The European Commission launched today the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum with the support of the European Parliament, represented by Jakob von Weizsäcker, responsible for the recent report on virtual currencies.
The Blockchain Observatory and Forum will highlight key developments of the blockchain technology, promote European actors and reinforce European engagement with multiple stakeholders involved in blockchain activities. Blockchain technologies, which store blocks of information that are distributed across the network, are seen as a major breakthrough, as they bring about high levels of traceability and security in economic transactions online. They are expected to impact digital services and transform business models in a wide range of areas, such as healthcare, insurance, finance, energy, logistics, intellectual property rights management or government services. The Commission has been funding blockchain projects through the European Union’s research programmes FP7 and Horizon 2020 since 2013. Until 2020, it will fund projects that could draw on blockchain technologies with up to €340 million. The press release and a factsheet are available online.
The Commission launched today a call for proposalsfor a €50 million pilot to support the creation of a network of cybersecurity competence centres across the EU.
The winning consortia, including also university labs and research centres, should scale up existing research for the benefit of the cybersecurity of the Digital Single Market, with solutions that can be marketable. The experience collected in the selected projects will contribute to the design of the future competence network which will include a European Cybersecurity Research and Competence Centre. This pilot project was announced in September 2017 together with a wide-ranging set of measures to equip Europe with the right tools to deal with cyber-attacks and to build strong cybersecurity in the EU. The project will be funded through the Horizon 2020Framework Programme. The call for proposals is openuntil 29 May 2018. Yesterday, the Commission also took another important step related to improving cybersecurity: as the Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive) will have to be transposed by all Member States by9 May, the Commission adopted animplementing regulation on digital service providers (i.e. cloud computing services, online marketplaces and search engines) and the severity of cybersecurity incidents. The NIS Directive is the first piece of EU legislation aimed at strengthening the EU’s cyber-resilience. It supports the strengthening of national capabilities,establishes technical and strategic cooperation at EU level and introduces security and notification requirements.
The European Commission is proposing to revise the EU Drinking Water Directive, to improve the quality and the access of citizens to drinking water, as well as provide better information to consumers.
The right to access essential services of good quality, including water, is one of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights unanimously proclaimed by European Leaders at the Gothenburg Summit. Today’s legislative proposal will guarantee this right in practice, and thereby responds to the first-ever successful European Citizens’ Initiative, “Right2Water“, that gathered 1.6 million signatures in support of improving access to safe drinking water for all Europeans. In addition, this proposal seeks to empower consumers by ensuring that water suppliers provide clearer information on consumption, cost structures and price per litre, allowing a comparison with the price of bottled water. This will contribute to the environmental goals of reducing plastic use and limiting the EU’s carbon footprint, as well as meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
The European Commission welcomes the final report by its High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG), which sets out strategic recommendations for a financial system that supports sustainable investments.
The Commission will now move to finalise its strategy on sustainable finance on the basis of these recommendations. Delivering an EU strategy on sustainable finance is a priority action of the Commission’s Capital Markets Union (CMU) Action Plan, as well as one of the key steps towards implementing the historic Paris Agreement and the EU’s Agenda for sustainable development. To achieve the EU’s 2030 targets agreed in Paris, including a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, we need around €180 billion of additional investments a year. The financial sector has a key role to play in reaching those goals, as large amounts of private capital could be mobilised towards such sustainable investments. The Commission is determined to lead the global work in this area and help sustainability-conscious investors to choose suitable projects and companies.
The Commission has imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on iron castings from China. The measures range from 15.5% to 38.1%. The Commission has 53 measures now in place on steel and iron products, including 27 on products coming from China.
Cast iron castings are a family of products that include for instance manhole covers and grates used in street drainage. The market for castings in the European Union is estimated at around €700 million. The investigation was initiated in December 2016 following a complaint from seven EU producers concerning products from China and India. The investigation found there to be no dumping in the case of India. EU applied anti-dumping measures for the same product imported from China already in the past between 2005 and 2011. The steel sector is a vital industry for the European Union’s economy and occupies a central position in global value chains, providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of European citizens. The global surplus in steelmaking capacity reached around 737 million metric tonnes in 2016, the highest ever seen, and the EU is using the full potential of its trade defence toolbox to ensure a level-playing-field for its producers. This has driven down steel prices to unsustainable levels in recent years and had a damaging impact on the steel sector, as well as related industries and jobs. In March 2016 the Commission issued a Communication presenting a series of measures to support competitiveness of the EU steel industry. Use of trade defence tools was one of the pillars of the strategy. In addition to that, the Commission engaged in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity that agreed last November on an ambitious package of concrete policy solutions to tackle the pressing issue of global overcapacity in the steel sector.
“Today’s resoundingly positive vote means that the EU is one step closer to having the necessary tools to tackle unfair trading practices quickly and effectively. Together with the recently-agreed changes to our anti-dumping methodology, the EU’s toolbox of trade defence instruments will be even better suited to deal with global challenges. I now look forward to the speedy adoption of this decision by plenary of the European Parliament. The EU stands for open and rules-based trade, but we must ensure that others do not take advantage of our openness. The EU stands ready to defend its industry and workers from unfair competition.” Said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
The international trade committee of the European Parliament endorsed the political agreement reached between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament on 5 December 2017 on the modernisation of the EU’s trade defence instruments. The changes to the EU’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy regulations will make the EU’s trade defence instruments more adapted to the challenges of the global economy: they’ll become more effective, transparent and easier to use for companies. In some cases they will also enable the EU to impose higher duties on dumped products. The details of the agreement reached in December are now presented in a dedicated factsheet. The new rules will enter into force once the European Parliament and the Council conclude the respective ongoing approval procedures.
The Commission launched a public consultation to establish its first world-wide “Counterfeit and Piracy Watch-List“.
The aim is to identify the marketplaces outside the EU where counterfeiting, piracy or other forms of intellectual property abuse are common practice. The initiative is part of the Commission’s strategy announced in the 2017 Communication “A balanced Intellectual Property enforcement system responding to today’s societal challenges”. Based on stakeholders’ input, the future watch-list will help to raise awareness of consumers that might be buying products in those marketplaces, and encourage their operators and owners to crack down on intellectual property abuse. The Commission will also monitor the measures taken by local authorities to reduce the availability of goods and services infringing intellectual property rights in identified markets. Intellectual property infringement is a particular scourge on European industry and hampers investment and employment in industries reliant on creativity and innovation.According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the OECD, trade in counterfeit and pirated products amount to around €338 billion worldwide. The European Union is particularly affected, with counterfeit and pirated products amounting up to around 5% of all imports or as much as €85 billion a year. Contributions to the public consultation should be sent before 31 March 2018.
“I am highly motivated to take on the helm of the Eurogroup. We have a unique window of opportunity to deepen monetary union, making our common currency more resilient against future crises. Our responsibility is to deliver and meet the expectations of our citizens. I will spare no efforts to bring about the necessary consensus. I would also like to thank Jeroen Dijsselbloem for his strong leadership in the Eurogroup in a period where the euro area was put to the test”. Said Mr Centeno.
Mário Centeno start his mandate as Eurogroup President, taking over from Jeroen Dijsselbloem who served in the position since 2013. Euro area finance ministers elected Mr Centeno Eurogroup President on 4 December 2017, for a term of two and a half years.
Mr Dijsselbloem said: “The eurozone is in much better shape now than in 2013. We have economic growth in all countries, unemployment is falling and public finances are on a sounder footing. Decisive steps have been taken to strengthen the monetary union, notably the banking union. I would like to wish Mário Centeno all the best in his new role as Eurogroup President.”
To mark the handover of the Eurogroup Presidency and complete the transition of tasks, Mr Dijsselbloem and Mr Centeno had a working meeting where they also discussed the Eurogroup agenda.
Mário Centeno is finance minister of Portugal, a position he was appointed to in 2015. The first Eurogroup meeting under the presidency of Mr Centeno will take place in Brussels on 22 January 2018.