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European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Friday 14 March 2014

Top News from the European Commission
15 March – 11 April 2014

Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalists
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes

Wednesday 19 March: Macro Financial Assistance for Ukraine

The news:

The Commission will formally propose an additional €1 billion of macro-financial assistance for Ukraine, as announced by President Barroso in the European Parliament on 12 March (see SPEECH/14/212). This will bring total macro-financial assistance to Ukraine to €1.6 billion to help the country tackle its financial difficulties. The assistance will support important economic reforms in Ukraine and will be subject to an agreement with the IMF.

The background:

To help Ukraine to stabilise the political situation it is essential to create the conditions for economic stabilisation. On 5 March 2014, the European Commission therefore presented its firm contribution to a European and international effort to support Ukraine in its economic and political reforms. This contribution included a package of concrete measures to help Ukraine economically and financially (see IP/14/219).

The event:

Vice-President Rehn will present the proposal on macro-financial assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday 19 March at 12.00 in the Berlaymont press room. Press release will be available on the day. The statement will be webstreamed live on EbS.

  1. Available on EbS

The contacts:

Simon O'Connor + 32 2 296 7359 simon.o'

Vandna Kalia + 32 2 299 5824

Audrey Augier + 32 2 297 1607

Tuesday 25 March: Commission proposal for revised rules on organic farming

The news:

On 25 March, the European Commission is expected to present a proposal for revised rules on organic farming. The new proposal focuses on three objectives:

  1. maintaining consumer confidence, by strengthening rules on production, in line with consumer concerns and reinforcing and improving the control system, so that European consumers have better guarantees on organic products in the EU.

  1. maintaining producers' confidence in the system by applying the same production rules throughout the EU, thereby guaranteeing fair competition for organic producers and uniformly high standards. European farmers, producers and retailers will have access to a larger market, both within and outside the EU.

  1. removing obstacles to developing organic farming in the EU. These include complex, unclear legislation; technical and structural obstacles to switching to organic production or maintaining organic methods; high certification costs and the administrative burden. It will be easier to join the EU's organic scheme.

The background:

Over the last 10 years, the EU organic market has grown four times in size and organic products marketed in the EU are increasingly diverse, including processed products and imports from non-EU countries.

In 2013, the Commission carried a public consultation on the future of organic farming, which attracted major interest from the public and stakeholders. The results showed a demand for stricter and for harmonized rules at EU level: 74 % of all respondents requested European organic standard to be strengthened and 86% wished organic rules to be uniform across the EU. More than half of the interviewees also strongly required to improve the European control system for organic products. As the organic market relies on consumer confidence, fraud can indeed have a very detrimental effect.

The event:

- press conference at the end of the midday briefing with Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

- IP and memo will be available on the day.

- a technical briefing with experts from DG AGRI will also be organized (still to be confirmed).

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Information on organic farming in the EU and the 2013 public consultation

Information on Commissioner Cioloş:

The contacts:

Roger Waite (+32 2 296 14 04)

Fanny Dabertrand (+32 2 299 06 25)

Thursday 27 March: Commission to adopt package on long term financing of the European economy

The news:

On 27 March the European Commission will adopt a follow-up Communication to the Green Paper on the Long-term financing of the European economy (IP/13/274). The Communication will include an action plan grouped around six main areas:

  • Private finance: mobilising private sources of long-term financing – banks, insurers, pension funds, private savings,

  • Public finance: making better use of public finance for long-term financing,

  • Capital markets: improving the effectiveness of capital markets to foster long-term financing,

  • SMEs: improving SMEs' access to financing,

  • Infrastructure: attracting private finance to infrastructure,

  • Cross-cutting factors: improving the overall business, tax and legal environment for long-term financing.

Along with this communication, the Commission will also adopt a legislative proposal to revise the Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP) Directive to support the further development of occupational pension funds, an important type of long-term institutional investor in the EU; and a communication on crowdfunding, a growing source of financing for SMEs.

The background:

Europe faces significant long-term investment needs, which require predictable long-term financing. The capacity of the financial system to channel savings to long-term investment has been significantly affected by the crisis. In particular banks' ability to lend at long maturities has become limited. In this context, while banks will continue to play an important role, Europe's historically heavy reliance on bank intermediation needs to move towards a more diversified system of direct capital market financing and a greater involvement of institutional investors.

Long-term financing of the real economy, to stimulate sustainable growth, is at the top of the European agenda. It is also supported at global level by the work done by the OECD taskforce on long-term financing and by the working group set up by the G20 on investment and infrastructure.

The event:

Press conference and technical briefing - details to be announced.

IP and MEMOs will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Commissioner Michel Barnier's website:

The contacts:

Chantal Hughes +32 2 296 44 50

Carmel Dunne +32 2 299 88 94

Audrey Augier + 32 2 297 16 07

Friday 28 March: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package

The news:

On Friday 28 March, the European Commission will adopt its monthly infringements package. These decisions cover all Member States and most of EU policies and seek to enforce EU law across Europe in the interest of both citizens and businesses.

The background:

Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.

There are three successive stages: Letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and referral to the Court of Justice.

If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU. After only one written warning, Commission may refer a Member State back to the Court and it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties based on the duration and severity on the infringement and the size of the Member State.

The event:

A comprehensive Memo on all referrals and reasoned opinions, specific IPs on each referral and a Memo on the procedure will be available on the day on Rapid:

The sources:

For more information on infringements:

On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12

The contacts:

Overall coordination:

Jonathan Todd +32 2 299 41 07

On specific infringements, please contact the spokesperson in charge.

Tuesday 1 April: More flexible visa rules to boost growth and job creation

The news:

Despite efforts in recent years, the amount of red tape and practical difficulties facing those who apply for an EU Schengen visa are substantial. Difficulties include long waiting times in some areas of the world, and complex requirements for supporting documents. On 19 March, the European Commission is putting forward a visa package introducing facilitations in the processing of Schengen visas: (1) Clearer and shorter deadlines and easier lodging of visa applications; (2) Easier issuing of multiple-entry visas; (3) A new type of visa allowing those who intend to travel around Europe to stay longer than 90 days in the Schengen area.

The proposed changes address the main problems faced by all categories of visa applicants, and ensure a better distinction between first-time travellers and well known travellers.

The background:

Since the entry into force of the Visa Code in 2010, it has facilitated legitimate travel and tackled irregular migration, by improving consular organisation and cooperation, strengthening procedural guarantees, and reinforcing equal treatment of visa applicants. However, more should be done to address the challenges faced by visa applicants and Member States' consulates.

In addition, a 2012 Commission Communication highlighted the need for the common visa policy to also address potential for generating economic growth.

A 2013 study on the economic impact of short stay visa facilitations on the tourism industry gives an idea of the economic benefit. The findings show that, by introducing various procedural facilitations, an increase in trips to the Schengen area of between 30 and 60 % could be expected.

The event:

IP and MEMO will be available on the day;

Press conference with Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Malmström;

There will be a technical briefing with experts from DG HOME.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

The contacts:

Michele Cercone: +32 229-80963

Tove Ernst: +32 229-86764

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