Main news from Brussels this week
Additional €165 million to tackle famine and drought affected countries in Horn of Africa
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica announced today (17 March) additional EU support of €165 million to address the multiple crises in South Sudan, Somalia and its neighbouring countries. From this package of support, €100 million will be allocated to respond to the severe crisis caused by the violent conflict in South Sudan to provide lifesaving assistance to vulnerable people in South Sudan and neighbouring countries. The remaining €65 million is planned to respond to the serious droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
The European Commission and member states' consumer authorities ask social media companies to comply with EU consumer rules
On 16 March, EU consumer authorities and the European Commission met with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to hear and discuss their proposed solutions to two areas of concern: a growing number of consumers have complained about having been targeted by fraud or scams when using social media websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law.
EU strategy for Syria
On 14 March, the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) proposed a strategy for Syria that defines how the EU can better contribute to a lasting political solution in the country under the existing UN-agreed framework. The strategy also looks at how the EU can continue its assistance to over 13 million people in need in Syria, help build resilience and stability in the country, and support post-agreement reconstruction and the voluntary, dignified and safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons once a credible political transition is underway. (See also EU fact of the week below)
EU education programme for 230,000 refugee children to attend school in Turkey
On 16 March, the European Commission launched its largest ever humanitarian programme for education in emergencies to encourage some 230,000 refugee children to attend school in Turkey. The €34 million 'Conditional Cash Transfer for Education' (CCTE) project will provide bimonthly cash-transfers as of May 2017 to vulnerable refugee families whose children regularly attend school. The project will be implemented in partnership with UNICEF and its partner, the Turkish Red Crescent.
New anonymous whistleblower tool
A new tool to make it easier for individuals to alert the Commission about secret cartels and other antitrust violations while maintaining their anonymity was launched by the European Commission on 16 March. Anti-competitive practices include agreeing on prices or procurement bids, keeping products off the market or unfairly excluding rivals and can cause immense damage to Europe's economy. They can deny customers access to a wider choice of goods and services at reasonable prices, stifle innovation and put companies out of business.
Commission proposes a new EU Action Plan to fight drug use and trafficking
On 15 March, the Commission proposed a new EU Action Plan on drugs for the period 2017-2020. It identifies new priority areas for action such as the monitoring of new psychoactive substances. The plan also promotes the use of new communication technologies for prevention of drug abuse and for gathering evidence about the links between drug trafficking and the financing of terrorist groups, organised crime, migrant smuggling or trafficking in human beings.
Approval to stop trade in minerals financing armed conflicts
New rules will ensure that minerals used by European industries are sourced responsibly, diverting revenues away from rebel groups, conflict, and terror. On 16 March, the European Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority the proposal to stop trade in conflict minerals. The regulation brokered by the Commission and voted yesterday by the European Parliament will impose due diligence rules on companies importing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Such metals and minerals are used in the production of everyday products such as mobile phones, car and jewellery. The rules will cover up to 95% of imports as of 1 January 2021.
'The EU in 2016' report
On 15 March, the European Commission published its 2016 report on the activities of the EU. The report complements the White Paper on the future of Europe, providing an insight into the major EU events, initiatives and decisions of 2016.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
2016 Report of the Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products
On 16 March, the Commission unveiled the results of the 2016 annual report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products. Since 2003, this system ensures that information about dangerous products withdrawn from the market and/or recalled from consumers anywhere in Europe is quickly circulated between member states and the European Commission, so that appropriate action can immediately be taken across the EU. It enables a quick exchange of information about dangerous products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers i.e. chemical risks, etc. Thirty-one countries (EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) currently participate.
Most countries notified products belonging to categories ‘toys’ and ‘clothing, textiles and fashion items’. The United Kingdom was amongst countries which concentrated more on ‘motor vehicles’.
Tenth anniversary of the European Research Council
From 13 to 20 March, special events are taking place across the UK and Europe to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Research Council (ERC) – the first European funding organisation that supports excellence in frontier research. In the UK, the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Newcastle, Oxford, Queen Mary, Roehampton, Sheffield and the Tate gallery in London organised events for the ERC week. For example, Wild Sensing, an EU-funded project, had an interactive installation – at Tate Exchange – which made it possible for visitors to observe the movements of Arctic animals. These movements help understand climate change. Since 2007, the ERC has funded 858 British researchers and a total of, 1,488 top researchers based in UK host institutions, most of these focused on physical sciences and engineering. The total ERC funding awarded to UK researchers in the last ten years is about €2.6 billion (£2.2bn).
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….(normally we include a disclaimer saying it does not necessarily represent our views….but this week it does, as it is by the UK's European Commissioner Sir Julian King!)
In an article for the Independent he warned about the new cyber threats that stem from the use of everyday objects and the need for vigilance and coordinated action to address them.
EU fact of the week
Tweet of the week
Today on my blog: The best response to those who think Europe is stuck http://www.federicamogherini.net/the-best-response-to-those-who-think/?lang=en …
Quote of the week
"I will never accept this comparison between the Nazis and the governments currently in power. […] And the one who is doing this is taking distance from Europe and not trying to enter the European Union." European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaking at the European Parliament
Picture of the week
11 March is European Day of Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism.
Here in this picture, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel pay tribute to the victims of the Brussels attacks, which happened almost a year ago, on 22 March.