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EU leaders to look ahead to common future at Sibiu summit

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On 9 May 2019, EU leaders will meet in Sibiu, as suggested by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address, to discuss the EU’s next strategic agenda for the period 2019-2024.

They will exchange views on the challenges and priorities for the EU for the years to come. The current agenda was agreed in June 2014 by the European Council and was shaped into the 10 political priorities of the Juncker Commission. Five years on, efforts to deliver on those priorities have brought tangible results for citizens, despite unpredicted difficulties along the way, which continue to pose serious challenges for our Union. Building on the policy recommendations for how Europe can shape its future presented last week, the Commission is today looking back at what has been accomplished over the past five years.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “When I took office, I said it was our last chance to show Europeans that their Union works for them. I have spent the last five years working tirelessly to deliver on the promises we made. In some areas, I believe we have surpassed expectations, in others, we may have fallen short of them. But I believe we have always acted where it counts the most. Now the EU must look forward, learning from our experiences and building on its successes. We must be even more ambitious and focused than ever before.”

A strong track record

The Juncker Commission’s 10 priorities focused on the things that matter most to Europeans: bringing back jobs, growth and investment, strengthening social fairness, managing migration, mitigating security threats, unlocking the potential of the digital and energy transitions, making the EU a stronger global actor, and reinforcing transparency and democratic legitimacy.

By summer 2018, the Juncker Commission had tabled all of the legislative proposals it committed to at the start of its mandate. In total, the Commission made 471 new legislative proposals and carried over an additional 44 presented by previous Commissions. Of these, 348 proposals have been adopted or agreed by the European Parliament and the Council during the current mandate.

The Commission has today published a series of 20 factsheets demonstrating how the EU managed to deliver on the commitments taken in 2014 in the European Council’s strategic agenda and in the Juncker Commission’s 10 political priorities.

Looking forward

Last week, the European Commission set out a number of policy recommendations for how Europe can shape its future in an increasingly multipolar and uncertain world. The Commission recommended that the EU’s strategic agenda for 2019-2024 focus on 5 key dimensions:

a protective Europe because peace is power in today’s world;

a competitive Europe that invests in the technologies of tomorrow and supports our greatest assets: the single market, our industry and our common currency;

a fair Europe that upholds our fundamental principles of equality, the rule of law and social justice in the modern world;

a sustainable Europe that takes the lead on sustainable development and in fighting climate change;

and an influential Europe that seeks touphold and update the rules-based systemthat has served us so well for so long.

 EU27 leaders meeting in Sibiu can now draw on this to set new policy orientation and new priorities for the EU ahead of the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May 2019 and the change of political leadership of the EU institutions that will follow.

President Juncker will represent the European Commission at the informal meeting of EU27 Heads of State or Government in Sibiu on 9 May 2019. Preceding this, he will participate in a citizens’ dialogue alongside Romanian President Iohannis at 18:00 CET on 8 May 2019.

Commissioners Thyssen and Navracsics will also be in Sibiu, Romania to open the Youth Event ‘Let’s shape the future of Europe together‘ and attend the Award Ceremony of the #MySocialEurope photo competition. Commissioner Navracsics will also hand over awards to the monthly winners of the photo contest ‘My magical European Solidarity Corps moment’.

Background

Five years ago, the European Council defined a broad strategic agenda for the Union in times of change. This took further shape in the form of President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 10 political priorities, developed during his electoral campaign and in dialogue with Member States and the European Parliament. The Juncker Commission has since shown a strong track record of delivering on its strategic agenda.

The EU now needs new, ambitious, realistic and focused goals for the next political cycle.

In March 2017, ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the Commission published its White Paper on the Future of Europe. It outlined five possible scenarios for the EU’s future at 27. This was the starting point for a wide-ranging debate on the future of Europe, which now can inspire the main policy priorities of the next strategic agenda. Having engaged with citizens in nearly 1,600 citizens’ dialogues and citizens’ consultations.

In his 2017 State of the Union address, President Juncker unveiled a roadmap detailing the main steps towards a more united, stronger and more democratic Union. Building on this, national leaders met in Tallinn, Estonia, and agreed on a Leaders’ Agenda – a list of the most pressing issues and challenges for which solutions should be found, ahead of the European elections in 2019.

On 9 May 2019, EU leaders will meet in Sibiu, Romania, and are expected to mark the culmination of this process with a renewed commitment to an EU that delivers on the issues that really matter to people. They will reflect on our Union’s political aspirations and prepare the strategic agenda for the next five years.

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European Solidarity Corps: Three years on

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Tomorrow is the third anniversary of President Juncker’s 2016 State of the Union announcement to set up a European Solidarity Corps, offering young people the opportunity to take part in a wide range of solidarity activities across the EU.

Since then, more than 161,000 young people between 18 and 30 have signed up to join the Corps, and the initiative has made a difference in many people’s lives. Most of the activities funded offer opportunities to volunteer – individually or in teams. But young people can also benefit from traineeships and jobs. Moreover, young people themselves can set up solidarity projects where they initiate, develop and run activities to contribute to positive change in their community, while living abroad and gaining valuable skills.  

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “We have achieved a lot in the last three years. In record time we put in place a new programme opening up opportunities for young people and organisations to support others, helping us build a more cohesive, caring society. I am proud to see so many young people eager to get involved and active in projects on the ground. Their enthusiasm is truly inspiring. This is why I have proposed to extend and strengthen the European Solidarity Corps after 2020.”

Inclusion is one of the most common topics tackled by European Solidarity Corps projects but not the only one. Other topics are youth work, climate change, community development, citizenship, education and culture. Tens of thousands more opportunities are expected to be created in the following months and years in these fields. Moreover, one in three of the activities funded by the European Solidarity Corps are reserved for participants with fewer opportunities who face obstacles such as disabilities, educational difficulties, or economic, social or geographical obstacles.

For instance, in Latvia, a project entitled “A special place for special people” promotes the integration of young people with disabilities into the labour market by employing them and involving them in all the activities of a social enterprise café in Riga. In Greece, volunteers help protect the forest of Xylokastro and Derveni by taking care of watering and planting trees, as well as cleaning the forest paths. And in Sweden, through the project “Climate Awareness”, volunteers learn about climate change and biodiversity by helping in the organic garden and ecovillage and participating in outreach activities. As an example of a project initiated by volunteers themselves, in Lithuania, five participants from a centre for disabled young people set up their own Solidarity Coffee project, enabling them to form new friendships and build personal connections with the wider community.

Background

In his State of the Union address of September 2016, President Juncker announced the creation of a European Solidarity Corps, providing opportunities for young Europeans to engage in solidarity activities and contribute to society as part of the Commission’s broader strategy to invest in young people. The Corps responds to a real interest among young people to engage in social projects. In a Eurobarometer survey published in spring 2019, more than half of the young respondents said they had participated in volunteering activities or local community projects. Three in four stated that they had been engaged in organised movements or volunteering.

A mere 3 months after President Juncker’s announcement, on 7 December 2016, the Solidarity Corps was launched, with the aim of having 100,000 young people taking part by the end of 2020. During an initial phase, eight different EU funding programmes were mobilised to offer volunteering, traineeship or job opportunities.

On 30 May 2017, the Commission put forward a proposal to equip the European Solidarity Corps with a single legal base, its own financing mechanism and a broader set of solidarity activities. The new Regulation came into force on 5 October 2018 and the Corps has its own budget of €375.6 million until 2020.

The first calls for proposals were launched in August and November 2018, creating some 20,000 new opportunities. Another call for proposals is currently open, with an application deadline of 1 October 2019, and is set to create another 7,000 opportunities. This call invites organisations with a quality label to apply for grants and set up projects for young people to volunteer, work or go on traineeships. Groups of young people can also apply to run a solidarity project themselves. Young people interested in taking part in a funded project can directly sign up on the European Solidarity Corps Portal.

On 11 June 2018, the Commission put forward its proposal for the European Solidarity Corps under the EU’s next long-term budget 2021-2027, allocating €1.26 billion to enable about 350,000 young people to go on a solidarity placement over seven years.

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The European Union continues to lead the global fight against climate change

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The European Commission today adopted a Communication reaffirming the EU’s commitment to accelerated climate ambition. Preparing for the Climate Action Summit by the United Nations Secretary General in New York on 23 September, the Commission recalls that the European Union has been at the forefront of global climate action, negotiating an inclusive international framework to respond to this challenge, while acting domestically with unity, speed and decisiveness. The EU has put concrete actions behind its Paris Agreement commitments, in line with the Juncker Commission priority of establishing an Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy.

Commission Vice-president for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: “With the Paris Agreement, for the first time all parties committed to reduce emissions. Now we must make sure these reductions are timely enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. The European Union will bring to New York the fruit of our work on the Energy Union: a realistic perspective of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, backed by ambitious policies set in binding legislation. The EU has ensured that all sectors contribute to the transition. At the Climate Action Summit, we hope our plans will inspire other countries, and we hope to be inspired. Our message is simple: Europe delivers.

Commissioner for Climate Action and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete said: “The European Union has a powerful story to tell at the UN Climate Summit later this month. We are a global climate leader and our climate action is an outstanding example of delivery, including in the context of our Long Term Strategy process. The EU’s approach is to ensure that climate ambition is not only about headline targets, but about actual delivery on our promises, about making sure that objectives will be fulfilled and emissions reductions will happen. As shown by the EU-wide survey published today, our approach has a very strong mandate from our citizens. I am proud to share these messages also in New York.”

The European Union is the first major economy to put in place a legally binding framework to deliver on its pledges under the Paris Agreement and it is successfully transitioning towards a low emissions economy, with a view to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Ambitious climate action enjoys strong democratic support. According to the latest special Eurobarometer on climate change as published today, 93% of Europeans believe that climate change is a serious problem.

Moreover, the EU and its member states, true to their commitment to multilateral action rooted in science, are actively preparing to communicate by early 2020 a long-term strategy with the objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, as proposed by the Commission. The Commission presented its vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy in November 2018 and a large majority of member states endorsed this vision in June 2019. According to the Eurobarometer, 92% of Europeans supported making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. Under the Paris Agreement, all parties have to present a long-term strategy by 2020.

Background

The EU continues to deliver on its commitments:

The EU has the most comprehensive and ambitious legislative framework on climate action in place and it is successfully transitioning towards a low emissions economy, aiming at climate neutrality by 2050 – between 1990 and 2017 its greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 23% while the economy grew by 58%.

The EU has already over-achieved its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and has completed its unique binding legislative framework that will allow us to over-deliver on our climate targets for 2030. At the same time, the EU Adaptation Strategy has encouraged national, regional and local adaptation action since 2013.

Conscious that our emissions make up only around 9% of the global total, the EU is continuing its outreach and cooperation, financial and technical, to all partner countries. The EU remains the world’s leading donor of development assistance and the world’s biggest climate finance donor. Providing over 40% of the world’s public climate finance, the EU and its Member States’ contributions have more than doubled since 2013, exceeding EUR 20 billion annually.

Strong support from citizens

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, the Commission carried out a special Eurobarometer on climate action and energy, which shows that in all EU Member States, citizens overwhelmingly support action taken to fight climate change, and want the EU and national leaders to increase their ambitions in this regard and strengthen Europe’s energy security.

The Eurobarometer shows that 93% of Europeans believe that climate change is a ‘serious problem’, and 79% see it as a ‘very serious problem’. Compared with the last Eurobarometer in 2017, climate change has overtaken international terrorism in being perceived as the second most serious problem facing the world today, after poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water.

The proportion of European citizens who have taken personal action to fight climate change has increased in all EU Member States to an EU wide average of more than nine in ten citizens (93%). The Eurobarometer results also show a demand for national governments to step up their own targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy (92%), and to give more public funding to renewable energy (84%). A strong majority of Europeans (72%) feel that reducing energy imports will have a positive impact on the economy and energy security, and 92% believe that EU must secure access to energy for all EU citizens.

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EU leading in global agri-food trade

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In a report published today, the EU confirms for yet another year its position as largest global exporter of agri-food products, with EU exports reaching €138 billion in 2018.

Agriculture products represent a solid share of 7% of the value of EU total goods exported in 2018, ranking fourth after machinery, other manufactured goods and chemicals. Agriculture and the food related industries and services together provide almost 44 million jobs in the EU. The food production and processing chain accounts for 7.5% of employment and 3.7% of total value added in the EU.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development said: “The increasingly market-oriented Common Agricultural Policy has made a decisive contribution to the EU’s success in agricultural trade. The EU’s reputation for having safe, sustainably produced, nutritious and quality products is a winning formula in the global marketplace. The Commission is here to assist producers in taking full advantage of opportunities around the globe, while always making sure that our more sensitive sectors are provided with sufficient safeguards.”

The top five destinations for EU’s agri-food products continues to be the United States, China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia, accounting for 40% of EU exports. In addition to negotiating trade agreements that provide further opportunities for EU farmers, the European Commission helps EU exporters to enter new markets and benefit from business possibilities through promotion activities, including high-level missions led by Commissioner Hogan. In 2018 and 2019, Commissioner Hogan accompanied by EU producers travelled to China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Wines and vermouth continue to dominate the basket of exported products with spirits and liqueurs ranking second. Then come infant food and various food preparations, chocolate, pasta and pastry.

Regarding imports, the report concludes that the EU became the second biggest importer of agri-food products with €116 billion worth of imports. This brings the EU trade balance for this sector to a positive net of €22 billion.

The EU mainly sources three types of products: products that are not, or only to a small extent, produced in the EU such as tropical fruit, coffee and fresh or dried fruits (representing 23.4% of imports in 2018); products that are destined for animal feed (including oilcakes and soybeans – together 10.8% of imports); and products used as ingredients in further processing (such as palm oil).

Imports from the U.S. were the fastest growing in 2018, with an increase of 10%, which makes this country the EU’s top supplier of agri-food products.

The full report also includes an overview of the trade performance of the EU’s key partners (United States, China, Brazil, Japan, Russia) and their trade flows with the EU, as well as a chapter on trade and cooperation with Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

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