The European Commission, the African Union Commission and the International Trade Centre (ITC) join forces today to set up the African Union Trade Observatory, a key pillar of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The EU provides €4 million from the Pan-African Programme for the Observatory to be established.
Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “The new African Union Trade Observatory is another step towards the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will help the continent harness its economic potential. It will provide the African Union, the African countries and the private sector with data and statistics that are essential for the sound monitoring of continental trade and evidence-based policy-making. Our support of 4 million euros to this Observatory is another example of the Africa-Europe Alliance in motion.”
The Observatory will collect data and analyse trade across borders in Africa, addressing the current lack of up-to date-and reliable data and statistics. This information will be made available for policymakers and interested stakeholders, including economic operators. This will enable them to identify promising market opportunities and will facilitate the effective monitoring of the African Continental Free Trade Area implementation and impact once in place.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is one of the key priorities of Africa´s Agenda 2063 and a flagship project for the continent. It aims at providing a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments. Its goal is to boost Intra-Africa trade from an existing level of about 13% to 25% or more over the next decade, thus contributing to economic growth and attracting investments from both within Africa and the world.
The EU, with its extensive experience in setting up an internal market, has been supporting the Continental Free Trade Area since its inception in 2015 and remains committed to support its ratification and implementation.
The support to the African Continental Free Trade Area one of the pillars of the recently launched Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, which aims to deepen economic and trade relations between Africa and Europe. The EU recently allocated €50 million support to the AfCFTA for the period 2018-2020.
A first project worth €3 million was launched in December 2018 with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to develop national implementation strategies for the continental free trade area.
Already in 2018, the EU mobilised €5 million to support African countries implementing and enforcing global rules on customs and trade facilitation in cooperation with the World Customs Organisation.
Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe
European Commission set out its ideas for shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should be launched on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 and run for two years. The Communication adopted is the Commission’s contribution to the already lively debate around the Conference on the Future of Europe – a project announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines, to give Europeans a greater say on what the European Union does and how it works for them. The Conference will build on past experiences, such as citizens’ dialogues, while introducing a wide range of new elements to increase outreach and strengthen ways for people to shape future EU action. The Conference will allow for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens of diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life. The Commission is committed to follow up on the outcome.
The Commission proposes two parallel work strands for the debates. The first should focus on EU priorities and what the Union should seek to achieve: including on the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness and equality, Europe’s digital transformation, promoting our European values, strengthening the EU’s voice in the world, as well as shoring up the Union’s democratic foundations. The second strand should focus on addressing topics specifically related to democratic processes and institutional matters: notably the lead candidate system and transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, commented: “People need to be at the very centre of all our policies. My wish is therefore that all Europeans will actively contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe and play a leading role in setting the European Union’s priorities. It is only together that we can build our Union of tomorrow.”
Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, stated: “We must seize the momentum of the high turnout at the last European elections and the call for action which that brings. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to reflect with citizens, listen to them, engage, answer and explain. We will strengthen trust and confidence between the EU institutions and the people we serve. This is our chance to show people that their voice counts in Europe.”
A new public forum for an open, inclusive and transparent debate
The Commission sees the Conference as a bottom-up forum accessible to people well beyond Europe’s capitals, from all corners of the Union. Other EU institutions, national Parliaments, social partners, regional and local authorities and civil society are invited to join. A multilingual online platform will ensure transparency of debate and support wider participation. The Commission is committed to taking the most effective actions, with the other EU institutions, to integrate citizens’ ideas and feedback into EU policy-making.
All Members of the College will play their part in helping to make the Conference a success, with Vice-President Šuica leading the Commission’s work on the Conference, supported by Vice-President Jourová on the institutional strand, as well as Vice-President Šefčovič on the foresight and inter-institutional side.
The European Parliament and the Council are also working on their contributions to the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2020 called for an open and transparent process which takes an inclusive, participatory and well-balanced approach towards citizens and stakeholders. Meanwhile, the European Council conclusions of 12 December 2019 called on the Croatian Presidency to begin work on the Council’s position. The Croatian Presidency has itself listed the Conference among its Presidency Priorities.
After this, it is of crucial importance that the three institutions work together towards a Joint Declaration to define the concept, structure, scope and timing of the Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as setting down its jointly agreed principles and objectives. This Declaration will later be open to other signatories including institutions, organisations and stakeholders. National and regional Parliaments and actors have an important role to play in the Conference and should be encouraged to hold Conference-related events The Commission underlines in its contribution today that it is commited to follow up on the outcomes and recommendations of the different debates.
The Commission proposes to officially launch the Conference on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 – 70 years after the signing of the Schuman Declaration and 75 years after the end of the Second World War.
EU and 16 WTO members agree to work together on an interim appeal arbitration arrangement
EU and Ministers from 16 Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have agreed to develop a multi-party interim appeal arrangement that will allow the participating WTO members to preserve a functioning and two-step dispute settlement system at the WTO in disputes among them. This initiative was launched in mid-December 2019 by the EU and a number of other WTO members following the effective paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body, due to the blockage of any new appointments since 2017.
Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “This statement testifies to the high importance that the EU and the participating WTO members attach to retaining a two-step dispute settlement process in WTO trade matters. The multiparty appeal arbitration arrangement will guarantee that the participating WTO members continue to have access to a binding, impartial and high-quality dispute settlement system among them. Let me underline again that this remains a contingency measure needed because of the paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body. We will continue our efforts to seek a lasting solution to the Appellate Body impasse, including through necessary reforms and improvements.”
The multi-party interim arrangement will be based on Article 25 of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU). It will secure the participating WTO members (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland, and Uruguay) an effective and binding dispute settlement process for potential trade disputes among them.
The arrangement is a contingency measure and it will only apply until the WTO Appellate Body becomes operational again. The EU believes that an independent and impartial appeal stage, giving the necessary guarantees of rulings of the highest quality, must continue to be one of the essential features of the WTO dispute settlement system.
EU steps up support in Nigeria for conflict victims
As millions of people continue to be affected by the conflict in Nigeria’s Lake Chad region, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič has announced a first emergency aid package of €26.5 million for 2020 whilst visiting north-east Nigeria today.
Speaking in north-east Nigeria, an area devastated by the violence of armed groups, Commissioner Lenarčič said: “I saw first-hand today the suffering that conflict has brought to people’s lives and how crucial humanitarian aid is to people’s survival. What matters most is that humanitarian organisations can reach all the people in need, without restrictions, including in areas under the influence of non-state armed groups. It is vital that all States and parties to armed conflicts respect their obligation to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief. It is also key to implement in parallel a comprehensive strategy in the region, exploring political tracks while addressing the root causes of conflict.”
The EU’s new aid package will provide food aid, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, shelter, basic primary healthcare and education for children caught up in this conflict. The EU is one of the leading donors of humanitarian and development aid in Nigeria with more than €830 million provided since 2014.
Commissioner Lenarčič is also meeting several high-level government authorities in Nigeria to present the strong commitment of the incoming European Commission toward Africa, to discuss joint Nigerian and EU priorities for the next years and the situation in the Northeast of the Country.
The decade-long armed-group insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria continues to uproot civilians and deepen humanitarian needs. The conflict limits people’s access to food, basic services and livelihood opportunities. Close to 2 million people have fled their homes in search of safety. 7.7 million people need humanitarian assistance and close to 3 million people are suffering from food shortages. Furthermore, 1.2 million people in need remain cut off from humanitarian aid in hard-to-reach areas.
In Nigeria, the EU is bringing together humanitarian and development aid on some projects to build fragile communities’ long-term resilience and offer them social protection through a more long-term and holistic approach. The EU also aims at building long-term resilience through its development assistance addressing the underlying causes of violent conflict – and by supporting basic services and helping people to support themselves.
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