In advance of the third African Union – European Union Agriculture Ministerial Conference taking place in Rome, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan yesterday (19 June) met His Holiness Pope Francis to inform him of the two continents' growing "partnership of equals" in agriculture and rural development policy.
Commissioner Hogan thanked Pope Francis for his "strong advocacy for policies that support rural communities to be the architects of their own development", and in this context drew his attention to this week's third African Union – European Union Agriculture Ministerial, where a historic Political Declaration will be signed, committing both continents to a shared agenda for greater action.
Ireland was ranked best in the EU for Employment Impacts and Sales Impacts on the 2019 EU Commission Innovation Scoreboard out today. Ireland is also characterised as a "Strong" innovator, the second highest category out of four (leader/ strong/ moderate / modest).
A new EU report was published today on the progress achieved in the fight against disinformation and the main lessons to be drawn from the European elections.
The report shows that, while it is still too early to draw final conclusions about the level and impact of disinformation in the recent European Parliament elections, it is clear that the actions taken by the EU – together with numerous journalists, fact-checkers, platforms, national authorities, researchers and civil society – have helped to deter attacks and expose attempts at interfering in our democratic processes. Increased public awareness made it harder for malicious actors to manipulate the public debate.
As of tomorrow, 15 June, trucks and buses registered in the EU for the first time must have a smart digital tachograph installed.
The tachograph is the tool installed in trucks and buses which records the activities of drivers. Its new features will improve greatly the enforcement of the EU rules on driving and resting times, which truck and bus drivers must respect, in line with the efforts by the Commission with the "Europe on the Move" packages for a socially fair transition towards clean energy and digitalisation.
Only 71% of Irish bathing waters monitored last year met the European Union's highest and most stringent "excellent" standard for water cleanliness compared to an EU average of just over 85%, according to the latest annual European bathing water quality report.
In four EU countries (Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Greece) 95% or more of bathing sites were found to have excellent water quality.
The European Commission presents today the 2019 country-specific recommendations (CSRs), giving economic policy guidance to all EU Member States for the next 12 to 18 months.
According to the Recommendations, Ireland continues to face macroeconomic imbalances related to large stocks of external, private and public debt but is projected to comply with the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact in 2019 and 2020. However, revenue volatility and population ageing pose risks to long-term fiscal sustainability.
The European Council today formally adopted the remaining elements of the Clean Energy package presented by the European Commission in 2016. This represents a major step towards completing the Energy Union.
The new laws adopted today include a regulation and a directive on electricity which make the EU's electricity market more interconnected, flexible and consumer-centred. The regulation on risk-preparedness in the electricity sector will ensure the security of electricity supply in crisis situations. The package also includes an overhaul of the role and functioning of ACER, the Agency for the Cooperation of Electricity Regulators.
Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: "This is the most ambitious set of energy proposals ever presented by the European Commission. It has been adopted in record time with impressive support from the European Parliament and Council. With its completion, we have made the EU's Energy Union - one of the ten political priorities of the Juncker Commission – a reality. I truly believe it will accelerate the clean energy transition and give all Europeans access to secure, competitive and sustainable energy."
A fund of €50 million for Irish beef farmers has been agreed by the European Commission. The Irish government will have the possibility to match this fund, which should bring the total amount of financial support for Irish beef farmers to €100 million.
Speaking this afternoon, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said that “this fund recognises the particular difficulty that Irish beef farmers have experienced during an unprecedented and sustained period of low prices, principally driven by events beyond their control. This fund will support a fragile but very important sector and protect its long-term viability. The European Commission has concluded that the sector is in need of an immediate response.”
The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Insurance Ireland to assess whether the conditions of access to its Insurance Link data pooling system may restrict competition, in breach of EU rules.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Insurance is essential for all car drivers in Europe. We are investigating whether companies wishing to offer their services on the Irish motor insurance market may have been unfairly prevented from accessing a data pool managed by Insurance Ireland for its member companies. This could potentially reduce Irish drivers' choice of motor insurance policies at competitive prices."
According to the European Commission's Spring 2019 Economic Forecast: "GDP growth in Ireland is forecast to moderate as support from the external environment weakens. Nevertheless, underlying economic activity is expected to remain robust, driven by investment in construction and positive labour market developments. The government deficit is projected to turn into a surplus, but risks to the fiscal outlook remain."
The Spring 2019 forecast predicts that Ireland's GDP will grow by 3.8% in 2019 and by 3.4% in 2020 which is a little below the rates of 4.1% and 3.7% predicted respectively in its Winter economic forecast (Feb 2019).