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European Commission Press Releases

Commission welcomes agreement to better protect geographical indications

Vlad Poptamas

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The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have reached a political agreement on the rules that lay down how the EU will operate as a member of the Geneva Act, a multilateral treaty for the protection of geographical indications managed by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “With this political agreement, EU geographical indications can have improved protection at multilateral level. It will complement the protection granted through bilateral agreements that already protects EU geographical indications across the world.”

The Geneva Act modernises the 1958 Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration and allows international organisations, such as the European Union, to join. The Lisbon Agreement, which currently comprises 28 members including seven EU Member States, offers a way to secure protection for appellations of origin (AO) through a single registration. Being a member of the Geneva Act will allow EU geographical indications to get high-level protection in the future with other parties to the Geneva Act.

The draft regulation agreed will now go for formal endorsement by the European Parliament and the Council. Once that happens, the EU would be ready to formally join the Geneva Act through a separate decision.

Geographical indications (GIs) designate a product originating from a specific geographical area with qualities or characteristics that are essentially linked to the geographical origin, including natural and human factors. Geographical indications also serve to distinguish and reinforce cultural contributions and reward the creativity of traditional know-how. A term registered as protected geographical indication (PGI), or protected designation of origin (PDO) can therefore only be used by producers located in the designated area.

Over 3,000 names of wines, spirits and food products from EU countries and non-EU countries are currently registered in the EU, such as Champagne, Grana Padano, Feta, and Comté.

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European Commission Press Releases

European Defence Fund on track with €525 million for Eurodrone and other joint research and industrial projects

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: monitorulcj.ro
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The Commission has today adopted work programmes to co-finance joint defence industrial projects in 2019-2020 worth up to €500 million. A further €25 million have been earmarked to support collaborative defence research projects in 2019, with calls for proposals launched today.

The Juncker Commission is making an unprecedented effort to protect and defend Europeans. From 2021, a fully-fledged European Defence Fund will foster an innovative and competitive defence industrial base and contribute to the EU’s strategic autonomy. Through two precursors to the Fund, the Commission is taking steps to make defence cooperation under the EU budget a reality as of now. The Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) continues to deliver for the third year running. And with today’s decisions, the Commission kick-starts the first EU-funded joint defence industrial projects through the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). This will focus on areas including drone technology, satellite communication, early warning systems, artificial intelligence, cyberdefence or maritime surveillance.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness said: “Cooperation in defence is the only way to protect and defend Europeans in an increasingly instable world. We are doing our part. Joint projects are materialising. European Defence is happening. On the basis of this successful experience we will scale up funding to have a fully-fledged European Defence Fund in place in 2021.”

Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, added: “To ensure Europe can protect its citizens, we need cutting-edge defence technology and equipment in areas like artificial intelligence, drone technology, satellite communication and intelligence systems. With the EU investments we are launching today, we are going from ideas to concrete projects, we are strengthening the competitiveness of our defence industries.”  

Joint development of defence equipment and technology:

The first European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) work programme agreed with the Member States provides €500 million in co-financing for the joint development of defence capabilities during 2019-2020. In the coming days the Commission will publish 9 calls for proposals for 2019, and 12 further calls will follow for 2020. These calls will cover priority areas in all domains – air, land, sea, cyber and space:

  • Enabling operations, protection and mobility of military forces: €80 million is available to help develop CBRN threat detections capabilities or counter drone systems;
  • Intelligence, secured communication & Cyber: €182 million will cover cyber situational awareness and defence, space situational awareness and early warning capabilities, or maritime surveillance capabilities;
  • Ability to conduct high-end operations: €71 million will support the upgrade or the development of the next generation of ground-based precision strike capabilities, ground combat capabilities, air combat capabilities and future naval systems;
  • Innovative defence technologies & SMEs: €27 million will support solutions in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Cyber technologies, as well as to support SMEs.
  • In addition, two projects have been proposed for direct award: €100 million to support the development of the Eurodrone, a crucial capability for Europe’s strategic autonomy, and €37 million to support ESSOR interoperable and secure military communications.

Financing innovation in defence research:

Today Commission publishes calls for proposals under the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), the third and final budget tranche under the Juncker Commission. The 2019 Work Programme will dedicate €25 million for research in Electromagnetic Spectrum Dominance and Future Disruptive Defence Technologies – two areas identified as essential to maintain Europe’s technological lead and independence in the long-term.

The calls on Future Disruptive Defence Technologies will look at how best the EU can support disruptive technologies in defence that may lead to transformational changes in the military. This will help prepare the ground for the European Defence Fund which could allocate up to 8% of its budget for disruptive technologies.

 

Next steps

Eligible consortia can apply to the 2019 calls for proposals until the end of August. The first projects will be selected before the end of 2019, followed by the official signing of grant agreements.

With both programmes now operational and running, the Commission is paving the way for a fully-fledged European Defence Fund for the next financial period 2021-2027.

 

Background

In his political guidelines in June 2014, President Juncker made strengthening European citizens’ security a priority. He announced the creation of a European Defence Fund in his 2016 State of the Union address. The Commission presented a first set of actions in June 2017 to allow defence cooperation at EU level to be tested by means of the Preparatory Actions on Defence Research for 2017-2019, as well as through the European Defence Industrial Development Programme for 2019-2020.

In June 2018, the Commission proposed a fully-fledged €13 billion European Defence Fund. The Fund will place the EU among the top 4 defence research and technology investors in Europe, and act as a catalyst for an innovative and competitive industrial and scientific base. The EU institutions in February 2019 reached a partial political agreement on the European Defence Fund, subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and Council. The budgetary aspects of the future European Defence Fund are subject to the overall agreement on the EU’s next long-term budget, proposed by the Commission in May 2018.

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European Commission Press Releases

Department of Finance publishes research on Irish private sector debt

Vlad Poptamas

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The Department of Finance has today published a new economic research paper, Analysis of Private Sector Debt in Ireland. This complements the Department’s annual report on public debt.

Despite a near decade of deleveraging by households and firms, Ireland’s stock of private sector debt, as measured by the private sector debt-to-GDP ratio, remains high and is consistently flagged as a macroeconomic risk. However, in light of the large FDI footprint in Ireland, not all of this debt represents a genuine macroeconomic risk to the economy. This paper analyses the components and dynamics of Ireland’s private debt ratio to better understand the macroeconomic risks related to the current level of debt held by households and firms.

The paper’s key findings include:

  • After nearly a decade of deleveraging, household debt is on a much more sustainable path. Household debt now stands at 126 per cent of disposable income, a level last seen in 2003, having peaked at 212 per cent in 2009. However, Ireland’s household debt ratio is still the fourth highest in the EU.
  • The high headline (household plus corporate) private debt ratio is partially a result of the activities of multinational enterprises. MNE debt – a significant amount of which is cross border intra-group lending for FDI purposes – inflates the debt ratio but does not represent a substantial risk to the domestic economy or financial system.
  • This paper addresses these distortions to produce a ‘core’ Irish private debt ratio, which excludes the FDI-related debt, and which is expressed as a share of GNI*, the CSO’s new underlying measure of national income.
  • Overall, the core private debt-to-GNI* ratio is estimated at 172 per cent in 2017, compared to a debt-to-GDP ratio of 244 per cent. This is composed of household debt at 77 per cent of GNI* and ‘core’ corporate debt at 95 per cent.
  • The paper estimates benchmarks against which to compare Ireland’s core private debt ratio based on fundamental economic factors.
  • Household debt is found to be below the benchmark, although Ireland’s households nonetheless remain among the most indebted in the EU, with pockets of high debt still existing. For the corporate sector, core Irish debt has been broadly in line with the benchmark in the last two years.
  • The analysis suggests that certain features of the Irish economy, including expected economic growth and population growth, have given rise to higher levels of both household and corporate debt than certain other European nations.
  • While the levels of debt appear to be explained by these structural aspects of the Irish economy, the higher base of debt that now exists could pose a risk in the event of a downturn. For instance, a stable private debt ratio, i.e. with debt growing at the same pace as the economy (GNI*), but no faster, would result in household debt reaching a level close to its pre-crisis peak by 2023.

Commenting on the publication, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D., said:

“I welcome the publication of this paper, which fills an important gap in our understanding of the debt burden of the private sector in Ireland, and offers a far more nuanced perspective on our debt position than what is generally reported.

The high level of private debt in Ireland has continually been highlighted as an economic risk, including on the European Commission’s Scoreboard of Macroeconomic Imbalances. Understanding how much of this debt relates to the domestic economy and how much is attributable to the activities of multinationals is crucial to allow us to formulate appropriate economic policy.

While the paper finds that household debt levels are not out of line with fundamental economic drivers, the fact that Ireland’s households remain among the most indebted in the EU highlights the continued need for the Government to closely monitor trends in household debt, including regarding mortgage arrears.

We are actively engaging with our colleagues in the EU as part of the European Semester process, to ensure we continue to unwind any harmful macroeconomic imbalances that developed during the crisis and avoid the build-up of any new imbalances.”

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European Commission Press Releases

EU-U.S. Joint Statement: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imports from the U.S. continue to rise, up by 181%

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: rchardenergy.co.uk
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Since their Joint Statement of 25 July 2018 in Washington D.C., when President Juncker and President Trump agreed to strengthen EU-U.S. strategic cooperation including in the area of energy, EU imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. have increased by 181%. The firstEU-U.S. Energy Council High-Level Forum will take place on 2 May 2019 in Brussels.

The release of these new LNG figures coincides with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström’s and Secretary-General Martin Selmayr’s visit to Washington this week for meetings with their U.S. counterparts within the Executive Working Group. The implementation of the different elements of the Joint Statement of Presidents Juncker and Trump was one of the topics addressed. The recent developments on LNG trade attest to the European Union’s continued commitment to deliver on all aspects of the 25 July agreement.

With a share of 12,6% of EU-LNG imports in 2019 so far, the U.S. is Europe’s third biggest supplier of LNG[1]. The European Union is ready to facilitate more imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S., if the market conditions are right and prices competitive. This will allow U.S. exporters to further diversify their European markets whilst contributing to the EU’s objectives of security of supply and diversification. Currently, U.S. legislation still requires prior regulatory approval for liquefied natural gas exports to Europe. These restrictions need to be addressed and U.S. rules made easier for U.S. liquefied natural gas to be exported in larger quantities to the EU.

Current figures show that:

  • Compared to the period before the 25 July 2018 Joint Statement, cumulative EU imports of U.S. LNG are up by 181% at 7.9 billion cubic meters until early March 2019;
  • In terms of the EU’s total imports of LNG, the U.S. share was 12%, over the last six months, compared to 2.3% before the Joint Statement and since the first U.S. LNG cargo to Europe in April 2016.
  • In the month of January 2019, EU imports of U.S. LNG from the U.S. were 1.3 billion cubic meters, up from 102 million cubic meterscompared to the same month in 2018. In February 2019 total U.S. LNG imports amounted to 0.6 billion cubic meters.

To further explore and discuss the strengthening of the transatlantic strategic cooperation with respect to energy, as agreed in the July 2018 Joint Statement, the EU and the United States are organising the first EU-U.S. Energy Council High-Level Forum in Brussels. The event will take place on 2 May under the theme: “Towards large-scale U.S. LNG exports to the EU’s gas market: competitive pricing, infrastructure investments and technological innovation”.

The EU has co-financed or committed to co-finance LNG infrastructure projects worth over €656 million (see list of projects in Annex 2). In addition to the existing 150 billion cubic meters of spare capacity in the EU, the EU is supporting eight LNG projects, which will increase capacity by another 22 billion cubic meters by 2023.

The Commission continues to deliver on the 25 July 2018 agreement. On 18 January 2019 the Commission adopted proposals for negotiating directives for its trade talks with the United States: one on conformity assessment and one on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods.

Imports of U.S. soya beans by the European Union increased by 112% over the current market year (July-December 2018), compared to the same period in the previous year. With a share of 75% of EU soya beans imports, the U.S. remains Europe’s number one supplier.

European imports of U.S. soya beans are bound to increase even further, following the decision by the European Commission to authorise the use of U.S. soya beans for biofuels.

 

Background

The global liquefied natural gas market is becoming increasingly fluid and competitive. Between 2017 and 2023, global liquefied natural gas trade is expected to grow by more than 100 billion cubic meters, from 391 to 505.The International Energy Agency expects liquefied natural gas imports to Europe to increase by almost 20% by 2040 compared to 2016 levels.

The increasing gas production in the U.S. and the start of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports to the EU in 2016 have improved the security of gas supply in Europe and globally. Europe is currently importing around 70% of the gas it needs, and this share is expected to increase in the coming years. Liquefied natural gas is also an important part of the EU’s diversification strategy; and as the second biggest single gas market in the world after the U.S., the EU is therefore an attractive option for the U.S. In order to increase imports to Europe further, U.S. prices for liquefied natural gas need to be competitive on the EU market. In addition, the following actions are key to facilitating imports:

 

Development of liquefied natural gas capacities in the EU and in the U.S.:

The EU has well developed liquefied natural gas import capacities, with about 150 billion cubic meters currently spare. At the same time, given their strategic importance for diversification, current capacities are being expanded and new capacities are being developed in the Adriatic Sea (on the island of Krk in Croatia), in the Baltic Sea, notably in Poland, and in the Mediterranean Sea in Greece. This would allow for a significant increase of liquefied natural gas imports to the EU.

The U.S. currently has 39 billion cubic meters of liquefaction capacity and is foreseen to add a further 80 billion cubic meters by 2023, while expanding its liquefied natural gas export terminals.

  • Regulatory restrictions by the U.S. need to be lifted. The EU has no non-market barriers for U.S. natural gas coming to the EU. The EU is seeking similar treatment from the U.S. side, in particular as regards the removal of the requirement for prior approval of liquefied natural gas exports to the EU.

The current figures show that imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas to the EU have been increasing:

  • Since the first shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas to the EU in April 2016, today EU imports of liquefied natural gas from the United States have already reached 7.9 billion cubic meters (bcm).
  • Since early 2016, the EU has received around 85 liquefied natural gas cargoes from the U.S. In 2017 Europe represented more than 10% of total U.S. LNG exports, up from 5% in 2016. In 2018 as whole, the share of Europe in the U.S. LNG exports was 11%, however, taking into account the time since the Joint Statement only, Europe represented a share of nearly 26%.
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