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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
African Union – European Union Summit
EU and African Union (AU) leaders met for a 5thsummit on 29-30 November in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. They agreed to put in place a joint EU-AU-UN task force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.
The EU is Africa's main partner and the summit was an opportunity for both sides to scale up their partnership, in particular focussing on youth. In their political declaration the European and African leaders set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future committing to direct their work on four strategic priorities: mobilising investments for African structural and sustainable transformation; investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development; strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance and managing mobility and migration.
Intellectual property: protecting Europe's IP rights and boosting innovation for connected devices
The European Commission clarified on 29 November existing legislative measures which ensure all EU countries apply effective, dissuasive and proportionate remedies against those involved in counterfeiting and piracy. Furthermore, the Commission issued guidance to make sure that basic standards for technologies like WiFi, GSM or 4G and 5G, indispensable for smart-phones, connected vehicles or remote operations, are agreed in a transparent way that fosters innovation for the Internet of Things.
Commission proposes measures to combat VAT fraud in the digital age
On 30 November, the European Commission proposed new rules to boost efforts to tackle VAT (Value Added Tax) fraud by allowing member states to exchange relevant information more quickly online and to share information between tax authorities and law enforcement services. The most cautious estimates show VAT fraud can lead to lost revenues of over €50 billion a year for EU member states – money that should be invested in hospitals, schools and roads.
The future of food and farming – for a flexible, fair and sustainable Common Agricultural Policy
Simpler rules and a more flexible approach are the cornerstone ideas outlined in the Commission's policy document "The Future of Food and Farming" adopted on 29 November. It marks a significant step change in the implementation of the CAP and will mean member states have greater responsibilities to choose how and where to invest their CAP funding in order to meet ambitious common goals on environment, climate change and sustainability.
Payment services: Consumers to benefit from safer and more innovative electronic payments
On 27 November, the Commission adopted rules that will make electronic payments in shops and online safer. They will also allow consumers to access more convenient, cost-effective and innovative solutions offered by payment providers known as FinTech companies, whilst maintaining rigorous data protection and security for EU consumers and businesses. These rules implement the EU's recently-revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) which modernises Europe's payment services so as to keep pace with this rapidly evolving market and allow the European e-commerce market to blossom.
Erasmus+ in 2016: another record year
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Michel Barnier at the Berlin Security Conference
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier spoke at the Berlin Security Conference on 29 November. Mr Barnier outlined the impact Brexit will have on the UK's involvement in the EU's defence and security issues. He stressed that the EU is still waiting for sufficient progress to be made in the UK on the three priorities: citizens' rights, issues relating to the Irish/Northern-Irish border and the financial settlement. Mr Barnier also hoped that the future EU-UK relationship will be an ambitious one with security, defence and foreign policy as key components of it.
Later in the same day and still in Berlin, Mr Barnier addressed entrepreneurs, representatives and facilitators of social dialogue about Brexit's challenges on the occasion of German Employers' Day.
Michel Barnier's full speech at the Berlin Security Conference
Michel Barnier's full speech on the occasion of German Employers' Day
Brexit: European Commission tables legislative amendments for the relocation of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority from London
On 29 November, the European Commission made two legislative proposals to amend the founding regulations of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA). This follows last week's agreement to move the EMA and the EBA from London to Amsterdam and Paris, respectively. The Commission is acting swiftly in order to provide legal certainty and clarity to ensure that both agencies can continue to function smoothly and without disruption beyond March 2019. Under the ordinary legislative procedure, the co-legislators (the European Parliament and the Council) are expected to give priority to the handling of these legislative proposals.
UK European Consumer Centre offers consumers subscription traps advice
The UK European Consumer Centre has issued a checklist to help consumers avoid being caught by unwanted and difficult to cancel subscriptions. The consumer advice organisation highlighted online purchases of health and beauty products, such as slimming pills, face creams and tooth whitening merchandise as sources of potential problems for consumers. The UK ECC is co-funded by the European Commission and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
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EU in the media this week
Every week, we pick out one or two of the week's most interesting stories or comment pieces….which does not mean we agree with everything they say:
The latest cost of quitting Brussels? British farmers learn of sprouts crisis because of a shortage of seasonal workers from Europe by William Turvill in the Daily Mail
Big pharma to unveil £1bn boost for Theresa May’s Brexit future, by Sarah Neville in the Financial Times
EU fact of the week
UK-based researchers biggest beneficiaries in latest EU funding round
More than €100 million (£88m) of new EU funding will enable 60 UK-based researchers to consolidate their teams in some 30 universities and research centres across the UK. This makes the UK the biggest beneficiary of the latest round of European Research Council consolidator grants funding. It will, for example, support novel imaging techniques that will help combat tuberculosis.
Tweet of the week
— Christos Stylianides (@StylianidesEU) November 29, 2017
Quote of the week
"Too many people around the world overlook Africa's incredible energy and desire for change. Not the EU," EU High-Representative Vice-President Federica Mogherini.