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Daily News – 21.03.2016

European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 21 / 03 / 2016

Brussels, 21 March 2016

Commission makes immediate proposal to implement EU-Turkey agreement: 54,000 places allocated for resettlement of Syrians from Turkey

Following Friday's agreement between the European Council and Turkey, the Commission is adopting a proposal to amend a Council Decision to relocate people in need for international protection from Italy and Greece. With this amendment, 54,000 places which were foreseen for relocations will now be available for the purpose of resettling Syrians from Turkey to the EU. The proposal responds to the need to commit further places for resettlement from Turkey, following Friday's agreement to resettle one Syrian from Turkey for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey after arriving irregularly in the Greek islands. This 1:1 scheme aims to quickly replace irregular flows of migrants travelling in dangerous conditions across the Aegean by an orderly and legal resettlement process. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "With the agreement reached with Turkey on Friday, we are offering asylum seekers a credible alternative to putting their lives at risk on dangerous sea routes. Member States now need to honour their commitments and ensure an orderly, well managed and safe arrival and admission to Europe for persons in need of international protection in Turkey." In order for the scheme to function, Member States must make a sufficient number of resettlement places available, within the framework of their existing commitments. Today's proposal would amend the relocation decision to make it possible for Member States to meet their humanitarian commitments by admitting Syrians to their territories directly from Turkey. The number of resettled Syrians would be deducted from Member States' relocation quotas. For more information, see the full press release here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


EU and US experts meet to discuss common threats to security

On 21-23 March the European Commission and the US Mission to the EU are organising a Joint EU-US Security Workshop, hosted by Europol in The Hague. The meeting brings together for the first time experts from over 20 law enforcement agencies and public administrations from the European Union and the United States.  Representatives will be present from the US Department for Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transport Security Agency (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). On the EU side, there will be experts from national financial investigation units, police, border guards and intelligence services. Participants will discuss a broad range of topics, including immigration, border control, counterterrorism and organised crime. There will be a particular focus on identification of threats at ports of entry, identity and document fraud, use of financial investigations to counter the threat from foreign fighters and organised crime, identification, seizure and confiscation of assets, and obtaining electronic evidence. The EU and the US share a strong commitment to addressing security threats through common efforts, which was recently renewed in a Joint EU-US Statement following the EU-US Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs in November 2015. (For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


Investment Plan for Europe: latest EFSI-backed EIF agreement in Italy with Banca Cassa di Risparmio di Savigliano

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Banca Cassa di Risparmio di Savigliano S.p.A. have signed an InnovFin agreement in Italy to provide €30 million in loans to innovative small and medium sized businesses in Italy. This transaction benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "It is very heartening to see so many Italian intermediary banks partnering up with the EIF to provide loans to SMEs that have the EFSI backing. I strongly urge small businesses in Italy to take advantage of this new source of financing." (For more information see here or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


The Commission publishes further TTIP documents in ongoing transparency commitment

The European Commission today publishes further documents from the ongoing negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), in line with its commitment to enhanced transparency in the ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. The documents made public today include the recent EU proposal on regulatory cooperation which the Commission submitted to the United States during the last round of talks in February. Regulatory cooperation is an innovative part and a key pillar of TTIP. Regulatory cooperation with the United States has been on the agenda for many years and has produced good results in areas of common interest (e.g. ranging from aviation and marine safety to organic labels, electric cars and smart grids). Explanatory documents about this key aspect of the talks are available online. Other published documents include EU proposals on trade in goods, agriculture and Customs and Trade Facilitation. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Guadarranque by Indorama

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Guadarranque Polyester S.L.U. of Spain by Indorama Netherlands B.V. of the Netherlands, ultimately controlled by Canopus International Ltd. of Indonesia.  Both, Indorama and Guadarranque are active in the production of plastic products made of polyethylene terephthalate (known as PET). The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the companies' moderate market positions and the presence of strong competitors on the PET market. Similarly, the Commission concluded that no concern would arise regarding Guadarranque's production of purified isophthalic acid (PIA), an input for PET production. Sufficient sources of PIA will remain available to competing PET producers and the merged entity will have neither the ability nor the incentive to restrict access to PIA. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7918. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Trade balance remains positive for EU agri-food products

EU agri-food exports rose slightly in January 2016 relative to January 2015 to €9.3 billion, according to the latest monthly statistical report. The figures show that the EU was a net exporter in January – which is not always the case – taking the net agri-food trade surplus for February 2015 to January 2016 to around €16 billion. Highest increases in monthly export values were recorded for USA, China and some North African and Middle East countries, including Iran. The highest increases in monthly export values were achieved for pork and vegetables. On the other hand, agri-food imports to the EU decreased slightly in January 2016 to €9.2 billion from €9.3 billion in January 2015. This month's report takes a closer look at the olive oil sector and the significant rise in the value of EU exports in recent years. The EU's trade balance for olive oil is largely positive with exports in 2015 worth almost €2.3 billion – an increase of 6.6% on 2014 despite a 42% drop in the 2014/15 harvest. It is the sixth successive year that the EU olive oil sector has seen a marked increase in the value of exports. The main client for EU exports is the USA, followed by Japan, Brazil and China. Global demand for olive oil is continuously growing. EU olive oil prices were also exceptionally high in 2015. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)


Board of the EU’s Syria Trust Fund meets on 22 March

The third board meeting of the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis will take place in Brussels tomorrow, 22 March. The board is expected to adopt the next series of projects that will be financed by the Trust Fund. The management of the refugee flows will also be a topic of discussion. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will open the board meeting that will bring together the European Commission, EU Member States, representatives of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as international financial institutions to coordinate a joint response to the Syrian crisis. The main objective of the Trust Fund is to support the education of refugees as well as to provide healthcare, water, sanitation and economic opportunities for refugees and host communities. A press release following the meeting will be published tomorrow afternoon. Images of the event and Commissioner Hahn's statement will be available on EbS. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887)


Europe-wide mortgage rules applicable from today

The European Commission welcomes the entry into force today of the Mortgage Credit Directive (MCD). The Directive, which was adopted on 4 February 2014, aims to improve consumer protection measures across the EU by introducing EU-wide responsible lending practices. Improving our mortgage rules is essential to boosting confidence in the mortgage market and increasing choice for consumers. Commissioner Jonathan Hill, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, said: "This is an important step in improving consumer information and encouraging responsible lending. The EU passport regime for credit intermediaries will increase the sector's competitiveness and should also offer new business opportunities". Consumers will benefit from clearer and more understandable information with the introduction of the European Standardised Information Sheet, which will allow borrowers to understand better the risks associated with their mortgage agreement, as well as letting them compare offers and shop around for the best product to suit their needs at the best price. The most vulnerable consumers will be better protected from over-indebtedness through Europe-wide standards for assessing the creditworthiness of mortgage applicants. The Directive also establishes principles for the authorisation and registration of credit intermediaries. Credit intermediaries that comply with the new business conduct rules will gain access to many more potential consumers in the single market via the passport regime. This will, in the long run, provide lenders with new business opportunities and will be a step towards the creation of a Single European Mortgage Market, which is expected to increase competition and to drive down prices. For more information, see here. (For more information: Vanessa Mock - +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini - +32 229 51958)


EU28 current account surplus €14.3 billion

The EU28 seasonally adjusted current account of the balance of payments recorded a surplus of €14.3 billion in January 2016, compared with surpluses of €17.0 bn in December 2015 and €21.4 bn in January 2015, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. A Eurostat press release is available here. (For further information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Heli Pietila – Tel.: +32 229 64950)




Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrӧm visits Georgia

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström today visits Tblisi, Georgia, to take stock of the implementation of the EU-Georgia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), in place for the past 18 months. The Commissioner will meet with, amongst others, President Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Kvirikashvili and Foreign Minister Janelidze, and is holding a speech to students and meeting members of civil society. She will also participate in a round table meeting with representatives of Georgia's business community. There, she will be launching the EU4Business initiative, a technical and financial assistance package of EU-funded programmes worth over €62 million, focusing in part on small and medium-sized businesses’ better access to the EU market. More about the visit here. For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)


HR/VP Federica Mogherini travels to Jordan on Tuesday 22 March

The High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini will travel to Jordan on Tuesday 22 March. The HRVP will have an audience with His Majesty King Abdullah II. She will meet the Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates and Imad Najib Fakhoury, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. HRVP's visit to Jordan confirms the excellent relationship between the EU and Jordan and the mutual commitment to deepen and broaden our partnership. During her visit HRVP will discuss the bilateral relations and our cooperation in the regional context and exchange views on the Syria crisis and other regional and international common issues. The HRVP travels to Jordan less than a week after her meeting with H. E. King Abdullah II in Brussels, during which she also discussed the steps taken since the London conference on Syria in order to build up the country's resilience and capacity to face the consequences of the crisis while developing its own economy. A factsheet on the EU support to Jordan in dealing with the refugee crisis is also online. Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 2 29 69921; Nabila Massrali – Tel.: +32 2 29 69218)


Commissioner Thyssen on Semester visit in Belgium [updated 21/03/2016 at 15:03]

Tomorrow, 22 March, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen will pay a country visit to Belgium in the context of the European Semester. The Commissioner will first exchange views on the European Semester in the Belgian Federal Parliament and will then meet with the Belgian social partners. She will also hold a Ministerial meeting with Deputy Prime Minister for Work and the Economy Kris Peeters, Budget Minister Sophie Wilmès, Brussels Minister-President Rudy Vervoort and Flemish Deputy Minister-President Hilde Crevits. The Ministerial meeting will be preceded by a press conference, taking place at 16:30. The press conference will be web streamed on EbS. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


Commissioner Moscovici on Semester visit in Italy

Tomorrow, Commissioner Moscovici will be in Rome to take forward discussions on Italy's economic and budgetary policies in view of the next steps under the European Semester. Such visits are taking place to a number of Member States ahead of the submission in April of their National Reform Programmes and Stability Programmes (for euro area countries) or Convergence Programmes (for non-euro area countries), covering public finances. Commissioner Moscovici will meet Prime Minister Matteo Renzi together with Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan. Ahead of this visit, Commissioner Moscovici said: “During this important phase of the European Semester, the Commission is making a big effort to engage constructively with our Member States. We want to support national efforts to design policies to boost jobs and growth through smart reforms, investment and responsible fiscal policies. My visit to Rome is a concrete example of this.” (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp– Tel.: + 32 229 56151)