Brexit preparedness: European Commission adopts two contingency proposals to help mitigate impact of “no-deal” Brexit on EU fisheries
Brussels, 23 January 2019
Given the continued uncertainty in the UK surrounding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Commission has today adopted two legislative proposals to help mitigate the significant impact that a “no-deal” Brexit would have on EU fisheries.
This is part of the Commission's ongoing preparedness and contingency work and will help ensure a coordinated EU-wide approach in such a scenario.
The first proposal is to allow fishermen and operators from EU Members States to receive compensation under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the temporary cessation of fishing activities. This will help off-set some of the impact of a sudden closure of UK waters to EU fishing vessels in a no-deal scenario.
The second proposal amends the Regulation on the Sustainable Management of the External Fleets. The aim of this proposal is to ensure that the EU is in a position to grant UK vessels access to EU waters until the end of 2019, on the condition that EU vessels are also granted reciprocal access to UK waters. The proposal also provides for a simplified procedure to authorise UK vessels to fish in EU waters and EU vessels to fish in UK waters – should the UK grant that access. This proposal is limited to 2019 and is based on the agreement in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of 17 and 18 December 2018 on the fishing opportunities for 2019.
These contingency measures cannot mitigate the overall impact of a "no-deal" scenario, nor do they in any way replicate the full benefits of EU membership or the terms of any transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. They are limited to these specific areas where it is absolutely necessary to protect the vital interests of the EU and where preparedness measures on their own are not sufficient. As a rule, they will be temporary in nature, limited in scope and adopted unilaterally by the EU.
These proposals are subject to the co-decision procedure. The Commission will work with the European Parliament and the Council to ensure the adoption of the proposed legislative acts so that they are in force by 29 March 2019.
On 19 December 2018, the Commission published its third Brexit preparedness Communication, which implemented its “no-deal” Contingency Action Plan. This Communication included 14 measures in a limited number of areas where a “no-deal” scenario would create major disruption for citizens and businesses in the EU27. These areas include financial services, air transport, customs, and climate policy, amongst others.
The Commission has also published 88 sector-specific preparedness notices to inform the public about the consequences of the UK's withdrawal in the absence of any Withdrawal Agreement. These are available in all official EU languages. The Commission has also held technical discussions with the EU27 Member States both on general issues of preparedness and on specific sectorial, legal and administrative preparedness steps. The slides used in these technical seminars are available online.
The Commission will continue to implement its Contingency Action Plan in the weeks to come and will monitor the need for additional action, as well as continue to support Member States in their preparedness work.
For more information
Texts of the proposals:
The Commission's Brexit preparedness website
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European Commission adopts adequacy decision on Japan, creating the world's largest area of safe data flows
Brussels, 23 January 2019
The Commission has adopted today its adequacy decision on Japan, allowing personal data to flow freely between the two economies on the basis of strong protection guarantees.
This is the last step in the procedure launched in September 2018, which included the opinion of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the agreement from a committee composed of representatives of the EU Member States. Together with its equivalent decision adopted today by Japan, it will start applying as of today.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “This adequacy decision creates the world's largest area of safe data flows. Europeans' data will benefit from high privacy standards when their data is transferred to Japan. Our companies will also benefit from a privileged access to a 127 million consumers' market. Investing in privacy pays off; this arrangement will serve as an example for future partnerships in this key area and help setting global standards.”
The key elements of the adequacy decision
Before the Commission adopted its adequacy decision, Japan put in place additional safeguards to guarantee that data transferred from the EU enjoy protection guarantees in line with European standards. This includes:
- A set of rules (Supplementary Rules) that will bridge several differences between the two data protection systems. These additional safeguards will strengthen, for example, the protection of sensitive data, the exercise of individual rights and the conditions under which EU data can be further transferred from Japan to another third country. These Supplementary Rules will be binding on Japanese companies importing data from the EU and enforceable by the Japanese independent data protection authority (PPC) and courts.
- The Japanese government also gave assurances to the Commission regarding safeguards concerning the access of Japanese public authorities for criminal law enforcement and national security purposes, ensuring that any such use of personal data would be limited to what is necessary and proportionate and subject to independent oversight and effective redress mechanisms.
- A complaint-handling mechanism to investigate and resolve complaints from Europeans regarding access to their data by Japanese public authorities. This new mechanism will be administered and supervised by the Japanese independent data protection authority.
The adequacy decisions also complement the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement- which will enter into force in February 2019. European companies will benefit from free data flows with a key commercial partner, as well as from privileged access to the 127 million Japanese consumers. The EU and Japan affirm that, in the digital era, promoting high privacy and personal data protection standards and facilitating international trade must and can go hand in hand.
The adequacy decision – as well as the equivalent decision on the Japanese side –will start applying as of today.
After two years, a first joint review will be carried out to assess the functioning of the framework. This will cover all aspects of the adequacy finding, including the application of the Supplementary Rules and the assurances for government access to data. The Representatives of European Data Protection Board will participate in the review regarding access to data for law enforcement and national security purposes. Subsequently a review will take place at least every four years.
The mutual adequacy arrangement with Japan is a part of the EU strategy in the field of international data flows and protection, as announced in January 2017 in the Commission's Communication on Exchanging and Protecting Personal Data in a Globalised World.
The EU and Japan successfully concluded their talks on reciprocal adequacy on 17 July 2018 (see press release). They agreed to recognise each other's data protection systems as adequate, allowing personal data to be transferred safely between the EU and Japan.
In July 2017, President Juncker and Prime Minister Abe committed to adopting the adequacy decision, as part of the EU and Japan's shared commitment to promote high data protection standards on the international scene (see statement).
The processing of personal data in the EU is based on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which provides for different tools to transfer personal data to third countries, including adequacy decisions. The European Commission has the power to determine whether a country outside the EU offers an adequate level of data protection. The European Parliament and the Council can request the European Commission to maintain, amend or withdraw these decisions.
For More Information
The adequacy decision and related documents
Factsheet on the EU-Japan Adequacy Decision
Press release on launch of the adoption procedure (5 September 2018)
Press release on the conclusions of the adequacy talks (17 July 2018)
Questions & Answers on the Japan adequacy decision
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Michel Barnier at the EESC - thoughts on Brexit
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, attended the 540th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to outline the EU's views on possible changes to the Brexit deal and to discuss the agreement and possible future scenarios with representatives of European civil society.
EESC president Luca Jahier congratulated Mr Barnier for the work done and underlined that although the UK would become a third country after Brexit, it could never be like other third countries after more than 40 years of EU membership. "We are strongly committed to UK civil society. The EESC is well prepared for any future scenario and will consolidate its relationship with our British counterparts."
At the beginning of his speech, Mr Barnier underlined that "Europe needs to be prepared for a 'no-deal' scenario. This is more important than ever. Even though I still hope that we can avoid this scenario."
The withdrawal agreement was drawn up, step by step, together with the UK, over 18 months of negotiations. Mr Barnier stated that, while it was important to respect the current debate in the UK, his responsibility was to highlight what was at stake, namely two possible scenarios:
- an orderly withdrawal on the basis of the 585-page agreement, negotiated step by step with the UK, or
- a disorderly withdrawal, which was the default scenario.
"While there seems to be a majority in the House of Commons opposing 'no-deal', opposing 'no deal' will not stop 'no deal' from happening, unless a majority for another solution emerges", the chief negotiator warned.
Whatever the outcome, the representatives of organized civil society will have a decisive role in raising awareness among citizens.
During the debate, EESC members called for a firm stance on the 'backstop', which some highlighted as being the second-best solution for Northern Ireland, the first being to remain in the EU.
Mr Barnier stressed that there was no hostility or punishment regarding the negotiations, but that his responsibility was to solve the problems for the EU. "We don't want to use the backstop. It's comparable to your house insurance – you pay it but you wish not to have to use it."
In his speech, Mr Barnier also pointed out that it was the UK that wanted to leave the union and that it was Brexit that was causing problems for Ireland and Northern Ireland. Furthermore, he argued that the backstop was not about trade and goods; it was about people who needed security. And finally, the border in Ireland was also the border of 27 countries and the border of the single market. Goods coming from Northern Ireland went to all European countries. This was therefore a European question.
Concluding the debate, Michel Barnier stated that Brexit had no added value. He also warned "not to confuse the consequences with the lessons of Brexit. Neither should we confuse populism and popular feelings. The worst thing is silence. We need to speak out; we need to open the debate. We may have different opinions, but must keep talking, because populists use silence against Europe."
There was a common agreement during the debate that "no deal" was not desirable since it would be destructive to both the United Kingdom and to the European Union.
Arno Metzler, president of the EESC's Diversity Europe group said: "As the House of European civil society, our first concern is for the welfare of civil society and citizens. For this reason, on 15 February our group will hold a seminar in Belfast to discuss the implications of Brexit for civil society and the peace process. Whatever future relationship between the EU and the UK finally emerges, we must keep the channels of communication with our British counterparts open. We are there for you today, tomorrow and the day after!
The Employers' group, represented by its vice-president Stefano Mallia, emphasised that "a lot of effort has been made to put together a well-balanced and fair Brexit deal. It is clear that a hard Brexit would be bad for both EU businesses and UK businesses. We ask for one final effort to bring this exercise to a successful conclusion. Of course, the UK must also help itself."
Gabi Bischoff, president of the Workers' group agreed that "we cannot allow any illusions, but should be prepared for 'no deal'. For the trade unions it is very important that we make sure workers and businesses in the Union are protected as much as possible."
On paper, Brexit (the UK's exit from the EU) had been sorted out: after months of negotiations, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator of the UK's divorce from the EU, had reached an agreement with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, an agreement which should have guaranteed both an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union and the start of future close relations – in other words, a divorce in friendship.
However, the 585-page withdrawal agreement failed to win a majority in the British parliament (202 votes in favour to 432 against). The next vote on the divorce paper in the British parliament is scheduled for Tuesday 29 January and Mrs May has promised to come up with an amended deal.
Copyright European Union
Erasmus+: another record year in 2017
Brussels, 24 January 2019
Today, the Commission is publishing the Erasmus+ Annual Report 2017, which covers the fourth year of Erasmus+, one of the European Union's most successful and iconic programmes. Since 2014, it has become broader and more innovative, providing opportunities for study periods, traineeships and apprenticeships for both higher education and vocational education and training students, youth exchanges, volunteering and staff exchanges in all fields of education, training and youth as well as projects in the field of sport. Erasmus+ also continued to become more open to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2017, almost 21,000 disadvantaged students and staff participated in Erasmus+ mobility activities in higher education. This brings the total to over 67,500 disadvantaged higher education participants since 2014, including almost 2,000 participants with special needs.
What were the main developments in 2017?
2017 was a significant year for the Erasmus+ programme, which demonstrated its flexibility in addressing specific policy priorities:
- 84,700 organisations benefited from funding to be able to carry out 22,400 projects in total.
- In the field of higher education, more than 400,000 students and staff spent a learning period abroad during the academic year 2016/2017. This takes the total number of people who have benefited in this field since 2014 to more than 1.1 million.
- More than 158,000 participants were involved in youth mobility projects. The year also saw the introduction of a new simplified format for volunteering activities, the strategic European Voluntary Service, which funded 122 strategic projects for a total amount of EUR 22.3 million and contributed to the successful implementation of the European Solidarity Corps in its first phase.
- The European Week of Sport 2017reached an unprecedented12 million people through more than 48,000 events in 37 countries. The Commission also launched the Tartu Call on promoting healthy lifestyles.
- Finally, the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, celebrated throughout the year, helped raise awareness of Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes in the EU and abroad, laying the ground for an even stronger programme in the future.
Erasmus+ continued to reach out through new or improved digital tools. The Erasmus+ Mobile App launched in June 2017 now has more than 55,000 users. The e-Twinning platform remained the world's biggest teachers' network with more than half a million registered users and Jordan joining other countries in the eTwinning Plus platform. The School Education Gateway and the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe continued to grow as well.
Did more people learn abroad in 2017?
Since 2014, the overall interest in mobility activities across all fields has been growing steadily. In 2017, 797,000 individuals and 84,700 organisations were funded by the Erasmus+ budget for mobility, compared to 725,000 individuals and 79,000 organisations in 2016.
In addition, nearly 4,000 higher education institutions from programme countries were awarded mobility grants, representing a 3% increase compared to 2016.
By enabling almost 2.8 million people to spend a period of learning, training, teaching or volunteering abroad since 2014, the Erasmus+ programme is well on track to meet its target of supporting 3.7% of young people in the EU between 2014 and 2020.
What other projects related to education, training and youth received funding in 2017?
Erasmus+ promotes cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices in the fields of education, training and youth:
- Strategic Partnerships provide opportunities for a variety of public, private, and non-governmental organisations to run a broad range of activities. Projects can boost innovative, quality and inclusive education, foster training and youth work in a digital environment; help to improve competences through lifelong learning as well as empower young people and strengthen their involvement in communities and democratic processes. For example, in 2017, a total of 1,453 school education projects received funding, while in adult education just over 400 projects were supported.
- Capacity building actions support the modernisation, accessibility and internationalisation of higher education in partner countries across the world, as well as cooperation and exchanges between partner and programme countries in the field of youth. Under the 2017 call, this action funded 149 higher educational projects and 157 youth projects.
- 22 Knowledge Alliances (transnational projects bringing together higher education institutions and business) helped develop new ways of creating, producing and sharing knowledge and entrepreneurial skills and competences, involving 240 organisations.
- The Sector Skills Alliances funded 14 projects designed to identify and address skills needs and the development of skills strategies, as well as to support vocational education and training. 197 organisations were involved. These alliances are transnational projects identifying or drawing on existing and emerging skills needs in a specific economic sector and/or translating these needs into vocational curricula. They are run by a consortium of organisations, mainly with links to the vocational education and training sector.
How does the programme support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds?
In 2017 Erasmus+ continued to fight barriers to mobility by becoming more inclusive for those from a disadvantaged background and those with special needs, through additional financial support. For example, more than one-third of projects in the field of youth focused on inclusion and diversity topics, and youth projects involved more than 65,000 participants with fewer opportunities and special needs – they account for one third of all participants in this area.
In Capacity Building projects, special attention was given to involving least developed countries and including people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and those with special needs.
What developments were there in the sport sector?
A total budget of €45.2 million was earmarked for the sport sector in 2017, as the programme focused on grassroots sport with increased support to small collaborative partnerships, which are designed to promote the creation and development of European networks in the field of sport.
In 2017 Erasmus+ financed 162 projects, which covered a variety of sports organisations and stakeholders; involving around 930 organisations from 27 programme countries. This included 10 not-for-profit European sport events.
How does the Commission support higher education in partner countries?
The international opening of Erasmus+ since 2015 continues to be a great success. With the International Credit Mobility action, close to 23,000 grants were awarded to people from partner countries around the world to come to the 33 programme countries. More than 11,000 grants were awarded to people from programme countries to experience learning mobility in partner countries. Over €114.7 million was provided to fund 39 new Erasmus Mundus Joint Degrees. The consortia involved 191 partner universities.
149 new projects were awarded for capacity building for higher education in regions worldwide.
The Jean Monnet activities supported 238 teaching programmes in the field of EU studies at higher education institutions, university chairs, networks, projects, centres of excellence and associations taking place in 30 European programme countries and 69 countries inside and outside Europe.
What data is available on the Erasmus+ projects?
The statistical annex to the 2017 Erasmus+ report offers comprehensive information about the different actions and the budget and commitments available for them, along with detailed information on the number of projects, participants and organisations. Data per country is also available for selected actions.
Qualitative information on the Erasmus+ projects is available through The Erasmus+ Project Results platform, a database giving free access to descriptions, results and contact information for all projects funded under the Erasmus+ programme in education, training, youth and sport. Results can also be retrieved in excel format for further analysis.
For More Information
Erasmus+: Annual Report 2017, general and country-specific factsheets
*The 33 Erasmus+ programme countries are the 28 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.
Partner countries are all other countries in the world.
Copyright European Union
The EU is bringing in new rules to prevent the misuse of personal data in EP elections.
EU ambassadors today endorsed an agreement reached between the Council presidency and the European Parliament last week on changes to the 2014 regulation governing the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations.
The new rules will allow for financial sanctions to be imposed on European political parties and foundations that deliberately influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of EP elections by taking advantage of breaches of data protection rules.
The EU institutions are working rapidly to have the rules in place before the EP elections this spring.
Misuse of personal data to influence elections cannot be allowed. This is essential for electoral processes and the future of our democracies. Member states are determined to ensure that this year's European elections will be fair and protected from the malicious use of data breaches.
George Ciamba, Romanian Minister Delegate for European Affairs
The Commission submitted its proposal for amendments to the 2014 regulation on 12 September 2018 as part of the 'Securing free and fair European elections' package.
EU set to adopt new rules to prevent misuse of personal data in EP elections
According to the agreement endorsed today, a verification procedure will be put in place for determining whether a breach of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, established by a national supervisory authority, is linked to the political activities of a European political party or foundation in the context of EP elections.
The sanctions are imposed by the Authority for European Political Parties and Foundations after receiving an opinion from the committee of independent eminent persons established under the 2014 regulation. They would amount to 5% of the annual budget of the European party or foundation concerned. In addition, the European party or foundation subject to a sanction would not be able to receive funding from the EU budget the following year.
The new rules still have to be formally approved by the Parliament and adopted by the Council before they can enter into force. The vote in the EP plenary is scheduled for March. The Council is expected to adopt the amendments to the 2014 regulation in April.
European political parties are political alliances registered under EU law. They can have national and regional parties, as well as individuals, as members and they must meet a number of requirements and conditions, including representation in at least a quarter of the member states. The EU funding is intended to help them finance their activities at European level and their campaigns in the EP elections.
In 2018, 10 European political parties and 10 European political foundations received funding from the EU budget.
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