Connect with us

EU Politics

EU continues to open up markets outside Europe in midst of rising protectionism

Published

on

Thanks to the European Union’s successful intervention, European companies generated €8 billion in additional exports in 2019. The high number of new restrictions that hinder EU exports shows however that protectionism has become deeply ingrained in global trade. These are some of the findings of the Commission’s annual Trade and Investment Barriers Report published today.

Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “Ensuring respect of the existing international trade rules is one of my top priorities. Our action to enforce trade rights and eliminate trade barriers brings tangible benefits for EU companies, including small ones. In 2019, our joint efforts regained for them €8 billion. Yet, we have also been facing a worrying sea change in world trade. Barriers affect EU export sectors of particular importance and obstacles spread across regions. While we focus all our efforts on the post-COVID economic recovery, this calls for new impetus to enforcement. It is essential to keep global trade flows open.”

Coordinated efforts by the Commission, Member States and EU business organisations in the framework of the Market Access Partnership, allowed European companies to regain in 2019 important export markets. This benefited among others EU farmers and food producers, for instance:

  • Beef exporters from France, Ireland and The Netherlands regained access to China; producers from Ireland and Croatia recovered access to Japan and Dutch pork producers can now export also to Mexico;
  • Polish producers of baby milk powder can now export again to Egypt;
  • Belgian pear producers regained access to the Mexican market.

However, EU companies face also a multiplication of new unlawful barriers in sectors of strategic importance for the EU, notably in information and communication technology, electronics, auto and other high-tech industries. The total number of existing trade barriers around the word amounts to 438, out of which 43 were introduced last year by 22 different countries. The highest number of trade restrictions concern access to the Chinese and Russian markets (respectively 38 and 31 measures). China also imposed the highest number of new restrictions in 2019, followed by South Mediterranean and Middle East countries.                                          

Background

The Commission’s Report on Trade and Investment Barriers has been published annually since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis. It is part of the Commission enforcement efforts in the area of international trade rules. The report offers a detailed analysis of the types of barriers causing most problems to EU’s companies and the sectors where results have been achieved.

The report is based on information reported by European companies. To increase awareness of the available export support, the Commission established the Market Access Days initiative, bringing together EU companies, national trade associations and trade experts from the Commission and Member States to discuss concrete market access problems on foreign markets. In 2019, sessions were held in the Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal, France and Latvia in which hundreds of companies participated.

Given the need to step up enforcement efforts in the area of trade, a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer will soon be nominated to coordinate and steer all EU enforcement actions. This will include the establishment of a single entry point for trade enforcement issues to respond faster and more effectively to trade restrictive practices by EU trading partners. Furthermore, on 16 June, the Commission launched of a public consultation to review EU trade policy, seeking among others proposals on how to improve EU enforcement efforts to help small businesses facing unjustified export restrictions in countries outside the EU.

Continue Reading
Comments

EU Politics

Towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen area

Published

on

The first ever Schengen Forum, convened today by the Commission, allowed for constructive exchanges towards building a stronger and more resilient Schengen area. The videoconference gathered Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers with the aim of fostering cooperation and political dialogue and rebuilding trust.  

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Today’s discussions showed a strong collective commitment to preserve and strengthen Schengen. For the last 35 years, we have built an entire Schengen architecture to better protect the area without controls at internal borders. And we must continue to build on and improve that architecture going forward.” 

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shown how much we need Schengen. Moving freely within the EU is a daily necessity for millions of Europeans for work or school for instance. It’s also crucial for companies transporting goods around Europe. Schengen can be our lifeline when it comes to Europe’s economic recovery post-coronavirus. That is why our discussions today on building a more resilient Schengen are so important.”  

The discussions focused on: 

Improving the mechanism to evaluate the implementation of the Schengen rules: Options for operational improvements as well as legislative changes to the mechanism were discussed for better monitoring, quicker and more efficient identification of possible deficiencies and effective follow up. 

Finding a way forward on the revision of the Schengen Borders Code: Participants discussed possible ways forward to improve the current Schengen rules, with the shared objective of overcoming existing internal border controls and ensuring that any possible reintroduction of controls at internal borders in the future is proportionate, used as a measure of last resort and for a limited period of time. 

Better managing the EU’s external borders: Participants stressed the need for quickly putting in place the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Traveller Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). These systems complement existing databases such as the Schengen Information System or the Visa Information System, which need to be used in full. The ongoing work towards ensuring that information systems for migration, border management and security become interoperable by 2023 was highlighted as crucial to give border guards the information they need to know who is crossing the EU’s borders. The deployment of the European Border and Coast Guard standing corps starting from January 2021 will also provide increased support to Member States’ border guards whenever and wherever needed. 

Enhancing police cooperation and information exchange: Common and coordinated European action, for instance through increased police cooperation, better information exchange and better use of new technologies, is crucial to guarantee security within the Schengen area. Police checks can also constitute an effective alternative to the reintroduction of border controls. Measures such as joint patrols, joint investigation teams, cross-border hot pursuits or joint threat analysis were discussed as being alternatives to effectively address threats to security.  

Strengthening the governance of the Schengen area: Regular meetings of the Schengen Forum, based on reports provided by the Commission, will help ensure the political involvement of all relevant players.  

Next steps  

Today’s discussions are the first step in an inclusive political debate towards building a stronger Schengen area based on mutual trust. They will feed into the Schengen Strategy that the Commission intends to present in mid-2021.  

Following today’s first videoconference, the Schengen Forum will continue to meet regularly both at political or technical levels. The next meeting of the Forum at political level will take place in spring 2021, ahead of the presentation of the Strategy for a stronger Schengen area. Targeted consultations at technical level will also take place with representatives from the European Parliament and national authorities over the next months.  

Background  

35 years ago, 5 Member States agreed to remove border controls between themselves. Today, the Schengen area encompasses 26 European States with over 400 million citizens and it is a key policy of the European Union. It underpins the seamless functioning of the EU internal market in goods and services and has allowed Europeans to organise their private and professional lives around unfettered travel around Europe. 

Schengen rules require an update to adapt them to evolving challenges. The pandemic, security concerns, and migration management issues have led Member States to reintroduce internal border checks. To address these challenges and build a more resilient Schengen area, the Commission announced in September this year the creation of a Schengen Forum to foster operational cooperation and stronger confidence in the rules.   

Continue Reading

EU Politics

MEPs condemn Turkey’s activities in Varosha, Cyprus, and call for sanctions

Published

on

Turkey’s decision to “open” the sealed-off suburb of Varosha undermines prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, warn MEPs.

In a resolution adopted by 631 votes in favour, 3 against and 59 abstentions, MEPs condemn Turkey’s illegal activities in the Varosha suburb of the city of Famagusta and warn that its partial “opening” weakens prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, exacerbating divisions and entrenching the permanent partition of the island.

MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984)) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement.

Tough sanctions against Turkey

A sustainable solution to reunify the island of Cyprus and its people can only be found through dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiations, MEPs stress. They call on the European Council to maintain its unified position on Turkey’s illegal actions and impose tough sanctions in response.

MEPS regret that the Turkish authorities have endorsed the two-state solution for Cyprus and reiterate their support for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with a single international legal status. They also call on the EU to play a more active role in bringing the negotiations under UN auspices to a successful conclusion.

Tense EU-Turkey relations

As Turkey distances itself more and more from European values and standards, EU-Turkey relations are at a historic low, warns Parliament. Its illegal and unilateral military actions in the Eastern Mediterranean infringe on the sovereignty of EU member states Greece and Cyprus. MEPs also point out Turkey’s direct support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as its actions in Libya and Syria.

Background

The Turkish army fenced off Varosha immediately after the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Greek Cypriots who fled from Varosha were not allowed to return and with public entry prohibited, Varosha has effectively become a ghost town.

Continue Reading

EU Politics

Commission and EBRD promote innovative use of data in public procurement involving EU funds

Published

on

The European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Open Contracting Partnership are joining forces to improve the quality and transparency of public tenders co-funded by EU funds in Greece and Poland. Thanks to their support, two pilot projects will provide expertise and hands-on support to public authorities in both countries, with a focus on digital innovation.

By promoting the smart use of innovation and open data, the two pilots will help public administrations to better plan, implement and monitor the procurement of works, goods and services. This will improve the use of public resources and increase opportunities for businesses, especially for small and medium companies (SMEs). Moreover, thanks to a cooperation with local civil society organisations, this initiative will also favour transparency of public spending and stimulate citizens’ participation in the monitoring of investments with a direct impact on the community, such as investments in sustainability, local development and social inclusion. 

The two pilot projects

  • In Greece, the project will aim at consolidating and integrating all databases into a single smart public contract register. This will enable online access for bidders and citizens, improve quality of data and facilitate the use of data-driven analytical tools for monitoring the procurement process.
  • In Poland, the initiative will support Polish national and local authorities to introduce open data in public procurement and promote automated collection, standardisation, and consolidation of procurement data on all tenders.

The two pilots will run until the end of 2021 and their results will be disseminated in order to ensure a successful roll out in other Member States.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “In the programming period 2021-2027, Cohesion policy will continue to support Member States and regions in their economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, as well as boosting competitiveness through new investments in research and innovation, digital transition and the implementation of the European Green Deal agenda. Through the use of new technologies, national and local public authorities managing EU funds will be able to spend public money more effectively ensuring the best possible results for citizens and businesses”.

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Transparency in public procurement is essential to ensure efficiency of public investments, in line with the EU strategic policy goals aiming at a greener, digital and more resilient Europe. Public authorities can rely on the EU’s public procurement framework, tools like the electronic procurement systems and open data for an efficient use of public funds.”

The EBRD Vice-President, Pierre Heilbronn commented: “The EBRD is committed to support legal and institutional reforms aimed at ensuring that procurement laws and practices are modern, in line with international standards and can swiftly respond to emerging challenges. Together with Open Contracting Partnership, we are sharing the experience of successful civil society procurement monitoring based on open data. Our joint efforts aim to create a framework for enlisting civil society organisations to support public procurement reforms and use open data to monitor procurement.”

Background

In the context of the next long-term EU budget, more than €370 billion from Cohesion policy funds will be invested to support the digital and green transitions of the Member States. Every year, public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP on public procurement, amounting to more than €1.9 trillion. Almost half of Cohesion policy funding is channelled through public procurement. The Commission has promoted a series of initiatives aimed at helping Member States to improve the way administrations and beneficiaries use public procurement for EU investments. These include the Integrity Pacts to ensure more efficient and transparent tenders and safeguarding EU taxpayers’ money. The Commission also took action to facilitate citizen engagement for better governance and effective Cohesion policy investments.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Central Asia23 mins ago

COVID-19 Prompts Urgency of Bridging Digital Divide in Central Asia

Almost half of the population in Central Asia is not digitally connected, missing out on employment opportunities, falling behind in learning and not receiving adequate...

Development2 hours ago

Building science, technology and innovation capacity in developing countries

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is contributing to a series of online training courses and workshops to build...

East Asia4 hours ago

Europe 1914- East Asia 2020: Similarities and Differences

Many scholars argue that what is happening between the major powers in East Asia at the present time is what...

East Asia6 hours ago

Beijing pushes Hong Kong towards a drastic fait accompli

Hong Kong’s liberal democracy faces an existential threat, more visible than any time in the past 23 years, as exemplified...

Tech News8 hours ago

Fintechs See Increased Growth as Firms Adapt to COVID-19

The World Economic Forum has today released results of a study on how the fintech industry has been impacted by...

Europe10 hours ago

Digital COVID-19 vaccine passports have arrived- why they are a bad idea

With the arrival of the first batches ofCOVID-19 vaccines at various countries, there have been a number of statements by...

International Law12 hours ago

The Third Way for De-Binarization of Foreign Policy Conduct

As the present world order weakens, the mega confrontations have appeared more likely: On its post-Soviet revival quest, Russia becomes...

Trending