COMMISSION PRESENTS STEPS TO IMPROVE RELATIONSHIP WITH CITIZENS
The Commission presented a number of steps aimed at improving connections between EU institutions and European citizens. In view of the next European Parliament (EP) election in 2019, the Commission supported the “Spitzenkandidaten” concept and called on political parties to make their choice of lead candidates earlier on in the process. Furthermore, the Commission continues to support the idea of transnational lists, despite a recent EP Resolution against it. It also advocates merging the function of the President of the Commission and the European Council. Whether or not to implement these reforms is now largely up to the Member States.
JUNCKER PLAN REACHES €264.3 BILLION IN MOBILISED INVESTMENT
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is currently expected to mobilise €264.3 billion of investments. The number represents around 84% of the original target of €315 billion of investment by summer 2018. Those who benefit from the Juncker Plan are now located in all 28 Member States with a total EU budget guarantee of €53.2 billion in financing. So far, there are 366 infrastructure and innovation projects and 370 financing agreements for SMEs. As of February, the top five countries ranked in order of upcoming EFSI investment, relative to GDP, are Greece, Estonia, Bulgaria, Portugal, and Spain.
EU TIGHTENS LIMITS ON BPA IN FOOD PACKAGING
A new regulation imposing stricter limits on the use of bisphenol-A (BPA) in food contact materials will enter into force in September 2018. The regulation will restrict the migration limit of BPA to 0.05mg per kilogramme of food and zero in the case of foodstuffs for children of three years of age or younger. Equally, the ban on the use of BPA in polycarbonate infant feeding bottles will now be extended to drinking cups or bottles intended for infants and young children. The measures constitute a reaction to numerous studies that have linked BPA to a range of medical conditions, including diabetes and cancer.
PROGRESS IN BREXIT TALKS STALLED DUE TO THE TRANSITIONAL AGREEMENT
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has insisted that there can be no guarantee of a transition period if the UK continues to dispute the obligation to temporarily follow the EU’s rules and regulations. Mr Barnier made these remarks on returning to Brussels following meetings in London with UK Brexit Minister David Davis. This impasse comes at a contentious point in the talks, with a recent Commission paper describing the sanctions that the EU could use against the UK during a transition period should the UK fail to comply with EU laws.
COMMISSION SETS OUT OPTIONS FOR THE EU BUDGET AFTER 2020
Ahead of the Informal Leaders’ meeting on 23 February 2018, the Commission has set out various options, and their financial consequences, for a new and modern, long-term EU budget that delivers efficiently on its priorities after 2020. At their upcoming meeting, the EU’s Leaders will discuss how to ensure that the priorities that they have set for the EU can be adequately funded. Both elements, defining common priorities and equipping the Union to implement them, are deemed inseparable. A formal proposal for the next long-term EU budget will be set out by the start of May 2018.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
•19 February: Agriculture and Fisheries Council. On the agenda: The Future of Food and Farming, EU bioeconomy strategy, EU protein plan.
•19 February: Eurogroup. On the agenda: Greece: post-programme surveillance, European Stability Mechanism reform, Appointment of the Vice-President of the European Central Bank, Banking union: the way forward (in inclusive format).
•20 February: Economic and Financial Affairs Council. On the agenda: sustainable finance, EU budget, work of the European Central Bank.
•21 February: COREPER II (Art. 50 formation). On the agenda: progress of Brexit negotiations.
•23 February: Informal meeting of the 27 heads of state or government. On the agenda: the European Parliament’s composition after the 2019 elections and possible transnational lists, multiannual financial framework (MFF) after 2020.