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Thursday, 15 June 2017

EU Council: Uniform format for residence permits: Council confirms agreement on the update of security features in th...

Uniform format for residence permits: Council confirms agreement on the update of security features in the card

On 15 June 2017, EU ambassadors confirmed on behalf of the Council the informal agreement reached with the European Parliament on the proposal for a regulation amending regulation 1030/2002 laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals. 

The amending regulation establishes a new common design for the residence permit card, to improve its security features in order to prevent forgery. The current card, which has been in circulation since 1997, has been compromised by serious incidents of counterfeiting and fraud. 

Following this confirmation of the agreement, the text of the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading and subsequently to the Council for adoption.

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Hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment - Council agrees its negotiating stance

On 14 June 2017, EU Ambassadors reached an agreement on the Council's negotiating position on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The Council is now set to enter into negotiations with the European Parliament.

The proposed directive aims at revising the scope of the Directive 2011/65/EU (RoHS 2). The new proposal specifically addresses problems arising from the "open-source" product group, includes amendments aiming at establishing equal treatment of products covered by the Directive and proposes to exclude a particular product, namely pipe organs.  

The main objective of the amending text is to ensure the possibility of secondary market operations (e.g. reselling, second-hand market) for electrical and electronic equipment that were newly covered by RoHS 2 and the use of spare parts for such equipment if they are put on the market before 22 July 2019.

Today, the European Parliament confirmed during the plenary that it is also ready to start negotiations. The first trilogue with a view to reaching an agreement at first reading is scheduled on 21 June. Hopes are high that the negotiations can be finalised at that occasion.

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Inspections of ro-ro ferries: informal agreement with the European Parliament

The Maltese presidency today reached a preliminary agreement with the European Parliament on a streamlined but robust inspection regime for ro-ro ferries and high-speed passenger craft. The revised rules will create a clear framework for the inspections, thereby eliminating overlaps and closing regulatory gaps arising from the application by member states of different inspection regimes.

The agreed draft directive will reduce the administrative burden for ship owners and increase the time during which ships can be commercially exploited. At the same time, it will rationalise the inspection efforts of member states' authorities, while continuing to ensure a high common level of safety.

"The simplified inspection rules for ro-ro ships will continue to ensure a high level of safety for our citizens, while bringing savings to both the industry and the public sector," said Maltese Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Ian Borg. "The new framework addresses effectively the specific characteristics of these vessels, in particular their intense activity, which means they need to be inspected often and at regular intervals."

Member states will have 24 months after the directive's entry into force to incorporate the new rules into their legislation. Derogations from transposition are the same as in the directive on port state control.

The draft directive agreed today is one of the proposals presented by the Commission in June 2016 following a comprehensive review of passenger ship safety.

The presidency will submit the outcome of today's talks for approval by member states in the coming weeks.

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Safer sea travel: deal with EP on digitalising passenger information

The presidency today reached an informal agreement with the European Parliament on new rules to digitalise the registration of ship passengers. The purpose is to make the exact number of passengers and other information immediately available for search and rescue services in the event of an accident. At present, valuable minutes may be lost because the data on people on board is stored by the shipping company, and the search and rescue centre has to get hold of the company's contact person to obtain this information. In digital form, the information will be directly accessible.

To make it easier to assist victims and their relatives, the recorded data will include passengers' nationality . The current rules already require the shipping company to register the name, date of birth, gender, and - if the passenger so wishes - the need for special assistance in an emergency.

"Travelling by ship in the EU is very safe, but in case something happens, we must make sure that we know immediately how many are missing - perhaps lying in the water or trapped on board. In addition to names, we also need to know their nationalities so that authorities are able to contact relatives and embassies. These new rules make that possible", said Ian Borg, the Maltese Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects.

Under the new requirements, data will be sent to the relevant authority in electronic format within 15 minutes of the ship's departure. Two means of transmission, the National Single Windows or the Automatic Identification System, can be used, subject to certain conditions.

Member states will have two years from the directive's entry into force to incorporate the new rules in their national legislation.

The draft directive agreed today is part of a broader review of EU legislation on passenger ship safety, which aims to make travelling by sea safer while simplifying the rules and cutting administrative costs.

The presidency will submit the outcome of today's negotiations for approval by member states in the coming weeks.

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Republic of Moldova: Council endorses agreement on financial assistance

On 15 June 2017, EU ambassadors endorsed an agreement reached with the European Parliament on macro-financial assistance for the Republic of Moldova.

Up to €100 million is provided for in EU assistance under an agreement reached by presidency and EP representatives on 6 June 2017. Of this, €60 million was agreed in loans and €40 million in the form of grants. This will supplement resources provided by the IMF and other multilateral institutions.

The assistance will be aimed at supporting the country's economic stabilisation and structural reform agenda, helping to cover its external financing needs over the 2017-18 period.

The Republic of Moldova's economy was affected by political instability during the period between elections in November 2014 and January 2016. It has also been affected by a banking fraud scandal, weak economic activity and import bans imposed by Russia. Since early 2016, the authorities have adopted a number of reforms, but need to undertake further efforts in implementing them, whilst those responsible for banking frauds need to be brought to justice. Reforms in the financial sector and in the management of public finances have been undertaken in the framework of negotiations on an IMF programme.

In November 2016 the IMF approved three-year arrangements with the Republic of Moldova, under its 'extended fund facility' and 'extended credit facility', for $178.7 million. The Republic of Moldova requested complementary assistance from the EU in August 2015 and renewed that request in March 2016.

The EU assistance will be subject to a memorandum of understanding, including precise and specific conditions, to be agreed by the Republic of Moldova with the Commission.

Joint statement on the preconditions

Parliament, Council and Commission agreed a joint statement in the light of changes to the electoral system in the Republic of Moldova.

The statement emphasises that respect for effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law, and guarantees for human rights are a precondition for receiving assistance.

Objectives specified in the decision also include the efficiency, transparency and accountability of public finance management, an effective prevention of corruption and money laundering, and financial sector governance and supervision.

The Commission and the European External Action Service will regularly monitor the fulfilment of these preconditions and objectives.

Next steps

The Parliament and the Council will now be called on to adopt the decision without further discussion.

The Council requires a qualified majority. (Legal basis: article 212 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.)

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