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European Commission Press Releases

European Agenda on Migration four years on: Marked progress needs consolidating in face of volatile situation

Vlad Poptamas

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Ahead of the October European Council, the Commission is today reporting on key progress under the European Agenda on Migration since 2015, with focus on steps taken by the EU since the last progress report in March 2019. The Commission also set out those areas where work must continue to address current and future migration challenges.

High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “Over the past years we have built an EU external migration policy when there was none. We have developed new partnerships and strengthened the old ones, starting with the African Union and the United Nations. Together we are saving lives and protecting those in need by enabling legal migration channels, addressing the drivers of migration, and fighting against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. The past years have confirmed that no country can address this complexity alone. It is only by working together, by joining forces that we can tackle these global challenges in an effective, human and sustainable way.”

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: These past years have shown that only together as a Union we are capable of responding to extreme circumstances. Collectively, we have laid down the structural and operational foundations for a comprehensive European migration system that not only responds effectively and delivers results, but also promotes solidarity and responsibility. While there is still more work to do and the situation remains fragile, we are much better prepared than we were in 2015.” 

When the migration crisis broke out in 2015, the EU took swift and determined action to face exceptional challenges through common European solutions. Over the past 4 years, the basis for a strong collective EU migration policy and new tools and procedures for efficient coordination and cooperation are now in place. The EU is better equipped than ever before to provide operational and financial support to Member States under pressure, manage the external borders and work in partnership with countries outside the EU. However, more efforts are needed to complete this work and make the EU’s migration policy truly future-proof, effective and resilient.

Important progress made towards a strong and effective EU migration management policy

Over the past 5 years, the Commission has worked tirelessly to build a stronger EU policy on migration. By focusing on priority areas we have managed to move from crisis mode to creating structural solutions to ensure Europe is better prepared for any future migratory challenges – in the medium and long term.

Solidarity and support to Member States: The EU is now working more closely with Member States than ever before through the hotspot approach and EU Agencies with over 2,300 staff deployed on the ground – to better manage migration, strengthen the external borders, save lives, reduce the number of irregular arrivals and ensure effective returns. The coordination processes and operational structures developed and established on the ground are key achievements that will remain in place.

Stronger cooperation with partner countries is achieving results: The EU has stepped up the work with partners outside of Europe to tackle the root causes of irregular migration, protect refugees and migrants and support host communities. Unprecedented funding, worth €9.7 billion, has been mobilised to this effect, notably through the EU Trust Fund for Africa, the Syria Trust Fund or the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, under which 97% of €6 billion has already been allocated. EU support is also focusing on resilience, stability, economic and employment opportunities. Cooperation with partner countries on return has also improved, with return and readmission agreements and arrangements now in place with 23 partner countries.

Groundwork laid for future strong and fair asylum rules:The need for a reformed Common European Asylum System was one of the clearest lessons of the 2015 crisis. The Commission put all the necessary proposals on the table for a complete and sustainable EU framework for migration and asylum. Whilst progress was made on five out of seven proposals, the reform is still pending and a common approach to securing a fair, more efficient and sustainable asylum system is still needed.

Important progress on safe and legal pathways: Over the past 5 years, Member States have made the largest collective efforts ever on resettlement, with almost 63,000 persons resettled. Confirming their commitment and determination to ensure the continuity of EU resettlement efforts in the future, Member States have responded to the Commission’s call to continue resettling in 2020 by already pledging around 30,000 resettlement places.

More work and immediate steps required in key areas

Whilst the overall migratory situation across all routes has returned to pre-crisis levels with arrivals in September 2019 being around 90% lower than in September 2015, the situation remains volatile and geopolitical developments have created new challenges for the EU. Further work is needed to address immediate key challenges and to progress on on-going work, in particular:

  • Urgent action to improve the conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean: Whilst the Greek authorities have undertaken steps over the past months to alleviate the pressure on the islands, including notably a new reception strategy and new asylum measures, the increase in arrivals has put strain on an already fraught system. While the EU-Turkey Statement continues to deliver concrete results, renewed migratory pressure in Turkey and instability in the wider region continues to cause concern. In view of this, urgent action must be taken to improve reception conditions, increase transfers to mainland Greece from the islands and increase returns under the Statement. The Commission is also stepping up its support to Cyprus, which is currently facing an increase in arrivals.
  • More solidarity on search and rescue: Despite search and rescue efforts, lives continue to be lost at sea and the ad hoc relocation solutions coordinated by the Commission are clearly not long-term remedies. The Commission remains committed to working with and supporting Member States in agreeing temporary arrangements to facilitate disembarkation following search and rescue in the Mediterranean, and encourages more Member States to participate in solidarity efforts. Such arrangements could serve as inspiration for addressing flows in other parts of the Mediterranean.
  • Accelerate evacuations from Libya: The situation in Libya remains a major concern. After violent conflict erupted in and around Tripoli in April 2019, intensified efforts through the trilateral AU-EU-UN taskforce must continue to help free migrants from detention, facilitate voluntary return (49,000 returns so far) and evacuate the most vulnerable persons (over 4,000 evacuated). Member States urgently need to increase and accelerate the pace of resettlements under the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Niger run with the UNHCR and support the newly established ETM in Rwanda.

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European Commission Press Releases

State aid: Commission approves over €22 million of public support to promote rail transport operability in the Netherlands

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: worldatlas.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, €22.2 million of public support to upgradetraffic management equipment on freight locomotives in the Netherlands. The scheme will contribute to making railway systems more interoperable in the EU without unduly distorting competition.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “The Dutch scheme will contribute to the deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System and to the creation of a Single European Railway Area. It will improve the competitiveness of European railways and foster the shift of freight traffic from road to rail, in line with the EU’s environmental and transport objectives, without unduly distorting competition.

In October 2019, the Netherlands notified the Commission of their plans to support the upgrade of 99 cross-border freight locomotives with the newest European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) on-board equipment. ERTMS is a safety system that ensures the compliance by trains with speed restrictions and signalling status. This system is expected to enable the creation of a seamless European railway system, and increase the safety and competitiveness of the European rail sector.

The EU Implementing Regulation on the ERTMS European deployment plan requires that about 30% – 40% of the so-called European Core Network Corridors should be equipped with ERTMS by 2023. To meet these requirements, the Netherlands plans to deploy the latest version of ERTMS on a large share of its core national railway network, which is part of the European Core Network Corridors. Consequently, the owners of the locomotives, who invested in the retrofitting of their freight locomotives with former versions of the ERTMS on-board equipment in the past, will now need to upgrade the existing equipment to ensure interoperability with the latest version of the ERTMS and will have to face significant costs.

The public support will take the form of direct grants to the owners of the locomotives, to be used for the prototyping and serial upgrades of the equipment. The public support by the Dutch state will be complemented by grants for a total of €23.8 million financed through the Connecting Europe Facility.

The Commission’s assessment

The Commission assessed the scheme under EU State aid rules, in particular the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings and found that:

  • The Dutch scheme is beneficial for the environment and for mobility as it supports rail transport, which is less polluting than road transport, while also decreasing road congestion.
  • The measure is proportionate and necessary to achieve the intended objectives, i.e. the promotion of interoperability of railway systems in the EU and supports the shift of freight transport from road to rail.
  • The Dutch public funding has an “incentive effect”, as railway vehicle owners would not perform the necessary upgrade of the ERTMS equipment of their freight locomotives absent the public support.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules.

 

worldatlas.com

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European Commission Press Releases

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into possible collusion by two French retailers in a purchasing alliance

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: federal-lawyer.com
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether two French groups of retailers, Casino Guichard-Perrachon (known as ‘Casino’) and Les Mousquetaires (known as ‘Intermarché’), have coordinated their conduct in the market, in breach of EU competition rules.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said “Buying alliances between retailers have become a key component of grocery supply chains. They can bring lower prices to consumers for food and personal care brands that they purchase on a daily basis. Such benefits can however disappear quickly if retailers use these alliances to collude on their sales activities. The Commission will therefore investigate if Casino and Intermarché have coordinated their activities in an anticompetitive way.

Casino and Intermarché are two of the largest chains of groceries retail shops active in France. In November 2014, they set up a joint venture for the joint procurement alliance of their branded products, INCA.

The Commission is concerned that Casino and Intermarché went beyond the purpose of their alliance and engaged in an anticompetitive conduct. In particular, the Commission will investigate whether Casino and Intermarché coordinated their activities on the development of their shop networks and their pricing policy towards consumers.

If proven, this coordination may breach EU competition rules on anticompetitive agreements between companies (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.

 

 

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European Commission Press Releases

Speech by President Juncker in the Plenary of the European Parliament at the debate on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: politico.eu
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Mille grazie Signor Presidente,

Mr President of the European Council,

Dear colleagues,

It was an emotional moment for me last week when I attended my last European Council together with my good friend Donald. We are today debating the 147th European Council of my political career. And it is today the 105th time that I speak to you in this Plenary, the beating heart of European democracy.

In many of these 105 debates, I had to discuss the UK’s departure from the European Union with you. In truth, it has pained me to spend so much of this mandate dealing with Brexit, when I have thought of nothing less than how this Union could do better for its citizens – a waste of time and a waste of energy.

The Commission has worked tirelessly to negotiate and renegotiate an agreement with the United Kingdom, to respect the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. We now have a new agreement, which – again – creates the legal certainty for an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

It took a huge amount of work to arrive at this point. I listened to Prime Minister Johnson in the same way as I listened to Prime Minister May. Our negotiators – mainly Michel Barnier – have once again worked around the clock. And once again, they have shown creativity and determination.

The agreement we reached with the United Kingdom’s government addresses this Parliament’s demands – all Parliaments’ demands.

I will always regret the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union. But at least we can look ourselves in the eye and say that we have done all in our power to make sure that this departure is orderly.

In this same spirit, we have done everything in our power to prepare the European Union for all eventualities, irrespective of what is happening on the other side of the Channel.

We need now to watch events in Westminster very closely. But it is not possible, not imaginable that this Parliament would ratify the agreement before Westminster will have ratified the agreement – first London, then Brussels and Strasbourg.

Wir haben uns, Herr Präsident, auch ausführlich mit dem Finanziellen Rahmen für die nächste 7-Jahres-Periode anlässlich des Europäischen Rates beschäftigt. Ich möchte hier noch einmal zu Protokoll geben, dass ich der Auffassung bin, dass die Zeit abläuft, die gebraucht werden wird, um zu einer Einigung im Rat und später anderswo zu kommen. Wenn wir weiter Zeit verlieren, werden wir in finanzielle Engpässe in den ersten zwei Jahren des Finanziellen Rahmens kommen.

Wichtig ist aber, dass Mitgliedstaaten und andere Akteure wissen, welcher Finanzrahmen für die nächste 7-Jahres-Periode gilt. Das brauchen junge Erasmus-Studenten, das brauchen Forscher, das brauchen viele andere und wir haben eigentlich nicht das Recht, diese wichtigen Partner für das Gelingen des Europäischen Projektes vor den Kopf zu stoßen – nur, weil wir unfähig sind, uns zu einigen.

Aber ich möchte ganz klar sagen: Das von der Kommission vorgeschlagene Haushaltsvolumen ist ein Minimum – ein Minimum! Und die Vorschläge, die jetzt auf dem Tisch liegen, auch die jüngsten Vorschläge des finnischen Ratsvorsitzes, sind nicht akzeptabel. Man kann Europa und seine Zukunft nicht mit 1% des Bruttosozialproduktes gestalten, dies wird nicht möglich sein.

Et puis, Monsieur le Président, nous avons parlé de l’élargissement. Je suis très déçu de la décision ou de la non-décision du Conseil européen. La Macédoine du Nord et l’Albanie étaient en droit d’attendre qu’on ouvre les négociations avec ces pays-là, qui ont fait de grands efforts. C’est une lourde erreur de ne pas avoir ouvert les négociations avec ces deux pays.

C’est une lourde erreur parce qu’elle frappe deux pays. Au cœur, c’est une lourde erreur parce que si l’Union européenne donne l’impression de faire des promesses et de ne pas les respecter, personne ne nous respectera à travers le monde.

Merci.

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