COUNCIL ADOPTS ITS POSITION TO REDUCE SINGLE USE PLASTICS
Member States’ ambassadors came to an agreement on Wednesday on tough new restrictions on single-use plastic products. Following the publication of the Commission’s draft directive in May 2018, the Council has made the original draft clearer by clarifying the definition of single-use plastics to cover products which are typically intended to be used once or for a short period of time. The Council also asks for the Commission to publish guidelines on what is considered a single-use product, adds expanded polystyrene cups to the list of restricted items, and proposes an obligation on producers to cover clean-up costs, including costs of litter cleanup. Trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament will commence on 6 November.
COMMISSION AND COUNCIL DISCUSS ENDING SEASONAL CLOCK CHANGES
During an informal meeting of EU transport ministers on Monday, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and Austria Federal Minister Norbert Hofer held the first major discussion on putting an end to seasonal clock changes. In response to the Commission’s proposal, there was a general consensus that the end of seasonal clock changes may only be implemented when the next steps are known, and an impact assessment is available. Many countries including France and the Netherlands have yet to take a stance on the proposal, whilst Greece, Portugal and the United Kingdom are strongly against ending seasonal changes. A common position is expected to be reached in December.
NEXT COUNCIL PRESIDENCY TRIO PREPARE WORK PRIORITIES
Romania, Finland and Croatia – the next Trio of Presidents of the Council of the European Union – have met to discuss policy priorities and developing a joint programme for work. Romania, which will take over from current President Austria in January 2019, has identified the following four topics as priority issues: converging Europe through growth, cohesion, competitiveness and connectivity; a safer Europe; Europe as a stronger global actor, and; a Europe of common values. Specific aims include helping Europe become a leading digital economy player and major developer of artificial intelligence (AI), and speed-up the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
NEW EU RULES ON BANK FEES AIM TO GIVE CONSUMERS MORE TRANSPARENCY
All banks and financial services providers working in the EU must provide customers with standardised account information. Coming into force this Thursday, the Payment Accounts Directive requires all banks in the EU to present documents to customers, such as a ‘Fee Information Document’ (IDF), a paper with a short summary presenting the fees related to common services associated with a customer’s account, such as fees for money transfers. Customers are also entitled to receive a Statement of Fees. The new rules apply to all countries except France and Italy, where the Directive will be implemented by end of July 2019.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR EU DECISION ON DRIVERLESS CARS
Debate over standards for the fifth-generation of wireless data means Europe risks lagging both Asia and the United States in the development of new self-driving vehicles. There are two standards for autonomous vehicles being debated: one based on wireless data network (WiFi) and another called C-V2X, a peer-to-peer technology that can warn vehicles about obstacles that cameras and radars might not reach. The Commission has decided to remain technology neutral and favour neither option. In a new roadmap on Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM), the Commission notes that it will address the need for cooperation at EU level on the use of spectrum for 5G cellular connectivity to be used for testing of connected vehicles. A delegated act will enter into force in 2019.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK
• 5 November: Eurogroup. On the agenda: draft budgetary plans for 2019, including discussion on Italy’s draft plan. Banking union and financial stability in the EMU will also be discussed.
• 6 November: Economic and Financial Affairs Council. On the agenda: digital services tax, corporate tax rules, management of the EU budget.
• 9 November: Foreign Affairs Council (Trade). On the agenda: World Trade Organisation modernisation, free trade agreements with Mercosur, New Zealand, China, Australia and others.
Karl Isaksson, Managing Partner Brussels, Kreab