in place to meet our objectives of preserving financial stability while promoting international integration of EU financial markets.

This Communication sets out the EU’s comprehensive approach and recent legislative improvements in terms of how the Commission grants equivalence to non-EU countries. It also describes how the Commission and the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) monitor the situation in those countries after equivalence decisions have been taken, to ensure that these continue to fulfil EU objectives and preserve financial stability, investor protection, market integrity and a level playing field in the EU. 

This Commission document also provides an overview of how recent EU legislative changes have strengthened the equivalence framework, both in terms of initial assessments and ex-post monitoring, in particular with an increased role for the European Supervisory Authorities. These recent legislative changes, for instance in the amended ESAs regulations, strengthen the roles of those authorities in monitoring equivalent third countries.

 

Recent equivalence decisions 

In line with its commitments to foster transparency towards stakeholders, the Commission takes the opportunity of the publication of this Communication to present its recent EU equivalence decisions. 

The Commission has today adopted equivalence decisions for financial benchmarks administered in Australia and Singapore. These decisions recognise that the administrators of certain interest rates and foreign exchange benchmarks in Australia and Singapore are subject to legally binding requirements which are equivalent to the EU requirements set out under Regulation (EU) 2016/1011 (The Benchmark Regulation). 

Separately, the Commission has extended existing equivalence decisions in the field of Credit Rating Agencies for Hong-Kong, Japan, Mexico and the United States. At the same time, the Commission has for the first time repealed existing decisions for Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Singapore, as these jurisdictions could no longer meet the standards set by the EU Credit Rating Agencies after its amendment in 2013. The countries decided, after discussions with the Commission, not to implement the necessary legislative adjustments given the limited scale of activity to be covered.

 

Background

In February 2017, the Commission services published a Staff Working Document, which provided a first comprehensive assessment of equivalence in financial services. That document described the Commission’s approach to assessing third-country frameworks and outlined the main objectives pursued by the Commission.

Equivalence decisions allow the Commission to recognise that the financial regulatory or supervisory regime of certain non-EU countries is equivalent to the corresponding EU framework. The Commission may declare a third country equivalent when the third country’s regulatory and supervisory framework delivers equivalent outcomes as compared to the relevant EU framework. Equivalence is a regulatory instrument, typically an implementing act which aims to deliver prudential benefits to market participants and to preserve the EU financial stability, market integrity, investor protection, and a level-playing field in the EU single market. 

The equivalence decision making is preceded by an in-depth assessment by the Commission, based on a dialogue with the third country authorities concerned and involving, where relevant, the European Supervisory Authorities. The assessment is based on the principles of proportionality and is risk-sensitive, i.e. the Commission will look more in detail at a third-country framework, and will expect stronger safeguards against risks when that third country’s impact on the EU markets is high.

 EU financial services law includes around 40 areas for equivalence decisions.

 

More information

Communication of 29/07/2019 on equivalence in the area of financial services.

Recognition of non-EU financial frameworks (equivalence decisions)

Staff Working Document of February 2017 on EU equivalence decisions in financial services policy: an assessment.

 

European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking launches first research and innovation calls | EU Commission Press

The European High Performance Computing(EuroHPC) Joint Undertaking opened its first calls to fund research and innovation activities in high performance computing (HPC). The calls have a total budget of €190 million, and focus on areas highlighted in the Joint Undertaking’s work plan for 2019: the development of essential technologies for high-performance computing hardware and software, supporting manufacturing and engineering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to use HPC in innovative ways, and establishing HPC Competence Centres in every EuroHPC participating country. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “These calls complement our substantial investment in Europe’s supercomputing infrastructure. They will help us draw on the skills and knowledge of European SMEs and industry to put its ambitious work plan into action and use this infrastructure to develop applications and services. I am looking forward to seeing EU support for supercomputing continuing in the years to come.” In June, the Joint Undertaking announced the selection of eight sites to host its first supercomputers. More details about the calls are available here.