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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
EU and the UK
European Commission issues a final call to all EU citizens and businesses to prepare for the UK's withdrawal on 31 October 2019
With eight weeks to go until the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union on 31 October 2019, on 4 September the European Commission published its sixth Brexit preparedness Communication and reiterated its call on all stakeholders in the EU27 to prepare for a ‘no-deal' scenario. In light of the continued uncertainty in the United Kingdom regarding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement and the overall domestic political situation, a ‘no-deal' scenario on 1 November 2019, remains a possible, although undesirable, outcome. The Commission issued a detailed checklist to help those businesses that trade with the UK to make final preparations. It also proposed to the European Parliament and the Council to make targeted technical adjustments to the duration of the EU's ‘no-deal' contingency measures in the area of transport. Finally, the Commission has proposed that the European Solidarity Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund are available to support businesses, workers and member states most affected by a ‘no-deal' scenario.
UK-based researchers benefit from ERC funding
Sixty-four UK-based early career researchers will benefit from around €98 (£88.7m) of EU funding to set up their own research teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. The grants are part of the EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.
Plymouth City Council's "green minds" awarded nearly €4m of EU funding
An urban rewilding, training and communications programme developed by Plymouth City Council has been awarded nearly €4m (£3.7m) of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding. Green Minds was one of five projects promoting sustainable use of land and natured based solutions chosen under the latest call for proposals for Urban Innovative Actions: an EU programme which supports urban authorities to experiment with bold and innovative solutions to urban challenges.
Regiostars Awards 2019: cross border healthcare project among finalists
A cross border community paramedic project covering remote areas in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland is among 24 finalists of this year's Regiostars Awards. The EU co-funded project – Cooperation and Working Together (link is external) (CAWT) – focuses on four localities and involves paramedics who have received special training to treat people in their communities or own homes rather than transport them to busy A&E hospital units.
Latest news on the Article 50 negotiations can be found here
Main news from Brussels this week
EU channels initial emergency aid to the Bahamas
On 6 September, after the strongest Atlantic storm on record hit the Bahamas, the EU mobilised an initial €500,000 in immediate emergency funding to assist those affected by Hurricane Dorian. The funding will address urgent needs such as shelter, water, hygiene and food. The European Union's 24/7 emergency response coordination centre is in close contact with the authorities of the Bahamas to monitor the situation and channel further EU assistance. In addition, the Commission deployed a humanitarian expert to conduct a rapid needs assessment and the EU's emergency Copernicus satellite service is currently providing maps of the area.
EU-funded research that captured first image of a black hole wins Breakthrough Prize
On 5 September, the 2020 Breakthrough Prize was awarded to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global scientific collaboration involving EU-funded scientists that captured the first-ever image of a black hole. Known as the “Oscar of Science", the Breakthrough Prize, awarded since 2013, recognises achievements in life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. Each award is worth $3 million. EU funding through the European Research Council (ERC) provided crucial support to the Event Horizon Telescope. In particular, the EU made a grant of €14 million available for three of the leading scientists and their teams involved in the discovery.
EU programme helps milk, fruits and vegetables to reach schoolchildren across Europe
On 2 September, the European Commission announced that the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme will resume in participating EU countries for 2019-2020. The EU school scheme aims at promoting healthy eating and balanced diets through the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products while also proposing educational programmes on agriculture and good nutrition. Each school year, a total of €250 million (£224 million) is allocated to the scheme. For 2019-2020, €145 million (£130 million) was set aside for fruit and vegetables, and €105 million (£94 million) for milk and other dairy products. Although participation in the scheme is voluntary, all EU member states chose to participate, for either a section or the entire scheme. National allocations for EU countries taking part in the scheme for this school year were approved and adopted by the European Commission in March 2019. Countries can also top up EU aid with national funds.
EU countries lost €137 billion in VAT revenues in 2017
EU countries lost €137 billion (£123 billion) in Value-Added Tax (VAT) revenues in 2017 according to a study published by the European Commission on 5 September. The so-called 'VAT Gap' - or the overall difference between the expected VAT revenue and the amount actually collected - has reduced somewhat compared to previous years but remains very high. This substantial VAT Gap again highlights the need for comprehensive reform of the EU VAT rules, as proposed in 2017 by the Commission, and increased cooperation between member states to clamp down on VAT fraud and to make the rules work for legitimate businesses and traders. The VAT Gap measures the effectiveness of VAT enforcement and compliance measures in each member state, as it provides an estimate of revenue loss due to fraud and evasion, tax avoidance, bankruptcies, financial insolvencies as well as miscalculations.
EU launches a new counter-terrorism register
On 5 September, Eurojust, the EU's agency on judicial cooperation, launched a counter-terrorism register, which will help EU countries exchange information on terrorist offences in a quick, efficient and uniform manner. Member states already share information with each other on the suspects of terrorist offences who are under criminal investigation or prosecution in their countries. The new Counter-Terrorism Register will enable them to do so more efficiently and effectively, as Eurojust will be able to better detect links between terrorist cases in different member states and provide timely and proactive feedback to national authorities as well as follow-up measures needed.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
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:
‘Goodbye Brussels: what I learnt in eight years covering the EU’ by Alex Barker in The Financial Times.
EU fact of the week
EU is yet again the largest global exported of food and agricultural products as EU exports reach €138 billion in 2018
The EU is for yet another year the largest global exporter of agri-food products as EU exports reached €138 billion in 2018, according to a report published on 5 September. Agriculture products represent a 7% share of the value of EU total goods exported in 2018, ranking fourth after machinery, other manufactured goods and chemicals. Agriculture and the food related industries and services together provide almost 44 million jobs in the EU. The top five destinations for EU's agri-food products continues to be the United States, China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia, accounting for 40% of EU exports. Wines and vermouth continue to dominate the basket of exported products with spirits and liqueurs ranking second, followed by infant food and various food preparations, chocolate, pasta and pastry. Regarding imports, the report concludes that the EU became the second biggest importer of agri-food products with €116 billion worth of imports. This brings the EU trade balance for this sector to a positive net of €22 billion.
Tweet of the week
I am happy to have received names from all the EU Member States. Now looking forward to assembling a well-balanced College which I’ll present on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/EfZbJy609r
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 5, 2019
Quote of the week
“The EU's reputation for having safe, sustainably produced, nutritious and quality products is a winning formula in the global marketplace. The Commission is here to assist producers in taking full advantage of opportunities around the globe, while always making sure that our more sensitive sectors are provided with sufficient safeguards”, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan on the EU’s global leading position as exporter of food and agricultural produce.
Picture of the week
European Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen met with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, on 2 September 2019 in Brussels