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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
EU-Palestine partnership: a new investment plan to strengthen economy and boost job creation
On 4 July, the EU – which is already the largest supporter of Palestinians – launched the EU External Investment Plan (EIP) in Palestine to foster economic development and boost private investment. The EIP will help ensure efficient energy consumption as well as affordable and reliable energy production in Palestine. It will also support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Finally, EU funding will contribute to broadening the range of financial services available for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, particularly in Gaza.
EU comments on the US car imports investigation
On 2 July, the European Union submitted its formal comments to the United States Department of Commerce in an on-going investigation on the impact of automotive imports on the US national security. In the EU's view, the investigation lacks legitimacy, factual basis and violates international trade rules, like the similar investigation that led to the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs earlier this year. In its submission, the EU reiterates its firm opposition to the proliferation of measures taken on supposed national security grounds for the purposes of economic protection. The Commission said: "This development harms trade, growth and jobs in the US and abroad, weakens the bonds with friends and allies, and shifts the attention away from the shared strategic challenges that genuinely threaten the market-based Western economic model".
European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and a stronger eu-LISA Agency
On 5 July, the European Parliament gave its final agreement to establish the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and to strengthen the mandate of eu-LISA, the EU Agency for the operational management of large scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice. ETIAS will strengthen security checks on people who travel visa-free to the EU. All visa-exempt third-country nationals who plan to travel to the Schengen area - currently nationals from over 60 countries (full list here) – will have to apply for travel authorisation through the ETIAS system prior to their trip.
Commission launches public consultation on daylight saving time
On 5 July, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the clock changes that occur twice a year to cater for the changing patterns of daylight. European citizens and stakeholders are invited to share their views by filling-in this online questionnaire by 16 August. This consultation is part of an assessment of the EU summertime directive, to evaluate whether or not the rules should be changed. This follows the vote by the European Parliament of a resolution on summertime in February 2018, as well as requests from citizens and certain EU member states. Currently, under EU rules agreed by member states, each country chooses which base time zone to be in (GMT +1, +2, etc) but each changes their clocks forward one hour from winter time to summer time and back from summer time to winter time on the same dates each year. The consultation offers two alternatives: keep the system exactly as it is or end the current bi-annual time changes for all member states and prohibit periodic switches. Again this would not affect the choice of time zone, and it would remain each member state's decision whether to go for permanent summer or wintertime (or a different time).
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
Latest news on the Article 50 negotiations 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:
Brexit: From gin to cheese, the food and drink staples at risk of shortages by Rachel Hosie in the Independent
EU fact of the week
Austria takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU
The Council of the EU – often known as "the Council of Ministers, or simply "the Council" – gathers the national ministers of the 28 EU member states to negotiate, amend and adopt new EU legislation – jointly with the European Parliament – and to coordinate policies. Every country gets a six-month turn in the chair: Austria took over from Bulgaria on 1 July 2018. Website of the Austrian Presidency.
The Council shouldn't be confused with the European Council which brings together heads of State and government for what are commonly known as "EU summits" to define the general political direction and priorities of the EU. The European Council President is Donald Tusk and the latest summit was last week, 28-29 June 2018.
Finally, the Council of Europe is separate from the EU. There are 47 countries in the Council of Europe, among others, the EU countries. The Council of Europe stands behind the European Convention on Human Rights, controversy over which is sometimes wrongly blamed on the EU.
Tweet of the week
The recent #Ebola outbreak in the #DRCongo has not turned into an enormous epidemic because of the immediate, coordinated and efficient international intervention. It was a rapid and robust response. #EPlenary @Europarl_EN pic.twitter.com/XjB9QWwA5g
— Christos Stylianides (@StylianidesEU) July 3, 2018
Quote of the week
“Our objective has always been to find an agreement with the UK, not against,” EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier
Picture of the week
It was International Plastic Bag Free Day on 3 July. There are still more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in our oceans. The EU Plastics Strategy's four priorities are to transform the way products are designed, produced, used and recycled. Find out more about the EU Plastics Strategy campaign: https://www.bereadytochange.eu/en/