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  • Author: METRO Office EU Affairs

News from Brussels / Week 19-25 June 2017

Last week, the European Commission proposed new transparency rules for tax advisors, accountants, banks and lawyers. The European Parliament auditioned the Bulgarian commissioner-designate in charge of the digital portfolio Maria Gabriel. The Council extended its sanctions on Russia and reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Agreement as a response to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier held his first talks with U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis. The Maltese presidency reached an agreement with the European Parliament to strengthen consumer protection law.

# New transparency rules for tax advisors

The European Commission has proposed tough new transparency rules for intermediaries - such as tax advisors, accountants, banks and lawyers - who design and promote tax planning schemes for their clients.

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said: "The EU has become the frontrunner when it comes to bringing more transparency to the world of aggressive tax planning. This work is already reaping results. Today we are proposing to hold responsible the go-betweens who create and sell tax avoidance schemes. Ultimately, this will result in greater tax revenues for Member States." 

Press release (European Commission)

# Hearing of Bulgarian commissioner-designate in charge of the digital portfolio

Mariya Gabriel has been put forward as the new commissioner responsible for the digital economy and society portfolio following the resignation of her Bulgarian compatriot Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, who left at the end of 2016 to join the World Bank. On 20 June, Gabriel appeared before Parliament's industry and culture committees who questioned her to assess her suitability. She told MEPs her main priority as commissioner would be to ensure he successful implementation of existing initiatives.

“A two-year mandate is short and I am fully aware of that,” Gabriel said, adding that she would focus on issues such as the end of roaming charges, the portability of content, the reallocation of spectrum for broadband internet, copyright reform and the wifi4eu initiative, which aims to offer free wi-fi connectivity in public spaces across the EU.

News (Parliament)

# EU-Brexit negotiations got off to a good start

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said his first talks with U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis on Monday got off to a good start, with an agreement on how to structure the discussions to end Britain’s membership of the European Union after more than 40 years. “This first session was useful indeed to start off on the right foot as the clock was ticking,” Barnier told a joint news conference with Davis at the end of the historic first session of negotiations in Brussels. “There will be no hostility on my side.”

The two sides agreed in principle to a format of four-week rounds of bargaining, with one week per month of head-to-head bargaining, to be carried out in English and French. In a joint document released by the British government, the negotiators said they had established initial groups to talk on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement for Britain’s departure and other issues regarding the separation. “We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions,” said Davis.

News (Politico)

# Council reaffirms that Paris Agreement is fit for purpose

Council conclusions on climate change following the United States Administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Council deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the United States Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Council also welcomes the numerous strong statements of commitment to the Paris Agreement from countries ranging from major economies to small island states. The Paris Agreement brought us together in very challenging times. It is an unprecedented multilateral agreement between nearly 200 parties, supported by regions, cities, communities, companies as well as other non-state actors across the world, to address a problem that threatens us all. It demonstrates, along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our collective responsibility towards the entire planet, for this and future generations, and our commitment to act accordingly. 

The Council reaffirms that the Paris Agreement is fit for purpose and cannot be renegotiated. The Agreement is ambitious yet not prescriptive and allows each Party to forge its own path, in contributing to the goals that serve to combat climate change, which threatens development, peace and stability around the world.

News (Council)

# Council extends sanctions on Russia by one year

On 19 June 2017, the Council extended the restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia until 23 June 2018.

The measures apply to EU persons and EU based companies. They are limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol. The sanctions include prohibitions on:

  • imports of products  originating in Crimea or Sevastopol into the EU;
  • investment in Crimea or Sevastopol, meaning that no Europeans nor EU-based companies can buy real estate or entities in Crimea, finance Crimean companies or supply related services; 
  • tourism services in Crimea or Sevastopol, in particular, European cruise ships cannot call at ports in the Crimean peninsula, except in case of emergency; 
  • exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in Crimea in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors and related to the prospection, exploration and production of oil, gas and mineral resources. Technical assistance, brokering, construction or engineering services related to infrastructure in these sectors must not be provided either.

Press release (Council)

# Consumer protection laws to be reinforced

The Maltese presidency reached a preliminary agreement with European Parliament representatives to strengthen cooperation between EU national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

"Trust in e-commerce by citizens and companies is an essential condition for making the digital single market more attractive and dynamic. The safeguarding of consumers' rights and interests will be better preserved, including for shopping online, thanks to this new harmonised framework", said Chris Cardona, the Maltese Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business.

Press release (Council)

This week...

This week, the European Commission will host a tax fairness conference. The European Parliament’s AFET Committee will hold an exchange of view on the operation and use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) in the field of border checks. Ministers will adopt the regulation on energy efficiency labelling, which allows customers more aware of the energy efficiency and energy consumption of household appliances. The Council is expected to reach a general approach on the energy performance of buildings directive and will try to agree its position on the energy efficiency directive. The working Party on the Environment will consider the revised presidency text and preliminary examination of the draft EP amendments on procedural rules in the field of environmental reporting. The 12th meeting of the Industrial Emissions Directive Article 75 Committee will be held.

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