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  • Author: METRO Office EU Affairs

News from Brussels / Week 04-10 September 2017

During the last week, Frans Timmermanns, first Vice-President of the Commission, called for a binding transparency register for all EU institutions. In an informal meeting in Tallinn, Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, talked about the illegal abuse of the insecticide Fipronil and invited the ministers to a high-level ministerial meeting on 26 September in Brussels to discuss how to improve the way EU networks are dealing with food safety and food fraud. They also debated the risk management measures in the future Common Agricultural Policy. Besides, the Commission presented its principles on the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations on Thursday. The European Parliament's Committee on the Environment criticized the Commission's plan to mitigate controls on Japanese food and feed imports. In addition, the MEPs, especially Guy Verhofstadt and President Antonio Tajani, remain skeptical that there will be great progress in the Brexit negotiations until October. There were moreover discussions about reducing the number of parliamentarians after Brexit. The Council decided that the EU budget for 2018 should cover growth, employment, security and migration.

# The unlawful use of fipronil in egg production

During the second half of the informal meeting of EU ministers for agriculture and fisheries (AGRIFISH) on Monday, 5 September, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis discussed the unlawful use of fipronil in egg production. Commissioner Andriukaitis informed the EU ministers on the steps taken by his commission and the actions that will follow. He also invited the ministers to a high-level ministerial meeting in Brussels on 26 September to discuss how to improve the way EU networks are dealing with food safety and food fraud. 

“The meeting on 26 September will be an opportunity to draw some conclusions that we will then be able to present at our next formal Council meeting,” Andriukaitis said, stressing that he “will remain extremely vigilant and will not tolerate anyone’s criminal actions putting into question the integrity of our entire food chain – one of the economic pillars of the Union, and our good reputation.” The Minister for Rural Affairs of Estonia, Tarmo Tamm, said that the health of EU citizens is extremely important and that the Estonian Presidency will take this issue very seriously. “There is a need for further improvement in the cooperation and exchange of information between countries in order to resolve these kinds of crisis situations faster and more efficiently,” Minister Tamm stressed.
Press Release (Council)

# Current Common Agricultural Policy not sufficiently prepared for crises

European Union ministers for agriculture and fisheries met on 5 September, to discuss risk management measures in the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during the informal meeting in the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel). The ministers came to the conclusion that the current CAP is not prepared enough for times of crisis and that farmers should not be left alone in risk management. According to the Minister for Rural Affairs of Estonia, Tarmo Tamm, who chaired the meeting, CAP needs to offer farmers tools that will improve their readiness for times of crisis and increase the competitiveness of farmers in open market conditions. The ministers came to the conclusion that the crisis reserve system has to be revised and the implementation of the system needs to be made faster and more flexible. It was thought that risk management measures have to take the specifics of different member states into consideration. The ministers also came to an agreement that direct supports have an important role in securing stable incomes in the agricultural sector.

“The last crisis also showed us that direct supports help farmers get through the most difficult times,” Minister for Rural Affairs Tarmo Tamm stressed. The main topic of the informal meeting was ‘Risk management: Empowering our farmers with effective tools to manage risks post-2020’. Delegations from 28 member states, and representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament, the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, Copa-Cogeca, and CEJA took part in the meeting. Additionally, visitors had the opportunity to get acquainted with Estonian cuisine, culture, and nature, as well as taking part in the discussions.

Press Release (Council)

# Principles for the political dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations

The European Commission has set out its principles for the political dialogue on Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations on Thursday, 7 September. The paper states that the Good Friday Agreement should continue to be protected and strengthened in all its parts after the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union. The continuation of the Common Travel Area, which facilitates the interaction of people in Ireland and the UK, should also be recognised.

Key issues include ensuring that: the interlocking political institutions on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, established by the Good Friday Agreement, continue to operate; cooperation (in particular, North-South cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland) is protected across all the relevant sectors; and that full account be taken of the birth right of the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as British or Irish, or both. Given Ireland's unique situation in the Brexit negotiations, a unique solution is required. In the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, the EU wishes to reach a common understanding with the UK on the implications of its withdrawal for the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area. Once there is sufficient progress on the principles set out in today's paper, discussions may move to the second phase of negotiations, which aim to find flexible and imaginative solutions to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. These solutions must respect the proper functioning of the internal market and the Customs Union, as well the integrity and effectiveness of the EU's legal order. As it was the UK's decision to leave the EU, it is the UK's responsibility to propose solutions in this regard.

Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator said, "Today's paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland is a concise and comprehensive text, which has been drafted in close cooperation with the Irish government. Our aim is to minimise the impact of the UK's decision to leave the EU for the island of Ireland. But as it was the UK's decision to leave the EU, it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with solutions to overcome the challenges for the island of Ireland."

Press Release (European Commission)

# European Capital of Innovation contest

The 2017 European Capital of Innovation award was launched in March 2017. Thirty two eligible cities from 17 countries applied to this year's competition to succeed Barcelona and Amsterdam, winners of the 2014 and 2016 European Capital of Innovation awards. The contest was open to cities with over 100,000 inhabitants from EU Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.

Ten cities using the most innovative ideas to improve quality of life and to involve citizens in community life have reached the final stage of the European Capital of Innovation Award 2017. Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:

"Every new edition of the European Capital of Innovation showcases more inspiring and innovative ideas from across Europe. The tough competition this year proved how vibrant our local innovation ecosystems are. The journey so far has been very exciting, and the best is yet to come. I am looking forward to announcing the winners in November and further cooperating with them."

News (Commission)

# EU to launch Global Alliance for Torture-Free Trade

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade is a global effort by countries from all over the world to stop the trade in goods used for torture and the death penalty. International law bans torture in all circumstances. Yet despite this, tools of death and pain are still traded across the globe. These include batons with metal spikes, electric shock belts, and grabbers that seize people by the waist or limb while electrocuting them, chemicals used to execute people and the forced injection systems that go with them.

“These products serve no other purpose than inflicting terrible pain and killing people. We should never permit that they are traded like any other commodity. It's time for concrete action to shut down this despicable trade," said Commissioner Malmström. "The EU's own laws in this field have had positive results, but producers of these goods try to get around such legislation. The more countries that sign up to cooperate, the more effective we will be. During my time as Commissioner and Member of the European Parliament, I have met victims of torture on many occasions – refugees, prisoners of conscience, death row inmates. I am convinced that trade policy can be a way to strengthen human rights around the globe," Commissioner Malmström added.

Press Release (European Commission)

# 2018 EU Prize for Women Innovators

The European Commission has launched the fifth edition of the EU Prize for Women Innovators to award women entrepreneurs who have achieved outstanding innovations and brought them to market. The first prize is €100 000, with second and third prizes of €50 000 and €30 000 respectively. A special prize of €20 000 will be dedicated to the Rising Innovator Award (30-years-old or younger) for an exceptional innovator at the beginning of her career.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "The EU Prize for Women Innovators gives public recognition to outstanding women entrepreneurs and inspires other women to follow in their footsteps. We have seen some exceptional achievements since the start of the competition. For example, the 2017 winners created an innovation lab bringing together scientists and artists, or invented the first ever digital tablet for blind users. I look forward to seeing many more fresh ideas and talent in the new edition of the contest."

The contest is open to women across the EU (or country associated to Horizon 2020) who have founded or co-founded their existing and active company before 1st January 2016. The contestant or company must have benefitted from public or private research and innovation funding. See further information on the eligibility and award criteria for the competition. After the application deadline of 15 November 2017, a high-level jury will evaluate and select the four winners, to be announced on International Women's Day on 8 March 2018.

News Alert (European Commission)

# Wi-Fi connectivity in public spaces across the EU

MEPs vote on 12 September on WIFI4EU, a scheme to promote free Wi-Fi connectivity in public spaces across the EU. The objective of the WIFI4EU European initiative is to provide more than 6,000 communities across the EU with free high-speed Wi-Fi connection by 2020. Access to this initiative is reserved to public entities with spaces open to the public such as libraries, hospitals, parks, train stations and bus terminals. They would receive a grant from the EU to set up free Wi-Fi connection points.   “This is the opportunity to give a more broad and equal access, more inclusive access to the future for all Europeans — free access to high-quality internet independent of geographical location, independent of how much money they earn,” said Portuguese S&D member Carlos Zorrinho, who is responsible for steering the proposal through Parliament. The initiative boasts a budget of €120 million, which will be allocated to local communities across Europe on a first come, first served basis. During negotiations with the Council, representing national governments, Parliament insisted that EU funding could only be used for wireless access points that did not use advertising or commercial use of personal data.
European Parliament (News)

# SOTEU: Priorities for the Future of Europe

On Wednesday 13 September 2017, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will deliver his State of the Union address at the European Parliament. After a broad debate across our continent on the #FutureofEurope, with citizens, with the European Parliament, national Parliaments, local and regional authorities, and civil society at large, the President will take these ideas forward and give his personal views on the future of Europe as well as his priorities for the year to come.
Upcoming Events (European Commission)

This week...

During the first plenary session after the summer break, the MEPs have numerous topics on the agenda. On Monday, MEPs will among others discuss the envisaged regulations on the European Risk Capital Fund and the European Social Entrepreneurship Fund. On Tuesday morning, a debate with the Council and the Commission on the case of eggs contaminated with fipronil is on the agenda. Among other things, the EU rapid alert system (RASFF) shall be improved. Furthermore, plans to set up more than 5000 free public WLAN access points for all citizens across the EU (for example, in hospitals, libraries, etc.) are being voted on. On Wednesday at 9 am, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will give his annual speech to the European Parliament on the state of the Union. The President will address the ideas raised in the broad debate on the future of Europe with citizens, the European Parliament, national parliaments, local and regional authorities and civil society. In this respect, he will also present his personal ideas on the future of Europe and his priorities for the coming year. Later that day, the Parliament will vote on the financial increase of the EU employment initiative for young people - an additional half a billion euro for 2017. In Luxembourg, the European Court of Justice ruling on the ban on genetically modified maize in Italy is also expected on Wednesday. On Friday, ministers and bankers will hold an informal meeting on the deepening of the capital market in Tallinn. They will discuss the importance and consequences of technical innovations for the functioning and stability of the financial and banking sector as well as possible new rules.

METRO Office EU Affairs

Information about the author

METRO Office EU Affairs is the team in the Representative Office of METRO AG in Brussels. Brussels@metro.de