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EU-Jordan cooperation remains strong and diverse

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With 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of the European Union’s presence in Jordan, the partnership between the EU and Jordan remains strong and diverse.

Today, the report on the partnership between the European Union and Jordan for the period between June 2018 and April 2019 was released. It illustrates the excellent cooperation that the EU and Jordan maintained during that period and highlights progress in the key areas as defined in the EU-Jordan Partnership Priorities adopted in November 2016.

“The European Union is the main and the most reliable partner and supporter for Jordan and Jordanians. Now, as we have been in the past, and as we will be in the future.  Over the last year, we have stood by Jordan in addressing the country’s economic and social situation and in facing the repercussions of the neighbouring conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. Despite those challenges, Jordan managed to maintain internal stability and continued to play a wise, stabilising and moderating role in the region” said High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini.

The EU is convinced that the 5-year reform Matrix and the Renaissance/Nahda Plan for the years 2019-2020 will create more jobs and will develop an attractive environment for socio-economic actors, especially by investing in future generations. During each of my visits to Jordan, I have been struck by the creativity and energy of Jordanian people, women and men, who can definitely count on the true and diverse partnership with the EU” said Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.

During the reporting period, with regard to strengthening democratic governance, Jordan has recorded legislative improvements on the independence of the judiciary and on women’s rights. Specific actions under the policies launched by the new government aim at improving education and health, promoting investment and trade, empowering the judiciary and developing active citizenship,  closely reflecting EU-Jordan partnership priorities.

The presence of Syrian refugees continued to put pressure on Jordan’s economy, its scarce natural resources and its infrastructure. The EU maintained its critical role in supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan as well as hosting communities, mobilising almost €1.3 billion to help the country cope with the consequences of the Syrian crisis since 2011. The third Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” that the EU hosted in March 2019 confirmed the full support of the international community for Jordan, as shown by an overall increase in pledges compared to the previous year.

EU-Jordan cooperation also continued on foreign and security policy, private sector development and business environment, energy and resources management, transport and expanded on education, research and innovation and culture programs.

Over the past year, the EU has been striving to maintain a balance between supporting Jordan politically and financially and supporting reforms that will put the country on the path to self-reliance. The EU remains committed to support a secure, democratic and economically strong Jordan with a robust human rights-based governance system through policy dialogue, financial assistance and specific projects.

Background

EU-Jordan cooperation under the Partnership Priorities covers fields ranging from promoting economic stability and a better business environment, sustainable and knowledge-based growth, quality education and job creation to strengthening democratic governance, the rule of law and human rights, environment, climate change, culture and transport, strengthening cooperation on migration and mobility and on regional stability and security, including counter-terrorism.

Since 2011 and up to April 2019, the EU mobilised over €2.1 billion in financial support to Jordan, including almost €1.3 billion to help the country cope with the consequences of the Syrian crisis. This includes humanitarian aid, together with longer-term resilience and development support in areas such as education, livelihoods, water, sanitation and health, plus macro-financial assistance, addressed to Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities.

During the period covered by the report, multiple high-level bilateral meetings and visits took place. Those include the visit of His Majesty the King of Jordan to Brussels in December 2018, the visits of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides and the Chair of the European Union Military Committee to Jordan, and bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in April 2019. The EU-Jordan Association Committee in December 2018 was another opportunity to further deepen the dialogue on human rights and democracy, security, regional developments, economic reforms and the simplification of the Rules of Origin scheme. 

Continued EU-Jordan cooperation on foreign and security policy include Jordan’s participation in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and dialogue on counterterrorism, security, judicial cooperation, integrated border management (IBM), civil protection and disaster management.

Cooperation in the field of Research and Innovation was boosted by Jordan’s participation in the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), following the entry into forced of the International Agreement between the EU and Jordan in January 2018. 24 additional Jordanian researchers have also benefited from Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowships to pursue their research abroad, bringing the total number to 49 since 2014.

Cooperation on education and culture programs expended with the acceleration of scholarly exchanges through the Erasmus+ and EU Solidarity Corps programmes that link EU and Jordan youth. Over 1,700 Jordanians and Syrians in Jordan were given scholarships under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis to enable them to pursue academic degrees, vocational or language trainings and boost their employability. 

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Advancing the EU social market economy: adequate minimum wages for workers

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The Commission today proposes an EU Directive to ensure that the workers in the Union are protected by adequate minimum wages allowing for a decent living wherever they work. When set at adequate levels, minimum wages do not only have a positive social impact but also bring wider economic benefits as they reduce wage inequality, help sustain domestic demand and strengthen incentives to work. Adequate minimum wages can also help reduce the gender pay gap, since more women than men earn a minimum wage. The proposal also helps protect employers that pay decent wages to workers by ensuring fair competition.

The current crisis has particularly hit sectors with a higher share of low-wage workers such as cleaning, retail, health and long-term care and residential care. Ensuring a decent living for workers and reducing in-work poverty is not only important during the crisis but also essential for a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery.  

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today’s proposal for adequate minimum wages is an important signal that also in crisis times, the dignity of work must be sacred. We have seen that for too many people, work no longer pays. Workers should have access to adequate minimum wages and a decent standard of living. What we propose today is a framework for minimum wages, in full respect of national traditions and the freedom of social partners. Improving working and living conditions will not only protect our workers, but also employers that pay decent wages, and create the basis for a fair, inclusive and resilient recovery.”

Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “It is important to ensure that also low wage workers benefit from the economic recovery. With this proposal we want to make sure that workers in the EU earn a decent living wherever they work. Social partners have a crucial role to play in negotiating wages nationally and locally. We support their freedom to negotiate wages autonomously, and where this is not possible, we give a framework to guide Member states in setting minimum wages.”

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Almost 10% of workers in the EU are living in poverty: this has to change. People who have a job should not be struggling to make ends meet. Minimum wages have to play catch up with other wages which have seen growth in recent decades, leaving minimum wages lagging behind. Collective bargaining should be the gold standard across all Member States. Ensuring adequate minimum wages is written in black and white in Principle 6 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which all Member States have endorsed, so we are counting on their continued commitment.”

A framework for minimum wages in full respect of national competences and traditions

Minimum wages exist in all EU Member States.  21 countries have statutory minimum wages and in 6 Member States (Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden) minimum wage protection is provided exclusively by collective agreements. Yet, in the majority of Member States, workers are affected by insufficient adequacy and/or gaps in the coverage of minimum wage protection. In light of this, the proposed Directive creates a framework to improve the adequacy of minimum wages and for access of workers to minimum wage protection in the EU. The Commission’s proposal fully respects the subsidiary principle: it sets a framework for minimum standards, respecting and reflecting Member States’ competences and social partners’ autonomy and contractual freedom in the field of wages. It does not oblige Member States to introduce statutory minimum wages, nor does it set a common minimum wage level.

Countries with high collective bargaining coverage tend to have a lower share of low-wage workers, lower wage inequality and higher minimum wages. Therefore, the Commission proposal aims at promoting collective bargaining on wages in all Member States.

Countries with statutory minimum wages should put in place the conditions for minimum wages to be set at adequate levels. These conditions include clear and stable criteria for minimum wage setting, indicative reference values to guide the assessment of adequacy and regular and timely updates of minimum wages. These Member States are also asked to ensure the proportionate and justified use of minimum wage variations and deductions and the effective involvement of social partners in statutory minimum wage setting and updating.

Finally, the proposal provides for improved enforcement and monitoring of the minimum wage protection established in each country. Compliance and effective enforcement is essential for workers to benefit from actual access to minimum wage protection, and for businesses to be protected against unfair competition. The proposed Directive introduces annual reporting by Member States on its minimum wage protection data to the Commission. 

Background

President von der Leyen promised to present a legal instrument to ensure that the workers in our Union have a fair minimum wage at the start of her mandate and repeated her pledge in her first State of the Union address on 16 September 2020.

The right to adequate minimum wages is in Principle 6 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which was jointly proclaimed by the European Parliament, the Council on behalf of all Member States, and the European Commission in Gothenburg in November 2017.

Today’s proposal for a Directive is based on Article 153 (1) (b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) on working conditions. It follows a two-stage consultation of social partners carried out in accordance with Article 154 TFEU. The Commission’s proposal will now go to the European Parliament and the Council for approval. Once adopted, Member States will have two years have to transpose the Directive into national law.

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Commission proposes new ‘Single Window’ to modernise and streamline customs controls

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The European Commission has today proposed a new initiative that will make it easier for different authorities involved in goods clearance to exchange electronic information submitted by traders, who will be able to submit the information required for import or export of goods only once. The so-called ‘EU Single Window Environment for Customs‘ aims to enhance cooperation and coordination between different authorities, in order to facilitate the automatic verification of non-customs formalities for goods entering or leaving the EU.

The Single Window aims to digitalise and streamline processes, so that businesses will ultimately no longer have to submit documents to several authorities through different portals. Today’s proposal is the first concrete deliverable of the recently adopted Action Plan on taking the Customs Union to the next level. It launches an ambitious project to modernise border controls over the coming decade, in order to facilitate trade, improve safety and compliance checks, and reduce the administrative burden for companies.

Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy, said: “Digitalisation, globalisation and the changing nature of trade present both risks and opportunities when it comes to goods crossing the EU’s borders. To rise to these challenges, customs and other competent authorities must act as one, with a more holistic approach to the many checks and procedures needed for smooth and safe trade. Today’s proposal is the first step towards a fully paperless and integrated customs environment and better cooperation between all authorities at our external borders. I urge all Member States to play their part in making it a true success story.”

Each year, the Customs Union facilitates the trade of more than €3.5 trillion worth of goods. Efficient customs clearance and controls are essential to allow trade to flow smoothly while also protecting EU citizens, businesses and the environment. The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of having agile yet robust customs processes, and this will become ever more important as trade volumes keep on increasing and new challenges related to digitalisation and e-commerce, such as new forms of fraud, emerge.

Currently, the formalities required at the EU’s external borders often involve many different authorities in charge of different policy areas, such as health and safety, the environment, agriculture, fisheries, cultural heritage and market surveillance and product compliance. As a result, businesses have to submit information to several different authorities, each with their own portal and procedures. This is cumbersome and time-consuming for traders and reduces the capacity of authorities to act in a joined-up way in combatting risks.

Today’s proposal is the first step in creating a digital framework for enhanced cooperation between all border authorities, through one Single Window. The Single Window will enable businesses and traders to provide data in one single portal in an individual Member State, thereby reducing duplication, time and costs. Customs and other authorities will then be able to collectively use this data, allowing for a fully coordinated approach to goods clearance and a clearer overview at EU level of the goods that are entering or leaving the EU. 

This is an ambitious project that will entail significant investment at both EU and Member State level, in order to be fully implemented over the next decade or so. The Commission will support Member States in this preparation, where possible, including through funding from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to enable them to reap the full, long-term benefits of the Single Window. 

Background

The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 15% of the world trade. In 2018, almost 343 million customs declarations were handled by more than 2,000 EU customs offices, who collected €25.3 billion in customs duties.

The Single Window is part of the new Customs Union Action Plan, which sets out a series of measures to make EU customs smarter, more innovative and more efficient over the next four years. In her Political Guidelines, President von der Leyen announced plans for an integrated European approach to customs risk management, which supports effective controls by EU Member States. The measures will strengthen the Customs Union and enhance its ability to collect EU revenues and protect the security, health and prosperity of EU citizens and businesses.

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Commission opens infringements against Cyprus and Malta for “selling” EU citizenship

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Today, the European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes.

The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole.

The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.

Next steps

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice. If the replies are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion in this matter.

Background

Investor citizenship schemes allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment alone. These schemes are different to investor residence schemes (or “golden visas”), which allow third-country nationals, subject to certain conditions, to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country.

The conditions for obtaining and forfeiting national citizenship are regulated by the national law of each Member State, subject to due respect for EU law. As nationality of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to rights conferred by the Treaties, the Commission has been closely monitoring investor schemes granting the nationality of Member States.

The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and certain risks that are inherent in such schemes. As mentioned in the Commission’s report of January 2019, those risks relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption and the Commission has been monitoring wider issues of compliance with EU law raised by investor citizenship and residence schemes. In April 2020, the Commission wrote to the Member States concerned setting out its concerns and asking for further information about the schemes.

In a resolution adopted on 10 July 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment (CBI) or residency by investment (RBI) schemes as soon as possible. As stated by President von der Leyen in the State of the Union Address of 16 September 2020, European values are not for sale.

The Commission is also writing again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding an investor citizenship scheme operated by that Member State and requesting further details. The Bulgarian government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps.

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