Author Archives: brusselsdiplomatic

European mobility awards to Vienna, Igoumenitsa and Turda

Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “My congratulations to each of the award winners. Through their actions, Vienna, Igoumenitsa and Turda are creating a more sustainable Europe. They also help their residents to move around in a cleaner, healthier and more enjoyable way. It is my hope that these cities will inspire others to embrace the core message of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK – sustainable mobility is the right choice for everyone.”

The European Commission announced the winners of the 2017 European sustainable urban mobility awards at a ceremony held in Brussels. Vienna (Austria) received the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for large municipalities, while Igoumenitsa (Greece) won the inaugural prize in the ‘less than 50,000 inhabitants’ category. Turda (Romania) received the Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning. With 75% of Europeans living in cities, sustainable urban mobility is essential to the EU’s ambitious climate objectives and to tackle issues such as congestion, noise, and air pollution. The three cities were selected by an independent jury for their innovative solutions to promote sustainability. Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: “Mobility Week gets bigger every year! More proof, year after year, that green is everyone’s favourite colour. Green means clean, it means convenient, and it means a city where people find it easy to go about their business. And best of all, it’s better for your health. My congratulations to these winners – they’ve understood what citizens really need.” 2017 was the most successful edition of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK to date, with over 2,500 towns and cities participating.


EU clears Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto

We have approved Bayer’s plans to take over Monsanto because the parties’ remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full. Our decision ensures that there will be effective competition and innovation in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture markets also after this merger. In particular, we have made sure that the number of global players actively competing in these markets stays the same. That is important because we need competition to ensure farmers have a choice of different seed varieties and pesticides at affordable prices. And we need competition to push companies to innovate in digital agriculture and to continue develop new products that meet the high regulatory standards in Europe, to the benefit of all Europeans and the environment.” Said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer. The merger is conditional on the divestiture of an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties’ overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture. As part of its in-depth review, the Commission has assessed more than 2,000 different product markets and reviewed 2.7 million internal documents. It concluded that the transaction as notified would have significantly reduced competition on price and innovation in Europe and globally on a number of different markets. The Commission also had concerns that it would have strengthened Monsanto’s dominant position on certain markets, where Bayer is an important challenger of Monsanto. The commitments submitted by Bayer meet these competition concerns in full, addressing the parties’ overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the divestment package enables a suitable buyer to sustainably replace Bayer’s competitive effect in these markets and continue to innovate, for the benefit of European farmers and consumers. Bayer has proposed BASF as purchaser for the remedy package. The Commission’s assessment is ongoing whether a) the divestiture to BASF meets all purchaser requirements, and b) whether it creates any problematic overlaps or raises other competition concerns. Bayer and Monsanto can only implement the transaction when the Commission has completed its review of the proposed buyer.

EU €31 million in humanitarian aid for Latin America and the Caribbean

“The European Union’s commitment to support Latin America is stronger than ever. Here in Colombia, our new EU funding will help on two fronts: addressing the humanitarian consequences of the decades-long conflict in the country and helping reinforce the region’s preparedness and response to natural disasters. We have also announced new funding for those affected by the crisis in Venezuela: supporting those in need is a priority for the EU.” said Commissioner Stylianides.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides has announced €31 million for humanitarian aid and disaster preparedness for Latin America and the Caribbean on an official visit to Colombia.  The Commissioner met with Colombian President Santos in Bogota where he reiterated the EU’s commitment to stand side by side in the country’s path to peace and prosperity. He also visited areas greatly affected by conflict as well as the border town of Cucuta where there has been an upsurge in those fleeing Venezuela. The new funding is part of an overall humanitarian aid package for the region, with €6 million for Colombia. A further €2 million will go to those people affected by the crisis in Venezuela.The funding comes on top of the EU’s other aid programmes and support to the region such as the EU Trust Fund for Colombia.

Porgress in talks with Mercosur and Indonesia

As part of its commitment to a transparent trade policy, the Commission today published reports from the latest negotiating rounds with Indonesia and Mercosur.

The round reports include information about progress in all areas of the respective negotiations. As regards Mercosur, the report concerns talks held from 21 February to 2 March. Although much progress was made during that period there is still work to be done, and the chief negotiators remain now in contact to explore how to move forward on the remaining issues and advance into the very last stretch of negotiations. As for Indonesia, the report refers to the fourth round of talks held from 19 to 23 February. The Commission presented on this occasion new text proposals that are now also publically available: one related to rules of origin and the other regarding technical barriers to trade in theautomotive sector. The aim in the negotiations is to achieve an ambitious and mutually beneficial trade agreement, including necessary guarantees to support sustainable development. The EU and Indonesia agreed to hold the next round of talks in Brussels before summer, at a date yet to be confirmed.

Brexit must become an exit from British tax dumping

The European Parliament today adopted its position on an association agreement for future EU-UK relations. A future agreement with Britain
needs the approval of the European Parliament. With today’s broadly supported decision, the European Parliament strengthens the position of
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Contrary to a previous European Parliament’s Brexit resolution, it now explicitly addresses the fuelling of global tax competition by the UK’s overseas territories.
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group commented: “Brexit must become an exit from British tax dumping. Today the European Parliament has sent a clear message to the British Government. A future agreement between Britain and the EU must mean an end to tax havens in the UK’s overseas territories. A departure from British tax dumping should be a condition for the agreement. Only if Britain complies with EU tax standards it can retain access to the European Customs Union. With this position, the European Parliament is showing its teeth to the tax havens in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean. The European Parliament cannot accept tax dumping to continue when voting on a future agreement.”

EU new measures to tackle non-performing loans

 “As Europe and its economy regain strength, Europe must seize the momentum and accelerate the reduction of NPLs. This is essential to further reduce risks in the European banking sector and strengthen its resilience. With fewer NPLs on their balance sheets, banks will be able to lend more to households and businesses. Our proposals build on the significant risk reduction already achieved in recent years, and must be an integral part of completing the Banking Union through risk reduction and risk sharing.” Said Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.

The Commission is today proposing an ambitious and comprehensive package of measures to tackle non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe, capitalising on the significant progress already made in reducing risks in the banking sector. With today’s far-reaching measures, the Commission is delivering on the Council’s Action Plan to address the high stock of NPLs and prevent their possible future accumulation. It builds on ongoing efforts by Member States, supervisors, credit institutions and the EU: this has led to stocks of NPLs declining in recent years across banks and EU countries.The Commission is also presenting its second progress report on the reduction of NPLs in Europe, showing that the decline of NPL stocks is continuing.

New transparency rules for tax advisers in the EU

“The new rules agreed today confirm the EU as the world leader in tax transparency. In future, intermediaries will have to share with tax administrations the schemes they sell to their clients. Tax administrations will then have access to the information they need to put an end to the aggressive tax planning schemes eroding their tax bases. This agreement is a further step towards more openness and better cooperation, facilitating fairer and more effective taxation throughout the EU.”  Said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.

The European Commission has welcomed the political agreement reached by EU Member States today on new transparency rules for intermediaries – such as tax advisers, accountants, banks and lawyers – who design and promote tax planning schemes for their clients.

The decision was taken by EU Economic and Financial Affairs ministers at their meeting in Brussels this morning. First proposed by the Commission in June 2017, the new measures build on a multitude of ambitious rules to fight tax avoidance and to boost tax transparency already agreed at EU level under the Juncker Commission.

Once in force, tax intermediaries who provide their clients with complex cross‑border financial schemes that could help avoid tax will be obliged to report these structures to their tax authorities. In turn, EU Member States will exchange this information with each other, further increasing scrutiny around the activities of tax planners and advisers.

Recent media leaks such as the Panama and Paradise Papers have exposed how some intermediaries actively assist companies and individuals to escape taxation, usually through complex cross-border schemes.

Cross-border tax planning schemes can bear certain characteristics – or ‘hallmarks’ – that indicate a risk of tax avoidance or evasion. Such hallmarks can include the use of cross-border losses to reduce tax liability, the use of special preferential tax regimes, or arrangements through countries that do not meet international good governance standards. Intermediaries that design or provide schemes bearing any one of these key hallmarks will now have to report these schemes to the tax authorities before they are used.

Member States will automatically exchange the information that they receive on the tax planning schemes through a centralised database, giving them early warning on new risks of avoidance and enabling them to take measures to block harmful arrangements and carry out audits more effectively. The requirement to report a scheme does not necessarily imply that it is harmful, only that it merits scrutiny by the tax authorities. But Member States have also agreed to implement effective and dissuasive penalties for those companies that do not comply with the transparency measures, creating a powerful new deterrent for those that encourage or facilitate tax abuse.

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