04/02/2019: Countering illegal hate speech online – EU Code of Conduct ensures swift response
The fourth evaluation on the EU Code of Conduct shows that this Commission initiative delivers successful results.
IT companies are now assessing 89% of flagged content within 24 hours and 72% of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech is removed, compared to 40% and 28% respectively when the Code was first launched in 2016. However, companies need to improve their feedback to users.
Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: “Today’s evaluation shows that cooperation with companies and civil society brings results. Companies are now assessing 89% of flagged content within 24 hours, and promptly act to remove it when necessary. This is more than twice as much as compared to 2016. More importantly, the Code works because it respects freedom of expression. The internet is a place people go to share their views and find out information at the click of a button. Nobody should feel unsafe or threatened due to illegal hateful content remaining online.”
Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “Illegal hate speech online is not only a crime, it represents a threat to free speech and democratic engagement. In May 2016, I initiated the Code of conduct on online hate speech, because we urgently needed to do something about this phenomenon. Today, after two and a half years, we can say that we found the right approach and established a standard throughout Europe on how to tackle this serious issue, while fully protecting freedom of speech. ”
Since its launch in 2016, the Code of Conduct has been delivering continuous progress, and the recent evaluation confirms that IT companies provide a swift response to racist and xenophobic hate speech content notified to them. However, they need to improve their feedback to the users notifying content and provide more transparency on notices and removals.
Companies remove illegal content more and more rapidly, but this does not lead to over-removal: the removal rate indicates that the review made by the companies continues to respect freedom of expression. Furthermore, thanks to the Code, partnerships between civil society organisations, national authorities and the IT platforms have been established on awareness raising and education activities.
Finally, four new companies decided to join the Code in the course of 2018: Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Dailymotion. Today, the French gaming platform Webedia (jeuxvideo.com (link is external)) has also announced their participation.
For More Information
Questions and answers on the fourth evaluation of the Code of Conduct countering illegal hate speech online
25.01.2019: EU’S AID PROGRAMME FOR THE TURKISH CYPRIOT COMMUNITY
The European Union’s Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community continues to provide support to economic development, infrastructure, and environment and to bringing the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU. As part of its support to the Turkish Cypriot community, the European Commission supports civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, SMEs, farmers in rural areas, schools, life-long learning organizations, and local communities.
European Commission signed eight civil society grant contracts for EUR 2.3 million.
In December 2018, as part of the sixth Civil Society in Action call for proposals, the European Commission has signed 8 contracts with different civil society organisations (CSOs) for a total amount of EUR 2.3 million with an aim to strengthen the organisational capacities, outreach and impact of civil society in promoting and defending democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, cultural diversity and reconciliation and to reinforce partnerships, cooperation and networking across Cyprus and/or with CSOs from other EU Member States to jointly address societal needs.
The signed contracts will address the following areas: prevention of domestic violence against women and children; improving the access of LGBTI+’s to human rights; improving the awareness and enforcement of patient’s rights; increasing awareness for pluralistic views, democratic values, diversity, critical ideas and inter-cultural tolerance through art; strengthening journalists’ and media institutions’ capacity to promote press freedom and fundamental human rights; contributing to the empowerment of youth in the peace discourse in Cyprus; enhancing the role of civil society in democracy, governance and peace building via environment; and contributing to peaceful cohabitation of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities. Since 2007, the European Commission has launched six calls for proposals for Civil Society in the northern part of Cyprus, for a total amount of EUR 12 million
EU Support to Economic Development Continues via “Innovative Entrepreneurship and Dialogue” with EUR 3 million
The European Commission signed a delegation agreement with Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas (NI-CO) in the amount of EUR 3 million to implement the project “Innovative Entrepreneurship and Dialogue.” The three year project aims to open up shared spaces for innovation, inclusive and entrepreneurial engagement, community dialogue and knowledge sharing.
It will work on the establishment of an innovation centre in Nicosia Old Town, on the provision of services to entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers, and the improvement of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Additionally inter-communal dialogue will be promoted via cooperation with the Cyprus Dialogue Forum.
The project will open opportunities for companies in the early stages of their development, and therefore complement the wider support provided by the European Commission to the Turkish Cypriot community private sector, such as the grant scheme “Competitive Enterprises, Clusters and Business Support Organizations” launched in 2018. Under this scheme company investments will be co-financed with financial support ranging from EUR 100,000 to EUR 250,000. The proposals received are currently being evaluated by the EC and contracts with an overall amount of up to EUR 5 million are foreseen to be signed in 2019.
European Commission signed contracts for EUR 14.2 million to support infrastructure
The European Commission signed a new EUR 10.9 million Works Contract and a EUR 0.7 million Services Contract for the construction of the new northern Nicosia Trunk Sewer. The works include the construction of the Nicosia branch of the northern Nicosia Trunk Sewer (NNTS), consisting of approximately 13 km of sewers and four Pumping Stations. The existing trunk sewer, which covers central, northern and southern Nicosia, is now running at full capacity. The limiting capacity of the sewer restrains further development in the northern part of the town and the NNTS will facilitate the connection of more urban areas to the Mia Milia/Haspolat Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in line with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.
The European Commission signed a new EUR 2.1 million Works Contract and a EUR 0.5 million Services Contract for the construction of an irrigation system for the reuse of Morphou/Güzelyurt Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) treated wastewater. The treated effluent from the WWTP meets the required quality standards for the irrigation of certain agricultural crops and will be used to irrigate an area of approximately 30,000 m2 to the east of the existing WWTP, which primarily consists of citrus and olive orchards.
European Commission signed a EUR 1.5 million contract for a Grants Support Team
The European Commission signed a new EUR 1.5 million Service Contract to support the implementation of grant schemes for the Turkish Cypriot community in the fields of rural development, private sector development, human resources development, community development and civil society. Since 2008, a Project Management Unit contracted by the Commission has been providing services to the potential and actual grant beneficiaries in the Turkish Cypriot community as well as to the Contracting Authority in the implementation of grant schemes funded by the Aid Programme. The new contract will ensure continuation to these services by assisting in the preparation, launch, evaluation, implementation and monitoring of such grant schemes.
European Commission signed 10 grant contracts for EUR 1.3 million under the Innovation and Change in Education Grant Scheme
The European Commission signed 10 contracts with schools and lifelong learning organisations in the amount of EUR 1.3 million under the Innovation and Change in Education Grant Scheme. The grant contracts vary between EUR 50,000 to EUR 200,000 and are focused on improving teaching and learning practices up to EU standards and best practices in schools and on initiating lifelong learning programmes for improving the employability of youth and women in particular. The grant projects started implementation this autumn and are expected to be finalised by the beginning of 2021.
Five school projects signed specifically focus on enhancing social inclusion and mobility of children with special needs, improving English and Greek language learning practices with the aid of technology and improving the extra-curricular activities to enhance life skills of primary school students. Five lifelong learning projects signed focus on improving the entrepreneurial skills of youth and women, enhancing social entrepreneurship practices in the Turkish Cypriot community and developing lifelong learning programmes in order to improve employability of youth and people with disabilities.
07.01.2019: 1.5 million refugees in Turkey supported by EU’s biggest ever humanitarian programme
Ahead of the December European Council, the Commission is calling on Member States and the European Parliament to consolidate the significant progress made by adopting the outstanding reform proposals.
The Emergency Social Safety Net, the largest ever EU humanitarian programme, has now assisted 1.5 million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The EU funded programme, launched in September 2016, is the largest single humanitarian project in the history of the European Union.
Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, visiting Turkey on the occasion said: “1.5 million refugees in Turkey are now able to meet their basic needs and live in dignity. The European Union, in cooperation with Turkey, is bringing a real change in the lives of the most vulnerable refugees. I am very proud of what we have achieved together. Jointly with Turkey we will continue this support, focusing on making our assistance sustainable.”
EU humanitarian assistance in Turkey continues to deliver tangible results for the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The Emergency Social Safety Net provides monthly cash transfers via a debit card to help refugees buy what they need the most, such as food, medicines, or paying the rent. Another flagship programme, the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education, has surpassed its initial goals and now supports the families of more than 410,000 children who attend school regularly.
The EU programmes will continue in 2019, with a focus on further supporting the most vulnerable and ensuring a sustainable transition from humanitarian aid to a long-term response. The EU humanitarian funding foreseen for 2019 is €640 million, out of which €80 million will be dedicated to support education in emergencies. This funding is part of the second tranche of €3 billion of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey for both humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance.
19.12.2018: Single-use plastics: Commission welcomes ambitious agreement on new rules to reduce marine litter
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have reached a provisional political agreement on the ambitious new measures proposed by the Commission to tackle marine litter at its source, targeting the 10 plastic products most often found on our beaches as well as abandoned fishing gear.
Today’s agreement is based on the Single-use plastics proposal presented in May by the Commission as part of the world’s first comprehensive Plastics Strategy, adopted earlier this year, to protect citizens and the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation. The new rules contribute to a broader effort of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015. They will place Europe’s businesses and consumers ahead as a world leader in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution, tackling a problem with global implications.
Different measures for different products
The new EU directive on Single-Use Plastics will be the most ambitious legal instrument at global level addressing marine litter. It envisages different measures to apply to different product categories. Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market, such as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labelling requirements; and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers.
The provisional agreement reached today must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Following its approval, the new Directive will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and the Member States will have to transpose it after two years.
4.12.2018: Managing Migration: Commission calls time on asylum reform stalling
Ahead of the December European Council, the Commission is calling on Member States and the European Parliament to consolidate the significant progress made by adopting the outstanding reform proposals.
The EU’s comprehensive approach on migration is delivering on all fronts: deeper cooperation with partner countries; better-protected external borders; and more effective tools to manage migration inside the EU. With irregular arrivals down to pre-crisis levels, now is the time to address remaining weaknesses. Work needs to continue at operational level, both externally and internally, and Member States and the European Parliament should swiftly complete the EU’s asylum reform and in particular adopt the 5 proposals where there is broad political agreement before next year’s European Parliamentary elections.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The Union’s comprehensive approach to migration management is delivering tangible results. After four years, it is now essential to consolidate this comprehensive approach by switching from reactive ad hoc responses to completing the reforms for a sustainable future proof migration and asylum system. This can and should be done before the European parliamentary elections in the interest of all Member States.”
External Dimension: Partnerships that deliver
Through an integrated, “whole of the route” approach, major progress has been achieved by the EU and its Member States in preventing irregular migration and fighting migrant smuggling. Along the Eastern Mediterranean Route, arrivals dropped by 97% after the EU-Turkey Statement and today remain 90% less than at the peak in 2015. Along the Central Mediterranean route (see Factsheet), irregular flows have been reduced by 80%. Nearly 34,000 persons received assistance to voluntarily return to their home countries from Libya and Niger, while over 2,000 people have been evacuated from Libya in view of further resettlement. To improve cooperation on return and readmission, 6 new arrangements have been agreed since 2016 (with Afghanistan, Guinea, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire), bringing the total number to 23. In parallel, work to ensure legal pathwaysand resettlement is ongoing with more than 44,000 persons resettled under EU schemes since 2015. The fight against smuggling networks is progressing, with EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia having apprehended 151 suspected smugglers since 2015 and the Joint Investigation Team’s actions in Niger resulting in 221 arrests. To address root causes, innovative funding instruments have been put in place, with more than €4 billion mobilised under the EU Trust Fund for Africa, and 12 guarantee tools worth €800 million adopted under the External Investment Plan. Moving forward, the same integrated approach will be applied to the Western Mediterranean (see Factsheet) where flows have been increasing; work along the Central Mediterranean will be consolidated and efforts to conclude ongoing readmission negotiations and make better use of existing arrangements will be intensified.
Stronger border management
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is at the core of the EU’s work to support Member States in protecting the external borders. In September, the Commission proposed to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard further and equip the Agency with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards (see Factsheet) to ensure that Member States can rely on full EU operational support at all times. The Commission is calling on the European Parliament and Member States to adopt the reform before the European Parliament elections next year. In addition, the EU’s work on establishing new, interoperable border and security information exchange systems is starting to show results. A number of measures are currently being finalised, including the European Travel Authorisation and Information System (ETIAS), improvements to the Visa Information System (VIS) and to the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the establishment of an Entry-Exit System for non-EU citizens. In the light of the efforts made to improve external border management and the resulting reduction of arrivals, the Commission believes the time has come to lift the temporary controls at internal Schengen borders set in place by some Member States since 2015. New figures (see Factsheet) published today confirm that the Schengen area continues to garner strong public support and is seen by Europeans as one of the EU’s main achievements.
28.11.2018: The Commission calls for a climate neutral Europe by 2050
Today the European Commission adopted a strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050 – A Clean Planet for all.
The strategy shows how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing into realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.
The Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič said: “We cannot safely live on a planet with the climate that is out of control. But that does not mean that to reduce emissions, we should sacrifice the livelihoods of Europeans. Over the last years, we have shown how to reduce emissions, while creating prosperity, high-quality local jobs, and improving people’s quality of life. Europe will inevitably continue to transform. Our strategy now shows that by 2050, it is realistic to make Europe both climate neutral and prosperous, while leaving no European and no region behind.”
Following the invitation by the European Council in March 2018, the Commission’s vision for a climate-neutral future covers nearly all EU policies and is in line with the Paris Agreement objective to keep temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C. For the EU to lead the world towards climate neutrality means achieving it by 2050.
The purpose of this long-term strategy is not to set targets, but to create a vision and sense of direction, plan for it, and inspire as well as enable stakeholders, researchers, entrepreneurs and citizens alike to develop new and innovative industries, businesses and associated jobs. We have a strong mandate from our citizens: according to the latest special Eurobarometer (November 2018) 93% of Europeans believe climate change to be caused by human activity and 85% agree that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently can create economic growth and jobs in Europe. With the vision we are presenting today, the EU can inform others how we can deliver collectively a clean planet and show that transforming our economy is possible and beneficial.
The long-term strategy looks into the portfolio of options available for Member States, business and citizens, and how these can contribute to the modernisation of our economy and improve the quality of life of Europeans. It seeks to ensure that this transition is socially fair and enhances the competitiveness of EU economy and industry on global markets, securing high quality jobs and sustainable growth in Europe, while also helping address other environmental challenges, such as air quality or biodiversity loss.
The road to a climate neutral economy would require joint action in seven strategic areas: energy efficiency; deployment of renewables; clean, safe and connected mobility; competitive industry and circular economy; infrastructure and interconnections; bio-economy and natural carbon sinks; carbon capture and storage to address remaining emissions. Pursuing all these strategic priorities would contribute to making our vision a reality.
06.11.2018: Athens is the European Capital of Innovation 2018
The European Commission is awarding Athens the title of the European Capital of Innovation 2018 with a €1 million prize.
Athens (Greece) is the winner of this year’s European Capital of Innovation Awards, funded by the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. The runner-up cities – Aarhus (Denmark), Hamburg (Germany), Leuven (Belgium), Toulouse (France), and Umeå (Sweden) – received €100,000 each. The prize money will be used to scale up local innovation activities and collaborate with other cities.
26.10.2018: European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2019: apply by 15 November 2018
The European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards are Europe’s highest honour in the heritage field. The Awards recognise the best conservation projects, the most impressive research; the most dedicated heritage professionals and volunteers; and the finest awareness raising, training and educational programmes.
Architects, craftsmen, cultural heritage experts, professionals and volunteers, public and private institutions, and local communities: this is your chance to win the top heritage award in Europe!
Up to 30 remarkable heritage achievements from all over Europe will be awarded. Of those, 7 laureates will receive a Grand Prix and €10,000 each; one will be granted the Public Choice Award, chosen through an online poll conducted by Europa Nostra, the leading European heritage network.
All the winners will be celebrated at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony in June 2019.
The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards (as of 2019 the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards) was launched by the European Commission in 2002 and has been run by Europa Nostra ever since. The Awards have brought major benefits to the winners, such as greater (inter)national exposure, increased visitor numbers and follow-on funding. The Awards scheme is supported by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
Submit your project and share your success across Europe!
Apply Now(link is external)
Deadline: 15 November 2018 (date of receipt)
Find out more
03.10.2018: EU and UN: Together for human rights and ending violence against women
On Thursday, the EU hosted two flagship events dedicated to human rights in the margins of the 73rd UN General Assembly. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Neven Mimica, together with UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, launched the Latin America programme of the Spotlight Initiative worth €50 million, which aims at eradicating femicide in Latin America.
Femicide claims the lives of 12 women in Latin America every day. With the €50 million investment, the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative(link is external) will fund new and innovative programmes in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, to help women and girls live lives free from violence. High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini also launched, in the presence of UN Secretary General António Guterres and UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, the Good Human Rights Stories Initiative. The initiative aims to promote a fresh positive narrative on human rights in the world, based on celebrating individual and cross-regional ownership of the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The participants jointly committed to uphold and improve human rights domestically and internationally, through good governance, strong independent rule-of-law and democratic institutions, and by working closely with civil society. Audio-visual coverage of both events is available on EbS. Commissioner Stylianides also co-hosted a high-level event with UNICEF in the context of the EU leadership of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. The Commissioner’s speech is available here. Furthermore, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides has announced €5 million in humanitarian aid for vulnerable communities in Myanmar. The EU’s assistance will address the most urgent needs of communities in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states and provide them with humanitarian protection, as well as emergency shelter, food, water and sanitation assistance.
12.09.2018: The State of the Union 2018: The Hour of European Sovereignty
Against the backdrop of an ever more uncertain world, he stressed the need for Europe to become more sovereign so as to be able to play a role in shaping global affairs.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today: “The geopolitical situation makes this Europe’s hour: the time for European sovereignty has come. It is time Europe took its destiny into its own hands. This belief that “united we stand taller” is the very essence of what it means to be part of the European Union. Sharing sovereignty – when and where needed – makes each of our nation states stronger.”
Watch President Juncker delivering the 2018 State of the Union address to the European Parliament and read the full text of his speech here.
President Juncker’s speech in the European Parliament was accompanied by the adoption of 18 concrete initiatives by the European Commission on migration and borders, security, free and secure elections, the European Union’s partnership with Africa and the EU as a global actor, putting words immediately into action. These proposals are intended to help deliver positive results for citizens by the time of the Sibiu Summit in May 2019 and ahead of the 2019 European elections.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today delivered his 2018 State of the Union Address, before the Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, presenting his priorities for the year ahead and outlining his vision for how the European Union can continue to build a ‘More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union’, which was the theme of his 2017 Address.
10.08.2018: European Solidarity Corps: Commission opens new call for project proposals
The European Commission is calling on interested parties to put forward ideas for projects under the European Solidarity Corps. A total of €44 million has been set aside from the EU budget for selected projects that will be open to all young people across Europe and beyond.
This is the first of a series of calls that will allow at least 100,000 young people to take part in the Corps until the end of 2020.
Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther H. Oettinger, said: “With the launch of this new call under the European Solidarity Corps, we are delivering on our commitment to create more opportunities for young people to engage in solidarity activities. Funded by the EU budget, the European Solidarity Corps is the best framework for young people to learn, share and use their energy for the common good.”
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport said: “Solidarity is one of the key values of the European Union. Time and again, young people across the EU have shown their willingness to help those in need. By creating a dedicated framework and making available the necessary funding for the period 2018-2020, we want to give them more opportunities to engage, including the possibility to form a group of volunteers and come up with their own ideas for solidarity projects.”
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, added: “The European Solidarity Corps helps young people in their professional development and their integration into the labour market. With its strong European dimension of solidarity, the Corps is an extraordinary opportunity for young people to develop interpersonal skills and acquire new knowledge, all of these bringing an added value to them and society in general.”
26.07.2018: Joint EU-U.S. Statement following President Juncker’s visit to the White House
The United States and the European Union together count more than 830 million citizens and more than 50 percent of global GDP. If we team up, we can make our planet a better, more secure, and more prosperous place.
Already today, the United States and the European Union have a $1 trillion bilateral trade relationship – the largest economic relationship in the world. We want to further strengthen this trade relationship to the benefit of all American and European citizens.
This is why we agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. We will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans.
This will open markets for farmers and workers, increase investment, and lead to greater prosperity in both the United States and the European Union. It will also make trade fairer and more reciprocal.
Secondly, we agreed today to strengthen our strategic cooperation with respect to energy. The European Union wants to import more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States to diversify its energy supply.
Thirdly, we agreed today to launch a close dialogue on standards in order to ease trade, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs.
Fourthly, we agreed today to join forces to protect American and European companies better from unfair global trade practices. We will therefore work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO and to address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies, distortions created by state owned enterprises, and overcapacity.
We decided to set up immediately an Executive Working Group of our closest advisors to carry this joint agenda forward. In addition, it will identify short-term measures to facilitate commercial exchanges and assess existing tariff measures. While we are working on this, we will not go against the spirit of this agreement, unless either party terminates the negotiations.
We also want to resolve the steel and aluminium tariff issues and retaliatory tariffs.
02.07.2018: Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50
The EU’s Customs Union celebrates its 50th anniversary on July 1, one of the greatest achievements of the European Union.
Borne out of the landmark post-war agreements that paved the way for European integration, the Customs Union opened for business in 1968. By abolishing customs tariffs for trade in goods within what is now the EU, the Customs Union marked the first decisive step towards the EU becoming the world’s largest trading bloc, with the 28 customs administrations of the EU acting as though they were one entity.
Over the past 50 years, the Customs Union has developed into a cornerstone of our Single Market, keeping EU borders safe and protecting our citizens from prohibited and dangerous goods such as weapons and drugs. It also facilitates an ever-growing portion of global trade: EU customs handled 16% of the world’s commerce in 2017.
On 1 July 2018, exactly 50 years after the Customs Union was established, the Commission is organising events at airports and schools across the EU to raise awareness of this extraordinary achievement.
Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “The Customs Union is a tremendous and unique accomplishment. It allows Europeans to reap the full benefits of the internal market, keeping trade flowing and consumers safe. I am grateful to the many thousands of people who have and continue to contribute to this European achievement over the past 50 years.”
How does the Customs Union work?
The EU’s Customs Union was first provided for in the Treaty of Rome and in 1968 it abolished the customs duties levied at the borders between members of the European Community. Today, it is a single trading area where all goods can circulate freely, whether produced in the EU or outside its borders. Duty on goods from outside the EU is generally paid when they first enter the EU. In this way, customs ensure that those duties are paid and the financial interests of the Union and its Member States are protected. Customs also prevent products from entering the Union that pose a risk to the safety or health of EU citizens; they stop goods that have been trafficked and smuggled or present a danger to the environment and European cultural heritage, or goods which undermine the financial interests of the EU and its Member States.
22.06.2018: A Europe that protects: Commission calls for stronger national equality bodies to fight discrimination
Today, the Commission is recommending a set of measures for Member States to ensure that the equality bodies effectively protect citizens and fight discrimination.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Equality is one of the fundamental values upon which the European Union is built, but it is not a given. We need good laws and strong and independent equality bodies to defend our core principles and values so that victims of discrimination can right the wrongs they face.”
Equality bodies are independent organisations assisting victims of discrimination, monitoring and reporting on discrimination issues, and promoting equality throughout the EU. Member States should ensure their independence and that they have the necessary resources to cover all types of grounds for discrimination such as sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. They should also ensure better awareness-raising about the role of national equality bodies and how citizens can access equality bodies and exercise their rights in case of discrimination.
EU steps up assistance to help those affected by the Venezuela crisis.
The socio-economic situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate with dire consequences both in Venezuela and the neighbouring countries. To respond to this situation, the Commission announces today a package of €35.1 million in emergency aid and medium-term development assistance to support the Venezuelan people and the neighbouring countries affected by this crisis.
“During my visit to Colombia and the Venezuelan border just a few months ago, I saw first-hand the consequences of the crisis and its destabilising effects in neighbouring countries. Many people are lacking crucial medicines and are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Venezuela. We cannot remain bystanders to this human tragedy.” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “We are very concerned about the critical situation in Venezuela and its impact in neighbouring countries such as Colombia which are confronted to a growing influx of people fleeing Venezuela. This package will improve the Venezuelan people’s access to food and nutrition, as well as basic services like water, sanitation and hygiene. The EU’s support will also help Venezuelan migrants and host communities to build resilience to respond to the increasing migratory pressures.”
Out of the funding announced today, €5 million in humanitarian aid will provide health assistance, food and nutrition, water and protection for the most vulnerable mostly inside Venezuela. Another €5 million will support conflict-prevention measures to reduce social tensions and violence and protect people displaced by the crisis. €18.1 million in development assistance will address food and nutrition security, water, sanitation and hygiene within the country, as well as the socio-economic inclusion of migrants and support for host communities in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, an additional €7 million to meet further needs of those communities is being made available.
30.5.2015: EU budget: Commission proposes to double funding for Erasmus programme
The Erasmus programme already enables millions of young Europeans to study, train or learn abroad while broadening their experience and awareness of Europe, and increasing their future chances on the job market. With doubled funding, this programme will be even more effective in supporting key political objectives such as building a European Education Area by 2025, empowering young people and promoting a European identity through youth, education and culture policies.
The Commission is proposing to increase the Erasmus budget to €30 billion from 2021-2027 with €25,9 billion for education and training, €3,1 billion for youth and €550 million for sport.
15.5.2018: A renewed agenda for Research and Innovation: Europe’s chance to shape the future
Investing in research and innovation is investing in Europe’s future. It helps us to compete globally and preserve our unique social model. It improves the daily lives of millions of people here in Europe and around the world, helping to solve some of our biggest societal and generational challenges. The Renewed European Agenda for Research and Innovation presents a set of concrete actions to deepen Europe’s innovation capability and provide lasting prosperity.
Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Europe has world-class research and a strong industrial base. But we must do better – much better – at turning that excellence into success. New megatrends, such as artificial intelligence and the circular economy, are going to bring profound changes to society and the economy. We need to act fast to be able to lead the new wave of innovation and set the standard for global competition.”
30.4.2018: Statement by Commissioner Thyssen ahead of International Workers’ Day
“Every year on 1 May, people all over the world celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day. What began as a yearly strike movement has developed into a public holiday celebrating social achievements for workers.”
The first social achievement was the limitation of a working day to 8 hours. Since then, many more followed. But Labour Day is not only about celebrating achievements. It also serves as a reminder that a well-functioning social market economy is not a given and the rules need to be updated, in light of continuously changing technologies that impact our economies and societies.
This is precisely what we aimed for and achieved during this Commission’s mandate: putting Europe’s social dimension at the top of the agenda. In November 2017, the first Social Summit in 20 years took place in Gothenburg. There, the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, a series of 20 principles and rights supporting opportunities for people to have access to training, education and lifelong learning; good working conditions and effective welfare systems.
Now it is time to make sure these principles and rights become a reality on the ground. At EU-level, we have already put several initiatives in that sense on the table. With our European Skills Agenda we want to make sure that people are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. We have proposals to make working conditions more predictable and transparent, to make sure all workers and self-employed have access to adequate social protection, and to create fair and enforceable rules for mobile workers.
10.4.2018: EU remains the world’s leading donor of development assistance: €75.7 billion in 2017
The European Union and its Member States continue to be the world’s leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with an overall amount of €75.7 billion in 2017, confirm the newly released figures by the OECD-DAC.
Global ODA, reported to the OECD-DAC by all donors, decreased from €131 billion in 2016 to €130 billion in 2017. EU collective ODA constituted 57% of global ODA in 2017.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: “The EU and its Member States continue to provide over half of the total Official Development Assistance globally, investing in people, stronger institutions and societies. However, I am strongly concerned about the decrease of EU collective ODA and of development assistance worldwide. Achieving sustainable development requires a persistent collective effort. We know we need to do more. As the world’s leading ODA provider the EU must show leadership and responsibility.”
The EU and its Members States have been consistently in the lead of global efforts on development financing. Since 2015, year of the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, EU collective aid has grown by €7.8 billion that is 12%, while the ODA/GNI ratio grew by 6%, underpinning the EU’s and Member States’ sustained efforts to promote prosperity, peace, and sustainable development worldwide.
In 2016, EU ODA reached its highest level ever. The figures presented today show a 2.4% decrease of EU collective ODA for 2017 compared to the previous year, corresponding to €1.9 billion. The EU ODA/GNI ratio for 2017 stood at 0.50%, down from 0.53% in 2016.
The decline of EU collective ODA in 2017 is linked to a reduction of 80% in the amounts ofdebt relief operations by EU Member States and a decrease of 8% in in-donor refugee costs. In-donor refugee costs declined from €11.2 billion in 2016 to €10.3 billion in 2017.
The decrease is also linked to the reflows of European Investment Bank’s (EIB) loans, which reduced the ODA reported by the EIB in 2017 by 28%. As the EIB’s portfolio progressively matures, reflows increase and their amounts are subtracted from ODA.
In 2017, four EU Member States provided 0.7% or more of their Gross National Income (GNI) in Official Development Assistance: Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In 2017, in 5 EU Member States the ODA to GNI ratio increased, it decreased in 14 Member States and remained stable in 9. Considering ODA amounts, 12 Member States increased their ODA by €2.4 billion, while the decrease in 15 others amounted to €3.4 billion.
26.3.2018: President Juncker participates in EU-Turkey Leaders’ Meeting in Varna, Bulgaria
Today the Leaders’ Meeting on EU-Turkey relations is taking place in Varna (Bulgaria). Hosted by Prime Minister Borissov, representing the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU, President Juncker, President Tusk and President Erdoğan will meet for a working dinner to discuss all aspects of current and future EU-Turkey relations. The main points of discussion will be cooperation in energy, security, the fight against terrorism and migration management and the EU’s assistance for refugees in Turkey as the EU-Turkey Statement continues to deliver results. Earlier this month, two years on from the launch of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Commission proposed to mobilise the second €3 billion tranche after the first part of the Facility was fully committed and contracted by the end of 2017. The visa liberalisation process and the inextricably linked domestic political situation and security matters in Turkey will also feature high on the agenda. The meeting takes place after European Leaders condemned Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea during the European Council last week as undermining regional stability and security. Energy cooperation will also be prominent in the leaders’ discussion where EU leaders will once again stress that good neighbourly relations with all EU Member States are key for an enhanced energy security. Finally, counterterrorism actions and cooperation will also be part of this evening’s dialogue. Ahead of the summit, following the European Council meeting last week where Turkey featured high on the agenda, President Juncker said: “The differences in views between the EU and Turkey are many. It will be a frank and open debate where we will not hide our differences but where we will seek to improve our cooperation”. A press conference will follow this evening, timing to be confirmed. Watch live on EbS here.
8.3.2018: International Women’s Day 2018: Women’s empowerment matters for the future of Europe
The Commission is marking International Women’s Day with the release of its 2018 report on equality between men and women, as well as a presentation of a report on women in tech. We are not there yet. The Commission has acted to trigger change. It put forward a proposal to improve the work-life balance of working families, an Action plan to tackle the gender pay gap and called to put an end to violence against women through funding and awareness-raising actions. The 2018 gender equality report shows that progress has stalled in certain areas: women still take on the majority of caring responsibilities in families, the gender pay gap has stagnated at 16% for years and violence against women remains a problem.
21.2.2018: President Juncker reorganises his close team; European Commission appoints new Secretary-General
After over 32 years at the service of the European Commission, the current Secretary-General Alexander Italianer, has decided to retire from the European Commission. As a result, and on the proposal of President Jean-Claude Juncker, the College has decided to appoint Martin Selmayr, the current Head of Cabinet of the President, as the new Secretary-General of the Commission. This decision will take effect on 1 March. At the same time, President Juncker has decided that his current Deputy Head of Cabinet, Clara Martinez Alberola, will become his new Head of Cabinet – the first-ever female Head of Cabinet of a Commission President. President Juncker’s current Diplomatic Adviser, Richard Szostak, will become his new Deputy Head of Cabinet.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “This morning, Alexander Italianer confirmed to me his wish to retire as Secretary-General of the Commission as of 1 March. I want to express my deep gratitude to him for decades of loyal service to the European Commission and over the past three years to me as its President. I truly appreciated working with such an experienced and knowledgeable Secretary-General and I want to thank him for his skilful steer of our administration, as well as for having agreed to stay on for another month to ensure a smooth transition. I am also glad that he agreed to continue to advise me, after 1 April, as Special Adviser on strategic issues on the EU’s agenda, in particular the Multiannual Financial Framework and Brexit Preparedness.”
On the proposal of President Juncker, Martin Selmayr, who is the President’s current Head of Cabinet, has been appointed today as the European Commission’s new Secretary-General with effect of 1 March. Clara Martinez Alberola, who is the current Deputy Head of Cabinet, will assume the role of President Juncker’s new Head of Cabinet as of 1 March
9.2.2018: European cooperation on supercomputers accelerating: Cyprus 15th country to join
Cyprus became earlier this week the 15th country to participate by signing the European declaration on high-performance computing (HPC). Supercomputers are at the core of major innovations in many areas such as personalised medicine, energy saving or smart urban planning. They also hold great potential for job creation and competitiveness of the European economy. With this signature, Cyprus announced its intention to join the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, once it will be adopted by the Council of the European Union. This Joint Undertaking is a legal and funding instrument aiming at pooling the European and national resources to build and deploy across Europe supercomputers that would rank among the world’s top three by 2022-2023. The EuroHPC declaration was originally launched in March 2017 during the Digital Day and signed by France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Since then another eight countries have joined: in addition to Cyprus also Belgium, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Greece, Croatiaand the Czech Republic. Other Member States and countries associated with the Horizon 2020 framework programme are encouraged to participate in the initiative. Read more about European supercomputing initiative here and in our recent press release, Q&A and factsheet.
31.1.2018: European Commission awards over € 2.6 million for new projects to support local communities
Five new EU-funded projects supporting local communities in the northern part of Cyprus, for an amount of over €2.6 million, were announced on 18 December 2017 in the presence of Mr Kjartan Björnsson, Head of Unit Cyprus Settlement Support, European Commission.
The project in Nicosia will focus on addressing domestic violence and will provide support to women survivors of domestic violence. Most of the projects focus on improving services provided by the local communities to manage solid waste. As part of this joint effort, a waste transfer station will be established in the Kyrenia area and a green waste composting facility in the Lapithos/Lapta area. Projects in Dikomo/Dikmen and Agios Epiktitos/Çatalköy will also include activities to improve the management of the environment.
The European Commission is proud to promote social and economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community, and to help it protect the environment. Local communities are strategic partners in delivering support to Turkish Cypriots.
Trust and Secure Project. EU Grant = €748,763
The project aims at the prevention and combat of all forms of violence against women and domestic violence. The main focus is the construction of a shelter for women victims of domestic violence to replace one already in place which does not meet the international minimum standards. The project includes activities for awareness raising, capacity building and advocacy to improve the protection and support to survivors of domestic violence.
Transfer station and improved waste management services. EU Grant = €709,617
Kyrenia local community in partnership with local communities in Karavas/Alsancak, Lapithos/Lapta and Agios Epiktitos/Çatalköy.
The project focuses on the improvement of the efficiency and quality of the solid waste management services. They plan to jointly manage these services by constructing a transfer station for the region, renew part of the vehicle fleet, optimise routes and routines and increase the management and technical capacity of the local communities
Recycling Green Waste for a better environment project. EU Grant = €551,832
Lapithos/Lapta local community in partnership with Karavas/Alsancak local community
The project aims at strengthening the management of solid waste, and the quality of public services in Lapithos/Lapta and Karavas/Alsancak. The project will establish a composting facility that will allow for the separation, recycling, and reuse of green waste and to decrease the amount of green waste sent to a central landfill. It is expected that the project will strengthen workforce effectiveness, economise on the use of vehicles and fuel, and create savings.
Community Health and Wellbeing Project. EU Grant = €536,348
Agios Epiktitos/Çatalköy local community in partnership with Agios Amvrosios/Esentepe and Akanthou/Tatlısu local communities
The project aims at improving health and well-being by targeting three different priorities: improvement of waste collection management and closure of two illegal dumpsites; improvement of home based care service to elderly people and other vulnerable people; and improvement of pest control services in the region. They aim to share services in these areas.
Improving Green Waste Management and Service project. EU Grant =€374,877
Dikomo/Dikmen local community in partnership with Gerolakkos/Alaykoy local community
The objective is to strengthen waste and environmental services provided by the local community, through improving waste collection services, incorporatíng health and safety standards and investing in capacity building and ISO certification for quality management. A component for awareness rising on the importance of a clean environment is also covered.
15.1.2018 : EU AID PROGRAMME FOR THE TURKISH CYPRIOT COMMUNITY – EU Scholarships for the Turkish Cypriot Community for the Academic Year 2018/19
In this round, the EU Scholarships Programme will award grants to approximately 140 Turkish Cypriot students, graduates and professionals. This comes in addition to the almost 1,050 individuals, who have already benefited from EU Scholarship grants since 2007. This year’s programme is for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, short-term programmes (including language courses) and internships in EU Member States. The call for 2018/19 includes a list of priority areas. Applicants in these areas will receive additional points during the evaluation.
The EU Scholarships Programme is fully funded by the EU and will be implemented by the British Council.
All interested applicants are invited to apply online through the dedicated EU Scholarships’ website: www.abburs.eu(link is external).
Deadline to submit applications ONLINE ONLY: 15 March 2018 at 23:59 Cyprus time
A Launch Event will be organised by the British Council on behalf of the European Union on 31 January 2018 at 16.30-18.30 at Merit Hotel in Nicosia.
For more information, please visit: www.abburs.eu(link is external)
Contact and Information: email@example.com
20.12.2017:European Commission appoints new Heads of Representation in Athens, Prague and Nicosia
Mr George Markopouliotis will take up office in Greece on 1 February 2018, Ms Dana Kovarikova will take up office in the Czech Republic on 1 February 2018 and Mr Ierotheos Papadopoulos will do so in Cyprus on 1 April 2018.
Mr Markopouliotis, a Greek national, will bring to his new role in-depth knowledge of the EU institutions gained over his thirty years at the European Commission, as well as a wide network of contacts with stakeholders in Greece.Having joined the Commission in 1987, Mr Markopouliotis has served in a number of advisory and managerial posts in a varied range of areas such as Regional Policy, Maritime Affairs, Employment, Fisheries and Communication. He also served in the private offices of Commissioners Bruce Millan and Monika Wulf-Mathies, who were responsible for Regional Policies and the Cohesion Fund under the Delors II and Santer Commissions respectively. During 2001 and 2006, he was Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Greece and in 2006, upon returning to Brussels, he headed a unit in Directorate General Communication in charge of the coordination of the Representations in the Member States. From February 2010 to December 2011, Mr Markopouliotis was the Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Maria Damanaki, responsible for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and since March 2012 he has been Head of the Commission’s Representation in Cyprus.
Ms Dana Kovarikova, a Czech national, has been the Acting Head of Representation in Prague since September 2016. She joined the European Commission in 2005 and serving, among other places, in the Secretariat-General, in the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology and, since August 2014, as Head of the Political Section at the Representation in Prague. Ms Kovarikova has also worked in the Czech national administration in support of the Czech Presidency in 2009.
Mr Ierotheos Papadopoulos, a Greek national, has been working in the Commission for almost 30 years and has gained extensive experience in different policy fields as well as in political communication. Currently Head of the Citizens’ Information Unit in the Directorate-General for Communication, he has been previously Deputy Head of Unit responsible for Audiovisual Services as well as Head and Acting Head of the Representation in Greece between 2006 and 2010. Prior to that, he has worked at the Directorate-General for Environment and at the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs.
6.12.2017: Commission sets out Roadmap for deepening Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union
With a Roadmap for action and several concrete measures, the European Commission is delivering today on the commitment made by President Jean-Claude Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address and the Five Presidents’ Report of 2015 to deepen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union.
Building on the vision set out in the Five Presidents’ Report of June 2015 and the Reflection Papers on the Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and the Future of EU Finances of spring 2017, the European Commission is setting out a Roadmap for deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, including concrete steps to be taken over the next 18 months. A number of initiatives are also presented as part of this package. The overall aim is to enhance the unity, efficiency and democratic accountability of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union by 2025.
In addition to the Roadmap, today’s package includes four main initiatives:
- A proposal to establish a European Monetary Fund (EMF), anchored within the EU’s legal framework and built on the well-established structure of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). In recent years, the ESM has played a decisive role in safeguarding the stability of the euro area by assisting Member States to regain or maintain access to sovereign bond markets. The EMF would build on the ESM architecture, with its current financial and institutional structures essentially preserved, including when it comes to the role played by national parliaments. It would thus continue to assist euro area Member States in financial distress. In addition, the EMF would provide the common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund and act as a last resort lender in order to facilitate the orderly resolution of distressed banks. More rapid decision-making in cases of urgency and more direct involvement in the management of financial assistance programmes are also foreseen. Over time, the EMF could also develop new financial instruments, for instance to support a possible stabilisation function. The European Parliament and the Council are invited to adopt this proposal by mid-2019.
- A proposal to integrate the substance of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance into the Union legal framework, taking into account the appropriate flexibility built into the Stability and Growth Pact and identified by the Commission since January 2015. In 2012, the 25 signatory Member States legally committed to incorporate the substance of that Treaty into Union law five years after its entry into force, which corresponds to 1 January 2018. The European Parliament has also called for this. The proposal incorporates into Union law the main elements of the Treaty in order to support sound fiscal frameworks at national level and is fully in line with existing rules defined in primary and secondary legislation. The European Parliament and the Council are invited to adopt this proposal by mid-2019.
- A Communication on new budgetary instruments for a stable euro area within the Union framework setting out a vision of how certain budgetary functions essential for the euro area and the EU as a whole can be developed within the framework of the EU’s public finances of today and tomorrow. The Communication discusses four specific functions: a) support to Member States for structural reforms through a reform delivery tool and technical supportat the request of Member States; b) a dedicated convergence facility for Member States on their way to joining the euro; c) a backstop for the Banking Union, through the EMF/ESM, to be agreed by mid-2018 and made operational by 2019; and d) a stabilisation function in order to protect investments in the event of large asymmetric shocks. The Commission will present the necessary initiatives in May 2018 in the context of its proposals for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. The European Parliament and the Council will then be invited to adopt these proposals by mid-2019. For the period 2018-2020, the Commission is also proposing to strengthen the Structural Reform Support Programme, by doubling the funding available for technical support activities, thus reaching €300 million up to 2020. The Commission is also proposing to test the new reform delivery tool in a pilot phase. To that end, it proposes targeted changes to the Common Provisions Regulation governing the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in order to extend the possibilities to use part of their performance reserve in support of agreed reforms. The European Parliament and the Council are invited to adopt these latter two proposals in 2018.
- A Communication spelling out the possible functions of a European Minister of Economy and Finance who could serve as Vice-President of the Commission and chair the Eurogroup, as is possible under the current EU Treaties. By bringing together existing responsibilities and available expertise, this new position would strengthen the coherence, efficiency, transparency and democratic accountability of economic policy-making for the EU and the euro area, in full respect of national competences. Reaching a common understanding on the role of the Minister by mid-2019 would allow setting it up as part of the formation of the next Commission. The Eurogroup could then also decide to elect the Minister as its President for two consecutive terms in order to align both mandates.
30.11.2017: Fair Taxation: Commission proposes new tools to combat VAT fraud
The European Commission has today unveiled new tools to make the EU’s Value Added Tax (VAT) system more fraud-proof and close loopholes which can lead to large-scale VAT fraud.
The new rules aim to build trust between Member States so that they can exchange more information and boost cooperation between national tax authorities and law enforcement authorities.
The most cautious estimates show that VAT fraud can lead to lost revenues of over €50 billion a year for EU Member States – money that should be going towards public investment in hospitals, schools and roads. Revelations in the ‘Paradise Papers’ have again shown how tax avoidance schemes can be used to help wealthy individuals and companies to circumvent the EU’s VAT rules to avoid paying their fair share of tax. Recent reports also suggest that VAT fraud schemes can be used to finance criminal organisations, including terrorists.
Key measures in this legislation include:
- Strengthening cooperation between Member States: VAT fraud can happen in a matter of minutes, so Member States need to have the tools to act as quickly as possible. Today’s proposal would put in place an online system for information sharing within ‘Eurofisc’, the EU’s existing network of anti-fraud experts. The system would enable Member States to process, analyse and audit data on cross-border activity to make sure that risk can be assessed as quickly and accurately as possible. To boost the capacity of Member States to check cross-border supplies, joint audits would allow officials from two or more national tax authorities to form a single audit team to combat fraud – especially important for cases of fraud in the e-commerce sector. New powers would also be given to Eurofisc to coordinate cross-border investigations.
- Working with law enforcement bodies: The new measures would open new lines of communication and data exchange between tax authorities and European law enforcement bodies on cross-border activities suspected of leading to VAT fraud: OLAF, Europol and the newly created European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO). Cooperation with European bodies would allow for the national information to be cross-checked with criminal records, databases and other information held by Europol and OLAF, in order to identify the real perpetrators of fraud and their networks.
- Sharing of key information on imports from outside the EU: Information sharing between tax and customs authorities would be further improved for certain customs procedures which are currently open to VAT fraud. Under a special procedure, goods that arrive from outside the EU with a final destination of one Member State can arrive into the EU via another Member State and transit onwards VAT-free. VAT is then only charged when the goods reach their final destination. This feature of the EU’s VAT system aims to facilitate trade for honest companies, but can be abused to divert goods to the black market and circumvent the payment of VAT altogether. Under the new rules information on incoming goods would be shared and cooperation strengthened between tax and customs authorities in all Member States.
- Information sharing on cars: Trading in cars is also sometimes subject to fraud due to the difference in how VAT is applied to new and used cars. Recent or new cars, for which the whole amount is taxable, can be sold as second-hand goods for which only the profit margin is subject to VAT. In order to tackle this type of fraud, Eurofisc officials would also be given access to car registration data from other Member States.
9.11.2017: Education & training in Europe: inequality remains a challenge
The 2017 edition of the Commission’s Education and Training Monitor, published today, shows that national education systems are becoming more inclusive and effective. Yet it also confirms that students’ educational attainment largely depends on their socio-economic backgrounds.
The European Commission supports Member States in ensuring that their education systems deliver – the data compiled in the annually published Education and Training Monitor is an important part of this work. The latest edition shows that while Member States are making progress towards most of the key EU targets in reforming and modernising education, more efforts are needed to achieve equity in education.
One of the EU’s targets for 2020 is to reduce the share of 15-year-old pupils who underachieve in basic reading, maths and science to 15%. However, as a whole, the EU is actually moving further away from this objective, particularly in science, where the number of low achievers increased from 16% in 2012 to 20.6% in 2015.
People born outside the EU are particularly vulnerable. This group is often exposed to multiple risks and disadvantages, such as having poor or low skilled parents, not speaking the local language at home, having access to fewer cultural resources and suffering from isolation and poor social networks in the country of immigration. Young people with a migrant background are at a greater risk of performing badly at school and leaving school prematurely. In 2016, as many as 33.9% of people aged 30-34 living in the EU but born outside it were low skilled (having achieved lower secondary education or below), compared to only 14.8% of their peers born in the EU.
Across the EU, investment in education has recovered from the financial crisis and increased slightly (1% year-on-year in real terms). About two-thirds of Member States recorded a rise. Four countries increased investment by more than 5%.
On 17 November, in Gothenburg, the EU Leaders will discuss Education and Culture as part of their work on “Building our future together”. The European Commission will present this year’s data on Education and Training. The discussion in Gothenburg will give visibility to and stress the political significance of education reform.
25.10.2017:€2.7 billion expected for Erasmus+ in 2018
The European Commission today published its 2018 Call for Proposals for Erasmus+, the European Union’s programme for mobility and cooperation in education, training, youth and sport. With its annual budget expected to increase by €200 million, Erasmus+ will provide an unprecedented number of opportunities for individuals and organisations in Europe and beyond.
In 2018, Erasmus+ will continue to help implement the Commission’s policy priorities, notably the goals set out in the recent initiatives “A renewed agenda for Higher Education” and “School development and excellent teaching for a great start in life“. The overall aim of these initiatives is to help Member States provide high quality, inclusive and future-oriented education for all young people. In line with the New Skills Agenda for Europe, Erasmus+ will also remain a strong pillar in promoting the full range of knowledge, skills and competences that help people succeed in our fast-changing societies, including transversal skills such as creativity, problem-solving and an entrepreneurial mind-set.
In total, €2.7 billion in funding are expected to be available from Erasmus+ in 2018 to:
- promote mobility opportunities for young people, students, trainees, apprentices and international volunteers, as well as for teachers, trainers and youth workers;
- create or improve partnerships between education, training and youth organisations and with the world of work;
- support dialogue and evidence-building needed to deliver reform in education, training and youth systems;
- promote excellence in teaching and research in the field of European studies through the Jean Monnet activities; and
- support transnational projects in the field of sport, with a focus on grassroots sport.
Similar to previous years, Erasmus+ projects supporting social inclusion through education, youth and sport activities will be given priority in 2018.
In 2018, for learners in the field of vocational education and training, increased focus will be placed on long-duration mobility (ErasmusPro), in line with the Commission’s Communication on “Investing in Europe’s Youth” of 7 December 2016.
In order to further broaden the accessibility of the Erasmus+ programme in 2018, the Commission will introduce throughout Europe a simplified procedure for the submission of grant proposals through online web-forms and will also simplify grant opportunities for schools to take part in projects focusing on exchanges and mobility of pupils and staff.
In parallel, the Commission published today the Erasmus+ Programme Guide in all official EU languages. The Programme Guide is the key document that provides applicants with full details of all opportunities available in the 2018 Call for proposals for Erasmus+.
5.10.2017:Commission reports on employment and social situation in the EU: record high employment rates and signs of improvement for the youth
mployment in the EU continues to grow at a consistent pace and in almost all Member States. Employment increased by 1.5 % in the EU and 1.6% in the euro area in the second quarter of 2017 compared tothe same period in 2016.There are 3.5 million and 2.4 million more people employed in the EU and euro area compared to last year. This means that 235.4 million people are now employed in the EU. This is the highest level ever recorded. Compared to the third quarter of 2014, this corresponds to 8 million and5.6 million more people employed in the EU and euro area respectively.
EU employment increase over the past four years has particularly benefited the younger generation. While youth unemployment is still too high in the EU, the rate decreased steadily and faster than overall unemployment: it now stands at 16.9 %,reaching a level lower than in 2008.
The Quarterly Review also shows that the EU’s economy continues its expansion in all Member States with a growth of2.4 % in the EU and 2.3 % in the euro area over the last year. This also translated in an improvement of EU households’ financial situation with greaterincome from work, while the increase in social benefits came to a halt. Nearly all Member States continued to see growth in household income between the first quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.
Further figures on the labour market confirm the improved health of the EU economy:
- Unemployment rate in the EU and euro area has continued its steady decline since mid-2013 in almost all Member States. In August 2017, it decreased to 7.6 % in the EU and 9.1 % in the euro area, a yearly reduction of 0.9 percentage points in both cases. The rate recorded in August 2017 was the lowest in the EU since November 2008.
- Long-term unemployment rate, which has been decreasing for three years, declined by further 0.5 percentage points in the year to the first quarter of 2017. In almost all Member States, long-term unemployment is declining. But the share of long-term unemployment in total unemployment is still high, at around 45 %.
- The number of employees with permanent contracts grew by 1.4 % in the year to the first quarter of 2017. This represents an increase of 2.2 million employees, which is four times more than the increase in temporary contracts (500.000, 1.5 % yearly growth).
20.9.2017:EU increases humanitarian aid budget for education of children in emergencies
Access to education for children in emergency situations is among the top priorities for the EU in its humanitarian funding.
The European Commission has announced today it will further increase the part of humanitarian funding dedicated to getting children into education in crisis zones around the world. In 2018, 8% of the EU’s humanitarian budget will go to education in emergencies, which is far above the global average of less than 3%.
“The EU is a global leader in supporting education in emergencies. Concretely this means giving children in some of the most difficult situations in the world an opportunity for the future. As I have travelled to many crises zones, from refugee camps to areas devastated by natural disasters, it is always clear that education is much more than a human right or a basic need. It is safety, dignity and a shield against radicalisation. By supporting education we are making the biggest investment we can in the future of the most vulnerable. We are investing in peace.” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides during a High Level Education Event, organised in the margins of the UN General Assembly 2017 in New York.
The EU’s contribution in 2018 of over €86 million will support access to formal and non-formal education, including life skills and vocational training, recreational activities and psychosocial support for girls and boys in crisis areas around the world. Several EU projects will be focussed on girls; giving them access to education and helping them learn life and vocational skills. Children will also benefit from the provision of school materials and the creation of new learning spaces. Teachers and parents will also be supported and benefit from training.
Commissioner Stylianides has made education in emergencies a priority since the beginning of his mandate, continuing to increase the EU’s financial support to education projects for children affected by crises every year since he took office. EU support allocated to education in emergencies went from 1% of its humanitarian budget in 2015 to 6% in 2017 and will eventually go to 8% in 2018. This aid has reached 4 million children and teachers in 50 countries between 2012-2016.
The EU’s humanitarian aid will be channelled through non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies and International Organisations to reach the most vulnerable.
1.9.2017: EU-Ukraine Association Agreement fully enters into force
The Association Agreement, including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), is the main tool for bringing Ukraine and the EU closer together: it promotes deeper political ties and stronger economic links, as well as respect for common European values. The DCFTA provides a framework for modernising Ukraine’s trade relations and economic development by opening up markets and harmonising laws, standards and regulations with EU and international norms.
The European Union is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the continuing, ambitious efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to reform the country’s institutions and economy, which would unlock the full potential of the Association Agreement and bring its full benefits to the Ukrainian people.
Under the Association Agreement, Ukraine has committed to structural reforms in the areas of democracy, human rights, rule of law, good governance, trade and sustainable development. Enhanced cooperation on environmental protection, social development and protection, transport, consumer protection, equal opportunities, education, youth and culture, industry and energy is also foreseen in the Association Agreement. The entry into force of the agreement will give a new impetus to the cooperation in areas such as foreign and security policy, justice, taxation, public finance management, science and technology, education and digital technology.
18.8.2017: EU: a world leader in helping those affected by crises
When countries face natural disasters such as forest fires, floods and earthquakes or are in need of emergency assistance due to other crises, the EU has a range of funding and emergency response tools to help.
EU Civil Protection Mechanism
When national capacities to respond to natural disasters are surpassed, European countries often show solidarity by sending assistance in the form of equipment, experts and assets such as planes or vehicles, during the emergency response phase.
This is done through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, which has been put into action a record 8 times this summer to help countries affected by forest fires such as Italy, France, Portugal, Albania and Montenegro.
- The Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) is the emergency response hub of the European Commission. It works 24/7, 365 days a year. It coordinates pan-European assistance through the Civil Protection Mechanism and ensures that all participating states in the mechanism are quickly informed of needs from an affected country during a crisis. The decision to activate the Civil Protection Mechanism is not made by the Commission, but has to be made by the national authorities of the affected country.
- The EU Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates and co-finances the transport of assistance to the affected area.
- The EU Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates the cooperation in disaster response among 34 European states (28 EU Member States, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway Serbia and Turkey). These Participating States pool the resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world.
- Since its launch in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has monitored over 400 disasters and has received almost 300 requests for assistance. It intervened in some of the most devastating disasters the world has faced, including the floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014), the conflict in Ukraine (2014), the earthquake in Nepal (2015), the conflict in Iraq (2016) and hurricane “Matthew” in Haiti (2016).
EU funding for reconstruction after natural disasters
Through funding, the EU lends a helping hand to its citizens and Member States when they are affected by natural disasters.
- The EU Solidarity Fund was established to express European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions in Member States and countries involved in accession negotiations with the Union. The Fund was created following the severe floods in Central Europe in the summer of 2002. Since then, it has been used for 76 disasters including floods, forest fires, earthquakes, storms and drought. 24 countries have been supported so far for an amount of over €5 billion.
- The Fund supplements Member States’ public expenditure to finance essential emergency operations such as: restoration to working order of essential infrastructure (energy, water, transport, telecoms, health and education); temporary accommodation and cost of the emergency services to meet the immediate needs of the population; securing of prevention infrastructures such as dam and dykes; measures to protect the cultural heritage; cleaning up operations.
- The largest amount under the EU Solidarity Fund — €1.2 billion — was recently proposed for Italy, following the earthquakes that struck the country in 2016 and 2017.
- In addition, Member States can now (since July 2017) activate a special EU support, in the form of an increased EU co-financing rate of 95% to finance reconstruction works linked to natural disasters with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This special EU support can be activated from day 1 of a disaster, and for disasters that have occurred since the beginning of the current programming period, i.e. 1 January 2014. It can therefore supplement EU Solidarity Fund support and provide a quick and efficient EU assistance to regions in distress.
Finally, the Commission stands ready to modify Regional Policy programmes, upon request of the national authorities and within the flexibility of the existing rules, in order to respond to new priorities on the ground. For example, the Portuguese Centro region’s programme has been modified and funding was redirected to restore vital infrastructure and regenerate economic activity in the region following the forest fires of June 2017.
27.7.2017: EU launches new humanitarian programme for the integration and accommodation of refugees in Greece
This includes the launch of the flagship ‘Emergency Support To Integration & Accommodation’ (ESTIA) programme to help refugees and their families rent urban accommodation and provide them with cash assistance. This marks a change from previous humanitarian projects which mainly provided support for accommodation in camps and the provision of direct supplies.
Rented accommodation for up to 30,000 people
A €93.5 million project with UNHCR, under the ESTIA programme, sets up large scale rental project to improve living conditions of refugees by providing 22,000 urban accommodation places. It will increase the number of refugees living in rented apartments in Greece up to 30,000 by the end of 2017. Some 2,000 rented accommodation places will be located on the Greek islands, with the bulk of apartments rented in cities and towns on mainland Greece and local landowners receiving a stable and reliable income for these apartments. A number of municipalities in Greece are also formally part of this project.
Cash assistance to empower refugees to meet basic needs
A further €57.6 million project with UNHCR, under the ESTIA programme, will set up a basic social safety net for all asylum seekers and refugees in Greece by providing them with pre-defined monthly cash allocations through a dedicated card. It aims to enable refugees to meet their basic needs in a dignified manner. The allocations are consistent across the country, and pegged to the Greek emergency social safety net, as well as being based on the refugees’ family size. Using this card, refugees can fulfil their basic needs such as food, medicine and public transportation. At the same time, this assistance is re-injected into the local economy, family shops and service providers.
The remaining funding will go to humanitarian NGOs to top up existing projects addressing pressing humanitarian needs in Greece, including shelter, primary health care, psycho-social support, improved hygiene conditions as well as informal education.
A full list of the funding and projects can be found here.
6.7.2017: EU and Japan reach agreement in principle on Economic Partnership Agreement
This will be the most important bilateral trade agreement ever concluded by the EU and as such will for the first time include a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.
For the EU and its Member States, the Economic Partnership Agreement will remove the vast majority of duties paid by EU companies, which sum up to €1 billion annually, open the Japanese market to key EU agricultural exports and increase opportunities in a range of sectors. It sets the highest standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection, fully safeguards public services and has a dedicated chapter on sustainable development. It also builds on and reinforces the high standards for the protection of personal data that both, the EU and Japan, have recently entrenched in their data protection laws.
The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and the Prime-Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe made the announcement on the conclusion of the agreement in principle during the EU-Japan Summit.
With regards to agricultural exports from the EU, the agreement:
– scraps duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
– will allow the EU to increase its beef exports to Japan substantially, while on pork there will be duty-free trade in processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat;
– ensures the protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications.
The agreement also:
– opens up services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport:
– guarantees EU companies access to the large procurement markets of Japan in 48 large cities, and removes obstacles to procurement in the economically important railway sector at national level;
– protects sensitive economic sectors of the EU, for instance in the automotive sector, with transition periods before markets are opened.
28.6.2017: EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Significant Progress in Implementation Achieved
European Commission reports on progress of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey: a further €714 million in humanitarian assistance committed and €50 million more contracted in skills training.
Today, at the seventh Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees the European Commission reported on the progress achieved on the disbursement of the allocated support, which continues at an accelerated pace. Of the overall €3 billion budget for 2016-2017, €2.9 billion has been allocated to date. Contracts have been signed for 48 projects worth over €1.6 billion, out of which €811 million has already been disbursed.
Most recent developments include the signature of a €50 million contract for socio-economic support which aims to improve the employability of Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey through language and other skills training. In addition, the Commission published the Humanitarian Implementation Plan for Turkey for 2017 on 3 May. This sets out the priorities for another €714 million of funding for refugees which should be contracted by the end of 2017.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: “The EU Facility for Refugees continues to make a difference in the daily lives of many refugees. The latest contract signature of €50 million gives Syrian refugees and host communities the opportunity to boost their skills and thus succeed on the labour market, including through Turkish language courses. I remain fully committed to helping Turkey improve the living conditions of the refugees in the country and I look forward to visiting some of our refugee support projects next week when I travel to Turkey.”
7.6.2017: A Europe that defends: Commission opens debate on moving towards a security and defence union
The Commission is today opening a public debate on the future direction of defence in an EU of 27.
Following the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe, today’s reflection paper outlines different scenarios on how to address the growing security and defence threats facing Europe and enhance Europe’s own abilities in defence by 2025. The debate will make an important contribution to deciding on how the Union will strengthen the protection and security of European citizens, which has been at the heart of the Juncker Commission priorities. The reflection paper is complemented by concrete proposals presented today to launch a European Defence Fund which will support more efficient spending by Member States on joint defence capabilities.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “We are moving fast and forward on security in the European Union, with the Commission accompanying and supporting the determination of Member States. Today’s Reflection Paper is the Commission’s contribution to the reflection on the future of our Union in this field, starting from the demand of a more integrated and effective defence coming from our citizens. Through the European Union, we can support Member States in developing military capabilities and investing more efficiently in defence. We have come a long way in less than one year and we are determined to keep this pace.”
EU leaders will meet in Prague on 9 June to discuss how to use the potential of the Treaties for stepping up cooperation in defence. The Commission is contributing to that discussion and to the broader EU-wide debate on defence, by setting out three possible scenarios for the future of European defence.
- Under a “Security and Defence Cooperation” scenario, Member States would still decide on the need for security and defence cooperation on a voluntary and case-by-case basis, while the EU would continue to complement national efforts. Defence cooperation would be strengthened, but the EU’s participation in the most demanding operations would remain limited. The new European Defence Fund would help develop some new joint capabilities but Member States would still oversee the bulk of defence capabilities’ development and procurement individually. EU‒NATO cooperation would retain today’s format and structure.
- Under a more ambitious “Shared Security and Defence” scenario, Member States would pool together certain financial and operational assets to increase solidarity in defence. The EU would also become more engaged in Europe’s protection within and beyond its borders. It would take on a greater role in areas like cyber, border protection or the fight against terrorism, and strengthen the defence and security dimension of internal EU policies like energy, health, customs or space. This would be matched by a political will to act, as well as decision-making fit for a rapidly changing context. The EU and NATO would also increase mutual cooperation and coordinate across a full spectrum of issues.
- The most ambitious “Common Defence and Security” scenario foresees the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy, leading to common defence based on Article 42 of the EU Treaty. The existing provision allows a group of Member States to take European defence to the next level. Under this scenario, protecting Europe would become a mutually reinforcing responsibility of the EU and NATO. The EU would be able to run high-end security and defence operations, underpinned by a greater level of integration of Member States’ defence forces. The EU would support joint defence programmes with the European Defence Fund, as well as set up a dedicated European Defence Research Agency.This would also foster the creation of a genuine European defence market, able to protect its key strategic activities from external takeovers.
30.5.2017:European Solidarity Corps: Commission proposes more than €340 million to enable 100 000 placements by 2020
Today, the Commission has put the European Solidarity Corps on a firm footing by proposing a budget for the next three years and a dedicated legal base.
This will help consolidate the initiative and create more opportunities for young people. As well as offering volunteering, traineeships and job placements, the European Solidarity Corps will now also provide participants the opportunity to set up their own solidarity projects or to volunteer as a group.
During a first phase launched in December 2016, eight different programmes were mobilised to offer volunteering, traineeship or job opportunities under the European Solidarity Corps. More than 30,000 young people have already signed up and the first participants have now started their placements. Under the leadership of Commissioners Oettinger, Navracsics and Thyssen, the Commission is today proposing to equip the European Solidarity Corps with one single legal base, its own financing mechanism and a broader set of solidarity activities. This will help further increase its coherence, impact and cost-effectiveness. The Commission proposes to allocate €341.5 million to the European Solidarity Corps over the period 2018-2020, to enable 100,000 young Europeans to take part by the end of 2020.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “More than just a principle, solidarity is a state of mind that goes to the very heart of what the European Union is about. The Solidarity Corps is that principle personified. I am proud of what the Corps represents and grateful to all those signing up and the organisations providing placements for our young people. Today we are giving a proper legal form to the Corps, along with the budget to sustain it. The participants on the ground are the ones giving the Corps – and European solidarity – life.”
For the next phase of the European Solidarity Corps, the following types of activities are envisaged:
- Solidarity placements will support young people in carrying out volunteering activities for up to 12 months, traineeship placements for usually 2–6 months, and job placements in compliance with relevant national legislation for 2–12 months.
- Volunteering teams will allow groups of 10-40 young volunteers from different countries to make an impact together, for 2 weeks to 2 months.
- Solidarity projects will allow small groups of at least five participants to set up and implement solidarity projects at the local level on their own initiative, for 2 to 12 months.
- Networking activities will help attract newcomers to the European Solidarity Corps, allow the exchange of good practices, provide post-placement support and establish alumni networks.
Any public or private body adhering to strict quality requirements can propose projects for the European Solidarity Corps. It will be implemented by the European Commission, the Erasmus+ National Agencies in the Member States, and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). To improve the integration of European Solidarity Corps participants in the labour market, the active involvement of Public Employment Services, private employment services and Chambers of Commerce will be encouraged.
With today’s proposal, the Commission is delivering on its promise made when launching the European Solidarity Corps to present a legal proposal by spring 2017. The draft Regulation now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can enter into force. In their Joint Declaration, the EU institutions committed to delivering on the proposal by the end of this year.
5.5.2017: More than 1 300 Master students to benefit from Erasmus Mundus scholarships in 2017
1345 students from all over the world have just received the good news that they have been awarded an EU-funded scholarship to begin studying for an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree this autumn.
These scholarships will cover all the costs of their study programmes which will take them to two or more higher education institutions in pursuit of a joint or double Master’s degree. Most programmes last two years.
The 100 Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree programmes offering EU scholarships in 2017 cover a wide range of subjects, from astrophysics and nanotechnology to cartography and sports ethics. This year’s scholarships have been awarded to students from all six continents with the top five sending countries being Brazil (79), India (63), Iran (59), Bangladesh (58) and Mexico (49).
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees are great examples of universities working together across borders to offer integrated, innovative and high quality degree programmes. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Erasmus, it is inspiring to see the international outlook that this EU funding programme has helped to foster in universities, students and staff. That is why we are delighted to be able to fund over 1 300 scholarships for students from all over the world in 2017. Within two years they will be graduating with a tailored set of knowledge and professional skills to start or boost their careers.”The newly-selected students will also be able to join and benefit from the Erasmus Mundus Student and Alumni Association, which supports and provides a network for students before, during and after their studies.
Each Master’s programme also provides EU grants to guest academics to come and contribute to the programme through teaching or research.
26.4.2017: Commission presents the European Pillar of Social Rights
Building a fairer Europe and strengthening its social dimension is a key priority for this Commission.
Today, it delivers on its promise to adopt its proposal for the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. The Pillar is designed as a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe. It is primarily conceived for the euro area but applicable to all EU Member States wishing to be part of it.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “As Commission President, I have been seeking to put social priorities at the heart of Europe’s work, where they belong. With the European Pillar of Social Rights and the first set of initiatives that accompany it, we are delivering on our promises and we are opening a new chapter. We want to write this chapter together: Member States, EU institutions, the social partners and civil society all have to take on their responsibility. I would like to see the Pillar endorsed at the highest political level before the end of this year.”
The Pillar was prepared by the Commission, under the leadership of Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Thyssen, in close consultation with stakeholders at all levels. It reaffirms rights that are already present in the EU and international legal acquis and complements them to take account of new realities. The principles and rights enshrined in the Pillar are structured around three categories: equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion. They place the focus on how to tackle new developments in the world of work and society at large so as to deliver on the promise of the Treaties of a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress.
Already today, the European Commission flanks the European Pillar of Social Rights with a number of further concrete legislative and non-legislative initiatives such as on the work-life balance of parents and carers, on the information of workers, and on access to social protection and on working time. These initiatives illustrate both the nature of the issues covered by the Pillar as well as the way in which its principles and rights can be implemented.
A social scoreboard is also established to track trends and performances across EU countries in 12 areas and to assess progress towards a social “triple A” for the EU as a whole. This analysis will feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination.
The Pillar is presented today under two legal forms with identical content: as a Commission Recommendation, effective as of today, and as a proposal for a joint proclamation by the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. On this basis, the Commission will now enter into discussions with the European Parliament and the Council to work towards broad political support and high-level endorsement of the Pillar.
10.04.2017 EU Justice Scoreboard 2017: justice systems becoming more effective, but challenges remain
Today, the European Commission publishes the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard which gives a comparative overview of the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems in the EU Member States.
Its aim is to assist national authorities to improve the effectiveness of their justice systems. Compared to previous editions, the 2017 Scoreboard looks into new aspects of the functioning of justice systems, for example, how easily consumers can access justice and which channels they use to submit complaints against companies. For the first time, it also shows the length of criminal court proceedings relating to money laundering offences.
“The 5th edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market” said Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. “I encourage Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence. This is key for citizens and businesses to fully enjoy their rights. An independent and well-functioning justice system is a fundamental pillar of every democracy.”
Key findings of the 2017 edition include:
- Shorter civil and commercial court proceedings: including in a number of Member States whose justice systems are facing challenges. This improvement is clearer over the five-year period than in the short-term.
- Analysis of consumer protection enforcement: Member States are responsible for the enforcement of EU consumer law. The Scoreboard shows that the length of administrative proceedings and judicial review in this field varies a lot depending on the country. It also shows that many consumer issues are solved directly by consumer authorities and they don’t need to go to courts.
- Analysis of the fight against money laundering: As required by the 4th Anti-Money Laundering directive, Member States have provided for the first time data in this area. It shows a large variation in case length – from less than half a year to almost three years- for proceedings dealing with anti-money laundering offenses.
- Limited access to justice for poorer citizens: the Scoreboard shows that in some Member States, citizens whose income is below the poverty threshold do not receive any legal aid in some types of disputes.
- Use of ICT tools still limited in some countries: while it’s widely used for communication between courts and lawyers in half of the Member States, the use of ICT for electronic signature is very limited in over half the EU countries. New data on how lawyers use ICT when communicating with courts again underlines the importance of electronic communication for well-functioning justice systems.
- Improved or stable perception of judicial independence among the general public: this is the case in more than two-thirds of Member States, compared to 2016. The trend is the same for businesses’ perception since 2010. Among the reasons for the perceived lack of independence of courts and judges, the interference or pressure from government and politicians was the most stated reason. The 2017 edition also presents data on the safeguards in place in the different Member States to guarantee the judicial independence of judges. This reflects the strong importance of rule of law for the EU.
- Quality standards: Most Member States have standards fixing time limits or timeframes to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings. However, such standards are not in place in certain Member States with less efficient justice systems.
23.3.2017:Commission gives a boost to youth mobility in Europe
The European Commission presented today an initiative under the Erasmus+ programme which further supports learning and mobility of young Europeans. Called “Move2Learn, Learn2Move“, it will enable at least 5,000 young citizens to travel to another EU country in a sustainable manner – individually or together with their school class. The one-off initiative, which is linked to the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, is consistent with two central priorities of the Commission: to put a renewed focus on Europe’s youth, and to facilitate EU citizens’ mobility, particularly low emission mobility.
Move2Learn, Learn2Move builds on an idea put forward by the European Parliament in 2016. It will be implemented through eTwinning, the world’s biggest teachers’ network. Part of Erasmus+, it enables teachers and pupils across Europe to develop projects together through an online platform.
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “Building on the success of eTwinning, this initiative will enable young people to discover and experience first-hand different countries and cultures across Europe. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Erasmus, this will be another example of this EU success story bringing people together, helping them to develop a feeling of what it means to be European.“
Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Transport is not about tracks, ships or motorways; it is about people. We want to give young Europeans the chance to discover Europe. We also want to encourage them to travel in an environmentally friendly way, which is why CO2 emissions will be taken into account. I am also happy that we can count on the active participation of transport operators to help strengthen the initiative.”
The initiative will be open to school classes of students aged 16 and above taking part in eTwinning. They are invited to indicate whether they want to be considered for free travel tickets which will be awarded for the best eTwinning projects in each participating country. Social inclusion will be an important criterion in the selection of the best projects. Once the winners have been picked, they will be able to travel from August 2017 until December 2018, at a date of their choice. Students will either travel in a group as part of a school trip or individually, depending on the decision of parents and teachers.
2.3.2017:Commission calls for renewed efforts in implementing solidarity measures under the European Agenda on Migration
Ahead of next week’s European Council and in the form of three progress reports, the Commission is today making a renewed call on Member States to pick up the pace of relocation to alleviate pressure from Italy and Greece, with few having met their commitments in full.
The Commission is also calling on Member States to make good on the strong political commitment given and fill gaps in manpower and equipment by the end of March for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. With the EU-Turkey Statement continuing, one year on, to keep irregular crossings under control but with arrivals still outpacing returns, the Commission is also calling on Greece and all Member States to keep up the momentum in implementing the Joint Action Plan to improve the situation in the islands.
Steady delivery of results in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement
After almost one year, the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March continues to deliver tangible results, despite the challenging circumstances. Daily crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands have gone down from 10,000 persons in a single day in October 2015 to 43 a day now. Overall, arrivals have dropped by 98%. The number of lives lost in the Aegean Sea since the Statement took effect has also substantially fallen, from 1,100 (during the same period in 2015-2016) to 70. Return operations have continued to be carried out with a total of 1,487 returns since the Statement was activated.
Progress on other areas of the Statement continues, with the Commission continuing to accelerate the delivery of funding under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, as showed in the first Annual Report on the Facility published by the Commission in parallel today. €1.5 billion out of the already allocated €2.2 billion for 2016-2017 has been contracted in record time, half of the total €3 billion budget for 2016-2017. The Commission is also continuing to work with Turkey to encourage progress on meeting the outstanding benchmarks of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap and the Council has started its examination of the negotiating directive for upgrading the Customs Union.
Progress in making the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency fully operational
Five months after the European Border and Coast Guard was launched, joint investment and engagement in ensuring it becomes fully operational as quickly as possible are still needed, as a practical expression of the commitment by Member States to share responsibility and demonstrate solidarity.
The Agency is currently supporting Member States with around 1,350 border guards at different sections of the EU external border, complementing the existing national capacities of Member States of over 100,000 border guards. However, despite important deployments and contributions by Member States, there are gaps, both in terms of human resources and technical equipment. In particular, considerable gaps still exist regarding material contributions to the Rapid Reaction Equipment pool, deployments to ongoing joint operations and to the three new pools of forced-return monitors, forced-return escorts and return specialists.These gaps should be filled by Member States by the end of March 2017 to ensure that the Agency can provide the necessary support to Member States at the external borders. It is also necessary to carry through the vulnerability assessment process to help close potential shortcomings at the external borders before a new crisis may arise, including by prioritising the most urgent vulnerabilities.
22.2.2017:European Semester Winter Package: review of Member States’ progress towards economic and social priorities
The European Commission today publishes its annual analysis of the economic and social situation in the Member States, including an assessment of remaining imbalances.
Member States are making headway in implementing the individual policy guidance they received last year around the “virtuous triangle” of boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms and ensuring responsible fiscal policies. This assessment of Member States’ progress is part of the annual cycle of economic policy coordination at EU level and is known as the Winter Package of the European Semester. The package follows the economic forecast released last week.
Today’s 27 Country Reports (for all Member States except Greece, which is under a dedicated stability support programme) provide the annual analysis of Commission staff of the situation in the Member States’ economies, including where relevant an assessment of macroeconomic imbalances. Following the publication in November of the Annual Growth Survey 2017 and the euro area recommendations, which set the priorities for the year ahead at European level, today’s package shifts the attention to the national dimension of the European Semester, in the run-up to the Country-Specific Recommendations in spring.
The early publication of Country Reports, ahead of the presentation of National Programmes and the update of Country-Specific Recommendations, is part of the Juncker Commission’s efforts to streamline and strengthen the European Semester. It aims to allow time for a dialogue with Member States on European and national priorities and to reflect greater focus on employment and social considerations.
The analysis presented in today’s Country Reports shows that in most Member States, economic recovery has contributed to declining unemployment rates, although these are still above pre-crisis levels. The In-Depth Reviews contained in some of the reports show that large current account deficits have been corrected, and sizeable stocks of private, public and external debt have started falling as a share of Gross Domestic Product. However, a number of risks remain: high current account surpluses are only being adjusted to a limited extent, while large stocks of non-performing loans weigh on the financial sector in some Member States.
- Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus are found to be experiencing excessive economic imbalances.
- Germany, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden are experiencing economic imbalances.
- Finland is found not to be experiencing economic imbalances.
Cyprus is experiencing excessive imbalances. A very high share of non-performing loans burdens the financial sector and high stock of private, public, and external debt hangs on the economy, in the context of high unemployment and weak potential growth.The current account is still negative and is not adequate to guarantee a sustainable evolution of the net external liabilities stock.Government debt is expected to have peaked, but the current relaxation of fiscal policy is foreseen to slow down the needed adjustment.Despite a major restructuring of the banking sector and improved capital positions, the stock of non-performing loans is slowly declining but remains very high. Poor contract enforcement, inefficiencies in the judicial system and bottlenecks in the implementation of the foreclosure and insolvency legislation hamper private sector deleveraging and the reduction of non-performing loans. Reform momentum has weakened since 2016 and policy gaps persist in the areas of public administration, fiscal management, the justice system, the framework for title deeds, electricity and privatisation.
8.2.2017:Relocation and Resettlement: Member States need to build on encouraging results
Today, the Commission adopted its ninth progress report on the EU’s emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken since 8 December 2016.
During the reporting period, Member States have continued to increase their efforts on resettlement offering legal and safe pathways to 13,968 people so far. Regarding relocation, the overall positive trend has also been maintained with an additional 3,813 relocations taking place during the reporting period, and December seeing the highest monthly number so far (1,926). The total number of relocations now stands at 11,966. However, further efforts are still needed from Member States to sustain the progress made and reach the monthly targets set by the Commission of 1,000 relocations from Italy and 2,000 from Greece.
During the reporting period, 3,813 additional persons have been relocated, bringing the total number to 11,966 (8,766 from Greece and 3,200 from Italy). While December marked a new record for relocations both from Italy and Greece, with 1,926 people relocated (764 from Italy and 1,162 from Greece), in January, 1,682 persons were relocated (551 from Italy and 1,131 from Greece). In December 2016, the Commission called on Member States individually to increase their efforts to meet the targets of 1,000 monthly relocations from Italy and 2,000 from Greece. Member States and Associated Countries which were already participating actively in the relocation scheme reacted positively to the Commission’s call and communicated their planned monthly pledges. Finland for example is well on track to meet its obligation for relocations from Greece (560 out of 1,299 relocated so far) and Italy (359 out of 779). However, significantly increased commitment and delivery is still needed from other Member States, in particular those who still have not started to carry out relocations at all.
The repeated calls for accelerated and steady relocation from Greece and Italy made by the Heads of State or Government of the EU’s Member States must be matched with determined action by the competent national services. Member States should build further on the results achieved so far and ensure they pledge and transfer on a stable monthly basis and according to the size of their allocation, thereby delivering on their legal obligations and applying solidarity in practice. The Commission will continue to closely monitor the situation and present its next report in March 2017.
Member States have continued to provide safe and legal avenues to Europe for people in need of international protection with 13,968 of the agreed 22,504 resettled so far under the EU resettlement scheme from July 2015. Since the previous report, 913 people have been resettled mainly from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Resettlements have taken place to 21 resettling States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Sweden, the United Kingdom, Finland and Netherlands as well as associated countries Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland have already fulfilled their pledges.
The number of resettlements from Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement, included in the overall figure of resettlements, has continued to increase and Member States are advancing well with the preparation of further resettlement operations. Since 4 April 2016, 3,098 Syrians have been resettled from Turkey to the EU, including 487 since the previous report. The Turkish authorities are delivering on their promise to step up efforts to provide larger lists of resettlement candidates. Member States should continue delivering on their resettlement commitments, including as part of the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement.
3.2.2017: President Juncker at the Malta Summit: Reaffirming European values and agreeing on measures to better manage migration and save lives along the Central Mediterranean Route
Today, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is participating in the informal Malta Summit in Valletta. The main focus of discussions will be on how to better manage migration and save lives along the Central Mediterranean route.
Leaders are expected to agree on a concrete set of short- and medium term actions which will help stabilise the Central Mediterranean route. The meeting will also provide an opportunity for the EU-27 to have a broad discussion on the future of Europe ahead of the Rome Summit on 25 March which will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. Given the new realities and old challenges facing Europe at the start of 2017, the informal Malta Summit is a time for collective action in the area of external migration but also a moment to show unity. It presents an opportunity to reaffirm European values and defend the tolerance, solidarity and openness that Europe is built on.
Following the first working session on external migration, leaders will publish the Malta Declaration setting out concrete short- and medium term actions to improve the situation along the Central Mediterranean route and on the ground in Libya and its neighbouring countries. Joint press conference by Prime Minister Muscat, President Tusk and President Juncker is currently scheduled for 16:00 CET and can be followed live via EbS.
Ahead of the Informal Malta Summit, the Commission and the High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini presented a number of measures that they consider leaders should agree to in order to stabilise the Central Mediterranean route. More facts and figures that are likely to feature in the Malta Summit discussions can be found in a factsheet and a strategic note from the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC).
26.1.2017:New figures show record number of participants in Erasmus+
The European Commission published today new figures showing that the EU’s education and training programme, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is more successful and open than ever.
In 2015, Erasmus+ enabled 678,000 Europeans to study, train, work and volunteer abroad, more than ever before. In the same year, the EU invested €2.1 billion in over 19,600 projects involving 69,000 organisations. These are the main findings of the Erasmus+ Annual Report for 2015 published by the European Commission today. Results also show that the programme is well on track to meet its target of supporting 4 million people between 2014 and 2020.
Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and former Erasmus student at the University of Leicester (UK) said: “Education is vital in equipping people with the knowledge, competences, skills and ability to make the most of their potential and of the opportunities open to them. Mobility broadens our horizons and strengthens us further. Erasmus can offer both. As a former Erasmus student, I have experienced this first hand. I encourage other students and in particular teachers, trainers, youth workers and vocational education and training students to also make use of the opportunities open to them under Erasmus+”.
Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “Erasmus has been opening up opportunities to young people for three decades now, enabling them to develop vital skills, including social and intercultural skills, and promoting active citizenship. By connecting people and supporting them in working together, the programme plays a key role in empowering our youth to build a better society. This is the solidarity Europe needs, now more than ever. I want to ensure that Erasmus+ can support even more people from a wider range of backgrounds in the future”.
In 2015, Erasmus+ expanded even further by enabling, for the first time, higher education institutions to send and receive more than 28,000 students and staff to and from countries beyond Europe. France, Germany and Spain remain three top sending countries, while Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom receive most of the Erasmus+ participants. Feedback from participants confirms that time spent abroad with Erasmus+ is time well spent: 94% say their skills have improved and 80% feel that it has boosted their career opportunities. One in three students who do traineeships abroad through Erasmus+ is offered a position by their host company.
Today’s report also gives an overview of steps taken by the Commission to adapt Erasmus+ to help the EU and Member States tackle societal challenges, such as the integration of refugees and migrants. For instance, the programme’s Online Linguistic Support system has been extended to benefit 100,000 refugees over the next three years; €4 million have been made available for this. The aim is to enable especially young people to enter the host countries’ education systems and develop their skills.
The publication of the report coincides with the launchof the campaign marking the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme (called Erasmus+ since 2014 because it benefits more people through a wider range of opportunities). Events will take place throughout 2017 at European, national and local levels to highlight the positive impact of Erasmus both on individuals and society as a whole, and to give all those involved the opportunity to debate how the programme should evolve in the future. Over the past 30 years, Erasmus+ and its predecessors have supported not only more than 5 million students, apprentices and volunteers, but also staff and youth exchanges, amounting to 9 million people in total.
23.1.2017:Commission prepares next steps towards European Pillar of Social Rights
Today, the European Commission is taking a further step towards establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights with a high level conference in Brussels. Detailed proposals will follow shortly.
The European Commission also announced it would co-host an EU Social Summit with Sweden later this year.
More than 600 participants from Member State authorities, EU institutions, social partners and civil society, including more than 20 national Ministers and several Members of the College of Commissioners, are discussing the results of the public consultation on this European Pillar of Social Rights. Since the initiative’s announcement by President Juncker in September 2015, there has been a wide debate with EU authorities, Member States, social partners, civil society and citizens on the content and role of the Pillar and how to ensure fairness and social justice in Europe. Today’s discussions bring this process to an end and will help the Commission prepare its proposal on the Pillar to be expected in March. At this occasion, President Jean-Claude Juncker announced today that he will host a “Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth” together with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017.
President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Since the start of my mandate, I have made clear that I wanted a more social Europe. We have taken important first steps to achieve that. This year will be crucial. Following the broad public consultation, it is time to establish the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Social Summit in Sweden will help us to deliver the momentum and put social priorities where they belong: at the top of Europe’s agenda.”
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said: “In these challenging times, we need to show that we can deliver results in peoples’ everyday lives. A more social Europe, with fair working conditions, effective labour markets and a strong social dialogue, should be a priority for all of us. I trust we can take important steps towards this goal at the Social Summit in November.”
Today’s conference is an opportunity to exchange with stakeholders. The Commission has organised a broad public consultation on the Pillar last year, with more than 16.000 contributions. The European Parliament has adopted a resolution yesterday. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is set to adopt its opinion later this month. The Committee of the Regions contributed with an opinion and also European and national social partners with their reports (report of BusinessEurope, report of ETUC).
12.1.2017:President Juncker participates in the Geneva settlement talks for Cyprus
Today, President Juncker is leading the EU’s delegation to Geneva for the Cyprus settlement Conference.
He is joined by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and his Personal Representative to the UN Good Offices at the UN Protected Area in Nicosia, Pieter Van Nuffel who has been in Geneva since the start of the Conference on Monday.
On his way to Geneva, President Juncker said: “Since becoming President of the Commission, I have taken a personal interest in the unification of Cyprus. We must now seize the moment for Cyprus‘ unification. All Cypriots deserve a better European future. When it is about peace, you have to take the plane. It is risky, but when it is about peace you have to take risks. Those who are taking no risks are taking the greater risk.”
Since the start of the Juncker Commission, President Juncker has been in close contact with all key actors and has actively supported the settlement process as a matter of priority for the European Commission. A comprehensive settlement would be beneficial for Cyprus and for the EU and for a wider security and stability in the region.
3.1.2017:European Capitals of Culture in 2017: Aarhus and Pafos
2017 sees the Danish and Cypriot cities hosting one of the most popular EU projects.
As of 1 January, Aarhus and Pafos will hold the title of European Capital of Culture. The cultural programme will officially begin on 21 January in Aarhus. The opening ceremony for Pafos 2017 will take place on 28 January with Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus [tbc]. Commissioner Tibor Navracsics said: “The title of European Capital of Culture is a unique opportunity to bring communities together through culture and to foster strong local, European and international partnerships for the future. I wish Aarhus and Pafos every success for the coming year.“ Both cities have come up withprogrammes which showcase centuries of culture while using different art forms to address the socio-economic problems facing Europe today.
‘Rethink’ is the central theme of Aarhus 2017. The Danish city will show how arts, culture and the creative sector can help us to re-think and shape our basic social, urban, cultural and economic patterns of behaviour and find new solutions to common challenges. A rooftop Viking saga performance, an art exhibition stretching across the city and the coastline, a “Creativity World Forum” and an international children’s literary festival are just some of the many events which will bridge the past with creative ideas for the present and future.
The opening ceremony for Pafos 2017 is inspired by one of the themes for the year’s cultural programme: ‘Myth and Religion’. New life will be given to the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea and other narratives from the history of Pafos in a unique spectacle of music and dance. During the opening weekend on 28-29 January, the city will be converted into an Open Air Factory with numerous shows and artistic performances.
Initiated in 1985 by the then Greek Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, the European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. The cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, foster the participation and active involvement of the city’s inhabitants and contribute to the long-term development of the city.
It is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their own development through culture.
The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and for the surrounding region. For example, a study has shown that the number of tourists visiting a European Capital of Culture for at least one night increased by 12% on average compared with the year before the city held the title.
In 2016, Wroclaw in Poland and San Sebastian in Spain were European Capitals of Culture. Following Aarhus and Pafos in 2017, the future European Capitals of Culture will be Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 2018, Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Matera (Italy) in 2019 and Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) in 2020. Timisoara (Romania), Elefsina (Greece) and Novi Sad (Serbia, candidate country) were recently recommended to become the three European Capitals of Culture 2021 and are awaiting their official nomination by the relevant authorities.
For More Information
23.12.2016: The European Commission delivered equipment worth €1.8 million for the establishment of an animal by-products management system to improve public and animal health in the northern part of Cyprus
The equipment, provided by the European Commission, includes incinerators, specialized trucks, refrigerated containers, forklifts, loader and skips. It is for the safe collection, storage, transport and disposal of high risk animal by-products (ABP). Properly managed ABP is key to reducing the risk of transmission of animal diseases and contaminants (such as veterinary drug residues) to humans, animals or to the environment. Prevention, control and eradication of animal diseases, including those that are transmitted to humans such as tuberculosis and brucellosis, cannot be achieved without a fully functioning ABP management system .
The Aid Programme, approved by Council Regulation 389/2006, aims to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community with six main objectives: promotion of social and economic development; development and restructuring of infrastructure; reconciliation and confidence building; bringing the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU; preparation of legal texts and preparation for the implementation of the acquis following a comprehensive settlement.
13.12.2016- Three Institutions sign Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017:
Building on the European Council’s Strategic Guidelines and the 10 priorities the European Parliament gave the Juncker Commission a mandate to deliver, the Presidents of the three European Institutions agreed on a number of proposals they will give priority treatment to in the legislative process. This will ensure that the EU delivers concrete results for its citizens and addresses the most urgent challenges Europe faces today.
The Presidents of the Parliament, Council and Commission commit to streamlining the efforts of their Institutions to ensure swift legislative progress on these priority initiatives and, where possible, delivery before the end of 2017.
Giving a new boost to jobs, growth and investment – through the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI 2.0), revamped Trade Defence Instruments, the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the improvement of waste management in the circular economy;
Addressing the social dimension of the European Union – through the Youth Employment Initiative, improved social security coordination, the European Accessibility Act and the European Solidarity Corps;
Better protecting the security of our citizens – through the Entry-Exit System, Smart Borders and the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS), the control of firearms, instruments to criminalise terrorism, money laundering and terrorist financing, and the European Criminal Records Information Systems (ECRIS);
Reforming and developing our migration policy in a spirit of responsibility and solidarity – through the reform of the Common European Asylum System (including the Dublin mechanism), the Legal Migration package and the External Investment Plan to help to address the root causes of migration by enhancing investment and job creation in partner countries;
Delivering on our commitment to implement a connected Digital Single market – through the EU telecoms and copyright reforms, the Union of the 700 MHz band, preventing unjustified geo-blocking, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and common data protection rules;
Delivering on our objective of an ambitious Energy Union and a forward looking climate change policy – through the 2030 climate and energy framework, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Energy for all Europeans package.
In addition, the three Presidents highlight four fundamental issues which need particular attention and further progress in 2017: (i) commitment to common European values, the rule of law and fundamental rights; (ii) tackling tax fraud, evasion and avoidance; (iii) preserving the principle of free movement of workers; and (iv) contributing to stability, security and peace.
18.11.2016- First disbursement of EU Solidarity Fund aid to reach Cyprus after the wildfires of last summer:
After the tragic drought and wildfire of June 2016, Cyprus requested the EU Solidarity FUnd (EUSF).Today the European Commission has decided to grant Cyprus almost €730,000 from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF), as an advance payment
“In the wake of natural disasters, the EU Solidarity Fund is a concrete expression of European solidarity. Cyprus is set to receive a first EUSF payment following the terrible drought and forest fires of June in order to support reconstruction efforts and regenerate economic activity. This first disbursement of aid shows that we are standing side by side with Cyprus,” said Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu.
The amount of this advance was calculated on the basis of the preliminary assessment of the application received from Cyprus on 5 September, which found that the financial contribution from the EUSF was likely to amount to almost €7.3 million. In accordance with EUSF rules, the advance payment amounts to 10% of this sum. Once it has completed the assessment of the application, the Commission will propose a definitive amount of aid, to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
29.06.2016 – Joint statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the attack at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport
Turkey has suffered another tragic terrorist attack, this time at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. The attack has killed at least 36 people and injured many others. We extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of all those killed and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. The European Union reiterates once again its continuing solidarity to Turkey, its government and its people and reaffirms its commitment to work closely together to fight the global threat of terrorism in all its forms.
17.02.2016 – ‘Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community’ under the direct management of President Juncker and Vice-President Dombrovskis
The European Commission has decided to transfer the ‘Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community’, the Commission’s team in charge of the application of the EU Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot Community and of assisting the Turkish Cypriot to prepare for the reunification of Cyprus, to the Secretariat General’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) which will coordinate all the Commission’s efforts in facilitating the process for the reunification of Cyprus. The decision takes effect immediately and underlines the Commission’s readiness to continue supporting actively the process at all levels. The ‘Task Force for the Turkish Cypriot Community’ was set up in 2004 and was part, as from 2014, of Directorate-General for Regional Policy.
08.02.2016 – EU Scholarship Programme for Turkish Cypriot Community Launched
The EU Scholarship Programme for the Turkish Cypriot Community is now open for the academic year 2016-2017! In line with the objective of bringing the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the European Union, the European Commission will award scholarship grants to Turkish Cypriot students, graduates, and professionals in the northern part of Cyprus in order to offer them additional educational opportunities by raising their knowledge and/or increasing their skills in a specific field, and to broaden their experience of studying and working in the European Union.
The deadline for applications is 28th March 2016. For further information please visit the AB Burs website.
22.01.2016 – VP Mogherini, Commissioners Hahn and Stylianides to visit Turkey
This weekend an official visit to Turkey will be made by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides. Along with meetings in Ankara with political officials and civil society representatives which will be focused on common challenges ahead, visits will also be made to the South East of Turkey, as well as to EU-funded humanitarian aid projects assisting mainly refugees from Syria and Iraq.
08.01.2016 – Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič to Visit Cyprus
The University of Cyprus and the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus have the pleasure of inviting you to an open citizens’ dialogue with Mr Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union.
Monday 11 January | 18:00 | Lecture hall B108, “Anastasios G. Leventis” University House, at the University Campus (1 Panepistimiou Avenue, 2109, Aglantzia)
Information: email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 22894305
RSVP (autoreply machine): tel. 22894333
10.12.2015 – European Parliament Office to Host Roundtable Discussion on Federalism in the EU
The European Parliament Office in Cyprus cordially invites you a roundtable discussion on “Federal States in the EU: Challenges and Opportunities”. RSVP by 16th December to email@example.com
The discussion will be held on Monday 21st December 2015, from 11:00, at the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce – Kıbrıs Türk Ticaret Odası. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here.
09.12.2015 – Two Upcoming Public Discussions at EU House
The European Commission in Cyprus and the Association for Social Reform (OPEK) invite you to two public discussions entitled “A United Cyprus is Feasible” with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot political leaders.
Tuesday 15th December 2015 | 18:30 | EU House
Averof Neophytou, President of the Democratic Rally (DISY)
Mehmet Ali Talat, President of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP)
Thursday 14 January 2016 | 18.30 | EU House
Andros Kyprianou, Secretary General of AKEL
Cemal Özyiğit, President of the Social Democratic Party (TDP)
There will be simultaneous interpretation in Greek/Turkish/English and question and answer sessions.Space are limited, so RSVP! email: firstname.lastname@example.org
02.12.2015 – EC Proposes European Accessibility Act
The European Commission today proposed a European Accessibility Act, which will set common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services that will help people with disabilities at EU level to participate fully in society.
Products include ATMs and banking services, PCs, telephones and TV equipment, telephony and audiovisual services, transport, e-books and e-commerce. Read more here.
29.11.2015 – Meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey – EU-Turkey statement
Today the Leaders of the European Union met in Brussels with their Turkish counterpart. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999 and negotiating for accession since 2005. Turkey and the EU discussed the importance of overcoming the common challenges ahead. In line with the conclusions of the European Council of 15 October, they agreed that the accession process needs to be re-energized. They are committed to carry further their existing ties and solidarity and adopt result-oriented action to prepare their common future. They are determined to confront and surmount the existing risks and threats in a concerted manner to reinforce the European Project. Recalling the final declaration of the last G20 in Antalya, as well as the 2249 UNSC resolution, Turkey and the EU reaffirm that the fight against terrorism remains a priority. Read the full statement here.
18.11.2015 – European Commission Representation to hold Youth Employment Workshops
Don’t miss out on the workshops being held by the European Commission in Cyprus to improve youngsters’ chances in the job market! From 9-12 December at EU House.
Young people who are currently registered as unemployed at the RoC Public Employment Services will have the opportunity to take part in a series of 3 workshops, which will focus on one of the following topics:
1) Strengthening core employability skills, such as improving the presentation of CVs;
2) Enhancing an entrepreneurial spirit and mind set with a view to encouraging young people to start their own business and
3) Boosting digital skills and digital entrepreneurship.
Participants will also be informed about the employment schemes and opportunities available to them in Cyprus and across the EU. All workshops will be conducted in Greek. Click here for more information.
14.10.2015 – European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu to Cyprus on 15-16th October
Speaking ahead of the visit, Commissioner Crețu said: “This visit focuses on what Cohesion Policy can achieve in the Republic of Cyprus in terms of growth and job creation.”
During her visit, the Commissioner will meet Minister of Defence Christoforos Fokaides (in his capacity as Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs), Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades and Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment Nikos Kouyialis. Accompanied by the Mayor of Nicosia Constantinos Yiorkadjis, Commissioner Crețu will also tour the Taht-el-Kale area of Nicosia where extensive restoration works have taken place with EU financial support.
Commissioner Crețu is also due to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı and civil society representatives from the Turkish Cypriot community. In the northern part of Nicosia, accompanied by Mr Mehmet Harmanci, the Commissioner will visit the Bedesten (St Nicholas Church) and the Bandabulya old market which have been restored with funding from the EU’s aid programme for the Turkish Cypriot community.
09.10.2015 – Take part in an EU Public Consultation on Citizen’s Rights
Want to put forward your views forward for the EU policy agenda for the next years? Interested in helping to shape the future of Europe? Take part in an EU public consultation on citizens’ rights. The consultation is available online in all official languages until 7 December 2015 here.
European citizens have a number of important rights attached to their EU citizenship status, such as the right to move and reside freely in the EU; or the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European and municipal elections in another EU country where they live, under the same conditions as citizens of that country.
1-2.10.2015 – European Commission holds Colloquium on combatting antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred
Looking ahead to the Colloquium, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “European society is going through a period of turmoil and crisis which is challenging the very values on which our Union is built…Our collective responsibility to live together in tolerance and respect is particularly important at a time when we have a moral obligation to give refuge to people of various religions and cultures who arrive on our shores. Diversity must never be seen as a threat. It is our common responsibility to create and nurture an inclusive society.”
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová added: “This Colloquium is about sharing concrete experiences and ideas from across the EU, and deciding how we will move forward together. Hate speech has no place in our society – whether physically or online.”
17.09.2015 – Statement by Commissioner Creţu following her meeting with Fikri Toros, President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Phidias Pilides, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Yesterday in Brussels I met with Mr Phidias Pilides, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mr Fikri Toros, President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce.
It was the occasion for me to thank them both for their active involvement in achieving a Cyprus settlement, through economic activities. As Commissioner for Regional Policy, my mandate is to encourage Turkish Cypriot economic development and to promote contacts between the communities. I want to honour what Mr Toros and Mr Pilides have done to build mutual trust and do business together beyond dividing lines.
I encouraged the Cypriot Chambers to continue working on facilitating trade across the Green Line, as I am convinced that the economy can be a driver of peace; I believe the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community is crucial for the reunification of Cyprus.
The Commission enabled the trade of products over the Green Line by putting forward the Regulation on Green Line Trade in 2004. Since then, the Commission successfully facilitated the trading of additional products over the Green Line and has been involved in helping the two Cypriot communities to remove remaining obstacles to trade.
I assured Mr Toros and Mr Pilides of both my personal support and the Commission’s support. The Commission’s Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community supports the two Cypriot Chambers through a €250,000 project which aims to promote dialogue and cooperation between civil society and business over the Green Line.
Since 2006, we have made available some €370 million under this Aid Programme, in order to improve the quality of the Turkish Cypriots’ everyday life.
The programme promotes the economic and social development of the area, through the support to local entrepreneurs, farmers or students. It helps developing and restructuring vital infrastructures and prepares the Turkish Cypriot community for the implementation of the EU body of laws in the perspective of the reunification of Cyprus.
I encouraged them to continue setting the right example. On my side, I will go to Cyprus in October, in order to show my commitment to support a Cyprus settlement.
09.09.2015 – Official Inauguration of Europe Direct Nicosia
EDIC Nicosia was officially inaugurated on Wednesday 9th September 2015 with the attendance of many local community members and media representatives. Following a welcome speech by the Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Mr. Georgios Markopouliotis, there were keynote addresses from the two Mayors of Nicosia, Mr. Constantinos Yiorkadjis and Mr. Mehmet Harmancı. Following a presentation about EDIC’s services as an information centre and details about past and upcoming activities, there was a delightful performance by the Bicommunal Choir for Peace. The inauguration was concluded with a cocktail reception.
24.07.2015 – Ms. Federica Mogherini’s visit to the H4C
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, visited the Home For Cooperation, the residences of Europe Direct Nicosia, on the 24th July to meet with civil society representatives and youth. In her closing remarks, Ms. Mogherini states that: “…these exchanges give me a sense of the society you’re living in and I know the extremely valuable work you are doing to put divisions aside.”
16.07.2015 – President Juncker visits Nicosia
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will travel to Cyprus this week (Thursday 16 July and Friday 17 July) at the invitation of President Nikos Anastasiades. It will be President Juncker’s first visit official to the island since becoming President of the European Commission. The President will be accompanied by the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides.
07.07.2015 – Young Greek and Turkish Cypriot CMP scientists working together
On 1 July the European Commission organised an event to mark the important contribution by the European Union to the Committee on the Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus as well as to acknowledge the importance of the work carried out by the young Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists working for the CMP.
The Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established in April 1981 by agreement between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities under the auspices of the United Nations. This bi-communal committee has the mandate to establish the fate of missing persons without attributing any responsibility for the cause of death.
In order to further improve the trust between the two communities, the project aims to increasingly involve the families of the missing persons in the implementation, adding events all over Cyprus and abroad to the information sessions already carried out in schools.
Updated information about the project can be found on the website.
13.06.2015 – Europe Day and Green Week celebrated in Selimiye Square
On Saturday the 13th June EDIC Nicosia joined NGOs and Embassies to take part in AB Bilgi Merkezi‘s Europe Day and Green Week Fair. We had a lovely day meeting local members of civil society and sharing information about EU policies, with the youngest members of the community, whom we would like to thank for their help in running the stall!
06.06.2015 – EDIC, Nicosia attends Cyprus’ 2nd Annual Pride
The European Commission in Cyprus and Europe Direct Information Centre, Nicosia were honoured to take part in the PRIDE celebrations on Saturday 6th June 2015. We were joined by many members of the public and heard from key figures.
04.06.2015 – Statements from press point after meeting between Martin Schulz and Espen Barth Eide, the UN Secretary General’s special adviser on Cyprus
Martin Schulz – European Parliament President
“Our estimation for the next necessary steps and the possibilities to come to a constructive solution in the foreseeable time… I would use one word: Hope. For the first time in a long time there is hope that we will come to a solution. It is not yet done, there is still a lot to do, there are still a lot of problems ahead, but there is the option for a constructive solution. It’s the first time in a long time that there’s a real chance. Whatever the EP can do within the framework of the European institutions, we will do.”
Espen Barth Eide
“Much more important than what I think, the leaders Νίκος Αναστασιάδης (Nicos Anastasiades) and Mustafa Akıncı are working hard for a just solution. I feel on a daily basis their commitment to do so. This is the moment. We either use this moment well or there will be big disappointment again. I am here with the message of strong opportunity and strong hope. This is not only a Cyprus issue but a European issue at its very heart.” Watch it here.
03.06.2015 – Green Line Trade Remains at a Low Level
The European Commission adopted its Annual Report on the implementation of the Green Line Regulation yesterday. During 2014, the crossing of persons increased by 17%. This is a positive development. The control of the crossing points by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus was assessed as satisfactory. Irregular migration across the Green Line continued to slightly decrease against the overall European trend. Trade across the Green Line reached around €3.5 million compared to € 3.4 million the previous year. Despite this slight increase, it remained at a low level. The Commission stays concerned by this low level and will therefore continue to seek ways to enhance trade across the Green Line since this can play a positive role towards reunification. Full report here.
20.05.2015 – AB Bilgi Merkezi to Host Film Screening of ‘Almanya – Welcome to Germany’
Europe Day celebrations continue with a film screening at the EU Infopoint on May 20th – 6:30pm. There will be also a debate session on freedom of movement with specialist Kristine Dupate, Don’t forget to reserve your seat!
LCV/RSVP: Derya Tangül email: email@example.com Tel: 228 2577
14.05.2015 – European Commission’s new Migration Agenda
“Thousands of migrants have been putting their lives in peril to cross the Mediterranean and it has become clear that no Member State can effectively address migration alone.
This Agenda thus seeks to provide a European response, using all policies and tools at our disposal by combining internal and external policies and by involving all actors: Member States, EU institutions, International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third countries”
To read more, click here.
16.04.2015 – Europe Direct Nicosia to hold ‘Understanding the Green Line Regulation Event’
Date: Wednesday, 22nd March
Venue: Home For Cooperation
This is the first in the series of information sessions on the Green Line Regulation. These information sessions will be held with the support of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and will be designed in accordance with the needs of individuals and companies. They will provide participants with the opportunity to ask questions. It is hoped that the sessions will provide a platform encouraging further collaboration and cooperation in regards to trade across the Green Line, and in doing so, provide a positive impact on the growth of the economy and on inter-communal relations.
The event is free and open to all. Spaces are limited so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
30.03.2015 – EU AID PROGRAMME FOR THE TURKISH CYPRIOT COMMUNITY: EU Support to Innovation and Education and to the Promotion of Employability
The European Commission launched today a EUR 1,5 million call for proposals promoting innovation and change in schools and the improvement of employability in the Turkish Cypriot community.
The sixth “Innovation and Change in Education” Grant Scheme targets these objectives by:
supporting the improvement of quality and efficiency in education and training and the promotion of equity, social cohesion and active citizenship; and
promoting lifelong learning and activities enhancing entrepreneurship.
The call represents a unique opportunity for a number of organisations such as pre-primary, secondary schools and the teachers training academy in the northern-part of Cyprus to submit projects to promote innovation and change in education. These organisations can propose projects between EUR 30,000 to EUR 100,000 for a two to three years implementation period.
For the first time, the call will also be open to life long learning organisations such as chambers, associations, unions to promote entrepreneurship and skills development. Those organisations can propose projects between EUR 50,000 and EUR 200,000 for a two to three years implementation period as well.
The full guidelines for applicants and the application package are available for consultation and downloading on the following internet site under the reference EuropeAid/136955/DH/ACT/CY: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?do=publi.welcome
The deadline for submission of proposals is 24 June 2015, 16:00 Cyprus time.
A launch event for this call will be held on 24 March 2015 at 15:00 in the Bedestan in the northern part of the walled city of Nicosia. Interested stakeholders are invited to attend.
Training on project cycle management as well as a series of information sessions on the application process will be organised in April 2015.
This initiative is funded under the EU Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community and implemented by the European Commission.
Contact persons for the “Innovation and Change in Education VI” Grant Scheme:
Berna Berberoglu and Caroline Enegren at REGIO-TFTCC-SCHOOLS@ec.europa.eu
24.03.2015 – Vice President Jyrki Katainen Visits Nicosia
On Monday, 23rd of March, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness visited Cyprus as part of his roadshow to promote the European Investment Plan. Katainen met with the president of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades and Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades as well as the President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou and Members of the Cypriot Parliament. After a press conference at the EU House, he held a citizens’ dialogue with students at the University of Cyprus on the future of Europe. He also visited the Cyprus Institute, a research and post-graduate education institution with a focus on science and technology, whose vision is to help transform Cyprus into a knowledge-based economy with the support of EU funds.
20.03.2015 – Europe Direct Nicosia to hold first event: De-mistyfying Erasmus+
On Thursday, 19th March EDIC, Nicosia held its first of a series of four information sessions on EU funding opportunities. NGO Support Centre’s Nadia Karayianni gave an extremely insightful presentation on the opportunities offered by Erasmus+, as well as a highly useful step-by-step guide to the application process. The event took place in the conference room of the Home for Cooperation and was well attended by NGO representatives and individuals alike. We would like to thank everyone who participated and look forward to welcoming members of civil society to EDIC, Nicosia again soon. Details of the upcoming information sessions will be announced within the coming weeks via this website and our social network pages.
19.02.2015 – MEMO – European Commission grants €1 million of additional emergency funding to Cyprus to address the mass arrival of Syrian nationals
The European Commission has awarded an amount of €0.98 million in emergency funding from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to Cyprus to support the country in providing accommodation, every day basic needs and medical care to the almost 400 Syrian nationals rescued in Cyprus’ territorial waters in September last year.