Category Archives: eu

EU action reduces pollution from shipping in European coastlines

“Environmental rules deliver and protect our citizens’ quality of life when all sides involved work together to correctly apply them. The shared commitment by Member States, industry, and the maritime community as a whole is paying off. People living around protected sea areas can breathe cleaner and healthier air. And we have preserved the level playing field for industry.“Said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.

Air pollution from sulphur oxides (SOx) emitted from ships has substantially dropped over the past years, a new compliance report shows. This positive trend is the result of joint efforts by Member States and the maritime industry to implement EU rules under the Sulphur Directive and opt for cleaner fuel. EU mechanisms to technically and financially support Member states to reduce emissions were an important factor in compliance. Since 2015, stricter limits in the designated ‘Sulphur Oxides Emissions Control Areas’ of the North and Baltic Seas have more than halved emissions, while the overall economic impact on the sector remained minimal. The report comes days after a landmark agreement at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050. Both illustrate the commitment of the Commission to the goals of the Paris Agreement and to a Europe that protects with cleaner air for all. Exhaust gases from ships are indeed a significant source of emission and impact on citizens’ health and the environment.

EU €1.5 billion investments in Lebanon

The European Union has always been on the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. A strong and resilient Lebanon is in our collective interest, in the interest of the entire region. Lebanon is a mirror of the whole Middle East, of its diversity, complexity and beauty. With this new package, the European Union reconfirms its support to the Lebanese economy, for the benefit of the Lebanese people, and encourages the Government of Lebanon to pursue the path of structural reforms it has started to undertake.” Said High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini.

The European Union has announced a package of up to €150 million to support the revitalisation of the Lebanese economy as part of its longstanding commitment to the economic development of Lebanon.

This support could generate up to €1.5 billion loans for Lebanon until 2020, on condition that the country’s financial institutions identify and propose projects that are bankable and adopt relevant reforms. This package includes up to €50 million in grants funding that could be mobilised in each of the coming three years (2018-2020) to provide technical assistance and ensure a sufficient level of concessionality of loans.


Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood policy Johannes Hahn added: “The EU contribution is a signal of our support for the Government of Lebanon, whose tasks include now taking forward a road map of structural reforms to boost economic development in the country for the benefit of all.   We will support and accompany this effort.  Through the External Investment Plan, the EU is ready to extend up to €150 million in grants that could be used to generate up to €1.5 billion of concessional lending for investment in Lebanon over the next three years provided relevant projects are put forward and the necessary reforms are adopted”.

The package was announced today at the CEDRE conference in Paris, an international donor meeting in support of Lebanon’s economy. This will be made available in the framework of the European External Investment Plan (EIP), a comprehensive and ambitious EU plan which encourages investment in our partner countries for the promotion of inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable development.

EU clears Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto

We have approved Bayer’s plans to take over Monsanto because the parties’ remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full. Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger. In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same. That is important because we need competition to ensure farmers have a choice of different seed varieties and pesticides at affordable prices. And we need competition to push companies to innovate in digital agriculture and to continue develop new products that meet the high regulatory standards in Europe, to the benefit of all Europeans and the environment.” Said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer. The merger is conditional on the divestiture of an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties’ overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture. As part of its in-depth review, the Commission has assessed more than 2,000 different product markets and reviewed 2.7 million internal documents. It concluded that the transaction as notified would have significantly reduced competition on price and innovation in Europe and globally on a number of different markets. The Commission also had concerns that it would have strengthened Monsanto’s dominant position on certain markets, where Bayer is an important challenger of Monsanto. The commitments submitted by Bayer meet these competition concerns in full, addressing the parties’ overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the divestment package enables a suitable buyer to sustainably replace Bayer’s competitive effect in these markets and continue to innovate, for the benefit of European farmers and consumers. Bayer has proposed BASF as purchaser for the remedy package. The Commission’s assessment is ongoing whether a) the divestiture to BASF meets all purchaser requirements, and b) whether it creates any problematic overlaps or raises other competition concerns. Bayer and Monsanto can only implement the transaction when the Commission has completed its review of the proposed buyer.

EU €31 million in humanitarian aid for Latin America and the Caribbean

“The European Union’s commitment to support Latin America is stronger than ever. Here in Colombia, our new EU funding will help on two fronts: addressing the humanitarian consequences of the decades-long conflict in the country and helping reinforce the region’s preparedness and response to natural disasters. We have also announced new funding for those affected by the crisis in Venezuela: supporting those in need is a priority for the EU.” said Commissioner Stylianides.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has announced €31 million for humanitarian aid and disaster preparedness for Latin America and the Caribbean on an official visit to Colombia.  The Commissioner met with Colombian President Santos in Bogota where he reiterated the EU’s commitment to stand side by side in the country’s path to peace and prosperity. He also visited areas greatly affected by conflict as well as the border town of Cucuta where there has been an upsurge in those fleeing Venezuela. The new funding is part of an overall humanitarian aid package for the region, with €6 million for Colombia. A further €2 million will go to those people affected by the crisis in Venezuela.The funding comes on top of the EU’s other aid programmes and support to the region such as the EU Trust Fund for Colombia.

EU new measures to tackle non-performing loans

 “As Europe and its economy regain strength, Europe must seize the momentum and accelerate the reduction of NPLs. This is essential to further reduce risks in the European banking sector and strengthen its resilience. With fewer NPLs on their balance sheets, banks will be able to lend more to households and businesses. Our proposals build on the significant risk reduction already achieved in recent years, and must be an integral part of completing the Banking Union through risk reduction and risk sharing.” Said Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.

The Commission is today proposing an ambitious and comprehensive package of measures to tackle non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe, capitalising on the significant progress already made in reducing risks in the banking sector. With today’s far-reaching measures, the Commission is delivering on the Council’s Action Plan to address the high stock of NPLs and prevent their possible future accumulation. It builds on ongoing efforts by Member States, supervisors, credit institutions and the EU: this has led to stocks of NPLs declining in recent years across banks and EU countries.The Commission is also presenting its second progress report on the reduction of NPLs in Europe, showing that the decline of NPL stocks is continuing.

New transparency rules for tax advisers in the EU

“The new rules agreed today confirm the EU as the world leader in tax transparency. In future, intermediaries will have to share with tax administrations the schemes they sell to their clients. Tax administrations will then have access to the information they need to put an end to the aggressive tax planning schemes eroding their tax bases. This agreement is a further step towards more openness and better cooperation, facilitating fairer and more effective taxation throughout the EU.”  Said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.

The European Commission has welcomed the political agreement reached by EU Member States today on new transparency rules for intermediaries – such as tax advisers, accountants, banks and lawyers – who design and promote tax planning schemes for their clients.

The decision was taken by EU Economic and Financial Affairs ministers at their meeting in Brussels this morning. First proposed by the Commission in June 2017, the new measures build on a multitude of ambitious rules to fight tax avoidance and to boost tax transparency already agreed at EU level under the Juncker Commission.

Once in force, tax intermediaries who provide their clients with complex cross‑border financial schemes that could help avoid tax will be obliged to report these structures to their tax authorities. In turn, EU Member States will exchange this information with each other, further increasing scrutiny around the activities of tax planners and advisers.

Recent media leaks such as the Panama and Paradise Papers have exposed how some intermediaries actively assist companies and individuals to escape taxation, usually through complex cross-border schemes.

Cross-border tax planning schemes can bear certain characteristics – or ‘hallmarks’ – that indicate a risk of tax avoidance or evasion. Such hallmarks can include the use of cross-border losses to reduce tax liability, the use of special preferential tax regimes, or arrangements through countries that do not meet international good governance standards. Intermediaries that design or provide schemes bearing any one of these key hallmarks will now have to report these schemes to the tax authorities before they are used.

Member States will automatically exchange the information that they receive on the tax planning schemes through a centralised database, giving them early warning on new risks of avoidance and enabling them to take measures to block harmful arrangements and carry out audits more effectively. The requirement to report a scheme does not necessarily imply that it is harmful, only that it merits scrutiny by the tax authorities. But Member States have also agreed to implement effective and dissuasive penalties for those companies that do not comply with the transparency measures, creating a powerful new deterrent for those that encourage or facilitate tax abuse.

Cruelty free: 5th anniversary of EU cosmetics animal testing bans

On 5th anniversary of the EU cosmetic animal testing and marketing bans Cruelty Free International calls for an international end to animal cosmetics testing.

The 6th March in Brussels was the celebration of 5 years since the European Union banned the sale of new cosmetics tested on animals in Europe. To mark the occasion, they urged the EU to build on their trailblazing policy by taking a leading role in ending the suffering of animals in laboratories around the world.

British model and singer Pixie Geldof to join Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of European Parliament and President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup since 2016, and around 100 MEPs, and EU policymakers, NGOs and cosmetics and toiletries industry representatives to announce a new global action to end cosmetics animal testing worldwide.

They discusses leveraging Europe’s weight towards a harmonised global ban that would create a level playing field for companies across the world. 80% of countries, including China and the USA, still allow or even legally demand that cosmetics should be tested on animals.

Europe, where testing on animals for cosmetics development was banned 5 years ago, has seen a huge growth in innovation and new tecniques deliver more accurate predictability of human reactions. Cheaper and more sustainable, they provide consumers with safer products. A worldwide ban would stop testing being moved from country to country.

This event was an opportunity to discuss not only animal protection, but industrial innovation, international trade and the broader sustainability agenda.

In excess of half a million animals – from rabbits to mice, rats, guinea pigs, and hamsters – are used annually in worldwide cosmetics testing, estimate Cruelty Free International, one of the leading NGOs working to end decades of this practice.

Currently, 80% of countries still practice or legally require animal testing for the ingredients that go into everyday personal care products such as deodorant, lipstick and shampoo; even though studies demonstrate that animal tests predict human reactions by only 40-60% whereas substitutions are accurate 80% of the time.

While modern alternatives are getting cheaper, faster and better at predicting human reactions, industry, regulatory inertia and bureaucracy remain barriers to a switch to non-animal tests.

Startup Europe Week

Investments in digital companies and access to capital are always needed for helping startups to grow. But startups also need supportive policies. Linking and networking them will unlock more of their potential, and offer the scale necessary to compete with other ecosystems around the world.” Said Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip.

Today begun the third edition of the Startup Europe Week, combining hundreds of events all over Europe and beyond. The Startup Europe Week is now organised in more than 50 countries, with additional global events taking place in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel added: “This grassroots movement helps those interested in entrepreneurship to make the first steps to bring their dream projects to life. The initiative fosters creativity as well as more entrepreneurial spirit for continuing the success story of the European startup scene.

The initiative aims to inform entrepreneurs of the support and resources available at city and regional level. In 2017, Startup Europe Week reached with the help of more than 280 co-organisers in more than 40 countries over 100,000 entrepreneurs across Europe. More information about this year’s Startup Europe Week is available here, various events can be found here. Read also a recent blog post about the initiative in Vice-President Ansip‘s blog.

US restrictions on steel and aluminium affecting EU

We strongly regret this step, which appears to represent a blatant intervention to protect US domestic industry and not to be based on any national security justification. Protectionism cannot be the answer to our common problem in the steel sector. Instead of providing a solution, this move can only aggravate matters. The EU has been a close security ally of the US for decades. We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk. I had the occasion to say that the EU would react adequately and that’s what we will do. The EU will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests. The Commission will bring forward in the next few days a proposal for WTO-compatible countermeasures against the US to rebalance the situation.” Said President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

The European Commission takes note of the announcement by the President of the United States of the imposition of restrictions in the form of an import surcharge on EU exports to the US of steel and aluminium.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström added: “These US measures will have a negative impact on transatlantic relations and on global markets. In addition, they will raise costs and reduce choice for US consumers of steel and aluminium, including industries that import these commodities. The EU will seek dispute settlement consultations with the US in Geneva at the earliest opportunity. The Commission will monitor market developments and if necessary will propose WTO-compatible safeguard action to preserve the stability of the EU market. The root cause of problems in these two sectors is global overcapacity caused by non-market based production. This can only be addressed at the source and by working with the key countries involved. This go-it-alone action by the US will not help.

On 1 March, President Trump announced the imposition of additional import duties on EU exports of steel and aluminium to the United States. The import duties are set at 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium. Similar restrictions will also be imposed on exports from other suppliers.

This action follows investigations undertaken between April 2017 and January 2018 by the US Department of Commerce under Section 232 of the US Trade Expansion Act of 1962. These reports concluded that steel and aluminium imports threatened US national security and recommended the imposition of trade restrictions.

However, in essence, these measures are primarily intended to protect the US domestic industry from import competition. Any national security justification appears very weak: the US Secretary of Defence has stated publicly that US military requirements represent no more than 3% of US production and that the Department of Defence is able to acquire the steel and aluminium it needs for US national defence requirements.

Stop money flow to terrorist

We are proposing a new “microfinance” approach aimed at cutting off transfers of funds to jihadi terrorist groups:  better checks on anonymous pre-paid debit cards, monitoring of  funds received by cultural and worship centres as well as setting up a common information platform for intelligence services and a register of suspicious transactions.”Said Rapporteur Javier Nart (ALDE, ES).

To stop money flowing to terrorists, EU countries should track suspicious transactions and charities, and share intelligence more proactively, urge MEPs.

Cutting off sources of funding such as illicit trade in goods, firearms, oil, drugs, cigarettes and cultural objects is vital to fight terrorism, MEPs say in a non-legislative resolution voted on Thursday.

They point out that some of this funding is generated within Europe, e.g. by international non-profit organisations, charities, foundations and networks, which are well connected within the EU and provide cover for abusive practices.

MEPs urge the EU Council, Commission and External Action Service to:

  • step up proactive information exchange and coordination among financial institutions, law enforcement and intelligence agencies via a European counter-terrorism financial intelligence platform, which could be run by EUROPOL, and include a database of suspicious transactions,
  • draw up a list of individuals and entities operating under opaque regimes with high rates of suspicious transactions, and step up the monitoring of suspicious organisations engaged in illicit trade, smuggling, counterfeiting and fraudulent practices,
  • oblige banks to monitor pre-paid debit cards, so as to ensure that they can only be reloaded via bank transfers and personally identifiable accounts,
  • monitor places of worship and education, centres, charities, and cultural associations, where there is reasonable suspicion of ties to terrorist groups,  and
  • assess whether virtual and crypto currencies, block chain and FinTech technologies help fund terrorism and should be regulated by EU rules.

Parliament’s recommendations on cutting off sources of income for jihadists were passed by 533 votes to 24, with 43 abstentions.




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