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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Iran: EC President calls for talks to be rekindled
On 8 January, a special meeting of the College of Commissioners was convened to discuss the situation stemming from the tensions in Iraq, Iran, the wider Middle East, as well as Libya. Speaking to media afterwards, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The current crisis deeply affects not only the region but all of us. And the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue. We are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks. There cannot be enough of that. The European Union in its own way has a lot to offer. We have established and time tested relations with many actors in the region and beyond to de-escalate the situation.”
Croatia assumes the presidency of the EU council
President von der Leyen and the College of Commissioners visited Zagreb on 9 and 10 January for the inauguration of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. It is the first time Croatia has assumed the role since it joined the EU in 2013. During the next six months, Croatia will lead the work of the Council, building co-operation and agreement between member states. The presidency also gives Croatia the opportunity to steer its own policy priorities which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković set out as a Europe that develops, a Europe that connects, a Europe that protects, an influential Europe.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
“Old friends – new beginnings”: the EU is ready to design a new, unprecedented partnership
On Wednesday, 8 January European President von der Leyen met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at No 10 to frame the forthcoming discussions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. Both leaders agreed that the EU and the UK share common values and many interests, and that there are many areas where cooperation on the global stage will be invaluable, such as climate change, human rights, security, etc. President von der Leyen stressed the EU fully respects the decision by the UK to leave the EU, but the decision brings with it consequences, as no relationship can be as close as being a member of the EU.
Earlier in the day, the President addressed students at the London School of Economics outlining some broad ideas about building a future EU-UK partnership after the UK leaves the European Union. The President said: “We are ready to design a new partnership with zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping. A partnership that goes well beyond trade and is unprecedented in scope. Everything from climate action to data protection, fisheries to energy, transport to space, financial services to security. And we are ready to work day and night to get as much of this done within the timeframe we have.” However, she also warned that the path ahead is not going to be easy: “Without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise. The European Union's objectives in the negotiation are clear. We will work for solutions that uphold the integrity of the EU, its single market and its Customs Union. There can be no compromise on this.”
Latest news on the Article 50 negotiations can be found here
UK-based researchers most successful recipients of ERC grant funding
On 10 January, the Commission announced 11 UK-based researchers will each receive a €150,000 European Research Council proof of concept grant to help them put their new discoveries into practice. Innovations include social wearable sensors to support engagement and learning in children with autism and learning difficulties (UCL) and graphene-based adaptive thermal shields for satellites (University of Manchester). Researchers can use the additional money to investigate business opportunities, establish intellectual property rights or conduct technical validation for their frontier research findings. Altogether, 76 EU researchers will share a cash injection totalling €11.4 million.
The announcement completes the third and final round of the 2019 ERC proof of concept grant competition which had an overall budget of €30 million. Of the 498 proposals evaluated, two hundred grants were awarded to researchers working in 22 countries. Most grants were awarded to UK based researchers (34), followed by The Netherlands (24) and Italy (20).
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:
Thanks to the Erasmus programme, my small world grew big. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett writes of her year studying in Europe was the making of her, but fears this opportunity may now be lost for future generations.
EU fact of the week
From 1 January 2020, the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels is reduced to 0.5%, down from 3.5%, globally. The move will help reduce air pollution and protect health and the environment. Sulphur Oxide (SOx) emissions from ships' combustion engines cause acid rain and generate fine dust that can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as reduced life expectancy. Since 2012, the EU has taken firm action to reduce the sulphur content of marine fuels through the Sulphur Directive. In 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) maintained 2020 as entry-into-force date of the global 0.5% sulphur cap.
Tweet of the week
Intellectual property rights infringements worldwide cost European firms billions of euros in lost revenue and put thousands of jobs at risk.
The EU steps up protection of European intellectual property in global markets. More here: https://t.co/mF2gvWVBZC #IPR #EUprotects pic.twitter.com/iL5vyoeels
— European Commission(@EU_Commission) January 9, 2020
Quote of the week
“It is in our mutual interest to build a new partnership between the European Union and the United Kingdom, one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view”, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President.
Picture of the week
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at No 10 Downing Street