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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Particles accelerator starts work in the Middle East thanks to EU funding
The Synchrotron light for experimental science and applications in the Middle East (SESAME), a synchrotron facility which like the Large Hadron Collider in CERN uses light to accelerate particles, started work in Allan, Jordan this week. SESAME is the first major international research infrastructure in the Middle East and will host researchers from around the world. The EU has invested a total of €18.5 million (£15.6m) in the facility. Experiments at SESAME will enable cutting edge research in fields like medicine, biology, materials science, physics, chemistry, healthcare, the environment, agriculture and archaeology.
Relocation and resettlement: Commission calls on all member states to deliver and meet obligations
On 16 May, the Commission adopted its twelfth progress report on the EU's emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken since 12 April 2017. Relocation in this context means the transfer from Greece and Italy to other member states of asylum seekers with a high chance of having their applications approved. Resettlement provides legal and safe pathways for persons in need of international protection to enter the EU.
The number of persons relocated so far in 2017 is almost as many as in the whole of 2016. The total number of relocations now stands at 18,418, proving that relocation works if member states abide by what was agreed. However, whilst most member states are active and relocate regularly, some have still not relocated at all, disregarding their legal obligation. On resettlement, member states have continued to make significant progress, with safe and legal pathways being provided to 16,163 persons so far, more than two-thirds of the agreed resettlements under the EU scheme.
New EU support for education in Syria
On 17 May, the EU renewed its commitment to the right of every human to education, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Under the instrument contributing to stability and peace, the EU will provide €10 million (£8.4m) to support education directorates in opposition-held areas in Syria. The EU's priority is to maintain basic services such as access and quality of education for the Syrian population in the midst of the conflict, especially in areas where sufficient funding is lacking, in order to be ready to assist further once a genuine political transition in the country is underway. EU funds will help the education directorates to meet the basic living needs of the teachers and staff as well as to address issues of access to and quality of schooling.
Measures to fight poaching and to end trade in raw ivory
The European Commission is moving to end the export of old raw ivory as of 1 July, with the adoption of new guidance on the EU rules governing the ivory trade. This week's decision, foreseen in the EU action plan against wildlife trafficking, will help prevent legal ivory trade fuelling international ivory trafficking, which has risen significantly over the last decade. The Commission will also grant new financial support of €2.25 million (£1.9m) to the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to help implement the decisions on international wildlife trade agreed at the CITES Conference of Parties in October 2016.
Commission fines Facebook €110 million for providing misleading information about WhatsApp takeover
The European Commission has fined Facebook €110 million (£93m) for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission's 2014 investigation under the EU merger regulation of Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp. The EU merger regulation obliges companies in a merger investigation to provide correct information as this is essential for the Commission to review mergers and takeovers in a timely and effective manner. This obligation applies regardless of whether the information has an impact on the ultimate outcome of the merger assessment.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Poole hosts European Maritime Day conference
Europe's maritime community, industry professionals and policy-makers gathered in Poole, Dorset, on 18-19 May to exchange ideas and foster partnerships as the town hosted the annual European Maritime Day conference and exhibition. Under the banner "The Future of our Seas" the two-day conference introduced corporate responsibility as one of the pivotal aspects of sustainability and provided an opportunity for governments, NGOs and business leaders from around the world to show what their companies are doing or pledging to do to protect the oceans.
Commissioner Vella's speech
English remains the top foreign language studied by Europeans, but the number of British teens studying a foreign language is low
Data from a report released by the Commission on 18 May shows that 90% of primary and secondary school students in Europe study English. However, the UK scores a less flattering record in language learning. Less than half of its upper secondary students in general education studies foreign languages. This is the lowest by far in Europe.
New geographical indication from the United Kingdom
The Commission has approved today (19 May) the addition of a new wine name from the United Kingdom to the quality register of Protected Designations of Origin (PDO). The "Darnibole" is a white, dry wine made from bacchus grapes variety. Darnibole is situated in the centre of Cornwall.
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EU in the media this week
Every week, we pick out one of the week's most interesting stories or comment pieces:
Indifference to the cyber-crime threat is no longer an option by Julian King in the Financial Times
EU fact of the week
European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures
The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) was set-up in 2002 and has a key role in policy-making on research infrastructures in Europe. In particular the ESFRI contributes to the development of a strategic roadmap that identifies vital new European research infrastructures for the next 10-20 years. It helps avoid duplication of investment while promoting cross-border collaboration to make the best use of major research facilities.
The Horizon 2020 programme will support research infrastructures with about €2.5 billion (£2.1bn) between 2014 and 2020.
The ESFRI is a self-regulated body and its members are senior science-policy officials who represent ministers responsible for research in their country and the Commission.
Tweet of the week
— Europol (@Europol) May 15, 2017
Quote of the week
"The process shows how united and prepared the European Union will be. It underlines how deep our commitment to transparency already is," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the preparation for the negotiations with the UK.
Picture of the week
Schuman roundabout in Brussels – where the EU institutions' headquarters are based – on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2017, 17 May. In the evening, the Commission's Berlaymont building – pictured – was also lit up in the colours of the rainbow flag.