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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Digital Day 2018, 10 April
Ministers, representatives of EU countries, industry, academia and civil society representatives discussed artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies and eHealth. Twenty-five European countries signed a Declaration of cooperation on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Twenty-two European countries signed a Declaration on the establishment of a European Blockchain Partnership.
Last year's digital day in Rome led to agreements on high-performance computing, as well as initiatives on digital transformation of jobs and connected automated mobility.
More information, including on all Declarations signed
Commission acts to boost trust in food safety studies
On 11 April, the Commission proposed to improve the transparency of scientific studies on food safety. The proposal will: give citizens greater access to information submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on approvals concerning the agri-food chain; provide the possibility for additional studies to be requested by the Commission; and involve national scientists more closely in approval procedures.
Commission strengthens EU consumer rights and enforcement
On 11 April, the Commission proposed a New Deal for Consumers. While the EU already has some of the strongest rules on consumer protection in the world, recent cases like the Dieselgate scandal, have shown that it is difficult to enforce them fully in practice. Concretely, the New Deal for Consumers will empower qualified entities to launch representative legal actions on behalf of consumers. There will also be stronger sanctioning powers for national consumer authorities. Furthermore, the New Deal will extend protection for consumers' when they are online and clarify that misleading dual quality practices (in other words marketing products of different quality in different Member States while using the same branding and packaging) are prohibited.
European Commission acts to ban unfair trade practices in the food supply chain
On 12 April, the Commission proposed to ban the most damaging unfair trading practices in the food supply chain. This will ensure fairer treatment for small and medium-sized food and farming businesses, who are vulnerable to unfair trading practices, for example by large wholesalers and supermarkets. Smaller suppliers often lack bargaining power and alternatives to get their products to consumers. The practices banned include late payments for perishable food products, last minute order cancellations, unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts and forcing the supplier to pay for wasted products. The Commission proposal includes effective enforcement provisions. For example, sanctions can be imposed by national authorities where infringements are established.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Is Brexit a threat to the future of the EU's environment?
On 10 April, EU Brexit Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier spoke to Green 10 – a coalition of ten of the largest European environmental organisations and networks – about Brexit's impact on the EU's environment. He said: "If we make sure that our future partnership is based on a level playing field; if the UK continues to meet international standards and obligations on the environment; if we can assure our citizens of continued effective enforcement of environmental rules; then we would have strongly mitigated the threats of Brexit to the future of the EU's environment."
Michel Barnier's full speech
Commissioner Bulc in London for shipping climate talks
Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc was in London this week for important talks with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN-agency overseeing international shipping. The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) met to adopt an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. The strategy includes a long-term vision for the decarbonisation of the sector and an ambitious global emission reduction objective for the sector of at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. Commissioner Bulc met with the Secretary General of the IMO, Mr Ki-Tack Lim, the Chairman of the MEPC, Mr Hideaki Saito and with state parties, industry and non-governmental organisations. The MEPC also addressed energy efficiency of ships and the reduction of sulphur content in marine fuels.
UK funds in €2.1 billion EU bid to boost venture capital investment in Europe's innovative start-ups
The European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have launched a Pan-European Venture Capital Funds-of-Funds programme (VentureEU) to boost investment in innovative start-up and scale-up companies across Europe. The Commission and the EIF have announced six participating funds including two headquartered in the UK, Aberdeen Standard Investments and Isomer Capital, to receive EU support in their mission to invest in the European venture capital market,. Backed by EU funding to the tune of €410 million, the funds are aiming to raise up to €2.1 billion of public and private investment. In turn this is expected to trigger an estimated €6.5 billion of new investment in innovative start-up and scale-up companies across Europe, doubling the amount of venture capital currently available.
Vice-President Ansip at the London Book Fair
Vice-President Ansip was at the London Book Fair on 10 April to discuss the latest developments in the Digital Single Market. The Vice-President attended the opening ceremony and delivered the Charles Clark Memorial annual lecture, where he spoke about the modernisation of EU copyright rules. Mr Ansip also met Publishers Association members and General Counsel William Bowes and Chief Executive Stephen Lotinga, to discuss Digital Single Market policies relevant to the publishing sector, including copyright and ePrivacy.
EU survey: UK and other publics overestimate scale of non-EU migration but support integration measures
According to a Eurobarometer survey published today British respondents on average estimated that 21% of the UK population were born outside the EU – the real figure is 8.6%. In 18 other Member States, too, the actual proportion of non–EU migrants is half or less than half of the average estimate given by those polled. The older, less educated and less well-off people are, the more likely they are to give a higher estimate. Europeans tend to agree on the main factors that may facilitate or prevent the integration of immigrants as well as on policy measures that support it, such as offering language courses upon arrival, mandatory integration programmes and measures facilitating access to the labour market. The full survey – and factsheets for the UK and every other Member States – can be found here.
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 must not neglect the EU when planning post-Brexit trade deals, says IoD, by Lucy White in City A.M.
EU fact of the week
European Political Strategy Centre
The European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) is the European Commission’s in-house think tank, established in November 2014 by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and operating directly under his authority. The Centre provides the President and the EU Commissioners with strategic, evidence-based analysis and forward-looking policy advice. In January 2018, the EPSC was listed in the top ten global 'best government-affiliated think tanks' by the authoritative Think Tanks & Civil Societies Programme (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania, in its prestigious ‘2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index’, which covers over 6,800 think tanks. In the previous edition of the index, the EPSC was awarded the title of ‘Best New Think Tank 2016’.
Tweet of the week
Constructive meeting w/ Minister for Digital and Creative Industries
#MargotJames on the UK’s initiatives to create a #DataEthicsCenter #CenterofExcellenceAI. Also, good support for #SaferInternet4EU & #IllegalContent #NoWomenNoPanel #WomeninTech. Thank you
— Mariya Gabriel (@GabrielMariya) April 10, 2018
Quote of the week
"I condemn in the strongest terms the recent attacks against
#humanitarian workers in #SouthSudan. Killing & abduction of those who devote their lives to helping others is against all principles of humanity & is a violation of international humanitarian law," EU Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management Christos Stylianides
Picture of the week