Telecommunications Data (Retention Obligation) Bill sent to the House of Representatives

Source: Government of the Netherlands

Headline: Telecommunications Data (Retention Obligation) Bill sent to the House of Representatives

The obligation to retain telecommunications data is invaluable for the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes. Rules regarding access to retained telecommunications data will be tightened. This is shown by a bill from Minister Van der Steur (Security and Justice) which was submitted to the House of Representatives today.

It concerns revised statutory regulations arising from a 2014 judgment of the Court of Justice and a 2015 judgment of the preliminary relief court. This will bring Dutch legislation in line with the judgment of the Court of Justice as regards the protection of the privacy of citizens and the protection of personal data.

Practice shows that suspects of serious crimes do not immediately enter the picture. In these cases, it is important that recent telecommunications data are also available for investigation and prosecution purposes. Minister Van der Steur proposes a retention period of 6 months for internet data (such as IP addresses) and 12 months for telephony data (such as numbers and duration of conversations). This retention obligation does not pertain to the contents of a telephone conversation, only to traffic data.

Moreover, there will be strict access to the retained data. The public prosecutor will only be allowed to access the retained traffic data after the examining judge has given permission. Such judicial review constitutes an additional guarantee for citizens. Providers of telecommunications services will also be obliged to store and process their data within the European Union, so as to guarantee adequate supervision of the protection of personal data.

European Commission sets up Task Force led by Michel Barnier as Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom

Source: European Union

Headline: European Commission sets up Task Force led by Michel Barnier as Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom

This follows the appointment, on 27 July 2016, by President Juncker of Michel Barnier as Chief Negotiator in charge of those negotiations and of the new Task Force.

As Head of the Article 50 Task Force, Michel Barnier will report directly to the President and will be supported by a team of the best Commission experts. He will also be advised by a group of Directors-General dealing with the issues relevant to the negotiations.

The Article 50 Task Force will be in charge of preparing and conducting the negotiations with the UK, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the European Union. The Task Force will coordinate the Commission’s work on all strategic, operational, legal and financial issues related to these negotiations. It will be able to draw on policy support from all Commission services.

Also today, the Commission decided to appoint Ms Sabine Weyand, currently Deputy Director-General in the Commission’s trade department (DG TRADE), as Deputy Chief Negotiator as of 1 October 2016. Ms Weyand, a German national, brings a lot of relevant experience to her new assignment. In her current position, Ms Weyand covers inter alia WTO matters, trade defence, TTIP and neighbourhood policy. Prior to that she was in charge of policy coordination in the Commission’s Secretariat-General. She also was Member of Cabinet of Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Head of Cabinet of Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel.

President Juncker said: “This new Task Force will be composed of the Commission’s best and brightest. They will help Michel Barnier to conduct the negotiations with the United Kingdom effectively, benefiting from the deep knowledge and rich experience available across the whole Commission. Together, Michel and his team will live up to this new challenge and help us to develop a new partnership with the United Kingdom after it will have left the European Union.”

Background

The Heads of State or Government of the 27 Member States as well as the Presidents of the European Council and European Commission held an Informal Meeting in Brussels on 29 June 2016 following the Referendum of 23 June in the United Kingdom.

They agreed on the need to organise the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union in an orderly fashion. Article 50 of the TEU provides the legal basis for this process. Full Statement of the Informal Meeting at 27, of 29 June 2016.

In line with the principle of ‘no negotiation without notification’, the task of the Chief Negotiator in the coming months will be to prepare the ground internally for the work ahead. Once the Article 50 process is triggered, he will take the necessary formal contacts with the UK authorities.

Michel Barnier, as Chief Negotiator, will be ranked at the Director-General level and will take up his duties as of 1 October 2016.

State of the Union 2016: European External Investment Plan: Questions and Answers

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: European External Investment Plan: Questions and Answers

Why do we need the EU External Investment Plan?

Some of the main challenges for developing countries remain achieving inclusive and sustainable growth and creating jobs. The investment climate and the overall policy environment in the EU Neighbourhood and in Africa are not always supportive of private sector investment. This is particularly evident in fragile, conflict- and violence-affected countries, some of which are important countries from where irregular migrants originate.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and other private financial flows have declined across developing countries since the 2008 financial crisis. In 2012, only 6% (€ 34.6 billion) of total global FDI to developing countries went to countries on the fragile states list. This was an average investment of €27 per capita compared to an average of €128 per capita in other developing countries. Among those on the fragile states list, the majority of FDI is attracted by resources-rich countries, with 72% concentrated in ten countries in 2012. This clearly marks a gap in investment and the added-value targeted action by the European Union can have.

What is new about the European External Investment Plan (EIP) and how does it add value?

The EIP sets out a coherent and consistent approach and its implementation will allow the EU to lead by example in developing more effective partnerships, with partner countries and at the same time implementing international commitments on financing for development. Grants remain essential but we need to go beyond classical development assistance, using guarantees and innovative financial instruments to support investment, trade, domestic resource mobilisation and good governance and multiply the impact on the ground. The EIP will improve the way in which public funds are used and the way public authorities and private investors work together on investment projects. The EIP provides, for the first time, a coherent overall framework to improve investment in Africa and the Neighbourhood, in order to promote sustainable investment and tackle some of the root causes of migration. It will do so by leveraging funds from the EU, its Member States, other donors, financial institutions and the private sector.

Furthermore, it offers a guarantee to the private sector to invest in contexts that are politically more risky than others, and it addresses the key factors that enable crowding-in private investment where investors would not otherwise go.

Investments will mainly be targeted to improve social and economic infrastructure, for example municipal infrastructure and proximity services, and on providing support to SMEs, microfinance and job creation projects.

What is already happening today, and is the EU drawing on lessons learnt?

The European Commission is drawing on the experience with existing investment programmes at EU level, for example, through the current EU blending framework. Blending is the use of a limited amount of EU money (grants) to mobilise additional support, for instance in the form of loans, from financial institutions and from the private sector to strengthen the development impact of investment projects. This way, the European Union already supports investments in modern infrastructure and access to finance for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in partner countries. The EIP will draw on these lessons and enable the EU, international financial institutions, donors, public authorities and the private sector to cooperate fully in a coordinated way.

The External Investment Plan also builds on the experience gained with the very successful Investment Plan for Europe. Its European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) mobilised close to EUR 116 billion across 26 Member States in less than a year. During the same period, more than 200,000 SMEs have already benefitted from the EFSI.

How does the EIP work?

The EIP will be based on three pillars:

  • Pillar 1: a new investment fund, the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), which blending activities with a new guarantee to address and unblock bottlenecks to private investment.
  • The EFSD will include two Regional Investment Platforms (Africa and EU Neighbourhood). They will combine existing blending instruments and will operate as a one-stop-shop to receive proposals from financial institutions and other public and private investors.
  • The EFSD will also provide for a new guarantee, which will be passed on to intermediary financing institutions, which in turn will lend support, via loans, guarantees, equity or similar products, to final beneficiaries. The objective is to leverage additional financing, in particular from the private sector, as the EFSD guarantee will reduce the risk for private investment and absorb potential losses incurred by eligible counterparts, for example public financing institutions and private sector investors.
  • Pillar 2: technical assistance for broader policy environment to help local authorities and companies develop a higher number of sustainable projects and attract investors, in order to further engage the private sector. The instruments available under the EFSD will be accessible to all investors through the provision of integrated services, offered by one-stop-shop.
  • Pillar 3: a range of dedicated thematic, national and regional EU development cooperation programmes, combined with structured political dialogue targeted at improving the investment climate and the overall policy environment in the countries concerned.

In addition, the European Investment Bank (EIB)’s lending operations form an integral part of the EIP. For this purpose, the Commission will expand the EU budget guarantee under the EIB External Lending Mandate by a total of EUR 5.3 billion. This includes a EUR 3.7 billion EU guarantee in support of the EIB Resilience Initiative in the Southern Neighbourhood and Western Balkans, which aims to mobilise additional financing in support of sustainable growth, vital infrastructure and social cohesion in Southern Neighbourhood and Western Balkan countries. Like the EIP itself, the EIB has developed the Resilience Initiative in response to a call by the European Council.

Including these new resources, the EIB will be able to lend up to EUR 32.3 billion under the EU guarantee between 2014 and 2020.

How will Member States contribute?

Contributions from the Member States will benefit from the overall advantages of the new Investment Plan including coherence between actions on access to finance, technical assistance and business environment. In addition, there will be specific advantages for Member States’ contributions. They do not have to take the form of cash payments, but could also be provided as second-loss guarantees. In that case, they would be relied upon only in a second stage after use of the EU guarantee. Furthermore, Member States could earmark their contributions for particular regions or sectors.

What role will the European Investment Bank (EIB) play in the EIP?

As the EU Bank, the EIB plays a key role in the EIP, notably via its implementation of the Resilience Initiative in the Southern Neighbourhood and Western Balkans (see above), the EIB External Lending Mandate and the EIB’s operations in Africa under the ACP Investment Facility.

For the EFSD, the EIB, in addition to being one of the key implementing financial institutions, will provide an advisory role to further strengthen the quality and impact of the investment strategy. The EIB will also support the EIP by financing investments eligible under the EFSD and catalysing other sources of finance, in particular from the private sector.

The launch of the new EFSD proposal alongside changes to the ELM to facilitate further EIB lending, as part of a package, will ensure coherence between EU and other actors in the field of external investment to maximise effectiveness of available funding.

Who will be eligible to receive support through the EIP?

Public and private sector bodies are eligible counterparts and may submit investment proposals under the investment windows and sign guarantee agreements with the Commission, subject to the relevant financial assessments being carried out by by external, independent experts, for the Commission.

What will be the key criteria for investment proposals in order to get support through the EIP?

The investment proposals will have to:

  • contribute to economic and social development, with a focus on sustainability and job creation, particularly for youth and women, and dealing with addressing the root causes of irregular migration;
  • target socio-economic sectors (for example, infrastructure including energy, water, transport, ICT, environment, social infrastructure, human capital) and finance in favour of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Particular focus will be on private sector development;
  • maximise private sector leverage by addressing bottlenecks to investment;
  • be additional to the market and other instruments, in particular instruments funded by EU and Member State budgets, including EIB existing facilities and mandates;
  • support the objectives of EU policies and with the relevant policy and political dialogues with partner countries, regional and multilateral fora as well as be aligned with partner countries’ policies.

Which countries are targeted by the EIP?

As a start, African and EU Neighbourhood countries are eligible and can be supported, with the objective of addressing investment bottlenecks and contributing to sustainable development and job creation.

Where will the money come from?

The funding which will be used to finance and attract investments from other sources will come from the EU budget and other sources, including the European Development Fund. It will consist of EU funds totalling EUR 3.35 billion until 2020.

Additional funds could from Member States and other partners. If Member States match the EU contribution to the guarantee, this would bring the total investment volume to EUR 62 billion. If they also match the EU contribution to the blending, it would generate total investments of up to EUR 88 billion.

Can you give examples of types of projects that might in the future benefit from this new type of financing?

EU development cooperation already supports initiatives to enhance private sector engagement with a focus on blending. For example:

The Electrification Financing Initiative (ElectriFI), elaborated in close cooperation with representatives of the private sector and financing institutions, is a flexible tool aiming to support investments to facilitate access to reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity and energy services for populations in rural, underserved areas as well as in areas affected by unreliable power supply.

The SANAD Fund for MSMEs was established in August 2011 as a response to the Arab Spring. As MSMEs account for 60 % of GDP and 70 % of employment in the Middle East and North Africa, they are crucial to a vibrant economy and job market. SANAD provides financial instruments such as loans, subordinated debt, guarantees and equity to local partner financial institutions, but is not only limited to financial assistance. In addition, a Technical Facility, which is co-financed by the EU with €2 million, offers capacity building and support to PFIs, hence increasing the sustainability of the overall approach.

More information on the first results of the implementation of the blending facilities can be found in the Annual reports prepared for every blending framework: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/policies/innovative-financial-instruments-blending_en

What is an “investment window” and what are possible thematic/sectorial/geographical investment windows?

An investment window is a targeted area for intervention in specific regions and/or partner countries, in specific sectors, in specific projects and/or for specific final beneficiaries. The targeted area is to be funded by specific eligible instruments to be covered by the EU Guarantee up to a fixed amount.

It will be crucial to identify if there is a specific market demand for or failure preventing certain investments, and also to assess if necessary markets can be created, which would not be developed without the access to the Guarantee.

Examples of investment windows could be:

An employment window in a region: to support industrial parks for increased employment creation in demand-driven markets;

An agriculture window: to increase agricultural productivity in areas with potential for high growth and exports;

An infrastructure window: to support transport infrastructure to connect areas of high agricultural productivity to local, regional and international markets, or to bring communications means to remote locations.

How will European companies benefit?

The Commission will consider appropriate project-based partnerships with private sector actors and increased visibility of investment opportunities outside the EU, in cooperation with partner countries. Defined investment windows under the EIP will provide for a closer and more targeted identification of priority areas in which private sector investors could tailor investment proposals; while the guarantee allows for risk-sharing.

New funding opportunities together with targeted work to improve the business environment and investment climate (under pillar 3 of the EIP) in the partner countries will create a “win-win” situation: for the local private sector to become more active and EU companies who wish to expand into developing countries.

Direct interaction with companies and their sectorial associations will also be sought through sector-level dialogue mechanisms to encourage more private sector engagement and market-based solutions in sustainable agriculture and agribusiness, sustainable energy, infrastructure and social sectors.

How can an International Financing Institution (IFI) propose a project?

The IFI verifies with the Secretariat of the Fund, managed by the European Commission, that the suggested portfolio would fit under an existing investment window. If not, the IFI may adapt it and re-submit. If it does correspond to an existing investment window, the IFI will develop a full proposal, indicating all the relevant modalities, including the additionality of the portfolio, the suggested guarantee conditions, etc.).

On the basis of an assessment made by external, independent experts, the Commission forms an opinion on the proposal regarding its financial aspects, taking into consideration the due diligence of prospective partners, the risks involved, pricing, etc. Moreover, the Commission assesses the political and general coordination aspects after relevant consultations.

In technical assessment meetings, a number of portfolios or projects submitted by different IFIs will be analysed. In the case of a positive assessment from the technical meeting, the portfolio is brought to the Operational Board, where EU Member States are represented.

After the Operational Board has given its opinion, the European Commission and the IFI sign an agreement, which will allow the IFI to contract all individual projects to be guaranteed under the portfolio. All actors involved will aim at an as smooth and efficient process as possible, in order to ensure short handling times and rapid certainty for all actors involved.

How can an individual company submit a project?

Through the EIP-Web portal, that will be established, the interested company can request a guarantee for an investment project.

Should the project not qualify for the EFSD Guarantee and since in general the guarantee would be passed through a finance institution, the Secretariat will suggest to the company a list of relevant financial institutions, which are active in the respective region of interest. The company can thus contact the financial institutions concerned for possible funding outside of the EU Guarantee coverage.

In case the project qualifies for the EFSD Guarantee and an investment window for the proposed project type exists (in terms of policy objectives, risk and pricing), the Secretariat will put the company in contact with the International Financing Institution (IFI) managing that window. The IFI will be able to accept or refuse, being however obliged to report their decision as well as the reasons to the Secretariat.

If there is no investment window, the Secretariat will issue a call for interest to all IFIs to identify whether any IFI is interested to either establish a new investment window or simply to support the project presented by that company.

Once an agreement is reached between the company and the IFI, the two together will fully develop the project and submit the project proposal to the Secretariat. For this, the procedure described above will apply.

How are you going to make sure that it makes a difference in people’s lives, i.e that the efforts will actually translate into jobs and growth? How will you communicate the results of the efforts?

The Commission will closely monitor the progress of the EIP as we monitor the progress that the EU as a whole makes on its collective commitments on financing for development. The European Commission will report annually to the European Parliament and the Council on the activities related to this Plan. The Commission will also publish an annual activity report providing an overview of the financed projects. In addition, for each operation, a communication plan will be prepared by the selected eligible financiers to present the projects and results.

For more information:

The Communication: “Strengthening European Investments for jobs and growth: Towards a second phase of the European Fund for Strategic Investments and a new European External Investment Plan” is available here

For more information about the proposal for a European External Investment Plan, see this Press Release

A factsheet on the proposal for a European External Investment Plan is available here

State of the Union 2016: Paving the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union – Questions & Answers

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: Paving the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union – Questions & Answers

Tackling terrorism and preventing radicalisation

Terrorism

In December 2015, the Commission adopted measures aimed at stepping up the fight against terrorism and organised crime, including a proposal for a Directive on combating terrorism, revising the existing Framework Decision. The Directive provides for common definitions of terrorist offences ensuring a common response to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, enhancing the deterrent effect across the EU and ensuring that perpetrators are effectively sanctioned. It will strengthen the EU’s arsenal in preventing terrorist attacks by criminalising preparatory acts such as training and travel abroad for terrorist purposes as well as aiding or abetting, inciting and attempting terrorist acts. Member States reached a common position on the Directive in March, and the responsible Committee in the European Parliament (LIBE) voted on its amendments on 4 July. Trilogues started on 14 July and all parties called for a swift agreement to be reached before the end of the Slovak presidency.The Commission will work with the co-legislators to conclude discussions as soon as possible.

The Commission finalised a first set of Common Risk Indicators concerning foreign terrorist fighters in June 2015, in close cooperation with national experts, the EEAS, EU Agencies and Interpol, with a view to better detecting terrorist travel. Common Risk Indicators support the work of national border authorities when conducting checks on persons. To operationalise the Common Risk Indicators, FRONTEX developed a handbook in January 2016 to support the border authorities of Member States and Schengen Associated countries.

In May 2014 the Commission and the EU Airport Police network completed work on an EU Airport Soft Target Protection manual. This manual has been distributed to all relevant police forces so that the recommendations can be used to better secure airports against attacks similar to that of 22 March 2016. Similar work has been launched in October 2015 by the Commission to develop guidance material on protection of other soft target areas such as rail and metro and other areas of high public concentration (sports venues, shopping centres, etc.).

Detection and protection trials have been launched by the Commission together with several Member States in February 2015 in different operational environments such as transport hubs, sports events and public buildings. New trials scheduled for 2016 are ongoing.

The European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) in Europol was launched on 1 January 2016. The aim is to step up support to Member States fighting terrorism and radicalisation by facilitating coordination and operational cooperation between national authorities. As the Commission has recalled on several occasions, sufficient and relevant expertise needs to be made available by Member States. The Commission proposed to reinforce the European Counter Terrorism Centre with 25 staff members, and an amending budget was adopted for 2016 worth €2 million.

Priority actions: In the light of the achievements of the Centre, and as announced in the Security Union Communication of 20 April 2016, the Commission decided today to bring forward a number of measures to reinforce the ECTC and strengthen information sharing, notably between law enforcement and the intelligence community. The new Communication stresses the importance of upgrading the current capabilities of the ECTC within Europol, in particular concerning Europol’s access to databases, its governance and its cooperation with partners within the EU and beyond, as well as financial and human resources. Furthermore, it underlines the need to build a bridge between the parallel tracks of the law enforcement community and the intelligence community, to allow for a more systematic interaction between both communities and therefore an enhanced operational cooperation in Europe.

Terrorist financing

On 2 February 2016, the Commission adopted an Action Plan on urgent measures against terrorist financing, announcing a wide range of measures to avoid the misuse of EU financial systems, to cut terrorists off from their sources of revenue and to trace terrorists through their financial activities. Among the immediate priorities in the Action Plan are measures to enhance the effectiveness of sanctions and asset freezing measures within the EU and in third countries.

As a first deliverable of the Action Plan, the Commission adopted on 5 July 2016, a proposal to further reinforce EU rules on anti-money laundering to counter terrorist financing and increase transparency about who really owns companies and trusts. On 14 July 2016, the European Commission also formally adopted a list of third countries having strategic deficiencies in their regimes on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing. Banks will now have to carry out additional checks (‘enhanced due diligence measures’) on financial flows from these 11 countries. Furthermore the EU is planning targeted technical assistance to third countries in order to enhance their capacity to counter the financing of terrorism and improve anti-money laundering measures.

A platform bringing together Financial Intelligence Units from the Member States is now in place. Its purpose is to detect and disrupt terrorist finance and money laundering activities. It meets on a regular basis with the Commission services with a view to enhance cooperation, develop common tools and better identify suspicious financial transactions. The Financial Intelligence Units have developed well-performing IT tools for direct information exchange (FIU.NET), which has been embedded in EUROPOL’s European Counter Terrorism Centre since 1 January 2016.

Priority actions: In the second half of 2016, the Commission intends to propose EU legislation against illicit cash movements, including possible limits on cash or assets carried or transported across borders. Other measures include a proposal on the mutual recognition of criminal asset freezing and confiscation orders, a proposal on combatting fraud and counterfeiting on non-cash means of payment and, in early 2017, a proposal on the powers of customs authorities to address terrorism financing from trade in goods, and a proposal to combat illicit trade in cultural goods. The Commission also intends to complete the existing instruments to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing as laid down in the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) with a legislative proposal on the harmonisation of money laundering offences. The Commission will present updated reports on other potential measures for depriving terrorists of financial means, including an EU Terrorist financing tracking system and an EU asset freezing regime complementing existing regimes under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Radicalisation

On 14 June 2016, the European Commission presented a Communication outlining actions in seven specific areas where cooperation at EU level can effectively support Member States in preventing and countering radicalisation. These areas are: countering terrorist propaganda and illegal hate speech online; addressing radicalisation in prisons; promoting inclusive education and common EU values; promoting an inclusive, open and resilient society and reaching out to young people; strengthening international cooperation; boosting research, evidence building, monitoring and networks; and focusing on the security dimension of radicalisation. In addition, the Communication includes a number of external actions, notably the strengthening of cooperation with third countries facing similar threats in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

Building on the longstanding work of the Radicalisation Awareness Network, on 1 October 2015 the Commission launched a Centre of Excellence within the Network. The aim of the Centre is: (i) to facilitate and enhance the exchange of experiences and cooperation between the relevant stakeholders through the Radicalisation Awareness Network (inside and outside the EU); (ii) to support the EU and Member States in their prevention efforts through different support services, practical tools and policy contributions; and (iii) to consolidate, disseminate and share expertise, best practices and targeted research in the field of preventing radicalisation. The Centre has stepped up its support to Member States and to priority third countries, with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, the Western Balkans and Turkey. It has been reinforced with a budget of €25 million for the next 4 years.

The Commission provided €8 million in 2015 and 2016 to support the development of rehabilitation and de-radicalisation programmes inside and outside prisons, risk assessment tools and training of professionals. To prevent radicalisation through education and youth outreach, priority is now given under the Erasmus+ programme to projects fostering inclusion and promoting fundamental values. Up to €400 million has been made available for this purpose, and a specific €13 million call was launched in March 2016 to identify and share best practices.

To counter online terrorist propaganda, on 3 December 2015, the Commission launched theEU Internet Forum, bringing together Ministers and representatives of major internet companies and other internet actors. It provides a framework for more efficient cooperation with the industry. The aim is to contribute to (i) reducing the accessibility of terrorist material online (removal of content) and (ii) empowering civil society partners to challenge the terrorist narrative (development and dissemination of narratives which counter and challenge extremists and provide positive alternative narratives). Work is now underway to improve the speed and volume of referrals, and prevent removed material from being uploaded elsewhere. The 2nd High Level meeting of the EU Internet Forum will take place on 8 December. This will include a stocktake of progress achieved in the last year, and look ahead to priorities for 2017, including on the development of a Joint Referral Platform and the Civil Society Empowerment Programme. Furthermore, the Commission is keen to bring additional companies on-board and support them in preventing their platforms from being exploited by terrorist networks. The EU Internet Referral Unit (see below) plays a key role in this process whereas the Radicalisation Awareness Network, will be supporting the development of alternative narratives through the exchange of best practices and guidance.

On 1 July 2015, the EU Internet Referral Unit at Europol was established to help reduce the volume of terrorist material online. One year on, the Internet Referral unit is playing a key role in delivering the EU Internet Forum’s objective of reducing accessibility to terrorist content online. It has assessed over 13,000 pieces of material online and made over 12,000 referrals. Whilst this is a voluntary approach, in the majority of cases the material is swiftly removed (94% success rate). The Commission will continue to support the unit in improving the referrals process and in reaching out to more internet companies.

The Commission is also intensifying work to tackle the problem of online hate speech in cooperation with internet companies, Member States and civil society. On 31 May, IT companies signed a Code of Conduct, committing to tackling quickly and efficiently illegal hate speech online. The IT Companies and the Commission have committed to assessing the public commitments in the code of conduct on a regular basis, including their impact. A preliminary assessment of the implementation of the code will be reported to the High Level Group on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and all forms of intolerance by the end of 2016, to which Member States and civil society are part. Improving transparency in the application of notice and take down procedures and supporting alternative narratives are also under discussions.

Information exchange

EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) is a crucial instrument to enhance the collective security of Europe’s citizens by helping Member State authorities to fight terrorism and serious crime. Following the positive vote of the European Parliament on 14 April 2016, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers adopted the EU PNR Directive on 21 April 2016. The Commission is working with Member States to ensure its implementation as a matter of urgency. Member States will need to comply with the Directive by 25 May 2018.

In view of the importance of cross-border information exchange for law enforcement purposes within the EU and the challenges that such exchanges raise, the Commission continues to pursue the enforcement of the existing Prüm framework (an information exchange tool that allows for automated comparison of DNA profiles, fingerprint data and vehicle registration data) as a matter of urgency. A more systematic use of Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database is also a high priority.

In 2015 the Commission carried out legal and technical improvements to the Schengen Information System (SIS) to provide for real-time communication from controls on the ground to the competent services in other Member States and more effective identification of persons. The Commission is also adding a new function that allows fingerprint searches. The Commission has urged Member States to make full use of all alert categories and measures, including expulsion, refusal of entry or removal from the territory of a Member State.

The Commission proposed on 19 January 2016 to amend the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), EU system for the exchange of information on criminal convictions, to render it more effective for the exchange of criminal records of third country nationals. The Commission has invited the European Parliament and Council to agree on the Commission’s proposal as a matter of urgency.

The Commission presented on 6 April 2016 a Communication on Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security. It is designed to address shortcomings identified in the current systems, gaps in the architecture and limited interoperability, while fully complying with data protection rules. In its Communication, the Commission announced the establishment of a High Level Expert Group on Information Systems and Interoperability with EU Agencies, national experts and relevant institutional stakeholders. The Expert Group has started its work to address the current shortcomings and knowledge gaps caused by the complexity and fragmentation of information systems at the European level. It will elaborate on the legal, technical and operational aspects of the different options proposed in the Communication to achieve interoperability of information systems. It will also take due account of the roadmap on information exchange endorsed by the JHA Council of June 2016.

Priority actions: The roadmap on information exchange endorsed by the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June 2016 covers the use of SIS in relation to foreign terrorist fighters. The General-Secretariat of the Council was tasked to set up a database to monitor entry bans in SIS based on the UN sanctions. This database will be available by 2018 at the latest. Later this year the Commission will propose a revision of the SIS on return of irregular migrants and entry bans, the use of facial images for biometric identification and the creation of new alerts for wanted unknown persons, which will improve the added value of the system for law enforcement purposes. By mid-2017 it will also add an automated fingerprint search functionality to the system, as already foreseen by the existing legal framework.

The Commission will work together with the European Parliament and Council, experts and other stakeholders to develop a common EU approach to determining jurisdiction of law enforcement authorities when they directly access data stored or located abroad, including legislative measures if needed. In line with the June Justice Council conclusions on improving criminal justice in cyberspace, the Commission will report on progress by the end of 2016 in view of preparing proposals for a common EU approach by June 2017.

Research and Innovation

Over the past year the Commission has granted around €200 million to over 30 research projects that will offer innovative security solutions, under the Horizon 2020 Secure Societies research and innovation programme. These activities involve academia, industry and security practitioners, and pave the way for coping with evolving and innovative security threats in the future.

The European Agenda on Security underlined that a competitive EU security industry can also contribute to the EU’s autonomy in meeting its security needs. The EU has encouraged the development of innovative security solutions, for example through standards and common certificates. The Commission also made proposals in September 2016 on EU certification of airport screening equipment, to remove barriers to the Single Market and to enhance the competitiveness of the EU security industry in export markets.

External cooperation

The Commission also took action, in close cooperation with the External Action Service and the EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator, to ensure further coherence between internal and external actions in the field of security.

Security and counter-terrorism experts have been deployed in the EU delegations of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey. A decision to expand the network was adopted and the process of selection has been launched for experts to be deployed in the second half of 2016 into EU Delegations in Lebanon and Pakistan, with bilateral mandates, as well as Chad and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with regional mandates for the Sahel and the Western Balkans.

Targeted and upgraded security and counter-terrorism dialogues in which relevant EU agencies such as Europol, Eurojust, Frontex and CEPOL participated have been established, in particular with Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey. Concrete and bespoke action plans are being developed to address issues of mutual interest and importance such as prevention of radicalisation and violent extremism, police and judicial cooperation, terrorism financing and terrorist travel.

In addition to this, Counter Terrorism cooperation is being built up with other countries in the MENA region and the Southern Neighbourhood, as well as regional organisation like the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. With the Western Balkans, counter terrorism and the fight against organised crime will be part of the next multi-annual regional Instrument of pre-accession.

On 6 April 2016, the Commission and the High Representative presented a Joint Framework to address hybrid threats more effectively with a coordinated response at EU level by using EU policies and instruments. 

Disrupting organised crime

Firearms and explosive precursors

On 18 November 2015, the Commission presented a proposal to revise Directive 477/91 on the legal framework for firearms. The revision aims to restrict the availability of some of the most powerful types of semi-automatic weapons and those that could be easily converted into fully automatic weapons, as well as to enhance the exchange of information between Member States and improve traceability and marking rules for firearms. On 10 June, Member States reached a common position on the proposal and the responsible Committee in the European Parliament Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) voted on its amendments on 13 July. The Commission will work with the co-legislators to conclude discussions as soon as possible.

The Commission also adopted on 18 November 2015 an implementing Regulation on common firearms deactivation standards. This entered into force on 8 April 2016 and will ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered irreversibly inoperable. To fulfil its security objectives, the Regulation covers both domestic and cross-border situations.

Furthermore, on 2 December 2015 the Commission presented an Action Plan on firearms and explosives that called for a number of measures to prevent terrorist attacks such as those that occurred in Paris and Brussels. These include: (i) specific actions on the use of detection technology and standardising its use (for soft targets, critical infrastructures, public areas, etc.); (ii) development of innovative detection tools; (iii) strengthening of existing measures and creation of new ones for increasing the security of passengers on different modes of transport; (iv) use of existing tools for better gathering and sharing of information.

As regards explosives, the Commission has identified gaps in the implementation by Member States of Regulation 98/2013 on explosives precursors and is taking steps to address them. The Commission will also assess the need to revise this Regulation. The Precursors regulation is being revised this autumn with the addition of some substances to the list of suspicious transaction (via delegated acts). The report on its implementation is being advanced to early 2017.

Fighting cybercrime

Since the adoption of the EU Cybersecurity Strategy in 2013, the European Commission has stepped up its efforts to better protect Europeans online. The EU has put in place several institutions and organisation strengthening the cooperation between Member States in the field of cybersecurity.

Among them, Platform on Network and Information Security (NIS platform), a voluntary mechanism bringing together relevant European public and private stakeholders, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), set up in 2004 to contribute to the overall goal of ensuring a high level of network and information security within the EU and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, which started its activities in January 2013 and works towards strengthening the law enforcement response to cybercrime in the EU and helping protect European citizens, businesses and governments.

In 2012, the EU also set up the EU Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) with the aim to provide effective and efficient response to information security incidents and cyber threats for the EU institutions, agencies and bodies.

On the legislative side, the 2013 Directive on attacks against information systems criminalises the use of tools such as malicious software and strengthens the framework for information exchange on attacks. The Directive provides a common European criminal law framework in this area. The Commission is currently monitoring Member States’ implementation of the Directive and will report to the Parliament and Council in 2017.

The Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (‘NIS Directive’), adopted by the European Parliament on 6 July, represents the first EU-wide rules on cybersecurity. Ensuring closer cooperation between Member States is one of the three pillars proposed in the Directive.

In the past year, the Commission has further strengthened its approach by placing cybercrime as a key component of the Digital Single Market Strategy, presented in May 2015, in full synergy with the European Agenda on Security. 

Protecting the external borders of the European Union

On 22 June 2016, the European Parliament, Council and Commission reached political agreement on the Commission’s proposal of 15 December 2016 on a European Border and Coast Guard. Following formal adoption of the Regulation this week, everything is now ready for the European Border and Coast Guard to roll out its full operation. The European Commission and Frontex have already started intensive preparations for the implementation of the new Regulation to ensure that no time is lost. The European Border and Coast Guard will combine a new reinforced Agency, building on the foundations laid by Frontex, with the ability to draw on a reserve pool of people and equipment provided by national authorities. Member States will continue to keep their competence and sovereignty over their borders and will continue to manage the external border. The European Border and Coast Guard will provide support to all Member States and will be able to identify and intervene to address weaknesses in advance, and not when it is too late.

Alongside the European Border and Coast Guard proposal, on 15 December 2015 the Commission proposed a targeted revision of the Schengen Borders Code to introduce systematic checks against relevant databases for all people entering or exiting the Schengen area. As trilogues on the proposal are ongoing, the modification of Schengen Borders Code will help to manage the EU’s external borders and protect the freedom of movement within Schengen area. In its Communication on enhancing security in a world of mobility, the Commission called upon the European Parliament and the Council to agree on the proposed amendment to the Schengen Borders Code by the end of October.

The Commission presented on 6 April 2016 a revised proposal for establishing an Entry-Exit System as well as the subsequent technical changes to the Schengen Border Code. The Entry-Exit System will strengthen and at the same time speed up border check procedures for non-EU nationals travelling to the EU. The Entry-Exit System will also improve the quality and efficiency of the Schengen Area external border controls, helping Member States deal with ever increasing traveller flows without having to increase accordingly the number of border guards, and it will allow the systematic identification of over-stayers and will reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The adoption of the proposals by the European Parliament and Council should be finalised by the end of 2016 in order for the Entry-Exit System to be operational by early 2020.

The Commission has revised the Schengen Handbook to clarify “non-systematic checks” during border controls and provided guidance to help border guards identify and seize false documents.

On 4 May, the Commission also proposed to adapt and reinforce the Eurodac system, as part of the reform of the Common European Asylum System. The proposal allows Member States to store more data in Eurodac, thus helping to address the current migration crisis by facilitating access to information for the relevant immigration and asylum authorities.

Priority actions:

In April, the Commission launched the idea of developing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), an automated pre-departure security check. ETIAS will allow for a pre-travel assessment of the individual migration or security risk for visa-exempt third-country nationals. Aspects that need to be considered include the costs of developing and running the system, the type of data to be collected and assessed, the interoperability with other existing and future systems, operational aspects at borders and in relation of the processing of data, legal aspects (including data protection considerations), human resources implications and the impact on tourism or business. To this end, the Commission has launched a feasibility study on ETIAS, with results due in October 2016 and intends to present by November 2016 a legislative proposal for the establishment of ETIAS.

Secure travel and identity documents are crucial whenever it is necessary to establish without doubt the identity of a person. Better management of free movement, migration and mobility relies on robust systems to prevent abuses and threats to internal security through failings in document security. As outlined in today’s Communication, the Commission is pursuing new ways to enhance electronic document security and identity document management. By December 2016, the Commission will adopt an Action Plan on document security to make residence cards, identity documents and Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) more secure. It also calls upon the co-legislators to adopt the proposals on a new design and enhanced security features for the uniform formats for visas and residence permits by the end of 2016.

State of the Union 2016: EU External Investment Plan

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: EU External Investment Plan

The European Commission has proposed on 14 September an ambitious External Investment Plan in order to support investment in our partner countries, in Africa and the European Neighbourhood, to strengthen our partnerships, promote a new model of participation of the private sector and contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This is part of the broader efforts the EU is pursuing on the basis of the new Partnership Framework that was adopted in June.

WHY DO WE NEED THE EXTERNAL INVESTMENT PLAN?

Economic growth in developing countries has now reached its lowest level since 2003. Instability and conflicts in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood have been aggravated by the global economic crisis, resulting in increased overall indebtedness, reducing access to finance for badly needed investment. Instability and conflict have also exacerbated the ongoing migration crisis with more people than ever on the move in Africa and in the Neighbourhood This clearly marks the gaps in investment in those countries and the added-value targeted action by the European Union can have.

This poses short and long term challenges that need to be addressed in a spirit of partnership, to support inclusive and sustainable growth, creating jobs and contributing to address the root causes of migration. A partnership that is extended not only to Third Countries, but also to the private sector that is called to join our shared efforts to bring prosperity and economic growth. Through the Investment Plan the EU will not only provide targeted guarantees but will also contribute to ameliorate the investment climate and the overall policy environment in partner countries along the same lines as the Investment Plan for Europe and its European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

Business environment and investments in fragile countries:

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and other private financial flows have declined across developing countries since the 2008 financial crisis.

Only 6% of overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to development countries are going to fragile countries (2012).

Of those investments, as much as 72% concentrated in ten resource-rich countries.

The cost of setting up a business in fragile African countries 3xhigher than in non-fragile African countries

A NEW APPROACH: MOVING BEYOND CLASSICAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE

Traditional development assistance alone cannot meet the challenge of achieving sustainable development. It must be complemented by other tools, in order to make best use of and leverage scarce public funds.

The implementation of the External Investment Plan will allow the EU to lead by example in developing more effective partnerships that go beyond classical development assistance. This is a fundamentally new approach to the way the Union supports development and to the way the Union identifies, prepares, and delivers support for investment projects in countries outside Europe. The Plan offers an integrated and coherent framework enabling full cooperation between the EU, international financial institutions, donors, public authorities and the private sector.

FUNDING

The new European Fund for Sustainable Development lies at the core of the External Investment Plan and is expected to trigger additional public and private investment volumes, mobilising total investments of up to EUR 44 billion, based on EUR 3.35 billion contribution from the EU budget and the European Development Fund. In order to enhance further the firepower and the efficiency of the new Fund, the Commission calls on the Member States and other partners to match these EU contributions. Member States can do so via second-loss guarantees. If they match the contribution to the guarantee, the total amount of additional investment could be EUR 62 billion. If Member States also match the contribution to the blending, this amount could reach EUR 88 billion

THE EXTERNAL INVESTMENT PLAN WILL…

  • contribute to achieving sustainable development in our partner countries in a coherent and consistent manner
  • mobilise investment and leverage funds: it will help reach those countries where investments are currently difficult and facilitate investments by (private) actors that would otherwise invest less or not at all in these areas.
  • target socio-economic sectors and in particular infrastructure, including energy, water, transport, information and communications technology, environment, social infrastructure, human capital, and provide finance in favour of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises with a particular focus on job creation.
  • assist in developing economically and financially viable projects to attract investment.
  • Help to improve the business environment in partner countries by supporting reforms and economic governance
  • Contribute to address the root causes of migration and strengthen our partnerships in Africa and the Neighbourhood

The External Investment Plan: potentially up to € 88 bn:

With EU funds totalling €3.35 billion until 2020, the EFSD is expected to mobilise up to €44 billion additional investment.

If Member States match this contribution fully, it may mobilise more than € 88 billion of additional investment

HOW DOES THE EXTERNAL INVESTMENT PLAN (EIP) WORK? 

Pillar 1

Pillar 2

Pillar 3

Mobilising investments through the New Guarantee under the External Fund for Sustainable Development

Stepping up technical assistance to develop financially attractive and mature projects and, thus helping to mobilise higher investments

Improving economic governance, the business environment and engaging with the private sector

  • The EFSD will be composed of two Regional Investment Platforms (Africa and the   Neighbourhood). They will combine existing blending[1] instruments and will operate as a one-stop-shop to receive proposals from financial institutions and other public and private investors.
  • The EFSD will also create a new guarantee, which will provide partial guarantees to intermediary financing institutions, which in turn will provide support, via loans, guarantees, equity or similar products, to final beneficiaries.
  • The objective is to leverage additional financing, in particular from the private sector, as the EFSD guarantee will reduce the risk for private investment and absorb potential losses incurred by eligible counterparts, for example public financing institutions and private sector investors.
  • The Commission has made significant resources available for technical assistance to help partner countries attract investment by developing a higher number of bankable projects and making them known to the international investor community
  • Structured dialogue is needed in order to understand the needs and constraints of the local private sector and to boost the potential of the European private sector to invest in and engage with businesses in partner countries.
  • The Commission will also, through EU delegations and in coordination with the Member States, facilitate and support inclusive public-private policy dialogue in partner countries to identify key challenges and opportunities.
  • The Commission will provide targeted capacity building for private sector representatives, including chambers of commerce, social partners, and organisations representing micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, female entrepreneurs, and firms and workers in the informal sector.
  • The EIP will reinforce the economic and social policy dialogue between the EU and the partner countries in order to develop legal frameworks, policies and institutions that are more effective and promote economic stability and inclusive growth.
  • Training through practical policy-oriented courses, hands-on workshops, twinning projects, and seminars, will strengthen officials’ capacity to analyse economic developments, formulate, and implement effective policies.
  • Political and policy dialogues with partner countries will be maintained, in order to support i.a. sustainable and inclusive growth, respect of human rights, fight against corruption and organised crime, illicit financial flows, and improve trade relations of the EU’s development partners. Generally, they will contribute to better regulation and liberalisation of partner country markets, improving employment opportunities and supporting the development of the local private sector.

 [1] Blending is the use of a limited amount of EU money (grants) to mobilise additional support, for instance in the form of loans, from financial institutions and from the private sector to strengthen the development impact of investment projects.

State of the Union 2016: Commission Targets Stronger External Borders

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: Commission Targets Stronger External Borders

On the occasion of President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union address, the Commission today set out how the European Union can enhance security in Europe by improving the exchange of information in the fight against terrorism and strengthening external borders. The measures proposed include the accelerated operational delivery of the European Border and Coast Guard, quick adoption and implementation of an EU Entry-Exit System and upcoming proposals to create a European Travel Information and Authorisation System. Additionally, as part of the Commission’s efforts to pave the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union, the Communication also proposes to take further actions to improve the security of travel documents to prevent document fraud and to strengthen Europol’s European Counter-Terrorism Centre.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Security is one of the major concerns of Europe’s citizens. Today the Commission is proposing practical measures to upgrade information exchange – essential to fighting terrorism – and to secure our Union’s external borders and strengthen control over who enters and leaves the EU. These measures will require closer coordination and cooperation within the EU and between Member States. There’s no escaping the fact that in this mobile world only truly closer cooperation will make us more secure.”

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “By strengthening our external borders we will be better prepared for facing severe migratory challenges. Enhancing the exchange of information will enable us to fight terrorism more effectively. To ensure Europe’s security, we need both strong borders and smart intelligence. Measures like the European Border and Coast Guard, the Entry-Exit System and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System will help secure Europe’s borders, while strengthening Europol’s role in the effective sharing of information and combatting document fraud are concrete steps towards establishing an effective Security Union.”

The Communication adopted today sets out a number of practical and operational measures to accelerate the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration and the European Agenda on Security and pave the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union:

  • European Border and Coast Guard: Built on Frontex, with the newly created ability to draw on a reserve pool of people and equipment, the new Agency will ensure stronger shared management of the EU’s external borders. It will support Member States by identifying and, where necessary, intervening to address weaknesses before they become serious problems. The Commission, Frontex and Member States have already undertaken preparatory work, and this will be accelerated further to ensure that the new Agency becomes operational as a matter of urgency. Steps to be taken by the Commission include work on agreements with third countries and adopting the budgetary proposals necessary to allow the Agency to swiftly recruit additional staff. The Commission calls on Member States to ensure that national contributions to the reserve pool of border guards and equipment are ready for immediate use and to fill current shortfalls in response to calls for experts for Frontex operations in Greece, Italy and Bulgaria.

  • EU Entry-Exit System (EES): Proposed by the Commission on 6 April 2016 together with a supporting amendment to the Schengen Borders Code, the proposed EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will improve the management of the external borders and reduce irregular migration into the EU (by tackling visa overstaying), while also contributing to the fight against terrorism and serious crime and ensuring a high level of internal security. The system will collect data including identity, travel documents and biometrics as well as registering entry and exit records at the point of crossing. It will apply to all non-EU citizens who are admitted for a short stay in the Schengen area (maximum 90 days in any 180 day period). Negotiations with the co-legislators on the two proposals are currently ongoing, and the Commission calls for final adoption of the proposals by the end of 2016 with a view to the System becoming operational in early 2020 after three years of development.

  • The idea of establishing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) with similar objectives to the well-known US ‘ESTA’ system was launched by the Commission in April. Creation of such a system provides an additional layer of control over visa-exempt travellers. ETIAS would determine the eligibility of all visa-exempt third country nationals to travel to the Schengen Area, and whether such travel poses a security or migration risk. Information on travellers would be gathered prior to their trip. The Commission has launched a feasibility study on ETIAS, with results due in October 2016, and based on the results of the study as well as consultations, the Commission intends to present a legislative proposal by November 2016 for the establishment of ETIAS.

  • Reinforcing Europol: As the EU’s core tool to enhance cooperation between national security authorities, Europol has taken some major steps forward, with the recent creation of the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) as well as the European Migrant Smuggling Centre and the European Cybercrime Centre. The Commission will work with Europol to further strengthen the agency’s counter-terrorism capabilities, but also its work against migrant smuggling and cybercrime, for example through providing the additional resources needed to meet the needs and expectations placed on it. Improving Europol’s access to key databases is also important. In the same vein, the Commission encourages Member States to facilitate some form of information exchange hub to create a platform where authorities obtaining information related to terrorism or other serious cross border security threats would share it with law enforcement authorities.

  • Secure travel documents are crucial for establishing the identity of a person. Better management of free movement, migration and mobility relies on robust systems to prevent abuses and threats to internal security caused by the ease with which some documents can be forged. The Commission is pursuing new ways to enhance electronic document security and identity document management. By December 2016, the Commission will adopt an Action Plan on document security to make residence cards, identity documents and Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) more secure.

Background

The European Commission adopted the European Agenda on Security on 28 April 2015, setting out the main actions to ensure an effective EU response to terrorism and security threats in the European Union over the period 2015-2020. The Agenda fulfilled a commitment made in the Political Guidelines of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and is part of the renewed Internal Security Strategy that was adopted by the Council on 16 June 2015.

Since the adoption of the Agenda, significant progress has been made in its implementation. Key areas of attention have been reinforced by Action Plans adopted in December 2015 on firearms and explosives, in February 2016 on strengthening the fight against terrorist financing, the Communication of 6 April 2016 on Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security, and the Communication of 20 April 2016 on Delivering on the European Agenda on Security to fight against terrorism and pave the way towards an effective and genuine Security Union.

The establishment of a European Border and Coast Guard, as announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union Speech on 9 September 2015, is part of the measures under the European Agenda on Migration to reinforce the management and security of the EU’s external borders.

More information:

Communication: Enhancing security in a world of mobility: improved information exchange in the fight against terrorism and stronger external borders

Frequently Asked Questions: State of the Union 2016: Paving the way towards a genuine and effective Security Union

Press Release: A European Border and Coast Guard to protect Europe’s External Borders

Press Release: European Border and Coast Guard agreed

Speech: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the launch of Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC)

Press Release: Stronger and Smarter Borders in the EU: Commission proposes to establish an Entry-Exit System

European Agenda on Migration

European Agenda on Security

State of the Union 2016: Commission proposes modern EU copyright rules for European culture to flourish and circulate

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: Commission proposes modern EU copyright rules for European culture to flourish and circulate

On the occasion of President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union address, the Commission today set out proposals on the modernisation of copyright to increase cultural diversity in Europe and content available online, while bringing clearer rules for all online players. The proposals will also bring tools for innovation to education, research and cultural heritage institutions.

Digital technologies are changing the way music, films, TV, radio, books and the press are produced, distributed and accessed. New online services such as music streaming, video-on-demand platforms and news aggregators have become very popular, while consumers increasingly expect to access cultural content on the move and across borders. The new digital landscape will create opportunities for European creators as long as the rules offer legal certainty and clarity to all players. As a key part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the Commission has adopted proposals today to allow:

  • Better choice and access to content online and across borders
  • Improved copyright rules on education, research, cultural heritage and inclusion of disabled people
  • A fairer and sustainable marketplace for creators, the creative industries and the press

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Europeans want cross-border access to our rich and diverse culture. Our proposal will ensure that more content will be available, transforming Europe’s copyright rules in light of a new digital reality. Europe’s creative content should not be locked-up, but it should also be highly protected, in particular to improve the remuneration possibilities for our creators. We said we would deliver all our initiatives to create a Digital Single Market by the end of the year and we keep our promises. Without a properly functioning Digital Single Market we will miss out on creativity, growth and jobs.

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: “Our creative industries will benefit from these reforms which tackle the challenges of the digital age successfully while offering European consumers a wider choice of content to enjoy. We are proposing a copyright environment that is stimulating, fair and rewards investment.”

Today, almost half of EU internet users listen to music, watch TV series and films or play games online; however broadcasters and other operators find it hard to clear rights for their online or digital services when they want to offer them in other EU countries. Similarly, the socio-economically important sectors of education, research and cultural heritage too often face restrictions or legal uncertainty which holds back their digital innovation when using copyright protected content, including across borders. Finally, creators, other right holders and press publishers are often unable to negotiate the conditions and also payment for the online use of their works and performances.

Altogether, today’s copyright proposals have three main priorities:

1. Better choice and access to content online and across borders

With our proposal on the portability of online content presented in December 2015, we gave consumers the right to use their online subscriptions to films, music, ebooks when they are away from their home country, for example on holidays or business trips. Today, we propose a legal mechanism for broadcasters to obtain more easily the authorisations they need from right holders to transmit programmes online in other EU Member States. This is about programmes that broadcasters transmit online at the same time as their broadcast as well as their catch-up services that they wish to make available online in other Member States, such as MyTF1 in France, ZDF Mediathek in Germany, TV3 Play in Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic States and AtresPlayer in Spain. Empowering broadcasters to make the vast majority of their content, such as news, cultural, political, documentary or entertainment programmes, shown also in other Member States will give more choice to consumers.

Today’s rules also make it easier for operators who offer packages of channels (such as Proximus TV in Belgium, Movistar+ in Spain, Deutsche Telekom’s IPTV Entertain in Germany), to get the authorisations they need: instead of having to negotiate individually with every right holder in order to offer such packages of channels originating in other EU Member States, they will be able to get the licenses from collective management organisations representing right holders. This will also increase the choice of content for their customers.

To help development of Video-on-Demand (VoD) offerings in Europe, we ask Member States to set up negotiation bodies to help reach licensing deals, including those for cross-border services, between audiovisual rightholders and VoD platforms. A dialogue with the audiovisual industry on licensing issues and the use of innovative tools like licensing hubs will complement this mechanism.

To enhance access to Europe’s rich cultural heritage, the new Copyright Directive will help museums, archives and other institutions to digitise and make available across borders out-of commerce works, such as books or films that are protected by copyright, but no longer available to the public.

In parallel the Commission will use its €1.46 billion Creative Europe MEDIA programme to further support the circulation of creative content across borders . This includes more funding for subtitling and dubbing; a new catalogue of European audiovisual works for VoD providers that they can directly use for programming; and online tools to improve the digital distribution of European audiovisual works and make them easier to find and view online.

These combined actions will encourage people to discover TV and radio programmes from other European countries, keep in touch with their home countries when living in another Member State and enhance the availability of European films, including across borders, hence highlighting Europe’s rich cultural diversity.

2. Improving copyright rules on research, education and inclusion of disable people

Students and teachers are eager to use digital materials and technologies for learning, but today almost 1 in 4 educators encounter copyright-related restrictions in their digital teaching activities every week. The Commission has proposed today a new exception to allow educational establishments to use materials to illustrate teaching through digital tools and in online courses across borders.

The proposed Directive will also make it easier for researchers across the EU to use text and data mining (TDM) technologies to analyse large sets of data. This will provide a much needed boost to innovative research considering that today nearly all scientific publications are digital and their overall volume is increasing by 8-9% every year worldwide.

The Commission also proposes a new mandatory EU exception which will allow cultural heritage institutions to preserve works digitally, crucial for the survival of cultural heritage and for citizens’ access in the long term.

Finally, the Commission is proposing legislation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, have other visual impairments or are otherwise print disabled. These measures are important to ensure that copyright does not constitute a barrier to the full participation in society of all citizens and will allow for the exchange of accessible format copies within the EU and with third countries that are parties to the Treaty, avoiding duplication of work and waste of resources.

3. A fairer and sustainable marketplace for creators and press

The Copyright Directive aims to reinforce the position of right holders to negotiate and be remunerated for the online exploitation of their content on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube or Dailymotion. Such platforms will have an obligation to deploy effective means such as technology to automatically detect songs or audiovisual works which right holders have identified and agreed with the platforms either to authorise or remove.

Newspapers, magazines and other press publications have benefited from the shift from print to digital and online services like social media and news aggregators. It has led to broader audiences, but it has also impacted advertising revenue and made the licensing and enforcement of the rights in these publications increasingly difficult.The Commission proposes to introduce a new related right for publishers, similar to the right that already exists under EU law for film producers, record (phonogram) producers and other players in the creative industries like broadcasters.

The new right recognises the important role press publishers play in investing in and creating quality journalistic content, which is essential for citizens’ access to knowledge in our democratic societies. As they will be legally recognised as right holders for the very first time they will be in a better position when they negotiate the use of their content with online services using or enabling access to it, and better able to fight piracy. This approach will give all players a clear legal framework when licensing content for digital uses, and help the development of innovative business models for the benefit of consumers.

The draft Directive also obliges publishers and producers to be transparent and inform authors or performers about profits they made with their works. It also puts in place a mechanism to help authors and performers to obtain a fair share when negotiating remuneration with producers and publishers. This should lead to higher level of trust among all players in the digital value chain.

Towards a Digital Single Market

As part of the Digital Single Market strategy presented in May 2015, today’s proposals complement the proposed regulation on portability of legal content (December 2015), the revised Audiovisual Media and Services Directive, the Communication on online platforms (May 2016). Later this autumn the Commission will propose to improve enforcement of all types of intellectual property rights, including copyright.

Today’s EU copyright rules, presented along with initiatives to boost internet connectivity in the EU (press release – press conference at 15.15 CET), are part of the EU strategy to create a Digital Single Market (DSM). The Commission set out 16 initiatives (press release) and is on the right track to deliver all of them the end of this year.

For more information

Questions and answers

Factsheet on Copyright

More on text and data mining (TDM)

Documents adopted today

Communication – Promoting a fair, efficient and competitive European copyright-based economy in the Digital Single Market

Regulation laying down rules on the exercise of copyright and related rights applicable to certain online transmissions of broadcasting organisations and retransmissions of television and radio programmes

Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market

Regulation on the cross-border exchange between the Union and third countries of accessible format copies of certain works and other subject-matter protected by copyright and related rights for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled

Directive on certain permitted uses of works and other subject-matter protected by copyright and related rights for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled and amending Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society

State of the Union 2016: Commission presents results of Better Regulation approach

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: Commission presents results of Better Regulation approach

Designing modern, proportionate rules that are fit for purpose is a shared responsibility which is essential for upholding the rule of law and our common values, and also for the efficiency of public administrations and businesses. The better regulation approach is underpinned by assessing critically whether action should be tackled at Union or national level, and engaging more actively and meaningfully with all stakeholders.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “A political Commission is one that listens to the European Parliament, listens to all Member States, and listens to the people. And it is us listening that motivated my Commission to withdraw 100 proposals in our first two years of office, to present 80% fewer initiatives than over the past 5 years and to launch a thorough review of all existing legislation. Because only by focusing our resources on the issues where Europe can provide real added value and deliver results, and quickly, will we be able to make Europe a better, more trusted place.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for Better Regulation, said today: “We will be ambitious where we must, and modest wherever we can. Citizens across Europe expect the European Union to change. They want the EU to tackle the big problems that affect them in their cities and streets, but at the same time they don’t want rules that create red tape or complicate their lives unnecessarily. We have worked hard to change and to break with the past. We have culled many rules, we have improved many others, and we have put forward proposals that focus on the big issues such as migration, security, investment and climate change. We will continue on this path listening to and acting on people’s concerns. And if the Parliament and the Council take up our proposals and adopt them, real change will be felt by citizens all around Europe soon.”

At the start of its mandate, the Juncker Commission made clear that it would change what it is doing and how it does it, by focusing the Commission’s action on those issues that really matter to people, being big on the big things where European action is most necessary and leaving the Member States to take responsibility where national action is more appropriate.

Being big on big things also means having the ability to address new circumstances and urgent issues by mobilising quickly when needed, as has been the case for example in the migration crisis. The Commission has prepared and presented initiatives in record time, with evidence-based analysis of their impact.

Better Regulation is a shared agenda requiring sustained efforts from all EU institutions and from national governments.

The Commission today restates its commitment to the Better Regulation Agenda, and sets out the following priority actions:

  • Staying the course: The 2017 Commission Work Programme will remain focused on few, well selected initiatives reflecting our 10 political priorities and addressing the challenges the EU is currently facing. The Work Programme will include withdrawals and will follow up on the first REFIT Platform proposals.
  • Taking responsibility: The Commission will consider amendments to the rules governing EU-wide authorisation procedures in certain sensitive sectors in order to ensure that the Commission is not alone in assuming the responsibility to act where Member States cannot give an opinion.
  • Being transparent: The Commission will propose a new Transparency Register to cover stakeholder interactions with the European Parliament, Council and Commission.
  • Reporting on burdens: The first “annual burden survey” will be presented by the Commission as part of the new Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making.
  • Stepping up enforcement: The Commission will adopt a Communication on Application of Union Law to promote effective application, implementation and enforcement.  

A Track Record of Being Big on Big Things

The Commission has significantly reduced the scale of its annual Work Programmes, counting 23 new priority initiatives and packages in 2015 and 23 again in 2016. It has focused its efforts on major initiatives with high EU added value: boosting investment, responding to the refugee crisis, strengthening borders, combatting climate change, fostering innovation through a digital single market, building an energy union, and combatting tax evasion and avoidance.

Consistent compliance with EU laws also matters to citizens. The Commission puts particular emphasis on those infringements that have a significant impact on the attainment of important EU policy objectives.

Reducing Regulatory Burden and Cutting Red-Tape

The Commission has dedicated equal energy to simplifying existing legislation and ensuring it remains fit for purpose in a rapidly changing world. To allow us to focus on priority issues, we have withdrawn 90 proposed laws over the past two years that were not advancing in the legislative process, we have repealed 32 outdated laws and we have identified 103 areas for regulatory simplification.

The establishment of the REFIT Platform has increased the input from national governments and stakeholders to our simplification agenda. Via a dedicated website, stakeholders are able to present their views on EU laws to the Platform and suggest improvements. The Platform has already considered over 100 ideas and presented 17 opinions with concrete suggestions to the Commission on a wide variety of issues. The Commission will report on its intended follow-up in the 2017 Work Programme.

Open and Evidence-Based Policy Making

Since May 2015, the Commission has implemented a series of measures to engage more actively and meaningfully with all stakeholders when preparing new initiatives and evaluating existing policies. This is bringing about a step-change in the involvement of stakeholders and citizens, who are now able to provide online feedback on the Commission’s initial policy ideas, to participate in web-based public consultations, to comment on the proposals the Commission makes and comment on implementing legislation before the Commission adopts it into law.

To strengthen independent quality control of the Commission’s Impact Assessments a new Regulatory Scrutiny Board replaced the previous impact assessment board on 1 July 2015, with a wider and strengthened mandate to look at existing legislation. The Commission’s impact assessment system has been evaluated externally and its quality recognised and ranked highly by the OECD.

For more information

Communication – Better Regulation: Delivering better results for a stronger Union

Communication on Better Regulation for Better Results

IIA on Better Law-Making

The REFIT Platform

The REFIT Programme

Lighten the Load Portal

Press release on the Better Regulation Agenda

Memo on the Better Regulation Agenda

State of the Union 2016: Questions and Answers on the Communication on Capital Markets Union – Accelerating Reform

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: Questions and Answers on the Communication on Capital Markets Union – Accelerating Reform

The Commission’s top priority is to strengthen Europe’s economy and stimulate investment to create jobs. The EUR 315 billion Investment Plan for Europe helped to kick-start that process. To strengthen investment for the long term, we need stronger capital markets. These would provide new sources of funding for business, help increase options for savers and make the economy more resilient. That is why President Juncker set out as one of his key priorities, the need to build a true single market for capital – a Capital Markets Union for all Member States.

The free movement of capital is a long-standing objective of the European Union — a fundamental freedom at the heart of the single market. Despite the progress that has been made, Europe’s capital markets remain fragmented along national lines and European economies remain heavily reliant on the banking sector for their funding needs. This makes them more vulnerable should bank lending tighten, as happened during the financial crisis.

The Action Plan published in September 2015 sets out the priority actions needed to put in place the building blocks of a Capital Markets Union by 2019, removing barriers to cross-border investment and lowering the costs of funding. As part of the third pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, the Capital Markets Union should help businesses tap into more diverse sources of capital from anywhere within the EU, make markets work more efficiently and offer investors and savers additional opportunities to put their money to workin order to enhance growth and create jobs. 

Why is the Commission publishing a new Communication on the CMU?

In the current political and economic context, developing stronger capital markets in the EU is crucial to make Europe’s financial system even more stable. It will give businesses access to alternative, more diverse sources of funding so they can thrive. It will allow capital to move more freely across borders in the Single Market so that it can be put to good use to support our companies and offer Europeans more investment opportunities.

This Communication calls for the rapid completion of the first measures proposed in the Action Plan. It also sets out how the Commission will accelerate the next phases of other key CMU actions.

What are the benefits of a Capital Markets Union (CMU)?

The CMU will complement Europe’s strong tradition of bank financing, and will help to:

  • Unlock more investment from the EU and the rest of the world: the CMU should help mobilise capital in Europe and channel it to all companies, including SMEs, and infrastructure projects that need it to expand and create jobs. It will provide households with better options to meet their retirement goals.
  • Connect financing more effectively to investment projects across the EU: the CMU is a classic single market project for the benefit of all Member States. Those Member States with the smallest markets and high growth potential have a lot to gain from a better channelling of capital and investment into their projects. More developed market economies will benefit from greater cross-border investment and saving opportunities.
  • Make the financial system more stable: by opening up a wider range of funding sources and more long-term investment, reduce the vulnerability of EU citizens and companies to banking shocks such as those they were exposed to during the crisis.
  • Deepen financial integration and increase competition: more cross-border risk-sharing, deeper and more liquid markets and diversified sources of funding should deepen financial integration, lower costs and increase European competitiveness.

How will the Commission ensure that the CMU Action Plan remains fit for purpose?

The Commission will continue to closely monitor developments and identify further actions that are necessary to develop the CMU. This will ensure that our priorities evolve in tandem with political, economic and technological developments. A mid-term review of the CMU is planned for 2017.

Does this Communication entail new legislative proposals?

A strong focus of the Communication is on accelerating the delivery of initiatives in the CMU Action Plan. These include the securitisation package, the modernisation of the prospectus rules, the revision of legislation on venture capital and social entrepreneurship funds, and the establishment of a Structural Reform Support Programme.

As announced in the CMU Action Plan, the Commission will also come forward with several new and substantive proposals by the end of 2016. The first of these will be on business restructuring and insolvency to speed up recovery of assets and give companies a second chance if they fail the first time around.

In a bid to knock down tax barriers that are hampering the development of capital markets, the Commission will encourage Member States to remove withholding tax barriers and encourage best tax practices in promoting venture capital, such as increasing equity financing over debt. The Commission will also put in place measures to encourage insurers to invest in infrastructure projects by amending the Solvency II rules so as to reduce capital charges.

We will propose to expand the favourable capital treatment for loans to SMEs and to reduce the capital requirements attached to banks’ investments in infrastructure, as part of the review of the Capital Requirements Regulation and Directive.

New legislative initiatives may also be warranted in the future for other priorities, for which the Commission needs to carry out further analysis and consultations with all relevant actors. These include a possible framework for an EU personal pension product, further analysis on legislative changes which may be needed to support the development of covered bond markets, barriers to cross-border distribution of investment funds, a legislative proposal on the laws governing securities ownership, or legislation to review the macro-prudential framework.

What is the calendar for the implementation of the CMU Action Plan?

The calendar for all the measures is set out in the Action Plan. Today’s Communication calls for rapidly finalising the first wave of proposed measures and accelerating the delivery of the next set of actions, in order to make sure the CMU has a tangible impact on the ground as soon as possible.

By the end of 2016, the Commission is calling on Parliament and Council to finalise measures on securitisation, prospectus and capital. In addition, the Commission will bring forward further measures on business restructuring and insolvency, the preferential tax treatment of tax over equity, loans to SMEs and capital requirements for infrastructure investments. It will take forward work on retail financial services (insurance, loans, payments, etc.). Further measures will be taken forward in 2017 and 2018. More precise details and a timetable are set out in this table.

What is the current status of the new rules on securitisation?

To support bank financing of the wider economy and open up investment opportunities for a wider set of non-bank investors, in September 2015 the Commission presented a proposal to create a new regulatory framework to restart markets for Simple, Transparent and Standardised (STS) securitisations and a proposal to revise the relevant capital calibration for banks. STS securitisations will free up capacity on banks’ balance sheets and provide investment opportunities for investors. If EU securitisations could be revived – safely – to pre-crisis levels, it could fuel the economy with EUR 100 billion and boost financial stability.

This proposal was agreed in record time by the Council of the European Union in December 2015 (see here). The legislation now awaits the opinion of the European Parliament where committee votes are scheduled for November 2016. In this context, the Commission has also announced its intention – once the STS Regulation is politically agreed by the co-legislators – to revise capital charges for insurers’ investments in STS securitisations under Solvency II.

What is the current status of the new prospectus rules?

To reduce the costs for companies accessing capital markets, in particular for smaller companies, in November 2015, the Commission issued a proposal to modernise the Prospectus Directive. This has the potential to simplify corporate capital-raising by reducing the cost of issuance and streamlining the approval process, whilst maintaining investor protection. A European Parliament plenary debate will be held in September 2016. The Council reached a general approach in June 2016.

 

What is the current status of the measures to strengthen venture capital markets?

The Commission is now in the process of implementing a package on venture capital. This includes the proposal to revise the European Venture Capital Fund and European Social Entrepreneurship Fund Regulations, which was presented in July 2016 (see here). The proposal aims to boost investment into venture capital and social projects and make it easier for investors to invest in small and medium-sized innovative companies by opening up the regulation to fund managers of all sizes and by expanding the range of companies that can be invested in. To make the cross border marketing of funds cheaper and easier, the proposal explicitly prohibits fees levied by Member States. In addition the Commission will promote the establishment of one or more Venture Capital Fund-of-Funds to support innovative investments in Europe and continue to work on a set of other measures to support venture capital. A call for expression of interests from private sector asset managers is expected for the autumn.

What does the Commission plan to do to address the preferential tax treatment of debt over equity?

The preferential tax treatment of debt over equity represents an obstacle to efficient capital market financing. It also has a negative impact on growth and investment. The Commission will propose to reduce the debt-equity bias in the context of the legislative proposal to re-launch the initiative for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB), which will be adopted this autumn. This will spur equity investments and benefit financial stability because companies with a stronger capital base would be less vulnerable to shocks.

What does the Commission plan to do on insolvency, and why does it matter?

Inefficiencies and differences in national insolvency frameworks generate legal uncertainty, obstacles to recovery of value by creditors, and barriers to the efficient restructuring of viable companies in the EU, including for cross-border groups.At the same time, allowing honest entrepreneurs to benefit from a second chance after bankruptcy is crucial for ensuring a dynamic business environment and promoting innovation.

The Commission will present shortly a proposal on business restructuring and second chance to facilitate restructuring of viable businesses and enable entrepreneurs to make a fresh start. The Commission is also carrying out a review to assess the differences between national insolvency regimes and how they affect banks. First results from this process are expected in mid-2017.

How can the CMU support the delivery of the Paris agreement on climate change and ensure an orderly transition to a low-carbon economy?

The Commission supports alignment of private investments with climate, resource-efficiency and other environmental objectives, both through policies and by strategic public investments. The Commission is working in the context of the G20 to further these objectives. Work is ongoing to increase the availability of green funds through the European Fund for Strategic Investment, by earmarking at least 20% of the EU 2014-2020 budget available for climate action, and by setting up a platform for financing the circular economy. The need to support EU green bond standards was highlighted in the CMU Action Plan. The Commission will develop a comprehensive European strategy on green finance, including through the establishment of an expert group.

More broadly, in respect of environmental, social and governance issues (ESG), the EU has adopted mandatory disclosure requirements for certain large companies (see  

State of the Union 2016: EU budget review further focuses budget on priorities, ensures more flexibility and less red tape

Source: European Union

Headline: State of the Union 2016: EU budget review further focuses budget on priorities, ensures more flexibility and less red tape

On the occasion of President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union address, the Commission today presented its mid-term review of the multiannual EU budget (2014-2020). Without touching the upper spending limits agreed with the European Parliament and Council, the proposed package will free up an additional €6,3 billion in financing by 2020. The money will go to foster job creation, investment and economic growth and to address migration and its root causes. It also makes proposals how to make the EU budget better equipped and quicker to respond to unforeseen circumstances, while financial rules will be simplified and focused on results.

European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, in charge of budget and human resources, said: ‘I am proud that the EU budget has allowed us to meet political priorities, to ensure investment in jobs and growth and the security of people in Europe and beyond. In today’s mid-term review package we are proposing to further reinforce these priorities with €6,3 billion and make the use of the EU budget simpler and more flexible. This review is the start – not the end – of a drive to focus even more on results, making sure that every euro from the EU budget is spent in the best possible way.’

More money for vital areas and high-performance programmes

The additional financing proposed up until 2020 corresponds to the two big priorities of investment and migration. It breaks down as follows:

  • €2,4 billion will go to further boost growth and jobs via more money for highly performing programmes such as the extended European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) (see Press release), the Youth Employment Initiative, the programme for research and innovation ‘Horizon 2020’, the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), Erasmus as well as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) that supports the development of trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital services. This includes €50 million forWiFi4EU, aiming at helping European communities offer free WiFi hotspots to any citizen, leading to a total envelope of €120 million.
  • €2,5 billion to support the ongoing work in the areas of migration, security and external border control, including the setting up of the European Border and Coast Guard, the EU Agency for Asylum, and the reform of the Common European Asylum System.
  • €1,4 billion for the European Fund for Sustainable Development, under the ‘External Investment Plan’ (see Fact Sheet), which will support investments in regions outside the EU and will seek private partners to address the root causes of migration, while contributing to achieving other development goals; for migration partnerships, for macroeconomic financial assistance and for external lending in order to stabilise countries in the neighbourhood.

Together with the increases in the draft budget 2017 (€1.8 billion) and the technical adjustment of cohesion envelopes that will dedicate additional money to these priorities (€4,6 billion), the mid-term review comprises a financial package of a total of almost €13 billion.

Member States will not be asked to pay more than what they have already committed under MFF 2014-2020. The money will come from some of the reserves of the budget, like unallocated margins and special instruments.

Simplification of rules

Together with the mid-term review, the Commission is proposing to simplify the rules under which Member States and other beneficiaries receive EU money. Some of the expected results include:

  • Easier access to EU funds. For example, researchers or students will no longer need to spend time on filling in the forms of their travel expenses and will instead be able to dedicate more time to research.
  • To facilitate cooperation, the EU will be able to rely on already existing audits and controls by other donors, like the UN. This will save NGOs receiving money from multiple donors a lot of paper work, allowing them to spend more time in the field.
  • Citizens’ involvement will be encouraged. For example, citizens will be able to have a say on whether the money for their village should be spent on a new square or a playground.
  • The financial rulebook will be easier to read and 25% shorter than at present.

A more agile budget with a new EU Crisis Reserve

The Commission also proposes to improve the ability of the EU budget to react quickly and adequately to unforeseen events including:

  • Setting up a new European Union Crisis Reserve dedicated to spending on priorities to be funded by unused money.
  • Doubling the size of the Flexibility Instrument (to €1 billion) and the Emergency Aid Reserve (to €0.5 billion).
  • Introducing for the first time a ‘flexibility cushion’ for support outside the EU through a reserve of up to 10% of annual commitment appropriations.
  • Allowing Trust Funds for emergency or specific actions within the EU (currently only allowed outside of the EU).

Building on successes in the current EU budget cycle

The mid-term review takes stock of key achievements of the current seven year budget cycle during which the EU budget has already been instrumental in supporting the highest political priorities:

  • Funding to support integration of refugees, security, border control, and managing migration was almost doubled to more than EUR 15 billion for 2015-2017.
  • To date, more than 1.4 million people have benefitted from actions supported by the Youth Employment Initiative, a number which exceeds initial estimates.
  • About EUR 200 billion are earmarked in several policies for measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change over the 2014-2020 period.
  • The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) mobilised, in its first year of implementation, about EUR 115 billion in investments to boost jobs and growth. Given the results delivered, the Commission is proposing today, in parallel with its Communication on the mid-term review of the MFF, to extend the duration of the EFSI until 2020 and to double its financial capacity.

Next steps

The proposed legislative proposals will now have to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission will work closely with the other institutions to secure agreement on as much of the package as possible by the end of 2016.

Background

The mid-term review was part of the political agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 and is provided for in Article 2 of the Council Regulation 1311/2013 (‘MFF Regulation’). The current MFF was agreed in 2013 against the background of the economic crisis and its impact on public finances. For the first time in EU history the seven-year budget is smaller than the previous one.

More information

Proposed legislative package