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  • Author: METRO Office EU Affairs

News from Brussels / Week 11 - 17 September 2017

News from Brussels / Week 11 - 17 September 2017

Last Wednesday, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his annual State of the Union Speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he presented his priorities for the year ahead and outlined his vision for how the European Union could evolve until 2025. Concrete initiatives on trade, investment screening, cybersecurity and industry were mentioned. Moreover, President Juncker announced that the Commission will present guidance on dual quality of products in the upcoming weeks. On Thursday, MEPs approved Sven Giegold's Report calling for more transparency in EU decision-making processes and approved new rules to mobilise investments for SMEs.

#For a Stronger European Trade Agenda

At his State of the Union Speech, President Jean-Claude Juncker stated: "I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda. Yes, Europe is open for business. But there must be reciprocity. We have to get what we give. Trade is not something abstract. Trade is about jobs, creating new opportunities for Europe's businesses big and small. Every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe. Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements."

Following Juncker’s speech, the Commission unveiled a weighty package of trade and investment proposals for a progressive and ambitious trade agenda. The proposals include the creation of a European screening framework to ensure that foreign direct investment does not compromise the EU's strategic interests when it comes to security and public order, as well as draft mandates to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. In a move to make the EU's trade policy the most transparent and inclusive in the world, the Commission has decided to set up an Advisory Group on EU trade agreements and to publish as of today any new proposal for negotiating mandates. Finally, the proposals include a draft mandate to start negotiations towards the creation of a multilateral investment court.

Press Release (Commission)

#New rules on integrity and transparency

President Juncker announced a new Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission. The new rules set new standards for ethical rules in Europe, including the extension of the "cooling-off" period from 18 months to two years for former Commissioners and to three years for the President of the Commission. The proposed modernisation will also create an Independent Ethical Committee replacing the current ad hoc Ethical Committee, to reinforce its status, to strengthen scrutiny and to provide advice on ethical standards.
Moreover, he also announced a reform of rules affecting political parties’ organisation and funding, in order to increase transparency and improve democratic legitimacy. These proposals should be adopted and in force before the European elections in 2019.
Following President Juncker’s State of the Union speech, MEPs  showed their belief in the importance of stricter and clearer transparency standards, with 368 votes for, 161 against and 60 abstentions. MEPs want legislative information and documents to be directly accessible to the public throughout the legislative process. The report by Sven Giegold (Greens, DE) notes that more efforts are needed to make trade negotiations more transparent.

Press Release (Commission)

Press Release (European Parliament)

#More investments for SMEs

The European Venture Capital Funds (EuVECA) and European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF) should attract more investors under new rules voted on Thursday.

These funds, which are part of the Capital Markets Union Action Plan, aim to mobilise more investment capital for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and social undertakings in the EU. The new rules should broaden the range of firms able to find investors on European capital markets and encourage investment in firms aiming to deliver social benefits or being considered risky.

The text was approved by 523 votes to 46, with 67 abstentions. The revised rules will enter into 20 days after t their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Press Release (European Parliament)

#MEPs warn against Food Imports from Fukushima Region

MEPs say proposal to relax checks on food from Fukushima could lead to increased exposure to radioactive contamination. In a resolution adopted on Wednesday by 543 votes to 100 and 43 abstentions, MEPs call on the European Commission to withdraw a proposal which would reduce the number of foodstuffs from Japan to be checked for radioactive contamination.Current legislation provides for extra checks on imports from twelve Japanese prefectures, all exposed to the radioactive fallout from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power station in 2011. However, the new proposal could lead to products such as rice, certain fish and mollusks from the Fukushima region being allowed into the EU without checks, sampling or analysis. No justification or explanation is given for this reduction in checks, MEPs object. The issue will now be discussed and voted by representatives of the Member States.

Press Release (European Parliament)

This week...

This week the European Union will be well represented by EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, EU Council President Donald Tusk and six EU Commissioners in the 72th United Nations General Assembly in New York. An informal meeting of the energy and transport ministers will be held in Tallinn on Tuesday. The CJEU ruling on VAT exemption for self-employed mergers is expected on Thursday.

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