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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
EU budget boosts growth in Europe and saves lives abroad
On 11 July, the European Commission released three reports which show how the 2016 EU budget was spent and managed. For example, thanks to the newly established European Border and Coast Guard Agency, EU funding helped save the lives of more than 170,000 people in the Mediterranean. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three EU-funded scientists, bringing the total of EU-supported Nobel laureates to 17, among them two Manchester-based researchers who discovered graphene.
The reports were released in conjunction with recommendations by the High Level Group on Simplification on how to simplify the rules for EU funding after 2020. The group acknowledged the achievements of the EU Cohesion Policy, but also concluded that the current volume of rules does not always make life easy for local authorities managing EU funds or businesses looking to apply for them. It recommended that the existing system is simplified and that rules for different programmes are harmonised.
Cracking down on the illegal import of cultural goods used to finance terrorism
On 13 July, the European Commission put forward new rules to clamp down on the illegal import and trafficking of cultural goods from outside the EU, often linked to terrorist financing and other criminal activity. At the moment, the EU applies prohibitions on goods from Iraq and Syria but in the absence of a general EU framework for the import of cultural goods, current rules can be exploited by unscrupulous exporters and importers who can use the profits to fund illegal activities.
The proposed rules set out a number of measures to ensure the import of illicit cultural goods becomes much more difficult:
- A new common EU definition for 'cultural goods' which covers a broad range of objects including archaeological finds, ancient scrolls, the remains of historical monuments, artwork, collections and antiques. The new rules will apply only to cultural goods most at risk, ie those at least 250 years old;
- The introduction of a new licensing system for the import of archaeological objects, parts of monuments and ancient manuscripts and books. Importers will have to obtain import licences from the competent EU authorities in advance;
- For other categories of cultural goods, importers will have to go through a more rigorous certification system by submitting a signed statement or affidavit as proof the goods have been exported legally from the third country;
- Customs authorities will also have the power to seize and retain goods when it cannot be demonstrated the cultural goods in question have been legally exported.
EU – Ukraine summit
The 19th summit between the EU and Ukraine took place on 13 July in Kyiv during which progress of Ukraine's ambitious reform efforts was reviewed. Further reforms to reinforce anti-corruption and transparency were identified as a priority. EU leaders announced the €200 million of priority programmes for 2017, including support for conflict-affected areas in the east of Ukraine, energy efficiency and public finance management.
Factsheet on EU-Ukraine relations
Western Balkans Summit 2017
The 2017 Western Balkans Summit took place on 12 July in Trieste, Italy. Heads of Government and Ministers of the Western Balkans, their counterparts from several EU member states and High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioners Johannes Hahn and Violeta Bulc discussed key areas of regional cooperation, and set out measures to better connect the region's infrastructures, economies and people.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Michel Barnier on the state of play of Brexit negotiations
The European Commission's Chief Negotiator for Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom, Michel Barnier, held a press conference on 12 July after he had updated EU Commissioners on the state of play of Brexit negotiations. He said: "We need to know on which points we agree, and on which points we disagree, so that we can negotiate in earnest." He spoke about the different positions – EU and UK – when it comes to EU citizens' rights in the UK and vice-versa. He went on to stress the UK needs to recognise its financial obligations to the EU – money which was already committed. He added that the EU wants to quickly start discussions on the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.
Q&A on the state of play of the Article 50 negotiations
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:
Optimism in the European project is finally back just as the UK prepares to leave, by Ann Mettler and Paweł Świeboda – respectively Head and Deputy Head of the European Political Strategic Centre – in the Independent
EU fact of the week
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles visitors who are EU residents to receive treatment under the same conditions and cost as those covered by state healthcare provisions in any EU country they are visiting, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. In the UK, cards are available from the NHS free of charge in advance of travel. Information available through this smartphone app.
Prescriptions issued by a doctor registered in the EU are valid in all EU countries. However, in order to make it easier to get your prescription medicine dispensed abroad, doctors must include specific information.
Tweet of the week
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) July 13, 2017
Quote of the week
"More steps have been taken in the last three years than in the previous twenty, Ukraine should be proud of what it has achieved," President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker at the EU-Ukraine summit.
Picture of the week
Jeremy Corbyn met with Michel Barnier, European Commission's Chief Negotiator for Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom