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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Long-term EU budget
This week, the European Commission set out more detail on its long-term EU budget (multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2027 – MFF) for certain sectors. The Commission proposed:
- An InvestEU Programme, bringing EU budget financing in the form of loans and guarantees under one roof. These include the InvestEU Fund (€15.2 billion earmarked), the InvestEU Advisory Hub and the InvestEU Portal;
- To renew the 'Connecting Europe Facility', with a budget of €42.3 billion to support investments for transport infrastructure networks (€30.6 billion), energy (€8.7 billion) and digital (€3 billion);
- €16 billion for a new EU Space programme;
- The first ever Digital Europe programme, investing €9.2 billion to align the next long-term EU budget with increasing digital challenges;
- €100 billion for research and innovation (see also fact of the week);
- A new, dedicated €4 billion single market programme which will support businesses' – and in particular SMEs' – competitiveness and will promote human, animal and plant health and animal welfare;
- A continued financial commitment of €950 million for the EU's customs programme and €270 million for the EU's Fiscalis programme, to make tax and customs cooperation between member states better and more efficient.
More detail here
You can read more about last week's announcements here.
There will be further announcements next week on other sectors, including: migration and borders, fisheries, defence, nuclear safety/decommissioning and development.
Upholding the EU's commitment to the Iran nuclear deal and protecting the interests of European companies – next steps
The European Commission adopted on 6 June updates to the so-called Blocking Statute and to the European Investment Bank (EIB)'s External Lending Mandate. These measures will help protect the interests of EU companies investing in Iran and demonstrate the EU's commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The extraterritorial sanctions that the United States will re-impose on Iran are added to the scope of the Blocking Statute, while the update of the EIB's External Lending Mandate makes Iran eligible for investment activities by the EIB.
The Blocking Statute provides that EU residents and companies inform the European Commission of any events arising from third country legislation that would affect their economic or financial interests. The Statute forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them.
The European Parliament and the Council have a period of two months to object to these measures. If no objection is raised, the updated acts will be published and will enter into force at the latest at the beginning of August, by the time the first batch of re-imposed US sanctions will take effect.
EU negotiators reach a political agreement to update the EU's telecoms rules
On 5 June, the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement to update the EU's telecoms rules. The new European Electronic Communications Code will boost investments in very high capacity networks across the EU, including in remote and rural areas. It introduces a safeguard cap to telecom operator's prices for calls from home to other EU countries. This means that from May 2019 onwards consumers would be able to make intra-EU calls at a price not exceeding 19 cents per minute and send SMS for 6 cents. The Code will pave the way for 5G network deployment by ensuring that the pioneer spectrum bands 26 GHz and 3.6 GHz, in addition to 700 MHz, will be available at the same time (by the end of 2020) across Europe and under the same technical conditions.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk are representing the EU at the G7 summit today and tomorrow (8-9 June), which will address the economy, foreign policy, gender equality and the environment. Leaders are likely to discuss the recent unilateral US trade measures as well as relations with Iran, Russia and North Korea. The G7 summit will also be an opportunity for the EU to defend the rules-based order and the organisations which oversee it as the best approach for global governance. Canada holds the G7 presidency until 31 December 2018 and hosts the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Québec.
EU-US trade: European Commission endorses rebalancing duties on US products
EU Commissioners endorsed on 6 June the decision to impose additional duties on the full list of US products notified to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as part of the EU's response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium products. Following this decision, the Commission expects to conclude the relevant procedure in coordination with member states before the end of June, so that the new duties start to apply in July. The WTO Safeguards Agreement allows for such rebalancing which corresponds to the damage caused by the US measures. It is estimated that EU exports worth €6.4 billion (2017) will be affected by the US tariffs. The EU will exercise its rights immediately on US products valued at up to €2.8 billion of trade. The remaining rebalancing on trade valued at €3.6 billion will take place at a later stage.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Article 50 negotiations
Following this week's round of Brexit negotiations, Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator for Brexit, gave a press conference in which he addressed the three points discussed this week: separation matters, Ireland/Northern Ireland and the future partnership. Michel Barnier said progress has been made on a number of issues relating to the withdrawal agreement and he believes these can be solved by the European Council on 29 June. On the UK's proposal on customs aspects of the Irish-Northern Irish backstop, he said he would examine it looking at three questions: Is it a workable solution to avoid a hard border? Does it respect the integrity of the single market and the customs union? Is it an all-weather backstop? Mr Barnier said the paper raises more questions than it provides answers.
Michel Barnier's remarks (see also tweet of the week)
Other news on the Article 50 negotiations can be found here
UK-based Irish inventor wins European Innovator Award for SMEs
On 7 June, London-based Irish product designer and inventor Jane ní Dhulchaointigh won the European Patent Office's Innovator Award for SMEs, for her invention of Sugru: a multi-purpose mouldable glue. Sugru combines the strength of super glue with the pliability of rubber and can be used to repair and personalise everyday items.
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:
Europe’s top science funder shows high-risk research pays off by Inga Vesper in Nature.
EU fact of the week
EU research and innovation funding
Thanks to EU funding, seven new planets have been discovered, major advances have been made on cancer treatment, 1.6 million Ebola vaccine doses are available to save lives, a battery 100 times more powerful than ordinary ones is being developed, bomb-resistant bags will improve air travel safety and durable engineered human heart valves can grow with patients.
The European Commission is proposing a significant increase for the EU's next research and innovation funding programme, Horizon Europe, to a total budget of €100 billion. A recent review of the first three years of the current Horizon 2020 programme concluded that it is on track to help create jobs and growth, tackle big societal challenges and improve people's lives. Horizon 2020 has so far supported over 18 000 projects with over €31 billion (£27bn). UK universities, SMEs and other organisations participated in more EU-funded research and innovation projects – 7 500 - than their counterparts from any other country.
Find out more here
Tweet of the week
To avoid any confusion between the EU backstop & the UK customs paper: I reiterate that our backstop cannot apply to whole UK. 4 freedoms are indivisible. This is not a rejection of the UK customs paper on which discussions continue. #Brexit
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) June 8, 2018
Quote of the week
"Over 10% of the EU's GDP is already dependent on space-related services and major investments by the EU have enabled progress that no member state could have achieved on its own," EU Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.