The Letter n°876

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The Letter n°876
The Letter
Tuesday 28th January 2020
issue 876
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Getting Brexit done - a continuous process
Authors : Ramona Bloj, Eric Maurice
Ramona Bloj, Eric Maurice
The UK's withdrawal from the EU on 31st January is above all a symbolic event. During the transition period planned to last until 31st December 2020, the Union will treat the UK like a Member State, but the latter will no longer be represented. The transition period will be used to negotiate an agreement whose aim it will be to maintain links as close as possible between the two entities. The 27 who will retain the same negotiating method as for the withdrawal will have to establish priorities in the discussions which will take place in a very tight time span.
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Elections : Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, the first woman to be elected as President of the Hellenic Republic
On 22 January, the Greek Parliament elected Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou as President of the Republic by 261 votes out of 300 in the first round of voting. Currently President of the Council of State, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou will be sworn in on 13 March and will succeed Prokopis Pavlopoulos for a five-year term... Read more
Irish will go to the ballot on 8 February for what is forecast to be a tightly run race
The Irish are due to go to the polls on 8 February for early parliamentary elections a few days after Brexit. According to the latest opinion poll, the Fianna Fail (right) led by Micheal Martin is expected to come out on top with 25% of the vote ahead of outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael (centre right) (23%). Sinn Fein (SF), a radical left-wing party, is expected to win 21%, the Green Party 8% and the Labour Party 5%... Read more

Foundation : Competition Policy and Industrial Policy: for a reform of European law
The failures of certain merger projects like Alstom/Siemens call into question the inadequacy, or even obsolescence, of European competition law and its place in relation to other public policy objectives. Should a rebalancing not be carried out between competition policy and industrial policy so that the objectives of the latter can be deployed? Bruno Deffains, Olivier d'Ormesson and Thomas Perroud propose several avenues for reform... Read more

Commission : Proposal on the conference on the future of Europe
On 22 January the Commission presented its proposals on the organisation of the Conference on the Future of Europe. It envisages two topics for discussion: one on major issues such as climate, the economy and digital technology; the other on democratic processes and institutional issues, in particular the European elections. The Commission, Parliament and Council must agree on the organisation of the conference, which might be launched symbolically on 9 May... Read more
Meeting between Ursula von der Leyen and Donald Trump
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met US President Donald Trump on 21 January in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The discussion focused in particular on the issues of trade, technology and energy. The two leaders agreed to meet again soon and to start discussions with a view to signing a "trade agreement"... Read more
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Parliament : The Transport Committee approves the mobility package
The agreement on the reform of the road transport sector, reached between Parliament and Council Presidency negotiators on 12 December, was approved on 21 January by the Transport Committee of the European Parliament. The "mobility package", on posted work, cabotage and driving and rest periods, is due to be approved in plenary session... Read more
New step towards the implementation of the EU-Vietnam Agreement
The European Parliament's International Trade Committee approved the free trade and investment protection agreements with Vietnam on 21 January. The agreement will eliminate virtually all tariffs between the two parties in 10 years. It will protect emblematic European products and give Europeans access to Vietnamese public procurement markets. Parliament is expected to vote on these agreements at its February plenary session... Read more
Recommendation to approve the Brexit Agreement
The European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs approved a recommendation on 23 January to ratify the agreement on the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January. The vote will take place on 29 January by a simple majority of the votes cast... Read more

Council : Conclusions of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council
Finance Ministers meeting on 21 January agreed that an international solution would be the best way forward on digital taxation as it would limit fragmentation and unilateral measures. In addition, they launched the "European Semester" to review Member States' economic, fiscal and employment policies... Read more
Informal meeting of Interior and Justice Ministers
On 23 and 24 January in Zagreb, the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs discussed the future strategic framework for the Union's "area of freedom, security and justice". They emphasised the importance of training in the field of justice, as well as the effectiveness of the work of judicial bodies to ensure good cooperation in civil and commercial matters. They discussed the smuggling of migrants and the regulation of Frontex, as well as the implementation of the new interoperability framework, the aim of which is to facilitate the exchange of information for more efficient border management... Read more
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Conclusions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council
On 27 January, the ministers for agriculture and fisheries discussed the agricultural dimensions of the Green Deal and the proposal for a regulation on the CAP's transitional rules, which aims to ensure the continuity of support to European farmers in 2021. France, Germany and Spain submitted a common position on the future of the CAP. Germany submitted its position on the European labelling of food of animal origin. Slovenia and Portugal submitted a declaration on labelling indicating the country of origin of honey mixtures... Read more

Diplomacy : Support to a European mission in the Hormuz Strait
Eight Member States support the establishment of a maritime surveillance mission in the Strait of Hormuz. France, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Portugal signed a declaration on 20 January stating that this European naval mission (EMASOH) will complement ongoing maritime security actions and initiatives in the region... Read more
EU/Kazakhstan Cooperation Council
Ministers meeting within the framework of the EU/Kazakhstan Cooperation Council on 20 January confirmed their mutual commitment to deepening bilateral relations through collaboration on foreign and security policy. They welcomed Kazakhstan's national strategy for a green economy as well as Kazakhstan's membership of GRECO, the Council of Europe's anti-corruption group... Read more

Court of Justice : Conclusions of the Advocate General regarding the pharmaceutical patents
The Advocate General of the Court of Justice ruled on 23 January that an out-of-court settlement agreement between a pharmaceutical patent holder and a generic manufacturer can be regarded as an abuse of a dominant position. In the case before the Court, the UK Competition and Markets Authority fined the pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and generic manufacturers who had agreed not to market a generic molecule in return for a payment from GSK... Read more

ECB : Assessment of the monetary policy strategy
On 23 January, the European Central Bank launched an assessment of its monetary policy strategy to adapt its action to new challenges such as the tendency for slow growth, low inflation, climate change and the digitisation of the economy. The assessment should be completed by the end of 2020. At the Governing Council meeting, the ECB left the key interest rates unchanged... Read more
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EIB : 200 million € in investments in the space sector
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Commission announced on 21 January an investment of €200 million to boost innovation in the space sector. The Ariane Group will benefit from a €100 million loan for the Ariane 6 launcher programme, while the "InnovFin Space Equity" facility will have €100 million to invest in European SMEs marketing new products and services in the space sector... Read more
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Germany : International Forum on the Shoah
The 5th International Forum on the Shoah was held on 23 January at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, a few days before the commemoration of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp on 27 January. Recalling Germany's responsibility for "the greatest crime in the history of mankind", German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned against the resurgence of anti-Semitism and nationalism, and stressed the need to maintain the "peace order based on human rights and international law" established after the Second World War. The German President also attended the commemoration ceremonies in Auschwitz on 27th January and met with some of the camp's survivors... Read more
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France : Meeting of the Weimar Triangle
On January 21, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amélie de Montchalin received her German and Polish counterparts, Michael Roth and Konrad Szymanski in Lens for a meeting of the Weimar Triangle. They discussed the conference on the future of Europe, the rule of law, the Union's multiannual budget, the challenges of economic and social convergence, and the "Green Deal". They also visited the exhibition "Poland - 1840-1918 - Painting the soul of a nation" at the Louvre-Lens museum... Read more

Malta : A minister resigns
Justyne Caruana, a Maltese minister in Gozo (the country's second largest island), resigned on 20 January after her husband, a former police chief, admitted travelling with one of the main suspects in the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was replaced by Clint Camilleri... Read more

Poland : Adoption of a law to sanction judges
The Polish Lower House, dominated by the Law and Justice Party (PiS), passed a bill on 23 January aimed at punishing judges who would question judicial reforms. The text, which had been rejected by the Senate, was approved by 234 deputies, against 211 and with 9 abstentions. It has yet to be signed by President Andrzej Duda. The European Commission has expressed its concern. At the same time, the Supreme Court questioned a previous reform on the appointment of judges, deciding that those whose appointment does not offer guarantees of independence may be removed from office. The Minister of Justice has stated that he will ignore the decision... Read more
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UK : Adoption of the withdrawal agreement from the EU
The House of Commons finally adopted the draft agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 22 January, rejecting all the amendments proposed by the House of Lords. Queen Elizabeth II promulgated the law on 23 January. On 24 January, the agreement was signed by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council in Brussels and by Boris Johnson in London. The vote in the European Parliament is scheduled for 29 January, with a final withdrawal on 31 January... Read more
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Slovenia : Resignation of the Prime Minister
On 27 January, Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec announced his resignation, ending his minority coalition government. Since 2018, the government has comprised five political parties: the Marjan Sarec List (LMS), the Social Democrats (SD), the Modern Centre Party (SMC), Alenka Bratusek's Centrist Party (SAB) and the Democratic Party of Slovenian Pensioners (DeSUS). President Borut Pahor is due to start consultations with the nine parties represented in Parliament to see whether a new coalition is possible. He has 30 days to avoid the need for early elections... Read more
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Council of Europe : Reports on the combat to counter laundering
Moneyval, the Council of Europe's body responsible for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, published on 24 January monitoring reports assessing the progress of six countries, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Albania, Serbia and Andorra. Overall, the body highlighted the limited progress made in the fight to combat money laundering and terrorist financing by these States, with the exception of Slovenia, whose compliance ratings remain unchanged... Read more
Report on corruption and the promotion of integrity in Belgium
In a report published on 23 January, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) calls on Belgium to strengthen transparency and integrity in the public life of ministers and members of their cabinets, in that no ethical framework has been put in place when it comes to the recruitment and remuneration of ministers and members of their cabinets, or in relation to conflicts of interest, gifts, "pantouflage", etc. Furthermore, the Group notes the lack of resources of the federal police in preventing and combating corruption and calls for the strengthening of supervision of secondary activities (complementary profession) undertaken by members of the federal police, the practice of which is now authorized almost automatically... Read more
Report on the state of prisons in Italy
In a report published on 21 January, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) notes the serious material shortages in Italian prisons, the unhealthy state of the infrastructure and the physical ill-treatment of inmates by staff. It recommends better control over staff by the authorities and calls for the abolition of solitary confinement imposed by the courts on individuals sentenced to life imprisonment. The CPT, a Council of Europe body, also notes the steady increase in Italy's prison population and recalls that the authorities should ensure that all prisoners are provided with at least 4m² of living space each... Read more
Report on violence against women in the Netherlands
In a report published on 20 January, the Council of Europe expert group GREVIO, highlights the efforts of the Netherlands to address domestic violence and other forms of violence against women at the political and legal levels, in particular the dialogue initiated with young people on the principles of consent and gender equality. However, the Group notes that women are not sufficiently recognized as a group particularly confronted with the issue of violence, which can lead to gaps in protection and support... Read more
Report on the integration of national minorities in Poland
In a report published on 23 January, the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) welcomed the improvements noted in Poland with regard to the integration of Roma in education over the period 2014-20. However, it deplored the very limited development in the framework for minority rights, despite its repeated requests, and noted the persistence of a climate of intolerance, racism and xenophobia. The Committee recommends the implementation of a more comprehensive programme for the integration of Roma from 2020 onwards, as well as the promotion by the Polish authorities of understanding between the majority and the various minority groups in the country... Read more
Rik Daems elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly
Rik Daems (BE, ALDE) was elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January. He is the only candidate standing for election and succeeds Liliane Maury Pasquier (CH, SOC) for a one-year renewable term of office. In his inaugural speech, he called on the Assembly to focus on values rather than national interests, and stressed the link between human rights and the environment... Read more

WTO : Agreement to maintain an Appellate Body
The Union and 16 member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including Canada, China and Brazil, announced on 24 January in Davos an agreement to set up an interim appeal mechanism within the WTO as a way of overcoming the deadlock of the Appellate Body caused by the United States' refusal to approve the appointment of two judges... Read more

OECD : Recommendations for a better management of European funds
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report on 20 January in which together with the Commission it encourages Member States to develop and test solutions to improve their national governance and management of the various European funds allocated. The two institutions recommend, for example, that the authorities involve the beneficiaries of the funds as well as the trade and social partners more closely in the framework of the cohesion policy. The report's conclusions will be used to develop a reference framework dedicated to the issue with practical help for the authorities on the ground... Read more
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PISA Report on professional aspirations
An OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report, published on 22 January, reveals that adolescents' career aspirations are becoming less and less diverse. Young people tend to focus on traditional professions such as "teacher, lawyer or entrepreneur", ignoring the advent of new professions linked to digital transformation... Read more

Eurostat : Rise in share of renewable energies
According to a report published on 23 January, the share of renewable energy in energy consumption in the Union will reach 18% in 2018, compared with 17.5% in 2017 and 8.5% in 2004, the first year for which such data are available. With the European objective of reaching 20% in 2020, 12 Member States have already achieved a share equal to or higher than their national targets... Read more
Decrease in the public debt and deficit unchanged in the third quarter
According to a Eurostat report published on 21 January, the debt decreased in the European Union from 80.4% to 80.1% of GDP in the third quarter of 2019. The debt of the euro area was 86.1% of GDP , down from 86.4% in the previous quarter. The government deficit in the third quarter of 2019 was 0.7% of GDP in the euro area and 0.9% in the European Union, the same rates as in the previous quarter... Read more
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Culture : Survivors of the Shoah in Essen
The Zollverein, a former mining complex converted into a cultural venue in Essen, is presenting the exhibition "Survivors" until 26 April. Portraits by photographer Martin Schoeller show the faces of Jewish men and women who knew and survived the atrocities of the Shoah. The exhibition was inaugurated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel... Read more
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"Voyages, Voyages" in Marseilles
Until 4 May, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Mucem) in Marseille is hosting the exhibition "Voyage Voyages", an exploration through journeys and their stories. Some one hundred works - paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs and videos - are on display to the public... Read more
Grayson Perry in Bath
The Holburne Museum in Bath is hosting an exhibition devoted to British artist and ceramist Grayson Perry until May 25. More than 70 of his works exploring themes of gender, identity and social class are on display for the occasion... Read more
Comics Festival Angoulême
The 47th edition of the International Comics Festival is being held from 30 January to 2 February, with more than 6,000 professionals from all over the world. The name of the author elected for the Grand Prize will be unveiled on 29 January at the opening ceremony... Read more
Van Eyck: an optical revolution
The Ghent Museum of Fine Arts is presenting until 30 April the largest exhibition ever devoted to Jan Van Eyck, the fourteenth-century Flemish primitive painter considered to be the father of oil painting, with works from all over the world. On display are eight panels of the exterior shutters of the Mystic Lamb, his masterpiece, currently undergoing restoration in Ghent Cathedral... Read more

27th-31st January 2020


Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

28th January 2020


General Affairs Council


EU-Ukraine Association Council

29th-30th January


Mini Plenary Session of European Parliament

3rd and 4th February 2020


Informal Meeting of Competition Ministers (Research)

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