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Insights Brussels April 2014
 

Insights Brussels April 2014

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Learn about the latest policy developments with this monthly alert from our team in Brussels.

Learn about the latest policy developments with this monthly alert from our team in Brussels.
For real-time updates, follow us on Twitter: @MSL_Brussels

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Insights Brussels April 2014 Insights Brussels April 2014 Document Transcript

  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 INSIGHTS BRUSSELS. April 2014.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 SECTORAL POLICIES.................................................................................................4 Agriculture And Fisheries .................................................................................................................4 The European Commission sets its guidelines for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy................... 4 Defence and Security Policy...............................................................................................................4 Defence ministers discuss the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis............................................................................ 4 Energy and Environment...................................................................................................................5 The European Commission presents new State Aid rules for the energy sector................................................................. 5 Obama calls on EU to reduce Energy dependency on Russia...................................................................................... 6 The European Parliament endorses nuclear safety rules.............................................................................................. 6 Financial Services..............................................................................................................................7 The European Parliament adopts payment services package....................................................................................... 7 Agreement reached to improve information on investment products............................................................................. 7 The European Parliament adopts new rules on non-financial corporate reporting ........................................................ 8 Food and Beverage .............................................................................................................................8 Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals ......................................................................................................9 The European Commission launches a public consultation on mhealth........................................................................ 9 The European Commission approves a Joint Procurement Agreement for vaccines and medicines............................ 9 Information and Communication Technology................................................................................ 10 The European Parliament voted on ‘connected continent package’............................................................................ 10 EU definitively adopts the directive for a common mobile charger .............................................................................. 11 The European Commission launched a network for “MOOC” ..................................................................................... 11 Transport...........................................................................................................................................11 The European Parliament regulates noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports ............................................. 11 The European Commission intends to regulate the use of civil drones ....................................................................... 12 The European Commission wants to improve road haulage ....................................................................................... 13
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 CROSS-SECTORAL POLICIES.................................................................................. 14 Competition ...................................................................................................................................... 14 MEPs and consumers association unsatisfied with Google’s proposition ................................................................... 14 Consumers ........................................................................................................................................ 15 Consumers summit on digital age and data protection................................................................................................ 15 The EU Court of Justice rules against additional costs in payment instruments......................................................................... 15 Intellectual Property Rights ............................................................................................................ 16 European Commission’s White Paper on copyright still expected in June .................................................................. 16 International Trade.......................................................................................................................... 16 Obama’s visit to Brussels relaunches enthusiasm on TTIP......................................................................................... 16 Chinese President also push for a EU-China Free Trade Agreement...................................................................................... 17 Research and Development.............................................................................................................. 17 The European Parliament debates on research on embryonic stem cells................................................................... 17 Taxation ........................................................................................................................................... 18 The European Council formally adopts savings taxation directive............................................................................... 18 The European Commission launches two public consultations on tax issues ............................................................. 18
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 SECTORAL POLICIES The European Commission sets its guidelines for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy On 2 April, the European Commission published a “Special declaration” on the way it intends to implement the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform. Contrary to what has been adopted last December, the declaration essentially dilutes the measures which were originally meant to oblige all farmers to set aside 5% of their land for an “ecological focus areas” (EFAs). In the coming months the Commission will issue further interpretative notes that will make the EFA requirements easier to meet. The aim of this measure was to stimulate biodiversity but many stakeholders opposed the rule because it would reduce farmer’s productive capacity. On 14 April, by the 28 European Ministers of Agriculture the guidelines were backed. Farmer’s representatives and several MEPs welcomed the changes while environmental associations and the Greens strongly criticized the Commission for this choice. Defence and Security Policy Defence ministers discuss the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis On 15 April, the 28 European Defence Ministers and the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, met in Luxembourg to discuss the recent developments related to the Russian involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. According to European Defence Ministers, the crisis could lead to reinforce European defence policies and to boost the four main research programmes of the European Defence Agency: refuelling aircraft, drones, secure communication satellites and cybersecurity. The need for more effective European defence policies has also been stressed by the United States President Barack Obama during his visit in Brussels on 26 March. Obama expressed concerns about the declining “trend lines” in Agriculture And Fisheries
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 European defence spendings and reminded his European partners that “freedom is not for free”. Although political attention toward this issue is high, progresses in cooperation are slow and the overall strategy remains still vague. Observers remark that there are no recent updates on the operational roadmap for maritime security that the European Council is expected to adopt next June.  June 2014: Adoption of an EU maritime Security Strategy by the Council Energy and Environment The European Commission presents new State Aid rules for the energy sector On 9 April, the European Commission adopted its new guidelines on State Aid for energy and the environment, after several weeks of Member States’ and stakeholders’ consultation. The new guidelines reflect developments on the increasingly competitive renewables market. According to the Commission, the way renewables are supported by public resources has created distortions of competition within Member States and between countries. Under the new provisions, Member States will now have to take into account three funding criteria to ensure the grant of state aid to a company: the expected impact on GHG reduction of the project; the ability to upgrade environmental standards; the capacity to accelerate the use of clean technologies in the market. The guidelines recognize in particular two important sectors eligible for state aid: cross- border energy infrastructure and capacity mechanisms meant to secure adequate electricity generation. The new guidelines induce also major changes for renewable producers. From 1 January 2015, they will have to sell their electricity directly on the market, although they will be eligible for aid in the form of premiums. The guidelines also introduce gradual competitive procedures for the grant of public aid to renewables projects with the view to become mandatory from 2017. Last, the new guidelines exempt until January 2018 high electricity-using industries to finance support programmes for renewable energy. This provision reflects intensive lobbying by Berlin and Paris to safeguard the competitiveness of their energy-intensive industries. The European Parliament’s Green party, as well as environmentalists considered this measure disproportionate and think this will be eventually detrimental to small consumers.  2015: electricity producers sell directly on the market 2017: deadline for mandatory competitive procedures for the grant of public aid 2018: deadline for the partial exemptions of electricity- using industries
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 Obama calls on EU to reduce Energy dependency on Russia On 26 March in Brussels, the President of the United States Barack Obama promised to increase cooperation with the EU on energy issues. The diplomatic crisis with Russia highlighted the need for Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian imports of energy. Currently, the EU imports around 35% of its oil and 32% of its gas from Russia. According to the Visegrád Group (an alliance of four Central European countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), these figures are much higher for Central and Eastern European countries (on average 70% of their total gas imports are provided by Russia). While the talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are still ongoing, Europe calls on the US to authorize more licenses for export into the open market. On that point the EU wants the US to increase its exports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Currently, US law authorizes targeted energy exports only to countries with which the US have free trade agreements. During his speech in Brussels, President Obama stated in this regard that there are ways to “accelerate the process of diversification”. He also underlined that Europe should not only rely on the US but also focus on the development of indigenous sources. Referring to shale gas, President Obama said that “every possible energy source has inconveniences”. The US have become an energy exporter thanks to hydraulic fracturing technique over the past ten years. Questioned on this issue by a German journalist, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger stated: “We have to consider the option of fracking in order to replace Russian gas”. The European Commission intends to present in June a roadmap on European energy Independence. Energy issues will also be at the heart of the next round of TTIP negotiations that will take place in June in Washington.  June: EU Roadmap on energy dependency June: 5th round of TTIP negotiations The European Parliament endorses nuclear safety rules On 2 April, the European Parliament supported the framework adopted by the European Commission reviewing the directive on nuclear safety. The Parliament, which has no co-decision powers on nuclear issues by virtue of the Euratom Treaty broadly lent its support through the adoption of a Parliamentary resolution (438 votes in favour, 154 against and 37 abstentions). The new directive will make it mandatory for Member States to undertake peer reviews of the safety of their plants every six years. Green MEPs and environmentalists criticized the results of the vote, claiming that the adopted text is “scarcely binding” and “will not give the necessary competence to nuclear safety authorities to stop operators from taking unnecessary risks”.  End 2015: deadline for the transposition of the directive into national law
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 Financial Services The European Parliament adopts payment services package On 3 April, the European Parliament adopted the regulation on multilateral interchange fees (MIFs) and the revised payments directive (PSD2). On the MIFs regulation, substantial modifications in the text were introduced during the vote in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON). MEP’s decided to include commercial cards in the scope of the regulation while the so called principle of “honour all cards” rule was removed. This rule required merchants handling one of a major card’s to accept all of the same network’s cards. The new regulation aims to introduce caps to fees that can be applied to debit or credit cards. Fees cannot exceed 0,3% of the amount of the transaction for credit cards while debit card will have a ceiling of 0,2% or a maximum of 0,07 Euros. Even though there is no evidence that the cap would directly reduce costs for consumers the European Consumers Organization welcomed the vote. The PSD2 directive remained similar to the Commission’s proposal. The directive introduces provisions prohibiting most card surcharges (additional fee charged when purchasing), decreasing consumers’ liability in fraud and strengthening security. Despite this vote, it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached with the Council before the upcoming elections.  Autumn 2014: start of negotiations with the Council 2015: possible final adoption of the directive Agreement reached to improve information on investment products On 15 April, the European Parliament confirmed the agreement reached with the Council and the Commission on a set of rules to enhance consumer’s awareness when purchasing packaged retail investment products (PRIPs). The new regulation make it compulsory to enclose a “Key Information Document” (KID) for retail investment products. The aim of this regulation is to provide small investors tools to assess risks and costs related to an investment product. Furthermore, on Parliament’s request, new provisions have been included in the package to oblige retailers to warn consumers when buying a complex product. However, the application of this measure will depend on national supervision so that its implementation may be not harmonised at EU level. MEPs did not succeed in including pension products and corporate bonds in the deal. Consumer organizations welcomed the deal stating that this would increase transparency in transactions. The Council has now to formally adopt the text.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 A recent study published by the Commission estimates that PRIPs market generated around 10 trillion Euros in 2012.  May-June: Formal Endorsement by the Council The European Parliament adopts new rules on non-financial corporate reporting On 15 April, the European Parliament sitting in plenary session approved by a large majority a directive on disclosure of non-financial information. Companies considered of “public interest” and having more than 500 employees will have to publish information concerning their social and environmental policies, as well as the respect of human rights, anti-corruption and bribery issues on their board of directors. According to the Commission the new rules will apply for around 6000 companies in Europe.  May-June: Formal endorsement by the Council Fall 2014: Publication in the official journal of the EU Food and Beverage Agreement reached on new rules for the promotion of agri-food products On 15 April, the European Parliament confirmed the political agreement reached with the Council and the Commission on a new programme for the promotion of agri-food products within the internal market and in third countries. Under the provisions adopted, the Commission will provide €883 million between 2014 and 2020 to co-finance promotion and information campaigns on European agri-food products. The EU aid can reach between 70% and 80% of the cost of selected campaigns depending on whether applicants are from a single European country or from several Member States. The Commission believes that each euro spent in this programme would generate €35 in return. All agricultural products and processed products are eligible including beers, chocolate, bread, pastry, pasta, salt or corn. The case of wines was originally excluded from the Commission’s proposal but MEPs supported its inclusion with a protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI) for wines. The Council has now to formally adopt the text.  May-June: Formal Endorsement by the Council 1st December 2015: The program starts to apply
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals The European Commission launches a public consultation on mhealth On 10 April, the European Commission launched a public consultation on existing barriers and issues related to the use of mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) in the context of health prevention and care. Mhealth applications already help patients in a large number of daily situations such as measuring vital signals, providing fitness and dietary recommendations or reminding to take a given medication. With a view to raise stakeholders’ awareness on EU rules on data protection, medical devices and consumer legislation, the Commission has also released a preliminary review of the EU legislation applicable to lifestyle and wellbeing apps. The aim of the public consultation is to collect informations in order to address issues such as: The safety of mHealth apps and concerns over the use of data; The lack of interoperability among available solutions; The lack of knowledge of the legal requirements applicable to wellbeing apps and the conditions under which they should comply with data protection rules; The “nature” of these apps in the healthcare legal framework and the extent to which it should be considered as medical devices requiring the “CE” marking The EU is also funding research on mHealth; and according to the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes €95 Million will be invested to finance projects during the next two years. The public consultation will run until 3 July.  3 July: deadline for the public consultation Fall 2014: Publication of the responses 2015: Follow-up on Commission’s proposal The European Commission approves a Joint Procurement Agreement for vaccines and medicines On 10 April, the European Commission approved a joint procurement agreement that will allow Member States to purchase jointly pandemic vaccines and other medical countermeasures. All Member States except Germany already declared their intention to sign the agreement. The new mechanism is voluntary and does not imply any financial commitment. Through the Joint Procurement Agreement, any EU country can make a proposal to others to procure medicines together.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 This decision reflects the lessons learned from the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009 (popularly known as ‘swine flu’). At the time, many Member States had to buy large quantities of vaccines at non-competitive prices in order to face a pandemic warning issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). The agreement will enter into force two weeks after being signed by a third of the participating Member States and the Commission.  2014: Ratification by Member States The European Parliament voted on ‘connected continent package’ On 3 April, the European Parliament set down its position in plenary session on a single telecoms market (the so-called “connected continent package”) ahead of the opening of negotiations with the Council of European Ministers. On the flagship measure of roaming fees, Members of the European Parliament voted in favour of scraping roaming charges for mobile phones from 15 December 2015. This obligation would apply for voice, text and data services. MEPs included nevertheless an exemption: if consumers use roaming services to excess, capped charges could exceptionally be imposed. On the sensitive issue of net neutrality, the European Parliament supported amendments to the initial proposal from the European Commission to include the principle of net neutrality in the new rules and to shorten the list of exemptions for slowing down Internet access and services (limited to the cases of court order enforcement, network security or prevention of temporary network congestion). Under the new provisions, internet access providers would be banned from slowing down or blocking particular services. Supporters of the net neutrality, spearheaded by La Quadrature du Net, Green and Socialists groups in the European Parliament, as well as the European Commissioner for digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, warmly welcomed the outcomes of the vote. The package was approved with a large majority (534 MEPs in favour, 25 against and 58 abstaining) on first reading before and will be eventually adopted by the next Parliament. The Council of Ministers will adopt its position in the coming months prior to a final agreement, expected between now and the end of 2015.  Mid-2014: Council position on connected continent package By End 2015: final adoption of the package expected Information and Communication Technology
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 EU definitively adopts the directive for a common mobile charger On 14 April, the Council of European Ministers adopted the directive on harmonisation of rules for placing on the internal market equipment that use radio spectrum. The directive seeks to prevent harmful interference from a whole set of devices (mobiles phones, modems, digital keys for cars). This directive also includes the famous measures requiring mobile phone manufacturers to produce and use a common charger throughout the Union by 2017. The European Parliament already endorsed an agreement on 13 March. Member states will have now two years to transpose the rules into their national laws and manufacturers will have an additional year to comply.  2016: deadline for the transposition into national law 2017: deadline for manufacturers to comply The European Commission launched a network for “MOOC” On 27 March, the European Commission launched a network of providers of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) related to web and apps skills. MOOCs are quality university courses online available to all. The new network aims to map the demand for web-related skills across Europe and to promote the use of MOOCs for capacity-building in those fields. According to the European Commission, Web- related industry is generating more economic growth than any other part of the European economy, but hundreds of thousands of jobs remain unfilled due to the lack of qualified staff.  April: opening of the network for MOOC providers Mid-2014: opening of the network for participants Transport The European Parliament regulates noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports On 16 April, the European Parliament definitively approved the agreement reached with the Council of Ministers to grant a prominent role to regional and national authorities in defining restrictions for noise-related operations at EU airports, whilst ensuring that people living nearby should be better informed. The regulation also addresses noise-related health problems. Meanwhile EU members will continue to have the final say in this field despite the major impact of the upcoming European legislation. This agreement concluded the legislative process initiated by the European Commission in December 2011 which originally aimed at establishing new rules governing decision-
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 making process on aircraft noise bringing EU law into line with international principles. These legislative changes are likely to increase the importance of grassroots lobbying strategies implemented by the Aircraft industry, NGOs and other interested parties.  May: publication in the EU official journal 2016: entry into force of the regulation The European Commission intends to regulate the use of civil drones On 8 April, the European Commission presented a set of new standards to regulate the operations of civil drones. The civil drone market is expected to grow significantly with an estimated share of 10% of the aviation market in 2024 representing €15 billion per year. National rules, however, differ considerably from one Member State to another and industry representatives are calling for more legal certainty. In its communication, the European Commission seeks to address in particular the issues raised on safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability: On safety issues, the European Commission called the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to examine the standards in order to ensure that the use of drones guarantee an equivalent level of safety to 'manned' aviation operations; On privacy issues, the European Commission want data protection authorities to monitor the subsequent collection and processing of personal data. The Commission will assess how to ensure data protection rules apply fully to remotely piloted aircraft and propose changes or specific guidance where it is needed; On security issues, the European Commission wants that EASA proposes specific legal obligations for all players concerned so that the risk of drones being used for terrorist ends is reduced; On liability and insurance, the current third- party insurance regime has been established mostly in terms of manned aircraft, where mass (starting from 500kg) determines the minimum amount of insurance. The Commission will assess the need to amend the current rules to take into account the specificities of remotely piloted aircraft. With a view to address more formally these issues, the European Commission will open in the coming months a public consultation and undertake an impact assessment analysis, in an effort to formulate legislative proposals. All this work aims to meet the stated objective of the European Council of December 2013 to ensure the progressive integration of drones into airspace as from 2016.  May: EASA examines safety and security issues Mid-2014: public consultation and impact assessment 2016: deadline for drones’ integration into airspace
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 The European Commission wants to improve road haulage On 14 April, the European Commission published a report calling for simplification and clarification of EU rules on road haulage. The report in particular calls for the Member States to step up their efforts in enforcing existing legislation more effectively and consistently; support the need to better apply social rules in road transport if the sector is to attract new drivers, and be able to handle the expected future demand for freight transport; and stress the opportunity given to the EU to improve the efficiency of its economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The report concludes that while some progress has been made, removing the remaining restrictions would help the European economy and improve the environment. No legislative proposal is yet on the agenda to open up this market further but the current European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas will provide his successor with a set of options to improve the functioning of the market.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 CROSS-SECTORAL POLICIES Competition MEPs and consumers association unsatisfied with Google’s proposition On 31 March, the European Consumers’ Bureau (BEUC) presented an official complaint to the European Commission stating that the commitments offered by Google last February are insufficient to solve its abuse of dominant position. The dispute started in 2007 when Google was accused to manipulate its search algorithm to the detriment of potential competitors. Last February, the American internet giant made an offer. If Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia was willing to accept the deal, complainants companies worried that concessions made by Google would not address the matters and could quickly become obsolete considering the evolution of the sector. Complainants request to make Google’s algorithm more transparent or to regulate search-engines. Concerns were also raised by members of the Committee for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECON) of the European Parliament during a hearing with Commissioner Almunia. According to observers, at least nine Commissioners are hostiles to the signature of the agreement including Commissioner for Internal Market Michel Barnier and Commissioner for energy Gunther Oettinger. On the other hand Commissioner Almunia would like to leave office with the issue being solved. The matter is extremely intricate, especially because if the Commission accepts the commitments, those would be binding for five years. In this case Google would be immune from European anti- trust law for a long period of time. A majority vote in the College of commissioners is required for the commitments to be accepted.  May-June: Commission’s expected final decision
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 Consumers Consumers summit on digital age and data protection On 1-2 April in Brussels, took place the European Consumer Summit 2014, the event focused on the topic of the digital economy. Even if the completion of the digital single market will not become effective in the near future, the summit aimed to debate on how consumers can fully benefit from this market. According to the Commission, once completed, the digital single market could benefit each European consumer €400 per year. Representatives from National governments and authorities, MEPs, but also consumers and business organizations attended the event hosted by Commissioners for Consumers Policy (Neven Mimica) and the digital agenda (Neelie Kroes). The summit focused on the following issues: How best consumers can benefit and contribute to the digital economy; How effective protection of online consumers rights can be assured; What skills modern consumers need (including the most vulnerable ones) to interact with the growing complexity of the digital landscape; How to promote a more consumer-oriented digital environment that could build up consumers trust.  March/April 2015: European consumers summit 2015 TheEUCourtofJusticerulesagainstadditionalcostsinpaymentinstruments On 9 April, the European Court of Justice ruled against an Austrian mobile service provider for an infringement of the directive on payments. The telecommunication company was opposing a decision from the Austrian court to ban the €3 fee that the service provider used to charge to users who decided to pay their bills through online banking or paper transfer. The court concluded that the directive gives Member States the right to limit or prohibit the right of the payee to levy charges on the payer in relation to a given payment instrument. This power is certainly applicable in the framework of a contract between a mobile phone service provider and a consumer. According to the Court, Members States may generally prohibit payees from levying charges on the payer whatever the payment instrument is in case the national legislation takes into account the need to encourage competition and the use of efficient payment instruments. The Austrian Supreme Court will now have to determine whether the national legislation is consistent with the above mentioned condition.  2014: Decision by the Austrian Supreme Court
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 Intellectual Property Rights European Commission’s White Paper on copyright still expected in June After the closing of the public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules in March, many observers expressed their concerns at a possible delay in the presentation of the White Paper on copyright, due to the record number of responses (11 000). The European Commission, however, confirmed that the timetable for early June will be respected, and will therefore put extra staff to the analysis of the responses. The White Paper will lay down the political and legislative priorities for the next few years on copyright in the age of Internet. Options for financial compensation for creators and private copy charges may also be included in the White Paper.  Early June: presentation of the White Paper on copyright International Trade Obama’s visit to Brussels relaunches enthusiasm on TTIP On 26 March, the President of the United States Barack Obama met in Brussels the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. During the press conference, Obama stressed the point that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will not weaken consumers or environmental protections. Since the beginning of the negotiations last July, public concerns have risen among Europe, in particular on the view that the agreement would lower the cost of regulation imposed to business by setting lower environmental or health standards. Furthermore Obama underlined his personal engagement to conclude the deal in a short delay. He agreed with the EU’s top officials that the core of the deal should be achieved before the end of the year. Both sides recognized that the TTIP is a “strategic tool” in the current international geopolitical framework and that a failure in the talks could be interpreted by other countries as a sign of weakness in the EU-US relations. According to high level negotiators the agreement should be wrapped up next year.  19-23 May: Fifth round of negotiations in Washington End of June: deadline for the public consultation on dispute settlement (ISDS) 2015: Final Agreement
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 ChinesePresidentalsopushforaEU-ChinaFreeTradeAgreement On 31 March, the Chinese president Xi Jinping met in Brussels the Presidents of the three main European Institutions: Martin Schulz (European Parliament), Jose Manuel Barroso (European Commission) and Herman Van Rompuy (European Council). The first historical visit of a Chinese president to the European Institutions was made possible thanks to an easing in trade relations. Just three days ahead of this visit the Commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht put on hold an anti-dumping investigation concerning two majors Chinese telecommunication companies, while China terminated, just one week before, an investigation on European wines. Less than one year ago the EU and China were about to start a “trade war”. The aim of both parts is to deepen the EU-China strategic partnership that was signed in 2003 and that currently covers foreign policy, security, climate change and international economic governance. According to insiders, the Chinese delegation mentioned the question of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU which is currently the first trading partner for China. Europeans negotiators, on their side, think that it is too early and that there has to be progress on investment to prepare the field for a FTA but consider that the deal could be made in the “medium term”. Issues such as climate, human rights and the Ukrainian crisis have also been discussed during the meeting. Research and Development The European Parliament debates on research on embryonic stem cells On 10 April, Members of the European Parliament held a public debate following the presentation of the “One of Us” initiative. The initiative was supported by 1.7 million signatures in over 18 EU Member States requesting the end to European funding for both embryonic research and the support of abortion in development aid. For over four hours, four European Parliament committees battled between the arguments in favour and the arguments against, in front of various associations following the debate. The One of Us arguments certainly hit the mark with the conservative fringe of the European Parliament. But several associations and NGOs, supported by Liberal, Socialist and Green MEPs warned European decision-makers of the drifting that come about from an initiative brought by ultra conservative groups and anti-choices movements.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 The controversial issue will now pass to the next European Parliament, before the European Commission decides at the end of May whether or not to take legislative action on this subject.  28 May: Commission decides on legislative follow up Taxation The European Council formally adopts savings taxation directive On 24 March, the European Council formally adopted the draft revised saving tax directive. This dossier had been vetoed since 2008 by Austria and Luxembourg. The aim of the new directive is to fill gaps in saving taxation in order to tackle tax evasion. The new directive will expand the field of application of the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEI) to many types of financial products like life-insurance, pensions or investment funds. Currently, the AEI is applied only to interest payments on savings to non-residents and involves 26 Member States. During a transition period, Austria and Luxembourg will be allowed to levy a 35% tax at source rather than joining the AEI. Furthermore Luxembourg announced that it will end banking secret starting from 1January 2015. According to observers, Austria and Luxembourg lifted their veto because the Commission seems close to conclude a similar agreement with five European countries considered as “tax havens” (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco). The EU Commissioner for Taxation Algirdas Semeta expects a deal to be reached with these five countries by the end of the year. OECD Members States are expected to introduce new AEI standard next May while revised directive need to be transposed into national legislation by January 2016 and come into force in 2017.  15 April: Publication in the official journal May: OECD introduces new AEI Standards 1 January: end of banking secret in Luxembourg January 2016: deadline for transposition of the directive into national legislation 2017: Entry into force of the regulation The European Commission launches two public consultations on tax issues On 10 April, the European Commission launched two public consultations to collect informations on taxation issues that European citizens may face across Europe. The Commission’s final aim is to eliminate expenses or administrative burdens that European citizens living or investing in another EU country have to face. The first public consultation covers general tax problems EU citizens may face while living abroad.
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014 The second one focusses on border inheritance rights. Furthermore the Commission decided to set up an expert group which will be in charge of examining good practices within Member States in order to avoid cases of double taxation. The expert group task will also include the identification of other taxes that may have a dissuasive effect on mobility within the Union like vehicles taxation or e-commerce for instance.  3 July: deadline for the public consultation
  • INSIGHTS BRUSSELS April 2014