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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 29 / 01 / 2016

Brussels, 29 January 2016

Official launch of REFIT Platform: New approach brings together stakeholders for better regulation and better results

Today in Brussels, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans chairs the first meeting of the REFIT Platform. Forty-eight members from a diverse range of stakeholders, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Committee of the Regions and all Member State governments will come together to make EU legislation and its implementation in Member States more efficient and more effective in achieving its objectives. By bringing together a diverse group of experts on the concrete impact of EU legislation on the ground, this initiative will provide a basis for inclusive work on the common goal of better regulation for better results. First Vice-President Timmermans said: "To deliver what citizens expect from us, reviewing and improving existing EU rules is just as important as making new proposals. The body of EU law must remain fit for purpose, up to date and as simple as possible. To ensure this, we need to hear the views of those who really know: the citizens, the small entrepreneurs, the public administrators who are faced everyday with the advantages but also sometimes the inefficiencies of our laws and the way they are implemented by Member States. The REFIT Platform is there to collect their views, assess them and turn them into pragmatic and operational suggestions to the European Commission." A press release is available here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


European aviation: First environmental report points at sustainability challenge

Today the European Commission published the first European Aviation Environmental Report, the result of a close collaboration across various EU bodies. The report includes key performance indicators on noise, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, in order to provide an overview of the environmental performance of the sector. Among the findings, forecast scenarios for the next 20 years show that with the expected increase in traffic the environmental sustainability of the sector will be increasingly challenged. EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said "Aviation brings significant economic and social benefits to Europe, but also has an impact on the environment. The Aviation Strategy we adopted in December recognises that the future competitiveness of air transport goes hand in hand with its sustainability. Today's report will be instrumental to frame future policy. It is also a valuable contribution to the ongoing international discussions on measures to reduce emissions from aviation. In 2016, the EU will reach out to its partners to take global and ambitious steps."(For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)


Progress following Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting: Fourteenth Contact Points Video Conference

Yesterday, a fourteenth video conference was held between the contact points nominated after the Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting held on 25 October. The objective was to follow up on the agreement reached at the meeting and set out in the Leaders' Statement. Senior officials from the countries and agencies present at the meeting had a detailed discussion on recent trends concerning external borders and reception capacity. Key points included progress made concerning negotiations between Frontex and Greece to further increase Frontex support at the Greek border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, efforts to support the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as regards the management of the border, the outcome of a second video conference held between the national police authorities from all participating countries as well as the outcome of a political level meeting which took place in the margins of the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 January between Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Serbia, and Slovenia. Participants also discussed progress as regards the delivery of reception capacity for asylum seekers by the UNHCR in Greece. The next weekly video conference will take place on 3 February. A press release is available here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


European Investment Fund signs first agreement for micro-entrepreneurs in the Baltics

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and UniCredit Leasing SIA (UCL)have signed the first loan agreement, worth €18 million, in the Baltics under Progress Microfinance with funding from the European Union. The loan agreement will allow UCL to provide enhanced access to finance to over 1,000 micro-entrepreneurs, in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, many of whom face difficulties in accessing credit from traditional banking sources. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen said: "The European Commission is fully committed to promoting entrepreneurship and supporting the microfinance sector in the fight against social and financial exclusion. Today's agreement will enable over 1,000 micro-entrepreneurs in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to gain access to credit, thereby creating jobs and stimulating the economy from the foundations up". Progress Microfinance is funded by the European Commission and managed by the European Investment Fund. It is part of the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), supporting access to micro-finance and social entrepreneurship. More information can be found here(For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


European Commission takes action to open up international procurement markets

The European Commission has today presented a revised proposal for an International Procurement Instrument - a tool to promote open access for EU companies to public procurement markets around the world. Commenting on the revised proposal, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “I firmly believe that an open international trading system needs to include public procurement. Openness is good for business, good for consumers, and leads to an efficient use of taxpayers' money. It also helps in the fight against corruption. This new proposal will give us the means to show that we are committed to opening up procurement markets globally." Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: "Government procurement around the world represents a huge market. We want EU companies to be able to tap into this market outside the EU just as companies from outside the EU are able to benefit from our market. What we are doing today will open doors for our businesses and allow them to compete on an equal footing."While the EU is an open economy, many of the EU's major trading partners apply restrictive practices which discriminate against EU businesses. Once adopted by the Council, the new instrument presented today, would allow the Commission to initiate public investigations in cases of alleged discrimination of EU companies in procurement markets. A full press release in EN, FR, DE with more background information on the new instrument is available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182, Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509, Heli Pietila – Tel.: +32 229 64950)


EU and its partners discuss further steps to ensure better future for Bangladeshi garment industry workers

Representatives of the EU, US, Canada, Bangladesh and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) met yesterday in Dhaka to assess the progress and set priorities for further work to improve the situation of Bangladeshi textile workers. This meeting took place in the framework of the so-called Bangladesh Sustainability Compact, an initiative born in the aftermath of the tragic factory collapses in 2013 which claimed 1,129 lives. On this occasion EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said:” Promoting responsible supply chains is an important part of our new trade and investment strategy. The respect of human and core labour rights are at the heart of our engagement with countries getting privileged access to the EU market. The Compact cooperation shows that we can team up with other concerned partners and work towards bringing about positive change.” EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Mobility Marianne Thyssen added: "The progress achieved so far proves that initiatives like the Bangladesh Compact can be effective in promoting genuine social dialogue and decent working conditions in the global context. While aiming for more fairness in global supply chains, we must also continue to encourage essential reforms." The joint conclusions of yesterday’s meeting outlining the progress made and the priorities for future work are available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 22962253; Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)


Energy Union diplomacy: EU and Turkey strengthen energy ties

On 28 January 2016, the EU and Turkey held a high-level dialogue on energy in Istanbul. The delegation from the European Commission was led by the Climate action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete. Discussions focused on integrating the Turkish energy market with the EU, energy efficiency and renewables, climate change and a follow-up on the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, gas markets and interconnections, the development of the Southern Gas Corridor, and the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) which is part of the Southern Gas Corridor – Turkey is a key transit country for these gas routes to the EU. Talks also covered electricity markets and interconnections, nuclear safety,  and regional cooperation and integration in the Energy Community and Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on energy. EU Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: "Given its strategic location as a transit country in the region, Turkey is a key partner for Europe's energy security and diversification. With the launch of the High-Level Energy Dialogue, Turkey and the EU are injecting renewed political momentum to our energy cooperation. This will lead to concrete actions and projects to our mutual benefit." In particular the Southern Gas Corridor will help many countries in Central and South East Europe to diversify their sources of gas, boosting their energy security. It will expand the infrastructure that can bring gas to the EU from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. When the route opens in 2019/2020, it will allow around 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to flow along the route, possibly rising to 80-100 bcm in the long term. In this way, the Southern Gas Corridor has the potential to meet up to 20% of the EU's gas needs. For more information, read the Joint Press Statement after the 'Turkey - EU High Level Energy Dialogue' Meeting. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Commission extends private storage aid for butter and skimmed milk powder

The private storage aid for butter and skimmed milk powder will be extended until 30 September 2016, following the approval by Member States of a proposal made by the European Commission. The Commission put in place private storage aid schemes for butter and skimmed milk powder in summer 2014 to support producers facing the effects of the Russian import ban. Following continued worldwide market imbalance, private storage aid schemes have already been extended three times since its introduction to ensure continuity of support. Speaking at an event on the milk sector in the European Parliament, Commissioner Hogan said: "We want our farmers and dairy operators of all sizes to get a fair price for their hard work. We want them to continue delivering a world class product. We want to provide them with a greater degree of security and sustainability in their livelihood. The Commission will take all necessary steps to safeguard the livelihoods of our dairy farmers, and, indeed, the sustainability of our agri-food sector sector as a whole. I will use all the measures I possess to stabilise the market." The volumes of butter and skimmed milk powder so far covered by private storage volumes are online.(For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)


Circular Economy: Study on separate waste collection shows Estonia, Finland and Slovenia as top performers

Separate waste collection is central to the transition to the circular economy. The European Commission today presented a study assessing the current separate collection schemes in the 28 Member States. Particular emphasis was given to the best performers which included the Slovenian capital Ljublijana and the Estonian capital Tallinn. Separate collection of glass, paper, metal and plastic has become obligatory since 2015. In addition, the Commission has proposed, in its ambitious circular economy package, the separate collection of bio-waste and a ban of landfilling separately collected waste. EU Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella welcomed the study in Brussels today at the "Conference on separate waste collection in the context of circular economy". He stated that "Only 19% of municipal waste is collected separately in our capitals. 80% of waste still ends up in the bin. This means a huge loss of raw materials. New Member States' performance, with Ljublijana and Tallinn, (in addition to Helsinki) scoring the highest, is proof that where there is political will, things can move fast". More information and Commissioner Vella's speech are available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Iris Petsa - Tel.: +32 229 93321)


Aalborg, Vilnius and Belfast among the European cities with the highest quality of life, according to latest Eurobarometer

Today the European Commission released the results of the 5th Flash Eurobarometer survey on the “Perception of Quality of Life in European Cities", conducted in 79 European cities and focusing on the quality of infrastructures and services, employment opportunities, the housing situation, the integration of foreigners, feeling of safety, pollution, green spaces and cleanliness. Among the main findings: Oslo, Zurich, Aalborg, Vilnius and Belfast record the highest level of satisfaction. The feeling of safety is one of the features that show the highest correlation with overall satisfaction of living in a city. Finding a job and affordable housing are perceived as challenges. "I hope the findings will inspire more integrated approaches to social, economic and environmental challenges in urban development. Cohesion Policy will play a key part in addressing these challenges; half of the 2014-2020 European Regional Development Fund envelope will be invested in urban areas, with 15 billion euro directly managed by city authorities for investments in sustainable urban development," Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said. More information on the urban dimension of Cohesion Policy is available online. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)


EUROSTAT: euro area annual inflation up to 0.4%

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 0.4% in January 2016, up from 0.2% in December 2015, according to a flash estimate from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, services is expected to have the highest annual rate in January (1.2%, compared with 1.1% in December), followed by food, alcohol & tobacco (1.1%, compared with 1.2% in December), non-energy industrial goods (0.7%, compared with 0.5% in December) and energy (-5.3%, compared with -5.8% in December). A Eurostat press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)



Vice-President Georgieva and Commissioner Mimica to attend African Union summit in Addis

Vice-President in charge of Budget and Human Resources, Kristalina Georgieva and Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, will attend the 26th African Union Summit on Saturday 30 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the EU to again show the African continent our commitment to take forward the Africa-EU strategic partnership, which remains one of our top priorities. The issues that will be tackled at the meeting include, inter alia, development and security enhancing efforts for the African Peace Facility and the situation in Burundi. Ahead of the meeting Commissioner Mimica stated: “Our cooperation with the African Union has never been as important as it is today. Likewise we are aware that we need a joint collaboration in tackling challenges that the two continents are facing together". At the summit, Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva will sign an Administrative Arrangement with the African Union Commission to foster cooperation between the two institutions. In the margins of the summit, Commissioner Mimica will also hold a series of bilateral meetings to discuss development cooperation including in the field of migration following the recent launch of EU's Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Sharon Zarb - Tel.: +32 229 92256)



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