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European Commission Press Releases

Cambodia: EU launches procedure to temporarily suspend trade preferences

Vlad Poptamas

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Date: 18/10/2018   Reference: P-038454/00-02   Location: Brussels,Belgium © European Union , 2019   /   Photo: Théodore Boermans
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The EU has today started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. EBA preferences can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights and labour rights.

Launching the temporary withdrawal procedure does not entail an immediate removal of tariff preferences, which would be the option of last resort. Instead, it kicks off a period of intensive monitoring and engagement. The aim of the Commission’s action remains to improve the situation for the people on the ground.

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini said: “Over the last eighteen months, we have seen the deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia. In February 2018, the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers made clear how seriously the EU views these developments. In recent months, the Cambodian authorities have taken a number of positive steps, including the release of political figures, civil society activists and journalists and addressing some of the restrictions on civil society and trade union activities.However, without more conclusive action from the government, the situation on the ground calls Cambodia’s participation in the EBA scheme into question. As the European Union, we are committed to a partnership with Cambodia that delivers for the Cambodian people. Our support for democracy and human rights in the country is at the heart of this partnership.”

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “It should be clear that today’s move is neither a final decision nor the end of the process. But the clock is now officially ticking and we need to see real action soon. We now go into a monitoring and evaluation process in which we are ready to engage fully with the Cambodian authorities and work with them to find a way forward. When we say that the EU’s trade policy is based on values, these are not just empty words. We are proud to be one of the world’s most open markets for least developed countries and the evidence shows that exporting to the EU Single Market can give a huge boost to their economies. Nevertheless, in return we ask that these countries respect certain core principles. Our engagement with the situation in Cambodia has led us to conclude that there are severe deficiencies when it comes to human rights and labour rights in Cambodia that the government needs to tackle if it wants to keep its country’s privileged access to our market.”

Following a period of enhanced engagement, including a fact-finding mission to Cambodia in July 2018 and subsequent bilateral meetings at the highest level, the Commission has concluded that there is evidence of serious and systematic violations of core human rights and labour rights in Cambodia, in particular of the rights to political participation as well as of the freedoms of assembly, expression and association. These findings add to the longstanding EU concerns about the lack of workers’ rights and disputes linked to economic land concessions in the country.

Today’s decision will be published in the EU Official Journal on 12 February, kicking off a process that aims to arrive at a situation in which Cambodia is in line with its obligations under the core UN and ILO Conventions:

– a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement with the Cambodian authorities;

– followed by another three-month period for the EU to produce a report based on the findings;

– after a total of twelve months, the Commission will conclude the procedure with a final decision on whether or not to withdraw tariff preferences; it is also at this stage that the Commission will decide the scope and duration of the withdrawal. Any withdrawal would come into effect after a further six-month period.

High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Malmström launched the internal process to initiate this procedure on 4 October 2018. Member States gave their approval to the Commission proposal to launch the withdrawal procedure at the end of January 2019.

Background

The Everything But Arms arrangement is one arm of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU, giving them vital access to the EU market and contributing to their growth. The EBA scheme unilaterally grants duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union for all products (except arms and ammunition) for the world’s Least Developed Countries, as defined by the United Nations. The GSP Regulation provides that trade preferences may be suspended in case of “serious and systematic violation of principles” laid down in the human rights and labour rights Conventions listed in Annex VIII of the Regulation.

Exports of textiles and footwear, prepared foodstuffs and vegetable products (rice) and bicycles represented 97% of Cambodia’s overall exports to the EU in 2018. Out of the total exports of € 4.9bn, 99% (€ 4.8bn) were eligible to EBA preferential duties.

For More Information

MEMO: EU triggers procedure to temporarily suspend trade preferences for Cambodia

Trade relations with Cambodia

Generalised Scheme of Preferences

IP/19/882

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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European Commission Press Releases

State aid: Commission approves €385 million support for production of electricity from renewable sources in Lithuania

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: therobotreport.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a scheme to support electricity production from renewable energy sources in Lithuania. The measure, open to all types of renewable generation, will contribute to the EU environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The scheme will contribute to Lithuania’s transition to low carbon and environmentally sustainable energy supply, in line with the EU environmental objectives and our state aid rules.

On 1 May 2019, Lithuania will introduce a new aid scheme to support installations generating electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydropower. The scheme will help Lithuania reach its national target share of renewable energy sources in gross final energy consumption, which has been set at 38% by 2025. The renewable energy scheme will be applicable until 1 July 2025 or, alternatively, until the 38% target is reached.

The scheme, with an overall budget of €385 million, will be open to all renewable installations.

The installations benefitting from the scheme will receive support in the form of a premium, which will be set through a competitive bidding process for all types of installations, irrespective of the size of the installation and the renewable technology used.

However, the final premium will not be set at a level greater than the difference between:

  • the electricity market price in Lithuania (“reference price”); and
  • the average production costs of the most cost-efficient renewable energy technology in Lithuania (“maximum price”). This has been defined by the Lithuanian authorities as onshore wind power generation.

Both the reference price and the maximum price will be set by the Lithuanian national energy regulator for each auction.

The Commission assessed the scheme under EU State aid rules, in particular under the 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy.

The Commission found that the aid has an incentive effect, as the market price does not fully cover the costs of generating electricity from renewable energy sources and the beneficiaries will have to apply for the aid before the generating installations start operating. The aid is also proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary, as it only covers the difference between the production costs and the market price of electricity.

Therefore, the Commission concluded that the Lithuanian measure is in line with EU State aid rules, as it promotes the generation of electricity from renewable sources, in line with the environmental objectives of the EU, without unduly distorting competition.

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European Commission Press Releases

European Defence Fund: Statement by Commissioner Bieńkowska on the European Parliament’s vote

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: euractiv.com
Reading Time: 1 minute

 

The European Parliament endorsed today the provisional agreement reached by the co-legislators on the future European Defence Fund (EDF) for the next budget period from 2021 to 2027. The European Commission proposed the European Defence Fund in June 2018. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said:

“I welcome today’s vote by the European Parliament. More defence cooperation in Europe is essential to address the growing global instabilities and cross-border threats to our security. It is clear that no country can do this alone. The endorsement of the European Defence Fund will allow us to significantly step up our defence cooperation and allow Europe to become a stronger security provider for our citizens.

The European Defence Fund marks a big step forward in European defence matters. It will strengthen European cooperation by encouraging joint investments and technological innovation in the defence sector. This will help to spend taxpayer money more efficiently and ensure Europe can benefit from the best interoperable defence technology and equipment. By promoting a strong and innovative defence industry, the Fund will strengthen EU’s strategic autonomy and technological leadership in defence.

The Fund will build on defence priorities agreed by Member States within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and ensure synergies with the Permanent European Structured Cooperation.

With today’s vote, a fully-fledged European Defence Fund is now on track to become a reality. I want to thank the European Parliament as well as all other EU institutions on taking fast and decisive action on this key political priority.”

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European Commission Press Releases

Capital Markets Union: European Parliament backs key measures to boost jobs and growth

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: euobserver.com
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The Commission welcomes the European Parliament’s final votes on legislation putting in place the building blocks of a Capital Markets Union (CMU).

This adoption of a substantial number of proposals constitutes another step forward in the completion of the CMU, one of the Juncker Commission’s top political priorities.

The Capital Markets Union project has been at the heart of this Commission’s ambition to boost growth in Europe, invest in innovation and promote the EU’s global competitiveness. With now 11 out of 13 proposals agreed, the CMU will become a true driver of investment in the Single Market, providing additional sources of financing to EU companies and opportunities for citizens to save for their future. The CMU channels investment to environmentally-friendly projects, thereby contributing to the EU’s sustainable and carbon-neutral agenda. A strong CMU is also necessary to complement the Banking Union in order to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union and the international role of the euro.

Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “The Capital Markets Union will enable companies to find more funding opportunities both domestically and across the Union and provide consumers with more choices to save for their future. Alternative market-based sources of financing are particularly important to finance innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups, which are main engines of job creation. While the project will benefit all Member States, it will particularly strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union by promoting private risk-sharing.”

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness said:“The Commission has delivered on its commitment to put in place the building blocks of a Capital Markets Union by 2019. The CMU contributes directly to the Juncker Commission’s commitment to boost investment, jobs and growth by diversifying market-based finance for European companies. We have now laid the foundations for the CMU and efforts must continue into the next mandate so that businesses big and small, investors and savers can continue to reap the benefits.

Overall, all the adopted proposals will contribute to expanding the CMU’s objectives of innovative financing and creating more investment opportunities from the local to the European level. Each of them covers a specific scope of action:

Collective Investment Funds: By removing regulatory barriers for investment funds and diverging national rules, this proposal will increase competition and facilitate intra-EU distribution of investment funds, will giving investors more choice, better value and greater protection.

European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) review: This review will make the European system of financial supervision more effective and efficient. Among many objectives, the reform will also guarantee that supervision of money laundering risks in the financial sector is pro-active and fast. It will ensure that rules are evenly enforced throughout the EU and give the European Banking Authority (EBA) a coordination role in the areas of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.

Investment firms review:This revised legislation will ensure more proportionate rules and better supervision for all investment firms on capital, liquidity and other risk management requirements, while ensuring a level-playing field between large and systemic financial institutions. It will also strengthen and clarify equivalence rules for the provision of investment services by third country firms.

Covered bonds: This legislation will foster the development of financial instruments issued by banks to fund the economy across the EU, thanks to a harmonised EU framework.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) growth markets: The rules adopted will make it cheaper and simpler for SMEs to access public markets including through a category of trading venues dedicated to small issuers.

Disclosure requirements on sustainable investments: As part of the Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, these rules will strengthen and improve the disclosure of “green” information by manufacturers of financial products and financial advisors towards end-investors.

European market infrastructure regulation (EMIR) 2.2: This legislation will ensure a more robust and effective supervision of central counterparties (CCPs) offering services to the EU. Ultimately, this will contribute to preserving financial stability in the EU.

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