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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Facebook commits to greater transparency on use of consumers' data thanks to EU-wide action
On 9 April the European Commission and consumer protection authorities welcomed Facebook's updated terms and services which will enable consumers to better understand how their data is used by the social network to sell targeted adverts . The new terms detail what services Facebook sells to third parties based on the use of their user's data, how consumers can close their accounts and for what reasons accounts can be disabled. These developments follow exchanges between the Commission and national authorities to ensure Facebook fully disclosed its business model in plain language for users.
EU-China Summit rebalances the strategic partnership
The 21st EU-China Summit took place on 9 April in Brussels, providing a forum for advancing bilateral and multilateral agendas, including state aid control, competition policy, energy co-operation, railway corridors. The EU pledged to work for a more balanced economic relationship with China while pursuing deeper engagement on global and multilateral issues, including reform of the World Trade Organisation. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk represented the European Union alongside the premier of the People's Republic of China, Li Keqiang.
Commission takes forward work on guidelines for artificial intelligence ethics
On 8 April, the European Commission presented the next steps towards building trust in artificial intelligence. Following extensive and constructive engagement from many stakeholders including businesses, academia and civil society, the Commission launched a pilot phase to ensure that the development of ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence (AI) development can be implemented in practice. The Commission wants to hear from industry, research institutes and public authorities.
New European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals
On 5 March, the EU ministers approved the creation of a European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals based on a Commission proposal. The central system will improve the exchange of criminal records information on convicted non-EU-citizens and stateless persons through ECRIS, the existing European Criminal Records Information System.
EU foreign investment screening regulation enters into force
A new EU framework for screening foreign direct investments entered into force on 10 April 2019. The framework will create a cooperation mechanism where member states and the Commission will be able to exchange information and raise concerns related to specific investments; allow the Commission to issue opinions when an investment poses a threat to the security or public order of more than one member state, or when an investment could undermine a project or programme of interest to the whole EU, such as Horizon 2020 or Galileo. It will also encourage international cooperation on investment screening, including sharing experience, best practices and information on issues of common concerns and set certain requirements for member states who wish to maintain or adopt a screening mechanism at national level. Member states will retain the last word whether a specific investment operation should be allowed or not in their territory.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
17 UK SMEs awarded €50,000 of EU funding to bring innovations to market
Seventeen UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were selected on 11 April for €50,000 of EU funding to help get their innovations to market faster under the latest round of the European Innovation Council SME Instrument. The companies will also get free coaching and business acceleration services.
European Commission issues practical guidance to member states in 5 areas of "no-deal" Brexit preparedness
On 10 April, the European Commission took stock of the European Union's intense ‘no-deal' preparations and issued practical guidance to member states covering citizens' residence and social security entitlements, data protection, medicine and medical devices, police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters and fisheries. The measures will ensure the smooth practical implementation of EU and national contingency measures if the United Kingdom were to leave the EU without a deal, whilst maintaining a coordinated approach throughout any such ‘no-deal' phase.
EU prepared to support European farmers in possible "no-deal" Brexit scenario
At a press conference on 8 April, Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan stated that the EU remained focused on protecting the agriculture and farming interests of EU citizens in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit. For instance, the Common Agricultural Policy has existing tools that can be activated in the event of market disturbances acting as safety nets, such as public intervention, private storage, crisis prevention and risk management. The Commission also published in its Market Access Database detailed information on the rules the UK would apply to imports from the EU in the event of a “no-deal” scenario. Based on information made publicly available by the UK authorities, the database contains information for 121 countries and now provides the same level of information for exports to the UK as for any other EU third country trade partner, such as the US or China.
Latest news on the Article 50 negotiations can be found here
For upcoming events, please have a look at our newsletter
EU in the media this week
Every week, we pick out one of the week's most interesting stories or comment pieces….which does not mean we agree with everything it says:
'The myth of the Great British Brexit trade policy' by James Kirkup in the Spectator
EU fact of the week
Record start in 2019 for EU agri-food trade
The value of EU agri-food exports in January 2019 increased for the fourth year in a row to reach a new record level of €11.2 billion, according to the latest monthly agri-food trade report published on 11 April. Agri-food imports to the EU also increased to €10.8 billion bringing the monthly trade value to more than €22 billion, compared to €21 billion in January 2018. The EU trade surplus increased to €0.4 billion, compared to €0.3 billion a year ago. On a year-on-year basis, the value of agri-food imports greatly increased from the USA (+14%). EU import values also went up for agri-food products coming from Russia, Ukraine, China, Tunisia and Pakistan. The main export destinations for EU products remain the USA, followed by China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia.
Tweet of the week
Through honesty and determination we will face our challenges together. The EU believes in China and we believe in our partnership. Ready to work together and be more ambitious in standing up for our interests and values.
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) April 9, 2019
Quote of the week
“EU development cooperation helps improve life opportunities for millions of people across the world. The EU and its member states have invested over €74 billion in development in 2018 – over half the world's development efforts. In the future, the EU and its member states should not only maintain our leading position, but also keep up efforts to further increase our development assistance.” Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica commenting on OECD's Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) finding that the EU continued to be world's biggest development aid donor in 2018.
Picture of the week
EU-funded researchers played a key role in the project to obtain the first ever image of a black hole unveiled on 10 April. The image was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope, a global scientific collaboration involving more than 200 scientists from around the world.