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Yesterday afternoon, the European Commission adopted its Work Programme for 2015 – setting out the actions the Commission intends to take over the next 12 months to make a real difference for jobs, growth and investment and bring concrete benefits for citizens. Citizens want less EU interference in their daily lives, especially where Member States are better placed to act and provide solutions. They expect the EU to make a difference on the big economic and social challenges, such as fighting unemployment and improving competitiveness.
The European Commission has approved today the Maltese Operational Programme to use the new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). Malta will receive nearly €4 million euros (in current prices) in the period 2014-2020 to provide food assistance to those most in need in the country (complemented with €600 000 from national resources). Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, commented: "I warmly welcome the FEAD programme for Malta, which will offer much needed support to those in the most trying situation. I am confident that the programme will help Malta to advance towards its target of lifting more than 6 500 people out of poverty by 2020".
President Jean-Claude Juncker and the Members of the College of Commissioners are taking their formal oath of office today in Luxembourg, at the Court of Justice of the EU. With this “solemn undertaking”, the members of the Commission are pledging to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, to carry out their responsibilities in complete independence and in the general interest of the Union.
Meeting on 9 December in Brussels, EU finance ministers expressed their support to the Commission's recently announced €315 billion investment plan. The plan, unveiled in November, will involve setting up a new European fund for strategic investment within the European Investment Bank (EIB) group in the spring of 2015.
As of 13 December 2014, new EU food labelling rules, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011, will ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, and help them make informed choices about what they eat. The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "As of 13 December 2014, European citizens will see the results of years of work to improve food labelling rules. Key content information will now be more clearly marked on labels, helping people make informed choices on the food they buy. The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses."
The 12th Edition of the European Film Festival, 2014 organised by the European Commission Representation in Malta, launched on Friday, 14th November has almost come to an end. The Festival, which was also organised in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Malta's accession to the EU, will close with the repeat screening of the Italian film "Il Primo Incarico", on Monday, 8th December 2014 at 6.30pm at Dr l-Ewropa in St Paul's Street, Valletta.
A delegation of MEPs will take part in the UN climate conference in Lima, Peru, from Monday 8 to Friday 12 December. The 20th Conference of Parties (COP20), started on Monday 1 December, aims to set out the structure of a global and binding climate agreement to be concluded in Paris in 2015.
The European Commission Representation in Malta with the collaboration of the European embassies in Malta and Rome is organising another edition of the European Film Festival. The Festival will be launched on Friday the 14th November 2014 and between the 15th and the 30th November a different film will be screened every evening at Europe House, St Paul Street, Valletta. This 12th Edition of the European Film Festival is being held in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Malta's EU membership.
Culture, education and youth
The European Commission's autumn forecast projects weak economic growth for the rest of this year in both the EU and the euro area. Real GDP growth is expected to reach 1.3% in the EU and 0.8% in the euro area for 2014 as a whole. Growth is expected to rise slowly in the course of 2015, to 1.5% and 1.1% respectively, on the back of improving foreign and domestic demand. An acceleration of economic activity to 2.0% and 1.7% respectively in 2016 is expected to be driven by the strengthening of the financial sector (following the comprehensive assessment by the European Central Bank and further progress towards the Banking Union), as well as recent structural reforms starting to bear fruit.
The European Commission has adopted a "Partnership Agreement" with Malta setting down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds throughout the country. Today’s agreement paves the way for investing € 729 million in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 (current prices, including € 17 million for European Territorial Cooperation funding and € 3.9 million for the FEAD allocation). Malta also receives € 97.3 million for rural development and € 22.6 million for fisheries and the maritime sector.
Today, the European Parliament gave its strong support to the new European Commission with 423 votes in favour, 209 against and 67 abstentions. The Juncker Commission can thus start its term of office on 1 November 2014. President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker said: "After a long democratic journey, today my team crossed the finishing line. I feel honoured that my Commission has received the democratic backing of the European Parliament. Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and get down to work: to kick-start economic recovery, create more and better jobs, address the plight of Europe's youth for a better future, protect the most vulnerable in our society and cope with the rapidly deteriorating geopolitical situation. Together, we will succeed."
MEPs decide today whether to approve the new European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker. In a debate before the vote, they can also say what they think about Juncker’s plans as Commission president for the next five years. As part of European Commission election process, all candidate commissioners were questioned by MEPs to assess if they were fit for the job. Now the Parliament has the final say. Watch the vote live on our website.
After two mandates and 10 years as the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso is ready to pass the torch on to Jean- Claude Juncker. In an interview held just after his speech in plenary on Tuesday 21 October, in which he looked back at his second term, Barroso said that the crisis wasn't caused by the EU but by financial markets acting irresponsibly and some countries spending excessively.
Meeting in the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg, EU ministers discussed joint strategies to contain the Ebola virus. Latest developments in Ukraine, Libya, Iraq, Syria and the Middle East were also on the agenda. The Council is deeply concerned about the ongoing spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. As of 15 October over 4 500 people have died from Ebola infection.
In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply properly with their obligations under EU law. These decisions covering many sectors aim to ensure proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. In point 3 below, Malta is listed as having received a letter of Formal Notice to reconsider its decision to resume traditional finch trapping. The Commission has today taken 140decisions, including 39 reasoned opinions and 11 referrals to the European Union's Court of Justice. Below is a summary of the main decisions. For more information on infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12.
On Monday 13 October, the Commission has launched a web portal to help businesses to adapt to the change in VAT rules that will enter into force in 2015. From 1 January, new VAT rules come into effect for businesses selling telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services to final consumers. VAT will be charged where the customer is based, rather than where the supplier is located. These new rules will ensure a more level playing field for businesses and fairer taxation rights amongst Member States (see IP/14/758).
On Monday 13 October, the Commission published the report: "Tax reforms in EU Member States 2014 - Tax policy challenges for economic growth and fiscal sustainability". It provides an annual review of the most important tax reforms implemented by EU Member States and identifies the main tax policy challenges they are facing. To this end the report – which was prepared jointly by the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs and the Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union – inter alia explores ways to make tax structures more growth-friendly.
The Council of the EU today published the negotiating directives for talks on a EU-US trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIP). Commenting, European Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: 'I'm delighted EU governments have chosen today to make the TTIP negotiating mandate public – something I've been encouraging them to do for a long time. It further underlines our commitment to transparency as we pursue the negotiations. And it allows everyone to see precisely how the EU wants this deal to work, so it contributes to economic growth and jobs' creation across Europe while keeping our commitment to maintain high level of protection for the environment, health, safety, consumers, data privacy, or any other public policy goal'.
Pierre J. Mejlak is amongst the winners of the 2014 European Union Prize for Literature, who were announced today at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The award recognises the best new and emerging authors in Europe. Besides Mejlak, this year’s winners are: Ben Blushi (Albania), Milen Ruskov (Bulgaria), Jan Němec (Czech Republic), Makis Tsitas (Greece), Oddný Eir (Iceland), Janis Jonevs (Latvia), Armin Öhri (Liechtenstein), Ognjen Spahić (Montenegro), Marente de Moor (The Netherlands), Uglješa Šajtinac (Serbia), Birgül Oğuz (Turkey) and Evie Wyld (United Kingdom).
The latest annual report on public access to documents, adopted today, shows that the European Commission dealt with more access to documents requests than ever before during 2013. There were 6,525 requests – a rise of 8.5% on the 6,014 document requests in 2012. This compares with just 450 requests when the current rules entered into force in 2001. The Commission handles around twice as many requests as the Council and European Parliament combined, and grants access in more than four out of five cases.
The seven winners of the 8th edition of European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) were announced yesterday. The Grand Jury Prize winner came from Hungary. The project, Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children, helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mind-set needed to start a business and run it successfully.
The hearings of the team proposed by President-elect Juncker are scheduled to start this afternoon, Monday 29 September at 14:30 hrs. The Maltese Commissioner Designate, Karmenu Vella, together with the Commissioner Designate from Sweden Cecilia Malmstrom, are scheduled to be questioned first, at 14:30 hrs. Commissioner Designate Vella will be appearing before the Environment and the Fisheries Committees. He will be required to answer questions regarding the areas of the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
On Tuesday 23 September, the European Commission Representation in Malta organised a training session aimed at the local network of EU information offices. This was an occasion to help the staff of the EU relays in Malta improve their communication skills, so as to better interface with the general public and the media.
On Saturday, 27th September, the European Commission Representation in Malta will be celebrating the European Day of Languages at Bay Street, St Julian’s. For the second consecutive year, this will be done in collaboration with Għaqda tal-Malti – Università. Activities start at 10:00 and end at 18:00. Stands pertaining to different language schools, embassies, cultural centers and other entities will be providing passersby with information about their respective languages on different levels of Bay Street while other events will be held on the top floor.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Special Envoy and film star Angelina Jolie visited the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) facilities in Malta recently. There they met three survivors of a recent migrants tragedy whose boat was reportedly rammed by traffickers after the 500 migrants on board refused to board a smaller vessel as they feared it was too small for all of them. (Photo: Justin Gatt/AFM)
Karmenu Vella is the Commissioner Designate from Malta who has been assigned the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries portfolio by Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Vella was born on 19th of June 1950 in Zurrieq and is the eldest of three children. Vella lived in Zurrieq for 33 years from 1950 till 1983. He now lives in Birzebbugia with his wife Marianne née’ Buhagiar. The couple have two sons, John married to Miriam Dalli (MEP-PES), and Philip married to Rania née’ Mamo. He is also a grandfather of two, Adam and Jack.
Cecilia Malmström has recently visited the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta to discuss EASO’s achievements and its progress in implementing the Common European Asylum System, as well as to discuss the latest trends of this phenomenon. At the Marsa office the Commissioner met EASO’s Executive Director, Dr Robert K. Visser, to discuss EASO’s work and activities, including its current operational support missions in various countries including Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Italy. Photo – DOI – Jeremy Wonnacott
A new strategy to improve customs risk management, together with a detailed action plan, was adopted by the Commission on 21 August. Robust customs risk management is essential to protect the safety and security of the EU and its citizens, the interests of legitimate traders and EU financial interests, while at the same time enabling the smooth flow of trade. As the volume of trade grows and the international supply chain becomes ever more complex and fast-moving, the framework for customs risk management needs to be adapted and developed accordingly.
The European Commission is the EU's executive body and represents the interests of Europe as a whole (as opposed to the interests of individual countries).
The Members of the European Parliament have re-elected Martin Schulz as President of the Parliament for another two-and-a-half year term. The 58-year old German MEP will lead Parliament until January 2017.
The adoption of the 2014 country-specific recommendations (CSRs) by the Council of Ministers on 8 July concluded this year's European Semester cycle of economic policy co-ordination. Member States are now expected to implement these recommendations by taking them up in their national budgets and other relevant policies.
Business, EU explained, Economy, finance, tax and competition
According to a new survey, most European citizens think their own country is generating too much waste. The survey on the "Attitudes of Europeans towards Waste Management and Resource Efficiency" indicates that 96 % of respondents say it is important for them that Europe uses its resources more efficiently: 68 % say this is very important for them, and just 3 % of respondents say this issue is not important. Across the EU, nine out of ten respondents now sort paper/cardboard/beverage cartons (90 %), plastics (90%) and glass (88 %), at least occasionally, while three quarters sort household hazardous waste (79 %), metal cans (78 %), electrical waste (76 %) and kitchen waste (74 %). There are, however, major differences between Member States, with replies ranging from 99 % (paper in Austria) to 28 % (hazardous waste in Romania).
Environment, consumers and health
There is an improved performance across all consumer markets finds the 10th Consumer Markets Scoreboard published today. This improvement is particularly marked for goods markets, while services continue to be the main sources of dissatisfaction. "Consumers should be the master not the servant of the market," said Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica, "The Consumer Markets Scoreboard we publish today shows that, overall, market conditions are getting better for consumers. However much more needs to be done, especially on services and energy. I am working hard with my colleagues in the Commission to address these issues, be it through the Payment Accounts Directive, the Connected Continent package or through facilitating the switching of suppliers."
Environment, consumers and health