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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
The future of EU finances
In less than five months, the Commission will propose the next long-term budget for the EU – the Multiannual Financial Framework or "MFF" – after 2020. On 10 January, EU Commissioners held a first discussion on the next MFF. Resources are stretched at the seams but the EU budget is expected to continue investing in growth, jobs and innovation while addressing the major challenges of the decade to come – the digital revolution, globalisation, climate change, as well as migration, defence and security. The Commission also discussed potential new sources of direct funding to the EU budget such as a tax on plastics to incentivise the reduced use of plastic packaging.
Commission proposes to invest €1 billion in world-class European supercomputers
On 11 January, the European Commission announced plans to invest jointly with member states and private partners in high-performance computers (HPC) – machines that process complex scientific or engineering tasks which require significant computational power beyond the capacity of every day computers. These supercomputers and the technology behind them underpin long-term weather forecasts and predictions of natural disasters, the design of renewable energy parks or precision medicine for personalised cancer treatment.
Consumers to benefit from cheaper, safer and more innovative electronic payments
European consumers will be able to reap the full benefits of paying online for goods and services, thanks to new rules that will make it cheaper, easier and safer to make electronic payments. The revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), which will apply as of tomorrow (13 January), aims to modernise Europe's payment services to the benefit of both consumers and businesses, so as to keep pace with this rapidly evolving market. The revised Payment Services Directive was first proposed by the Commission in July 2013. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union said. "This legislation is another step towards a digital single market in the EU. It will promote the development of innovative online and mobile payments, which will benefit the economy and growth. With PSD2 becoming applicable, we are banning surcharges for consumer debit and credit card payments. This could save more than €550 million per year for EU consumers. Consumers will also be better protected when they make payments."
Institutional priorities for 2018
On 10 January, EU Commissioners discussed the institutional priorities for 2018, a year to deliver on the reform of the Economic and Monetary Union, secure the EU's borders, overhaul the EU's asylum system, get back to a fully functioning Schengen area, complete the Digital Single Market, and bring the Western Balkans closer to the Union. Discussions also included an overview of the major new proposals to be expected for 2018, which will feed into the Roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.
President Juncker and EU Commissioners in Sofia for the opening of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU
The College of Commissioners were in Sofia this week to mark the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Today (12 January), the College participated in meetings with the Bulgarian government to discuss the main priorities of the Presidency around the following themes: 1. External relations, security and defence, migration and justice; 2. An inclusive and sustainable Europe closer to the citizens; 3. A competitive, innovative and digital Europe.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Help shape EU policy to halt decline in bees, butterflies and other pollinators
Opinions are being sought to help shape European policy aimed at halting the decline in bee and butterfly species and other wild pollinators. The questionnaire covers the causes and consequences of pollinator decline, potential mitigation measures and the EU approach to the problem. Respondents have until 5th April 2018 to contribute views on the EU pollinators initiative.
Speech by Michel Barnier
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier spoke at the Trends Manager of the Year 2017 event in Brussels on 9 January. After outlining the benefits of the single market, he wondered what kind of future relationship the UK wants with the EU. Based on the UK's red lines, he concluded that the only model possible is a free trade agreement but added that this cannot include all the benefits of the Customs Unions and the Single Market. "This is not a question of punishment or revenge; we simply want to remain in charge of our own rules and the way in which they are applied. As it seeks to regain its decision-making autonomy, the United Kingdom must respect ours," said Michel Barnier. He also explained the EU's view that on top of trade, the EU would like the EU-UK's future relationship to include security, defence and foreign policy, as well as justice and home affairs and include some sectors such as aviation and fisheries.
Michel Barnier's full speech
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:
UK membership of European single market worth 4% more in GDP by Larry Elliott in the Guardian
EU fact of the week
The EU budget is organised in 7-year cycles called multi-annual financial frameworks. It defines the EU's long-term spending priorities in line with political priorities agreed by the member states and sets annual maximum amounts to be spent on each priority. The financial framework stretches over several years to ensure sound and responsible financial planning and management. The EU budget stands at about 1% of the 28 EU countries' gross domestic product (GDP) – the total value of all goods and services produced in the EU. By contrast, the budgets of EU countries represent 47% of GDP on average. In fact, the EU budget is smaller than the Austrian or Belgian national budgets. As Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put it earlier this week, the EU budget costs the European taxpayer one cup of coffee a day.
Tweet of the week
— Federica Mogherini (@FedericaMog) January 11, 2018
Quote of the week
"We are surprised that the UK is surprised that we are preparing for a scenario announced by the UK government itself," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.