COMMISSION PRESENTS ENLARGEMENT STRATEGY FOR WESTERN BALKANS
The European Commission adopted a strategy on enlargement and enhanced engagement with the Western Balkans. The strategy tackles the challenges facing the Western Balkans on their road to European membership, setting out an action plan with six concrete flagship initiatives targeting specific areas of common interests: rule of law, security and migration, socio-economic development, transport and energy connectivity, digital agenda, reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. In reaction to the Communication, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani called for further enlargement of the Western Balkans.
PARLIAMENT VOTES TO BAN UNJUSTIFIED GEO-BLOCKING
Parliament voted on new rules that will ban so-called ‘geo-blocking’ of buyers browsing online shopping websites in another country. The new EU law will ensure that traders have to treat all EU customers as local ones, which means granting them access to the same sale conditions. This will give buyers wider access to sites offering products, hotel bookings and festival tickets, protecting them from being blocked or automatically re-routed. The new law, which has been welcomed by the European Commission, is part of a wider range of initiatives related to the Digital Single Market.
COMMISSION DRAFT TEXT ON BREXIT TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
The United Kingdom will remain part of the Single Market and the Customs Union until 31 December 2020, according to plans published by the European Commission. The draft text on transitional arrangements to be included in the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement states that the UK will remain bound by EU law and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the transition. One option on the table is for Member States to impose sanctions on the UK if it breaches EU rules during its transition from membership. The text will now be discussed between the EU-27 member states.
PARLIAMENT ENDORSES CHANGES IN PARLIAMENT COMPOSTION POST-BREXIT
As a result of the UK leaving the EU, the European Parliament (EP) voted to cut the number of Members of the European Parliament from 751 to 705 for the next elections in 2019. 46 of the UK’s 73 seats are to be freed for possible EU enlargement and 27 seats will be shared out among 14 under-represented Member States. The legislative initiative will now go to the European Council for unanimous decision before final confirmation. Furthermore, the Parliament rejected the proposal for a number of MEPs to be elected from a pan-European electoral lists and increased pressure on the European Council to formalise the Spitzenkandidat process.
ANTI-DUMPING DUTIES ON CHINESE CORROSION RESISTANT STEEL
Based on the investigation confirming that Chinese producers were dumping corrosion resistant steel on the EU market, the Commission extended provisional duties for the next five years ranging from 17.2% to 27.9%. The measures intend to counter the downward pressure on sales prices that have been causing financial problems for EU producers, based mostly in Belgium, France, Poland and the Netherlands. The EU is using the trade defence tools in line with its 2016 Communication on measures to support competitiveness of the EU steel industry. Today, 53 measures are in place on steel and iron products, including 27 on products coming from China.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
•15 February: Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council on education. On the agenda: Erasmus+ programme and its future post-2020, University partnerships programmes, language-skills.