Today the Leaders' Meeting on EU-Turkey relations is taking place in Varna (Bulgaria). Hosted by Prime Minister Borissov, representing the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU, President Juncker, President Tusk and President Erdoğan will meet for a working dinner to discuss all aspects of current and future EU-Turkey relations. The main points of discussion will be cooperation in energy, security, the fight against terrorism and migration management and the EU's assistance for refugees in Turkey as the EU-Turkey Statement continues to deliver results. Earlier this month, two years on from the launch of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Commission proposed to mobilise the second €3 billion tranche after the first part of the Facility was fully committed and contracted by the end of 2017. The visa liberalisation process and the inextricably linked domestic political situation and security matters in Turkey will also feature high on the agenda. The meeting takes place after European Leaders condemned Turkey's continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea during the European Council last week as undermining regional stability and security. Energy cooperation will also be prominent in the leaders' discussion where EU leaders will once again stress that good neighbourly relations with all EU Member States are key for an enhanced energy security. Finally, counterterrorism actions and cooperation will also be part of this evening's dialogue. Ahead of the summit, following the European Council meeting last week where Turkey featured high on the agenda, President Juncker said: "The differences in views between the EU and Turkey are many. It will be a frank and open debate where we will not hide our differences but where we will seek to improve our cooperation”. A press conference will follow this evening, timing to be confirmed. Watch live on EbS here.
The European Commission is today hosting a high-level conference on its strategy to reform the financial system in support of the EU's climate and sustainable development agenda.
The European Commission has today proposed new rules to ensure that digital business activities are taxed in a fair and growth-friendly way in the EU. The measures would make the EU a global leader in designing tax laws fit for the modern economy and the digital age.
On Thursday, March 22nd, President Juncker, Commission Vice-Presidents Dombrovskis and Katainen, the President of France Emmanuel Macron and many other high-level panellists will speak at a conference on financing sustainable growth. There, Vice-President Dombrovskis will present the Commission Action Plan on Sustainable Future, which sets out the Commission's vision of a financial system that supports sustainable growth. "I want Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change," said President Juncker.
The high-level conference is hosted by the European Commission in Brussels, and will be live-streamed.
Today the European Commission launched the WiFi4EU web portal. As of now, municipalities all over Europe are invited to register their details ahead of the first call for projects in mid-May, for the chance to benefit from EU financing to build free public wireless internet hotspots.
The WiFi4EU programme offers vouchers worth €15,000 for municipalities to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces, including libraries, museums, public parks, squares. As stated by President Jean-Claude Juncker, the WiFi4EU initiative aims at connecting "every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020."
€25.5 million from the Cohesion Fund will contribute to finishing the works on a key motorway linking the port of Limassol, an important economic hub and the largest port in Cyprus, to the city of Paphos on the western coast of the island. "This EU-funded project will ensure smoother transport of passengers and goods from and to the Limassol port, one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean transit trade, directly contributing to the competitiveness of Cyprus' real economy," commented Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Crețu.
Erasmus+, one of the EU's iconic and most successful programmes, today adds an online version to its mobility actions, to link more students and young people from European countries and the Southern neighbourhood of the EU. The European Commission has today launched Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange, a project to promote intercultural dialogue and improve the skills of at least 25,000 young people through digital learning tools over the next two years. The project covers the 33 Erasmus+ programme countries and the Southern Mediterranean region covering Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia.
Following through on its commitment to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, the European Commission is today mobilising additional funding for the Facility for Refugees which has so far given 500.000 children access to education and is supporting 1.2 million refugees with monthly cash transfers. Today's decision establishes the legal framework for the second tranche of €3 billion, as foreseen in the EU-Turkey Statement, mobilising €1 billion from the EU budget. The first tranche of the Facility set up in 2016 was made up of €1 billion from the EU budget and €2 billion from Member States' contributions. The Commission proposes to continue this arrangement, so that the successful and effective work of the Facility for projects benefiting refugees in Turkey can continue.
The Commission is today proposing an ambitious and comprehensive package of measures to tackle non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe, capitalising on the significant progress already made in reducing risks in the banking sector. With today's far-reaching measures, the Commission is delivering on the Council's Action Plan to address the high stock of NPLs and prevent their possible future accumulation. It builds on ongoing efforts by Member States, supervisors, credit institutions and the EU: this has led to stocks of NPLs declining in recent years across banks and EU countries.
The Commission is today proposing to reform the EU's common visa policy to adapt the rules to evolving security concerns, challenges linked to migration and new opportunities offered by technological developments. The proposed changes to the Visa Code will make it easier for legitimate travellers to obtain a visa to come to Europe, facilitating tourism, trade and business, whilst strengthening security and mitigating irregular migration risks.