Commission presents ways to strengthen the international role of the euro and steps up action against disinformation; Upcoming Romanian Presidency; Brexit
International role of the euro
In light of the upcoming European Council and Euro Summit in December, the Commission presented today actions to strengthen the role of the euro in a changing world.
In his State of the Union Address in September 2018, President Juncker highlighted the strategic importance of the euro and the need to ensure that the single currency can play its full role on the international scene. Supported by upcoming decisions to strengthen Europe's Economic and Monetary Union, complete the Banking Union and advance on the Capital Markets Union, the euro needs to develop its global role and fully reflect the euro area's political, economic and financial weight.
To this end, in a Communication today the Commission outlines the benefits of such a strengthened international role of the euro for the EU and the international financial system, and proposes initiatives to boost the role of the single currency. As part of this effort, the Commission has adopted a Recommendation to promote the wider use of the euro in international energy agreements and transactions. This will allow European businesses to benefit from stronger autonomy and finance themselves with reduced exposure to legal actions taken by third country jurisdictions. It will also support the EU's objective to build an Energy Union that ensures safe, viable and accessible energy supply.
Concretely, the initiatives presented by the Commission to boost the role of the euro focus on:
- Completing Europe's Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union. Only seven of the Commission's 40 key proposals to the co-legislators in these areas have been adopted.
- Additional measures to foster a deep European financial sector, including stronger European financial market infrastructures; solid interest rate benchmarks and an integrated instant payment system in the EU.
- Initiatives linked to the international financial sector: ongoing cooperation between central banks to safeguard financial stability; increasing the share of euro denominated debt issued by European entities; fostering economic diplomacy to promote the use of the euro and providing technical assistance to improve access to the euro payment system by foreign entities, notably in the context of the European External Investment Plan.
The decision to use a currency is ultimately made by market participants and the objective is not to interfere in commercial freedom or limit choice. However, a strengthened role for the euro would help improve the resilience of the international financial system, providing market operators across the globe with additional choice and making the international economy less vulnerable to shocks. "At home", it would also allow the European Union to enhance the protection of its citizens and businesses, to uphold its values and to promote its interests in shaping global affairs according to rules-based multilateralism. A wider global use of the euro would lower costs and risks for European businesses, as well as lower interest rates paid by households.
To protect its democratic systems and public debates and in view of the 2019 European elections as well as a number of national and local elections that will be held in Member States by 2020, the European Union presented today an Action Plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond.
Taking stock of the progress made so far and following up on the call made by European leaders in June 2018 to protect the Union's democratic systems, the European Commission and the High Representative set out concrete measures to tackle disinformation, including the creation of a Rapid Alert System and close monitoring of the implementation of the Code of Practice signed by the online platforms. The Action Plan also foresees an increase of resources devoted to the issue.
The action Plan focuses on four areas key to effectively build up the EU's capabilities and strengthen cooperation between Member States and the EU:
- Improved detection: Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as the EU delegations in the neighbourhood countries will be reinforced with significant additional specialised staff and data analysis tools. The EEAS' strategic communication budget to address disinformation and raise awareness about its adverse impact is expected to more than double, from €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019. EU Member States should complement these measures by reinforcing their own means to deal with disinformation.
- Coordinated response: A dedicated Rapid Alert System will be set up among the EU institutions and Member States to facilitate the sharing of data and assessments of disinformation campaigns and to provide alerts on disinformation threats in real time. The EU institutions and Member States will also focus on proactive and objective communication on Union values and policies.
- Online platforms and industry: The signatories of the Code of Practice should swiftly and effectively implement the commitments made under the Code of Practice, focusing on actions that are urgent for the European elections in 2019. This includes in particular ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, labelling non-human interactions (messages spread automatically by ‘bots’) and cooperating with fact-checkers and academic researchers to detect disinformation campaigns and make fact-checked content more visible and widespread. The Commission, with the help of the European group of regulators in charge of audio-visual media services, will ensure a close and continuous monitoring of the implementation of the commitments.
- Raising awareness and empowering citizens: In addition to targeted awareness campaigns, the EU institutions and Member States will promote media literacy through dedicated programmes. Support will be provided to national multidisciplinary teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers to detect and expose disinformation campaigns across social networks.
Finally, the Commission is today also reporting on the progress made in tackling online disinformation since the presentation of its Communication in April 2018.
Following the endorsement by the European Council (Article 50) on 25 November 2018 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement – as completed at negotiator level on 14 November 2018 – the European Commission has today adopted two proposals for Council decisions on the signature and conclusion of the text.
These proposals launch the formal process necessary for the EU to conclude the Withdrawal Agreement and follow the European Council (Article 50) conclusions, which invited the Commission to “take the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 30 March 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal.” The Council must now authorise the signature of the Withdrawal Agreement on behalf of the Union. The European Parliament must then give its consent before being concluded by the Council. To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement will, of course, also have to be ratified by the United Kingdom, in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU
The Romanian government visited the European Commission to discuss the priorities and agenda of Romania's Presidency of the Council of the EU starting on 1 January 2019. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă for a bilateral meeting, which was followed by a working lunch between the College of Commissioners and the Romanian government to discuss join priorities for the upcoming six months.
Results of Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and Commissioner Pierre Moscovici debriefed the College on Monday's Eurogroup meeting where important progress was made on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union as well as yesterday's ECOFIN meeting which endorsed the political agreement on the Banking package and discussed taxation on the digital economy.
5 December 2018