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Daily News 

27 / 04 / 2017

 

 

European Union signs EUR 500 million assistance programme with Tunisia

Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, on behalf of the EU, will today sign the package of documents required to take forward a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme worth EUR 500 million with Tunisia. MFA is an exceptional EU crisis response instrument available to the EU's neighbouring partner countries. The signing of the MFA package – which consists of a Memorandum of Understanding and a Loan Facility Agreement – follows approval by the European Parliament and the Council in July 2016. The EUR 500 million programme will take the form of a medium-term loan made in three instalments, or disbursements, over the course of 2017 and 2018. This assistance is part of the EU's comprehensive efforts to help Tunisia respond to the severe economic difficulties it has faced since 2011, particularly as a result of the 2015 terror attacks and persistent political instability in the region. The new programme follows on from a EUR 300 million MFA programme approved in 2014. Two tranches of this latter programme have already been disbursed. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Today's agreement demonstrates that the EU is taking its commitment to support Tunisia's democratic transition and its economic stabilisation seriously. This assistance will help ease Tunisia’s financing constraints, support its structural reforms and encourage sustainable growth to the benefit of all Tunisian citizens.” Commissioner Moscovici, Ms Lamia Boujnah Zribi, Minister of Finance of Tunisia, and Mr Chedly Ayari, Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia, will participate in a signature ceremony that will be broadcast live at 14:00 CET. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)

 

Commission welcomes European Parliament vote on new EU reform support programme

The European Commission welcomes today's European Parliament vote to greenlight the Structural Reform Support Programme, a new EU programme to provide technical support to Member States. Today's vote paves the way towards the roll-out of the technical expertise the Commission provides for supporting Member States as they carry out reforms that help economies to grow, strengthen competitiveness, encourage investment and offer job opportunities and a better standard of living. The programme has a budget of EUR 142.8 million over the years 2017-2020 and will require no co-financing from Member States. The support will be coordinated and offered by the Commission's Structural Reform Support Service. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said: "Today's vote paves the way for the EU to expand its technical support service providing dedicated, tailor-made expertise to help Member States design and implement important growth-enhancing reforms, on their request. There is a clear need to effectively address stubborn challenges holding back a stronger and stable economic recovery including high unemployment, low productivity and persistent disparities in growth and income across the EU. To do so requires modern, reformed economies, and institutional and administrative structures, underpinned by political will and technical knowhow. This is what the new EU programme helps to achieve." A full press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Juliana Dahl – Tel.: +32 229 59914)

 

Procédures d’infraction du mois d'avril: la Commission prend des mesures en vue d’une mise en œuvre complète, correcte et en temps utile du droit de l’Union dans l’intérêt des citoyens et des entreprises

Pour aider les citoyens et les entreprises à tirer pleinement profit du marché intérieur, la Commission européenne noue un dialogue permanent avec les États membres qui ne respectent pas le droit européen et, au besoin, ouvre des procédures d’infraction à leur égard. Elle clôt également des 155 dossiers en cours lorsque l’État membre concerné, en coopération avec la Commission, a résolu le problème et assuré le respect du droit de l’Union et que, dès lors, une saisine de la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne n’est pas nécessaire. Ce mois-ci, dans le cadre de son paquet mensuel de décisions en matière d’infractions, la Commission a adopté un certain nombre de décisions (comprenant 4 lettres de mise en demeure, 45 avis motivés, 11 saisines de la Cour de justice de l’Union européenne et 2 classements). Un résumé des principales décisions ainsi que les coordonnées des porte-parole concernés et les références des communiqués de presse correspondants figurent dans le MEMO. Pour en savoir plus sur la procédure d’infraction de l’Union en général, un mémo est également disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Uldis Šalajevs – Tel.: +32 229 67560)

 

Juncker Plan: EUR 420 million for over 2,000 Greek businesses

The Juncker Plan has backed four European Investment Fund agreements with two financial intermediaries are expected to unlock EUR 420 million in financing for an estimated 2,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greece. The agreements with Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank will allow these small businesses to access the finance they need to expand their operations, create new jobs and invest in research and innovation. The support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the Juncker Plan, was a crucial factor in making these transactions possible. Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who will participate in today's signature ceremony in Athens said: "Facilitating access to finance for small and medium-sized businesses is a crucial element of the European Commission's strategy to promote jobs and growth in Greece and across Europe. Greek small and medium-sized enterprises are already benefiting from loans made possible by the Juncker Plan. Today's agreements will allow some 2,000 more SMEs to finance expansion, innovation and job-creation which will, in turn, contribute to securing Greece's economic recovery.” The Junker Plan is already expected to mobilise over EUR 3 billion in investments in Greece and EUR 183.5 billion across the EU. For the latest figures country-by-country, see here. A full press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)

 

Commission adopts new Action Plan to help European regions protect biodiversity and reap economic benefits of nature protection

Today, the European Commission has adopted a new Action Plan to improve the protection of nature and biodiversity in the EU, for the benefit of its citizens and the economy. The Plan consists of 15 actions to be carried out by 2019 to rapidly improve the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, which are the EU's flagship nature policies. These Directives establish the largest coordinated network of biodiversity-rich protected areas in the world (the Natura 2000 network), covering more than 24% of land and sea in the EU. These protected areas alone contribute between 1.7 and 2.5% to EU GDP through the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism. The Action Plan adopted today is about improving the management of these areas, connecting nature protection and socio-economic activities more broadly, and engaging with national authorities, stakeholders and young people.  For more information a full press release is available here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: + 32 229 93321)

 

European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018: Commission welcomes European Parliament's backing

The European Parliament adopted today the Decision establishing 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage by a large majority. The vote follows a political agreement by the European Parliament and the Council in February this year. The Council is expected to formally adopt the decision in May. Tibor Navracsics,  Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: "Cultural heritage is an essential part of our European identity and at the heart of the European project - the declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government in Rome last month recognises and celebrates its importance. The Year will help bring the richness of our European cultural heritage to the fore, highlighting its many social and economic benefits. I count on the continued commitment and enthusiasm of the Parliament, Member States and cultural heritage stakeholders to make this Year a success and to guarantee its long-term impact." The European Year of Cultural Heritage will be a truly European initiative with a series of events taking place at all levels: European, national, regional and local. It will be an opportunity to involve citizens from all backgrounds, in particular children and young people, in events and projects emphasising Europe's heritage and values, helping to strengthen a sense of belonging to a European family. In addition, the Year will highlight the strong economic role that cultural heritage plays. More than 300,000 people are directly employed in the European cultural heritage sector and 7.8 million European jobs are indirectly linked to cultural heritage. This is why sustainable cultural tourism will be high on the Year's agenda, together with the promotion of heritage skills. More details can be found in the press release. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.:+32 229 67083; Inga Höglund – Tel.: +32 229 50698)

 

Commission welcomes new rules to secure gas supplies in Europe

Negotiators of the Council and the European Parliament have yesterday night reached an agreement on the new security of gas supply regulation which aims at preventing gas supply crises. The new rules ensure a regionally coordinated and common approach to security of supply measures among EU Member States. This will put the EU in a better position to prepare for and manage gas shortages if a crisis occurs. For the first time, the solidarity principle will apply. Member States will have to help their neighbours out in the event of a serious crisis so that European households do not stay in the cold. Securing energy supplies to European consumers is one of the cornerstones of the Energy Union, a key priority of this Juncker Commission. Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: "We have made important progress in improving energy security, one of the Energy Union's main objectives. The new rules are built upon solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. While the national conditions and specificities of the Member States are an important building block, the EU-wide framework of regional groups makes coordinated actions possible. Thus, Europe becomes better equipped to avoid and cope with eventual crises." Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete added: "With this agreement between the Parliament and the Council, we take another big step forward towards strengthening the EU's energy security. The new regulation paves the way for better coordinated crisis prevention and handling of potential gas crises by combining standards set at EU level with regional cooperation and solidarity. This increases our effectiveness and reduces costs for EU consumers." One of the main achievements: greater transparency as natural gas companies will have to notify long-term contracts that are relevant for security of supply (28% of the annual gas consumption in the Member State). The full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)

 

SME initiative: Finnish small businesses to benefit from €150 million of investments under a new agreement

The Commission welcomes the signature of a new agreement under the SME Initiative between the European Investment Bank Group and Nordea Bank, in Finland. With a contribution of €20 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the SME initiative boosts the competitiveness of Finnish small businesses via innovative ways to invest Cohesion Policy funds. Almost 400 Finnish SMEs and start-ups should benefit from better access to finance under this agreement. So far, agreements with four banks have been signed under the SME initiative in Finland; they are expected to bring a total of €370 million of additional investments for SMEs in the country. Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen said: "Supporting small businesses by facilitating their access to finance is a key component of the Commission's strategy to promote jobs and growth across Europe. I am delighted that this programme will help to provide Finnish SMEs with the resources they need to finance expansion, innovation and job-creation." Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu added: "In less than a year after the launch of the programme, we are about to reach our objective of unlocking €400 million of additional funding opportunities for Finnish businesses. This shows that the SME initiative delivers, and delivers fast. I hope more countries will join the initiative." A press release is available on the European Investment Fund's website. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

 

New atlas offers complete picture of water management in cities

The Commission published today the Urban Water Atlas for Europe. The publication – the first of its kind – shows how different water management choices, as well as other factors such as waste management, climate change and even our food preferences, affect the long-term sustainability of water use in our cities. Detailed factsheets in theUrban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions, together with a number of overseas examples. The Atlas comes with two online tools that can help cities manage water more sustainably. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), said:“Water scarcity affects more than 10 percent of Europe's population. To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The Urban Water Atlas for Europe presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly." Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, added: “Water is an irreplaceable resource for society, but it is only renewable if well managed. Home to three out of four EU citizens, cities have no other choice but to become water-wise, and better manage this precious resource. A strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally." The publication stems from a collaboration of the Commission's Joint Research Centre with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O. The atlas was presented today during the meeting of Ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta. Further information is available in the press release. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.:+32 229 67083; Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Inga Höglund – Tel.: +32 229 50698; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

 

New Eurobarometer survey shows continued high support for development cooperation among EU citizens

The European Commission today presented the results of a Special Eurobarometer survey on EU citizens' views on development, cooperation and aid. The survey is based on fieldwork in the 28 EU Member States performed in November-December 2016. Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, commented the report by stating: “The latest data show that European citizens continue supporting strongly that Europe engages in partner countries to assist people in need and strengthen inclusive and sustainable development. Despite some differences, this support is strong within the entire EU. This is good news and reflects core European values." The vast majority of EU citizens (89 %) think that it is "important to help people in developing countries", which is the same level as in 2015. The highest level of agreement was recorded in Sweden (98 %), Cyprus and Luxembourg (97 %) and Ireland, Portugal and Spain (96 %). Even in the countries at the lower end of the spectrum, a very solid majority agreed with the statement: Bulgaria (75 %), Latvia (77 %), Estonia (78 %). For further details, see the press release. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

 

Eurostat: Le chômage dans les régions de l’UE en 2016 - Le taux de chômage régional dans l'UE compris entre 2,1% et 31,3% - Le taux de chômage a baissé dans 8 régions de l'UE sur 10

Plus de 80% des régions NUTS 2 que compte l’Union européenne (UE) ont vu leur taux de chômage diminuer en 2016 par rapport à 2015 et environ 60% ont enregistré un recul d’au moins 0,5 point de pourcentage. Toutefois, les taux de chômage régionaux sont toujours marqués par de fortes disparités entre régions de l’UE. Les taux les plus faibles ont été enregistrés dans la région de Niederbayern (2,1%) en Allemagne et de Praha (2,2%) en République tchèque, suivies par les régions allemandes de Oberbayern (2,4%), Mittelfranken et Unterfranken (2,5% chacune) et de Tübingen (2,6%). À l’autre extrémité de l’échelle, les taux de chômage les plus élevés ont été relevés à Dytiki Makedonia (31,3%) en Grèce, Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla (30,8%) en Espagne, Dytiki Ellada (29,8%) en Grèce, Andalucía (28,9%) et Extremadura (27.5%) en Espagne et Mayotte (27,1%), département français d'outre-mer. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Commissioner Malmström in Denmark and Sweden to discuss EU trade policy and participate in a Citizens' Dialogue

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström is in Copenhagen and Malmö today. In the Danish capital, the Commissioner will contribute her views to the debate on how to ensure the best conditions and opportunities for Danish businesses in the future global economy. The debate is co-hosted by the Confederation of Danish Enterprise and the Danish Agriculture and Food Council and a number of Danish chief business executives are participating. While in Malmö, she will take part in a Citizens' Dialogue at Malmö University. This dialogue will be the 171st Citizens' Dialogue with a Commissioner from the Juncker Commission. The Commissioner will discuss the five scenarios for the future of the EU presented by the Commission in March, as well as the EU's strategy to ensure open and fair global trade, including the ambitious negotiating agenda with partners such as Japan, Mexico and South America. The future agreements are expected to bring tangible benefits to European consumers and companies. Already today, 1 in 6 jobs in Denmark and 1 in 5 jobs in Sweden depend on exports outside the EU. In Copenhagen, Commissioner Malmström will also meet with Mr. Anders Samuelsen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and members of the Danish Parliament. The Citizens' Dialogue in Malmö will be web-streamed as of 16:00 here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56 185; Kinga Malinowska - Tel.: +32 229 51383)

 

Commissioner Thyssen in Berlin

Today, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, is in Berlin, Germany, where she will participate in a Citizens' Dialogue on Europe's social dimension today and in the future. Afterwards, the Commissioner will go to the Bundestag where she will present the Commission's proposals on the European Pillar of Social Rights, with a number of concrete legislative and non-legislative initiatives, such as on the work-life balance of parents and carers, on the information of workers, on access to social protection and on working time to the members of the Committee on Affairs of the European Union. On this occasion she will also present the reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe by 2025 following the launch of the discussion on the future of Europe via the Commission's White Paper presented on 1 March. Her speech will be made available here. The Citizens' Dialogue and meetings will be an excellent occasion to present the Commission's social initiatives to the German public and members of Parliament. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)

 

Commissioner Hogan travels to the United States and leads a delegation of EU agri-food producers to Canada

From today, 27 April, to 3 May Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, will be on a working visit first to the United States and then to Canada where he will be accompanied by a business delegation comprising over 60 agri-food representatives from 23 Member States. This trip is part of the Commission's support to European producers in their effort to find new markets. The visit to Canada happens after the successful completion of the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) that creates new opportunities for European agri-food producers and will boost trade exchanges with this key partner. Ahead of his departure, Commissioner Hogan said: “The quality and tradition of our European food and drink products is a major strength in today's global marketplace. We are confident that CETA will bring more European products to discerning Canadian consumers. Europe will be able to export nearly 92% of its agricultural and food products to Canada duty-free. More than half a billion people on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy new opportunities, and European products with protected geographical indications will receive special status on the Canadian market." While in Canada, Commissioner Hogan will meet the Canadian Minister of Agriculture Mr Lawrence MacAulay. Together with the business delegation, Commissioner Hogan will also attend the official opening of the SIAL Canada 2017international food fair in Toronto, where the EU has been named asregion of honourthis year. Several other meetings with local retailers and food producers will take place to establish long-lasting business contacts for the accompanying producers. More information on the Canadian business mission as well as the full programme is available here. On his way to Canada, the Commissioner will stop in the United States where he will participate in a series of meetings with Members of Congress on Capitol Hill and stakeholders, from among others, the World Bank, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52509)

 

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)