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European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Friday 21 March 2014

Top News from the European Commission
22 March – 18 April 2014

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

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)

- stockshots on organic farming can be downladed at

  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)

Tuesday 25th March: The Commission presents the 10th RAPEX Annual report in the Press Room

The news:

The tenth annual report of the results of the European rapid alert system for dangerous products, RAPEX will be presented in the press room on the 25th of March.

Apart from the presentation of the report journalists will be able to tour the Rapex exhibition where dangerous products recalled across the EU are presented. There will also be opportunities for interviews with the Commissioner as well as officials from national authorities who can give an explanation of their work.

The background:

RAPEX ensures that information about dangerous products withdrawn from the market and/or recalled from consumers anywhere in Europe is quickly circulated between Member States and the European Commission, so that appropriate action can be taken everywhere in the EU. Thirty-one countries (EU + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) currently participate in the system. Croatia has joined RAPEX as from 1 July 2013.

The event:

Neven Mimica, the European Commissioner for Consumers, will present the main findings of tenth RAPEX Annual report at the midday briefing in the Commission's press room (time to be confirmed). A press release, memo and fact sheets on the results in all the Member states will be available in the Press room. An exhibition of the products recalled by Member state authorities will also be held outside the press room.

The sources:

Link to product safety website

Information on Commissioner Mimica:

The contacts:

David Hudson +32 2 296 83 35

Madalina Chiriac +32 2 297 44 13

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:

Technical briefing off-the-record at 11:00.

Press conference by Commissioner Barnier at 12:30.

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.

Monday 31 March: RegioStars 2014: Awards for innovative regional development

The news:

On 31 March EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, will present the 2014 RegioStars Awards to Europe's flagship projects of innovation. Together with the Jury chaired by former Committee of Regions President, Luc Van den Brande, Commissioner Hahn will award the winning projects in four categories:

  • Smart Growth – SME innovation

  • Sustainable Growth – Green jobs and jobs through bio-economy

  • Inclusive Growth – Creating jobs for the younger generation

  • CityStar – Investment projects in sustainable urban public transport

This year's event comes at a crucial time as Europe's regions and cities are finalising their strategic investment plans, the so-called "Partnership Agreements" for the next seven years. The Awards Ceremony will showcase the first projects that reflect the reform of Regional Policy.

The background:

In this 7th edition of RegioStars, the Jury singled out 19 finalists from 80 projects on the basis of four criteria: innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership. The finalists come from regions and cities in 17 Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The aim of the awards is to recognise good practice in regional development and to highlight inspiring projects financed either by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) or the European Social Fund (ESF), which prove a model for other regions.

The event:

Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, will present this year's RegioStars winners at a press conference on 31 March, from 15.00-16.00 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Rue Ravenstein, Brussels. Journalists will have the opportunity to do interviews with the RegioStars winners as well as with experts from DG Regional and Urban Policy after the press conference.

The official award ceremony will take place at the same day, at 19.00 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts with Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the President of the RegioStars Jury, Luc van den Brande. The ceremony is open to the media, but registration is necessary (see links below).

The sources:

An IP will be available on Monday, 31 March

Information on RegioStars Awards, media programme and registration:

  1. RegioStars 2014 Awards

Information on the finalists:

  1. RegioStars 2014 Finalists

  2. Video footage and portraits of the winning projects

  3. Twitter: @EU_Regional @JHahnEU #RegioStars

  1. The award ceremony and press conference will be also be available on Ebs

The contacts:

Shirin Wheeler +32 229 66565, Mobile +32 4607 66565

Annemarie Huber +32 229 93310, Mobile +32 4607 66565

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

Wednesday 9 April: The Commission adopts the Green Paper on mobile Health

The news:

On 9 April, the European Commission will publish a Green Paper on mobile health (mHealth). This discussion document launches a public consultation which will run until 2 July 2014.

mHealth covers medical and public health practice supported by mobile devices - such as smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices – including lifestyle and wellbeing applications connecting to medical devices and sensors. It is an emerging part of eHealth where Information and Communication Technologies are used to improve health products, services and processes.

The Commission wants inputs and ideas on what should be done to solve several issues in mHealth - such as data protection and users trust, patient safety, contribution to high quality healthcare - and at what level (EU, national, regional).

Along with the Green Paper, the European Commission will also give guidance to app developers through a Staff Working Document analysing the existing EU legal framework applicable to lifestyle and wellbeing apps.

The background:

mHealth is a rapidly developing field, which can improve the quality of healthcare and make it more efficient by supporting healthcare professionals in treating patients and easing continuity of care. Estimates show that the use of mobile devices could help healthcare professionals save up to 30% of their time spent on accessing and analysing information. Technologies like remote monitoring solutions can also give patients a bigger role in healthcare and can keep them living independently in their own home environment.

However, despite this potential, the uptake of mHealth remains limited in EU countries and healthcare authorities may need more evidence before they implement mHealth at a wider scale.

Other barriers include:

  • The consequent lack of compliance and transparency may prevent users from trusting these apps and hinder the development of the market.

  • A low level of knowledge among app developers of the legal requirements applicable to lifestyle and well-being apps.

The Staff Working Document that the Commission will issue along with the Green Paper, will raise app developers' awareness of the EU rules in data protection, medical devices (helping them determine whether such legislation applies to their apps or not) and consumer directives.

The Green Paper on mHealth was announced in the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, where the European Commission recognised the current and potential benefits of mobile health apps, as well as potential associated risks.

The event:

Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, will present the main content of the Green Paper on mHealth at the midday briefing in the Commission's press room (to be confirmed).

A press release will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Information on mHealth:

Information on Commissioner Kroes:

Information on Commissioner Borg:

The contacts:, tel: +32 229 57361, Twitter: @RyanHeathEU

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