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newsRemarks by Donald Tusk re Brexit

As you know, I always try to present the EU's position honestly, and without beating about the bush. Telling the truth, even if difficult and unpleasant, is the best way of showing respect for partners. That's how it was in Salzburg, and that's also how we will work in the coming days.

First of all, we want to focus on practical and realistic ways of minimising the damage caused by Brexit, on both sides of the channel. Emotional arguments that stress the issue of dignity sound attractive, but they do not facilitate agreement. Let us remember that every actor in this process has their dignity, and confrontation in this field will not lead to anything good.

Second, the task of the EU's negotiators is to defend the interests of the European Union as a whole, and of all the 27 member states. We very much regret that the UK has decided to leave, and we hope for the best relationship in future, but no-one can expect that, because of Brexit, the EU will give up its fundamental values and key interests. Let me make this clear: the EU wants a relationship with the UK that is as close and special as possible. From the very beginning, the EU offer has been not just a Canada deal, but a Canada+++ deal. Much further-reaching on trade, on internal security and on foreign policy cooperation. This is a true measure of respect. And this offer remains in place. The EU is serious about getting the best possible deal. Even though we haven’t changed our minds that the consequences of Brexit will be negative, for both sides.

Third, in respecting our partners, we expect the same in return. Comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union is as unwise as it is insulting. The Soviet Union was about prisons and gulags, borders and walls, violence against citizens and neighbours. The European Union is about freedom and human rights, prosperity and peace, life without fear, it is about democracy and pluralism; a continent without internal borders or walls. As the President of the European Council and someone who spent half of my life in the Soviet Bloc, I know what I'm talking about. The Soviet spirit is still alive, as demonstrated by the attack in Salisbury. You will know best where to find this spirit. Rather not in Brussels. And I am sure you will also remember who was the first to declare full solidarity with the UK at that critical moment. Unfortunately, that was not a unique incident. Today, the Dutch and UK governments informed about a cyber attack against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague, which was carried out by Kremlin intelligence services. On behalf of the EU, I want to fully condemn this attack and express our complete solidarity with those affected. I will put the issue of cyber security on the agenda of the next European Council.

Today, after my long discussion with my guest, the Taoiseach, I want to say that the EU is united behind Ireland and the need to preserve the Northern Ireland peace process. Despite the UK government's rejection of the original EU backstop proposal, we will not give up seeking a workable solution that fully respects the Good Friday Agreement as well as the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Unacceptable remarks that raise the temperature will achieve nothing except wasting more time. What needs to be done is maximum progress by the October European Council. I was party leader myself, for fifteen years, and I know what the rules of party politics are. But now, once the Tory party conference is over, we should get down to business. Thank you.

Copyright European Union






newsProgress on Proposal for a directive on business insolvency

The Council today agreed its position on the business insolvency directive. The directive aims at providing access by viable enterprises in financial difficulties to preventive restructuring frameworks to enable them to restructure at an early stage, and so prevent insolvency. It also gives reputable bankrupt entrepreneurs a second chance, and introduces measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures.

Negotiations with the European Parliament can now start with a view to reaching an agreement in early 2019.

Every year, 1.7 million people lose their jobs because their company goes bankrupt. We must therefore have robust insolvency rules in place across the EU to reduce the number of bankruptcies, and ensure that reputable entrepreneurs are offered a second chance. That is why the Council supports this new legislation, with adaptations to make sure it takes full account of the existing and well functioning systems already in place in member states.

Josef Moser, Minister of Justice of Austria

Main elements of the Council's position

The position of the Council (12536/18) keeps all the main elements of the initial Commission's proposal but provides more flexibility to member states to adapt the new legislation to their existing frameworks.

In particular, the Council has amended the provisions on:

  • the involvement of judges: while keeping the objective of having quicker insolvency procedures, the Council's position provides for more flexibility for member states to decide on when and where the involvement of judges is made mandatory;
  • the duration of the stay of individual enforcement actions: while keeping the durations proposed by the Commission (i.e. 4 months maximum for the initial duration), the Council introduces the possibility of a longer period for courts to confirm particularly complex plans;
  • the cross-class cram-down: while the rules defined in the proposal are kept, member states have decided on more flexibility at national level to set the conditions needed to carry out a prior valuation of a business, as well as the rules determining when a creditor class can be crammed down.

Next steps

As the European Parliament has already adopted its position, trilogue negotiations can start very soon.

The objective of the three institutions is to reach a political agreement before the 2019 European elections.

Background

According to the Commission's assessment in 2016, every year about 200 000 firms in the EU go bankrupt, resulting in over 1.7 million people losing their jobs.

The proposal was presented by the Commission on 22 November 2016. The overall objective of the text is to reduce the most significant barriers to the free flow of capital stemming from differences in member states' restructuring and insolvency frameworks and to enhance the rescue culture in the EU. In doing so, the proposal aims to strike an appropriate balance between the interests of the debtors and the creditors.

The text is a minimum harmonization directive. It introduces a set of principles along with more targeted rules in some specific cases, while allowing member states to go further when transposing the rules into national law.

Once adopted, the new rules will complement the 2015 Insolvency Regulation which focuses on resolving the conflicts of jurisdiction and laws in cross-border insolvency proceedings, and ensures the recognition of insolvency-related judgments across the EU.

Copyright European Union






newsDeclaring war on plastic to save our oceans: 2-billion euros initiative

  • Reference: 2018-248-EN

Ahead of the IMF/World Bank Group meetings, KfW Group on behalf of the German Federal Government, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Agence Française de Developpement (AFD) launched the Clean Oceans Initiative to support the development and implementation of sustainable projects that will reduce pollution in the world’s oceans over the next five years. This partnership will provide EUR 2-billion long-term financing for projects aiming at reducing marine litter, especially plastics, as well as untreated wastewater discharge, with a view to crowding-in private sector investment.

The three partner institutions will combine their expertise and experience to support the development and implementation of viable projects in this sector. The Clean Oceans Initiative will also provide innovative financing structures catering for the needs of private enterprises of varying size, including micro-enterprises, and for research and innovation projects.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is global in nature but will focus particularly on operations in riverine and coastal areas in developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, since ninety percent of plastic waste enters the oceans through 10 major river systems located in Africa and Asia, where access to regular waste collection and controlled waste disposal often lacks.

The Clean Oceans Initiative will notably target the following sectors:

  • Collection, pre-treatment and recycling of waste and particularly plastics collected on land, from rivers and from the sea;
  • Improved waste management in ports and harbours to support the reduction of marine littering from ships and transport on water;
  • Support to plastic prevention measures, market development for recycling plastics and other materials and public awareness building;
  • Support to the implementation of wastewater treatment plants that enable reduction in the discharge of plastics and other pollutants to rivers and oceans.

KfW CEO Dr. Günther Bräunig said: “For KfW, the comprehensive and consistent focus on sustainability will be one of the major challenges in the years ahead. To this end, we have committed ourselves to an ambitious “Sustainable Finance Roadmap” and plan to embed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the German Federal Government's sustainability strategy into our sustainability model. Protecting the oceans from pollution is one of the most important tasks requiring a coordinated and targeted international response. We have therefore joined forces with the European Investment Bank and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to launch the Clean Oceans Initiative to pool and expand our respective activities to protect the oceans.”

EIB President Dr. Werner Hoyer said: “Cleaning up our oceans is a truly global challenge. Partnership is key to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and I am delighted that the EIB, KfW and AFD are joining forces to finance the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans through this initiative. None of our institutions is new to this sector. We have been collaborating for some time on projects that reduce marine litter and the discharge of untreated wastewater. The Clean Oceans Initiative will step up and allow us to effect a quantum leap in these efforts. EIB, KfW and AFD have a critical role to play: Our involvement can make a fundamental contribution to channelling funds and crowding in private sector investments, developing innovative solutions to clean the oceans for future generations.“

AFD Chief Executive officer Rémy Rioux said: “Collaboration is absolutely essential to efficiently address the global challenge of eliminating pollution and other damage sources of our oceans. The activities that are funded through this 2-billion euros initiative are based on collaboration with actors on the ground: local authorities, the private sector, civil society organisations and governments. The oceans are one crucial common good for humanity’s future. We all need to come up with new and courageous ways to ensure that the oceans are safe from pollution and irreversible degradation. It is therefore with great pride that AFD contributes to this global effort, with the aim of eliciting new commitments from all.”

Key facts

Oceans are a global public good, providing natural resources including food, medicines, and biofuels. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods and the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at EUR 2 600 billion per year, so about 5 per cent of global GDP. Maintaining clean oceans is therefore crucial for sustainable development and poverty reduction by increasing people’s income and improving health. It also supports climate change mitigation as oceans absorb about thirty percent of carbon dioxide, buffering the impacts of global warming.

An estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste and microplastics, is discharged into the world’s oceans every year, threatening marine ecosystems, people and communities that depend on clean oceans. If we continue along this path, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans by weight.

Copyright European Union






newsEU fuel labelling: clearer information for consumers and operators

Brussels, 12 October 2018

Today, a new harmonised set of fuel labels will appear across Europe. They will give drivers better information on the suitability of fuels for their vehicles wherever they travel in the EU, helping them avoid misfuelling and informing on the environmental impact of their choice.

Alternative fuels can help reduce Europe's air quality problems, much of which are caused by transport emissions. However, the growing diversity of fuels available on the European market means that drivers, businesses and fuel station operators need clearer information on fuels sold at filling stations  From now on, when customers arrive at a public filling station of any Member State, they will notice new EU-wide harmonized fuel symbols on fuel dispensers and fuel nozzles. The same harmonised, easy-to-read, clear and simple labels will also be compulsory for newly produced vehicles and will be shown on the fuel-filler caps. These new labels do not replace existing names and brands of fuels, nor quality, safety, and performance recommendations. The labels are based on industry standards and have been developed by European standardisation bodies with the participation of industry, consumer and civic society representatives.

This initiative is taken on the basis of Article 7 of the Alternative fuels infrastructure Directive of October 2014 and is in line with the Commission's Action Plan on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure, adopted in November 2017, which sets out a number of support actions to accelerate the roll out of infrastructure, increase investments and improve consumer acceptance. It also complements the Juncker Commission's proposals "Europe on the Move" for a clean, safe and connected mobility. 

The new labels are divided in to three groups: 

  1.    Gasoline-type fuels: marked by an “E” inside a circle: E5, E10, etc (“E” stands for specific bio-components (ethanol) present in petrol);

gasoline type fuels

Copyright and Source European Committee for Standardization

 

  1.    Diesel-type fuels: marked by a “B” inside a square: B7, B10, XTL, etc (“B” stands for specific biodiesel components present in diesel, the XTL stands for synthetic diesel and indicates that it is not derived from crude oil);

diesel type fuels

Copyright and Source European Committee for Standardization

  

  1.    Gaseous-type fuels, mentioning their specific subtype within a rhombus/diamond: e.g. CNG, LNG, LPG and H2 (hydrogen);

gaseous type fuels

Copyright and Source European Committee for Standardization

In the case of newer vehicles, the labels will also be visible in the owner's manual and they may also appear in the electronic handbook available via a vehicle's infotainment center. Besides being visible in all public refueling stations, they should also be visible at vehicle dealerships. The new labels will be deployed in all 28 European Union member states, EEA countries (Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway), and also Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey. 

Background

Today, transport still relies on oil for a large part of its energy needs. Energy efficiency in transport and effective transport management can substantially contribute to reduce emissions and oil consumption. One way of doing so is investing in alternative fuel solutions, which can help decarbonise transport by gradually substituting the fossil energy sources which are responsible for the CO2 emissions from transport. Research and technological development have led to successful demonstrations of alternative fuel solutions for all transport modes. Market take-up, however, requires additional policy action. To solve this issue, in 2014, as part of the Clean Power for Transport strategy, Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure was adopted, aiming to facilitate the development of a single market for alternative fuels for transport in Europe.

The Directive also called for a way for setting up appropriate consumer information on fuels, including a clear and sound indication of the compatibility between different fuels and cars. The call for better consumer information arose from the multiplicity of fuel choices becoming available on the market, in particular with the roll-out of new alternative fuels.

In view of this increasing choice of fuels facing consumers, the Directive mandated the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to come up with industry-wide standards that would improve existing information. CEN adopted on 12 October 2016 standard EN 16942, "Fuels-Identification of vehicle compatibility-Graphical expression for consumer information", which enters into force 2 years later, on 12 October 2018. A new standard “EN 17186:2019” laying down harmonized identifiers for power supply for electric road vehicles is expected to be adopted early 2019.

In May 2018, the Commission also adopted an Implementing Regulation on Fuel Price Comparison which establishes a common methodology to facilitate the comparison of prices of the different fuels in a common unit (euro/ national currency) taking into account the energy content of the fuel and the energy efficiency of the vehicle.

For more information

Questions and Answers: MEMO/18/6102

Directive 2014/94/EU

Action plan on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure

https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/urban/cpt_en

http://www.fuel-identifiers.eu/

https://www.cen.eu/work/products/Labels/Pages/default.aspx

IP/18/6101 Copyright European Union






newsA new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe

Brussels, 11 October 2018

Today the Commission has put forward an action plan to develop a sustainable and circular bioeconomy that serves Europe's society, environment and economy.

As announced by President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans in their letter of intent accompanying President Juncker's 2018 State of the Union Address, the new bioeconomy strategy is part of the Commission's drive to boost jobs, growth and investment in the EU. It aims to improve and scale up the sustainable use of renewable resources to address global and local challenges such as climate change and sustainable development.

In a world of finite biological resources and ecosystems, an innovation effort is needed to feed people, and provide them with clean water and energy. The bioeconomy can turn algae into fuel, recycle plastic, convert waste into new furniture or clothing or transform industrial by-products into bio-based fertilisers. It has the potential to generate 1 million new green jobs by 2030.

Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen said: "It has become evident that we need to make a systemic change in the way we produce, consume and discard goods. By developing our bioeconomy – the renewable segment of the circular economy – we can find new and innovative ways of providing food, products and energy, without exhausting our planet's limited biological resources. Moreover, rethinking our economy and modernising our production models is not just about our environment and climate. There is also great potential here for new green jobs, particularly in rural and coastal areas."

Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, added: "The EU aims to lead the way in turning waste, residue and discards into high value products, green chemicals, feed and textiles. Research and innovation plays a key role in accelerating the green transition of the European economy and in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals."

Delivering a sustainable circular bioeconomy requires a concerted effort by public authorities and industry. To drive this collective effort, and based on three key objectives, the Commission will launch 14 concrete measures in 2019, including:

1. Scaling up and strengthening the bio-based sectors:

To unleash the potential of the bioeconomy to modernise the European economy and industries for long-term, sustainable prosperity, the Commission will:

  • establish a €100 million Circular Bioeconomy Thematic Investment Platform to bring bio-based innovations closer to the market and de-risk private investments in sustainable solutions;

  • facilitate the development of new sustainable bio-refineries across Europe.

2. Rapidly deploying bioeconomies across Europe:

Member States and regions, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, have a large underused biomass and waste potential. To address this, the Commission will:

  • develop a strategic deployment agenda for sustainable food and farming systems, forestry and bio-based products;

  • set up an EU Bioeconomy Policy Support Facility for EU countries under Horizon 2020 to develop national and regional bioeconomy agendas;

  • launch pilot actions for the development of bioeconomies in rural, coastal and urban areas, for example on waste management or carbon farming.

3. Protecting the ecosystem and understanding the ecological limitations of the bioeconomy

Our ecosystem is faced with severe threats and challenges, such as a growing population, climate change and land degradation. In order to tackle these challenges, the Commission will:

  • implement an EU-wide monitoring system to track progress towards a sustainable and circular bioeconomy;

  • enhance our knowledge base and understanding of specific bioeconomy areas by gathering data and ensuring better access to it through the Knowledge Centre for the Bioeconomy;

  • provide guidance and promote good practices on how to operate in the bioeconomy within safe ecological limits.

The Commission is hosting a conference on 22 October in Brussels to discuss the action plan with stakeholders and highlight tangible bio-based products.

Background

In their letter of intent to the Presidencies of the European Council and Parliament, President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans announced this Communication as part of the Commission's priority to boost jobs, growth and investment in the EU. It is an update to the 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy.

The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources. It is one of the EU's largest and most important sectors encompassing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, bio-energy and bio-based products with an annual turnover of around €2 trillion and around 18 million people employed. It is also a key area for boosting growth in rural and coastal areas.

The EU already funds research, demonstration and deployment of sustainable, inclusive and circular bio-based solutions, including with €3.85 billion allocated under the current EU funding programme Horizon 2020. For 2021-2027, the Commission has proposed to allocate €10 billion under Horizon Europe for food and natural resources, including the bioeconomy.

For More Information

The following documents are available here:

  • The new Bioeconomy Strategy

  • Factsheet

  • Booklet

  • Infographic

  • Video

IP/18/6067 Copyright European Union




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