Author Archives: brusselsdiplomatic

Tobacco: EU-wide track and trace system

Today the EU has taken a big step forward in combatting the illicit trade in tobacco products. The new EU-wide track and trace system adopted today will ensure that tobacco products in the EU are easily traceable with a unique identifier for each product. In addition, we are also making sure that tobacco products meet specific security requirements, with at least five types of authentication elements required per packet. The track and trace system and the security requirements should be in place by 20 May 2019 for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco and by 20 May 2024 for all other tobacco products (such as cigars, cigarillos and smokeless tobacco products).” Said Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis welcomed the adoption of a set of legal acts aimed at combatting illicit trade in tobacco products.

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EU €5 million for “Blockchains for Social Good”

The European Commission will award 5 prizes of €1 million each to social innovations as part of the Horizon Prize on “Blockchains for Social Good”.

The prizes will be awarded to innovators that use blockchain technology to bring about positive social change, including for support of fair trade, allowing transparency in production processes, decentralising data governance and enhancing privacy, enabling accountability and contributing to financial inclusion. This prize encourages the development of scalable, efficient and effective solutions using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), the ground-breaking digital technology supporting decentralised methods of consensus reaching or transactions. The official launch is taking place today in Turin, organized by the city of Turin and innovation foundation Nesta Italia. The prize is the third of six European Innovation Council (EIC) Horizon Prizes and funded under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. Detailed rules of contest will be available in February 2018, and the deadline for applications is 25 June 2019 in order to allow applicants to demonstrate the viability of their ideas in practice. More information is on the prize page and the EIC pilot website.

Galileo constellation continues to grow

Galileo is improving the life of EU citizens by allowing smartphones to navigate more efficiently and accurately, and by helping emergency services reach accident sites much faster than before. With this successful launch, the Galileo constellation is reinforced and on the right track to full operational capability by 2020.”Said Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

One year after Europe’s satellite navigation system Galileo started offering initial services to public authorities, businesses and citizens, four additional satellites were successfully launched into orbit yesterday, bringing the constellation to 22 satellites. The successful operation took place with a European launcher Ariane 5 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Galileo is a key component of the Commission’s Space Strategy, which focuses on fostering new services, creating business opportunities, promoting Europe’s leadership in space and maintaining Europe’s strategic autonomy. The high-precision global satellite navigation system already supports emergency operations, provides more accurate navigation services, offers better time synchronisation for critical infrastructures and ensures secure services for public authorities. A growing number of companies and innovative start-ups are using Galileo data and enabling their devices, including thenew versions of iPhones (find out if your device is Galileo-enabled). Once the constellation is completed, it will improve in-car navigation and mobile phone signals, help road and rail transport become safer and act as a catalyst for R&D and high-tech job creation around Europe.

New EU platform for Coal Regions in Transition

 

On Monday 11 December Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and Corina Creţu, Commissioner for Regional Policy will launch a Platform for Coal Regions in Transition.

 

This Platform is one of the elements of the Coal and Carbon-Intensive Regions in Transition Initiative, a key action from the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. The aim of the Platform is to assist Member States and regions in their efforts to modernise their economies and prepare them to deal with the structural and technological transition in coal regions. The EU’s commitment to a clean energy transition is irreversible and non-negotiable. In this shift to a modern and clean economy the goal of the Commission is to ensure that no regions are left behind when moving away from an economy driven by fossil fuels. The Platform will facilitate the development long-term strategies in coal and carbon intensive regions to boost the clean energy transition by bringing more focus on social fairness, new skills and financing for the real economy. To this end the Commission will bring together European Union officials, national, regional and local stakeholders involved in the transition to help them foster partnerships and learn from each other’s experiences. The Platform’s activities will initially focus on coal regions,with the aim to expand to carbon-intensive regions in the future. The launch takes place on the eve of the “One Planet Summit” convened by the French President Emmanuel Macron to mark the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate. At the summit, the Commission will reconfirm its commitment for a forward-looking climate policy and show that the EU is leading the fight against climate change by example and through action. The Platform launch event on Monday in Strasbourg is open to media and will take place at the Hemicycle of the Regional Council of the Grand Est Region in Strasbourg, see full programme. More information is available on the website of the Energy Union and forward-looking climate change policy.

EU-Japan new Economic Partnership Agreement

 

The EU and Japan reached this morning an agreement on the final details of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

“The finalisation of the negotiations on the EU-Japan EPA demonstrates the powerful political will of Japan and the EU to continue to keep the flag of free trade waving high, and sends a strong message to the world. Beyond its considerable economic value, this Agreement is also of strategic importance.  It sends a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules fully respecting and enhancing our values, fighting the temptation of protectionism. The EU-Japan EPA is one of the largest and most comprehensive economic agreements that either the EU or Japan have concluded so far. This EPA will create a huge economic zone with 600 million people and approximately 30 percent of the world GDP, and it will open up tremendous trade and investment opportunities and will contribute to strengthening our economies and societies. It will also strengthen economic cooperation between Japan and the EU and reinforce our competitiveness as mature yet innovative economies.”  President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Abe agreed.

The deal has now been endorsed by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and welcomed in a joint statement by President Juncker and Prime Minister of Japan Abe. The conclusion todaybuilds on the political agreement in principle reached during the EU-Japan Summit on 6 July 2017. Following a legal check and translation into all EU languages, the Commission will submit the text agreed today for the approval of the European Parliament and EU Member States. The aim is to have the agreement in place before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019.

EU support regions on high-tech projects

The Commission is announcing which interregional partnerships will receive tailored support under a new EU-funded pilot action for innovative projects.

 “Regions with matching competitive strengths will be able to bring their projects to a common big table. With the right support from the EU, their good ideas will turn into innovative products, among which you will find the European innovation stars of tomorrow.” Said Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu.

The aim of this pilot action is to help these partnerships scale up their projects in priority sectors such as big data, bioeconomy, resource efficiency, advanced manufacturing or cybersecurity.

Following a Commission call for interest launched in September 2017, eight interregional partnerships have been selected, with one or several coordinating regions in the lead:

A partnership involving 8 regions led by Noord-Brabant (NL), Flanders (BE) and Norte (PT) will develop joint projects in the field of 3D printing;
A group of 9 regions led by Flanders (BE) will work together in the bio-economy sector;
Bretagne (FR), together with 3 regions and Estonia, will focus on cybersecurity;
Lombardia (IT) and 7 other regions have chosen the circular economy, and more specifically de- and re-manufacturing, as their speciality;
Toscana (IT), 21 other regions and Estonia will dedicate common efforts to develop new solutions in high-tech farming;
Scotland (UK) and País Vasco (ES) are coordinating a group of 16 regions for joint projects in the field of marine renewable energy. The Norwegian region of Sogn og Fjordane is also associated.
Andalucía (ES) and 5 other regions have defined sustainable buildings as their thematic priority;
Andalucía (ES) and Emilia-Romagna (IT) lead a group of 9 regions who will come up with innovative projects in the fields of traceability and big data in agri-food.

These partnerships will benefit from support from special teams established within the Commission, involving experts from several thematic departments. The experts will provide advice on how to best combine EU funds to finance projects, for example.

In addition to this hands-on support from the Commission, each partnership can benefit from external advisory service up to a value of €200,000 for scale-up and commercialisation activities. The money comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

This interregional partnerships pilot is part a new set of actions presented by the Commission in July 2017, in order to take smart specialisation one step further and boost innovation in EU regions, so they can all hold their own in a globalised economy.

European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018

Cultural heritage is at the heart of the European way of life. It defines who we are and creates a sense of belonging. Cultural heritage is not only made up of literature, art and objects but also by the crafts we learn, the stories we tell, the food we eat and the films we watch. We need to preserve and treasure our cultural heritage for the next generations. This year of celebrations will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage people, especially young people, to explore Europe’s rich cultural diversity and to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives. It allows us to understand the past and to build our future.”  Said Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, who officially launched the Year today.

The celebrations for the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage are kicking off at the European Culture Forum in Milan.The European Year of Cultural Heritage will put the spotlight on Europe’s wealth of cultural heritage, showcasing its role in fostering a shared sense of identity and building the future of Europe. The purpose of the European Year of Cultural Heritage is to raise awareness of the social and economic importance of cultural heritage. Thousands of initiatives and events across Europe will provide the possibility to involve citizens from all backgrounds. The aim is to reach out to the widest possible audience, in particular children and young people, local communities and people who are rarely in touch with culture, to promote a common sense of ownership. A press releaseQ&A, and a Spotlight brochure are available online. The Commission has also published today a special Eurobarometer on Cultural Heritage as well as 28 country specific factsheets on the results.

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