Brussels, 4 December 2020
BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS PROCEED AMONGST DIFFICULTIES AS THEY ENTER ‘FINAL STAGES’
Despite the progress reached this week in the negotiations between the EU and the UK, officials have avoided giving concrete details on timing or the probability of an agreement, and have emphasised that divergences on the longstanding sticking points remain. In particular, it seems that the EU is waiting for the UK to make the necessary political decisions to reach a deal on level-playing field conditions. Fisheries also remains a difficult issue, due to the UK’s insistence on annual negotiations on access to UK waters for EU fishing fleets. Overall, the general view is that a meeting between Commission President von der Leyen and UK prime Minister Johnson would still be needed to broker a final compromise.
EU PITCHES CLOSER ALLIANCE TO THE US TO MEET GEOPOLITICAL AND STRATEGIC CHALLENGES
Following the outcome of the elections in the United States, the EU has initiated efforts to rebuild ties with its transatlantic partner. The Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) called on the US to re-forge their global partnership, in a bid to move beyond previous tensions and to meet the “strategic challenge” posed by China. The “new EU-US agenda for global change” proposes co-operation on four areas: digital regulation, tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, fighting climate change, and supporting democratic values. The agenda also includes an appeal to address persistent sources of transatlantic tension.
COMMISSION ACTION PLAN AIMS TO BOLSTER DEMOCRACY
The Commission presented its European Democracy Plan, which targets three main pillars: free and fair elections, media freedom and pluralism, and countering disinformation. As part of the Action Plan, which will be gradually implemented until 2023, the Commission will revise the rules on the financing of European political parties and propose a recommendation on the safety of journalists next year. It will also put forth an initiative to curb the abusive use of lawsuits against public participation and will aim to overhaul the existing Code of Practice on Disinformation into a co-regulatory framework of obligations and accountability of online platforms.
COMMISSION RECOMMENDS CONTINUED VIGILANCE THROUGHOUT VACCINATION PHASE
Following the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and ahead of the festive period, the European Commission published this week the “Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter” strategy in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. The strategy recommends that people continue to be cautious in the upcoming weeks and into 2021, until the rollout of safe and effective vaccines. Emphasising the importance of a coordinated EU-wide approach, the Commission also stresses that any relaxation of measures should consider the evolution of the epidemiological situation and the capacity for testing, contact tracing and treating patients. Further recommendations are aimed for early 2021.
ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS POSITIVE TRENDS OF EU CLIMATE ACTION
The Commission published its annual report on climate action, covering the EU’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and recent development in EU climate policy. The report confirms the GDP/decarbonisation decoupling trend, with emissions in the EU-27 decreasing by 3,7% and GDP growing by 1,5% in 2019. In addition, the power sector’s replacement of coal with renewables and gas led to a 9.1% reduction of emissions compared to the year before. Furthermore, the report confirms the upward trend of EU expenditure on climate action and green technologies financing, which is likely to continue – and increase even further – in coming years.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
Karl Isaksson, Managing Partner Brussels, Kreab
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