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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Commission welcomes adoption of the regulation for a single digital gateway
As of 2020, EU citizens and businesses will find all information they need on EU or national rules on work, education, healthcare, business establishment, taxes or employment of staff on a single, easily accessible online portal: Your Europe. On 3 October, the European Parliament and Council formally adopted the regulation that will establish this single digital gateway. It will ensure that within five years it will be possible to handle fully online more than twenty of the most important procedures, such as requests for birth certificates, car registrations, income tax declarations or university enrolments.
The European Parliament approved revised rules for audiovisual media across Europe
On 2 October, the European Parliament approved the revised directive on audiovisual media services (AVMSD). As part of the digital single market strategy, the new rules pave the way for a fairer regulatory environment for the audiovisual sector, including on-demand services and video sharing platforms. These rules promote European audiovisual productions in on-demand catalogues with at least 30% share of European content and guarantee the independence of audiovisual regulators. They strengthen the protection of minors against harmful content and reinforce the battle against hate speech in all audiovisual content. They also strengthen the country of origin principle of the EU audiovisual regulation, with more clarity on which member state's rules apply in each case.
Commission welcomes Parliament vote on the confiscation of assets across borders
On 4 October, the European Parliament adopted, based on a Commission proposal, a new EU regulation on the freezing and confiscation of assets across borders. The new regulation will set a deadline of 48 hours for recognising and executing freeze orders. It will widen the scope of current rules on cross-border recognition: criminals can be deprived of criminal assets, even where the assets belong to their relatives. Finally, in cases of cross-border execution of confiscation orders, the victim's right to compensation will have priority over states' claims.
Progress on VAT, including agreement on equal VAT treatment for e-books
The European Commission has welcomed the progress made on 2 October by member states on improvements to how Value Added Tax (VAT) works in the EU. This will help to shut down fraud and evasion. First, Ministers agreed to allow member states to align the VAT rates they set for e‑publications, currently taxed at the standard rate in most member states, with the more favourable regime for traditional printed publications. Second, they agreed on new rules to combat criminal VAT fraud better, by improving information exchange and cooperation between national tax and law enforcement authorities. Third, Ministers adopted measures to cut VAT compliance burdens for companies.
European Court of Auditors signs off EU accounts for 11th consecutive time
The European Court of Auditors gave the EU annual accounts a clean bill of health for the 11th year in a row, finding them true and fair. The Commission manages the EU budget, in many areas jointly with member states. It aims to ensure that, once a programme is closed and all controls are carried out, the level of error remains below 2% – the level considered by the Court as material. This was achieved in 2017, as the error rate reached an all-time low level. The Commission estimates that, after corrections and recoveries, the remaining level of error for 2017 expenditure will be below 1%.
EU supports flood response in Nigeria
On 1 October, the European Commission mobilised humanitarian assistance of €1 million in response to the current flooding in Nigeria. The assistance will support affected families and provide shelter, food and medicine. In addition, the Commission is providing technical expertise, deploying an environmental expert through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and producing satellite maps through the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. This flood response funding is additional to over €48 million that the EU is providing in 2018 to address the emergency needs stemming from the conflict in north-eastern Nigeria.
EU scales up humanitarian support to Afghanistan
The Commission has allocated an additional €20 million in emergency aid to Afghanistan. The humanitarian situation there has worsened since the beginning of 2018, partly due to a severe drought. This brings total EU humanitarian aid for Afghanistan to €47 million in 2018.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
EU assistance to victims of Indonesian earthquake and tsunami
The United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain have offered assistance following Indonesia's request to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (see also fact of the week) after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi. The Commission's Emergency Response Coordination Centre is coordinating these offers. Support includes water purification equipment, emergency shelters, generators and other essential supplies. Additionally, the Commission and several member states, including the UK, have collectively pledged approximately €8 million in financial assistance. Moreover, Copernicus, the EU's emergency satellite mapping services, has produced 10 maps (see also picture of the week) of the areas near the earthquake's epicentre, to help national authorities and responders better assess the situation on the ground.
Primera Air ceases operations: advice for EU passengers
UK holidaymakers affected by the collapse of Primera Air are advised to contact the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) for help and advice on their individual circumstances. Primera Air, which operated services from various points in the UK, ceased operations at midnight on Monday 1 October, leaving some passengers stranded and others no longer able to take up their scheduled flights.
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:
EU fact of the week
EU Civil Protection Mechanism
In 2001, the EU Civil Protection mechanism was established, fostering cooperation among national civil protection authorities across Europe. The mechanism currently includes all 28 EU member states, along with Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. The mechanism was set up to coordinate assistance to victims of natural and man-made disasters in Europe and elsewhere. The operational hub is the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). Any country can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Since its launch in 2001, it has received close to 300 requests for assistance. It intervened in some of the most devastating disasters of recent years, such as the earthquake in Haiti (2010), the tsunami in Japan (2011), typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines (2013), the Ebola outbreak (2014), the conflict in Ukraine (2014), the earthquake in Nepal (2015), the refugee crisis, and floods and forest fires in Europe.
Tweets of the week
Delighted to meet again w/ Taoiseach
@campaignforleo. We are in the final stage of the #Brexit negotiations & working hand-in-hand w/ the Irish gov. To agree to any deal, we need to have a legally sound backstop solution for Ireland and Northern Ireland
— Michel Barnier(@MichelBarnier) October 4, 2018
@Jeremy_Hunt I was born in Soviet gulag and been imprisoned by KGB a few times in my life. Happy to brief you on the main differences between #EU and Soviet Union. And also why we escaped the #USSR Anytime. Whatever helps.
— Vytenis Andriukaitis @V_Andriukaitis October 1, 2018
Quote of the week
"European solidarity knows no borders", Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides
Picture of the week
One of Copernicus', the EU's emergency satellite mapping services, maps of the areas near the Indonesian earthquake's epicentre which help assist with the emergency response.