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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

EU Council: Council agreement on 2018 catch limits in the Baltic Sea

Council agreement on 2018 catch limits in the Baltic Sea

On 9 October 2017 the Council agreed on next year's total allowable catches (TACs) and national quotas for the ten commercially most important fish stocks in the Baltic Sea.

In line with the Commission proposal based on ICES scientific advice, the agreement includes a roll-over for Western cod and an increase in catches for central herring (+20%) and sprat (+1%). For the remaining stocks, ministers decided on a reduction for Riga herring (-7%), salmon in the Gulf of Finland (-5%), main baisin salmon (-5%), Eastern cod (-8%), Bothnian herring (-40%), Western herring (-39%) and plaice (-10%).

"Setting fishing opportunities is a squaring the circle exercise. We have done it in full respect of the Common fisheries policy objectives, the Baltic plan provisions and scientific advice. In the final agreement economic and environmental sustainability go hand in hand."

Siim Kiisler, minister of environment of the Republic of Estonia and president of the Council

The agreed quantities take into account the commitment to the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including the achievement of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), the principles of the multiannual management plan for the Baltic sea, and scientific advice, in particular advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

In addition to setting TACs and national quotas on some species, the Council confirmed the extension to 2018 of those management measures currently in place to improve the state of the stock Baltic cod (bag limitations in recreational fisheries and closure periods, with derogations for small coastal fisheries).

Ministers also decided to postpone discussions on measures on marine eel fisheries to a later stage to discuss a pan-European strategy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of the stock.

Next steps

This item will be included, following finalisation by the legal/linguistic experts, in part "A" of the agenda for adoption by a forthcoming Council meeting.


Today's discussions were based on a Commission proposal having article 43(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) as a legal basis.

Under such article, it is for the Council to adopt measures on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities within the framework of the common fisheries policy. The European Parliament's participation and the Economic and Social Committee's opinion are therefore not required for the adoption of this regulation.

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Double taxation: Council approves new dispute resolution system

On 10 October 2017, the Council approved a new system for resolving double taxation disputes between member states. 

The directive strengthens the mechanisms used to resolve disputes that arise from the interpretation of agreements on the elimination of double taxation. 

"This new system is a big improvement. It will encourage investment by creating a more favourable tax environment and reducing costs for businesses", said Toomas Tõniste, minister for finance of Estonia, which currently holds the Council presidency. 

The directive was adopted at a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council, without discussion. This follows an agreement at the Council's meeting on 23 May 2017.

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Council conclusions on climate finance

The Council adopted the following conclusions:

1.        REAFFIRMS the strong support of the EU and its Member States for the timely implementation of the Paris Agreement along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. REITERATES the importance of making swift and ambitious progress on the Paris Agreement's transformational objective to make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development and the importance of taking action, both individually and collectively, to fulfil this global response to the threat of climate change. STRESSES the importance of this objective being reflected in the evaluation of progress towards the Paris Agreement's long-term goals, including through the global stocktake, and EXPRESSES the need to develop methods and modalities to further quantify collective progress towards the achievement of Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement. 

2.        HIGHLIGHTS the importance of scaling up the availability of capital for green and sustainable investment and, in this context, WELCOMES the recent developments at an international, regional and national level to enhance the ability of the financial system to mobilise finance for low-emission and climate-resilient development and adequately manage respective financial risks, including the work of the G20 Green Finance Study Group, the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, the High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. UNDERLINES that carbon pricing is a key component of an enabling environment for shifting investments towards green and sustainable production technologies, and for promoting innovative solutions. In this context, SUPPORTS carbon pricing initiatives as well as initiatives promoting the phasing out of environmentally and economically harmful subsidies and inter alia the continued phasing down of financing for emission intensive projects. 

3.         RECOGNISES that the collective mobilisation goal of USD 100 billion per year by 2020 remains an important contribution to drive the transformational change envisaged by the Paris Agreement. REAFFIRMS that the EU and its Member States are committed to continuing to scale up the mobilisation of international climate finance, as part of the collective developed countries' goal to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 through to 2025 for mitigation and adaptation purposes, from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels. REITERATES that public climate finance will continue to play a significant role. HIGHLIGHTS that the EU and its Member States are the largest provider of public climate finance and stresses the need for future participation of a broader range of contributors. URGES other developed country Parties to meet their commitments and mobilise private finance towards this collective goal. EMPHASISES the importance of an outcome-oriented perspective on climate finance, ensuring the greatest possible impact of funds provided and mobilised. 

4.        HIGHLIGHTS the important role of the private sector as a key source of climate finance and the need to mobilise better its potential to finance mitigation and adaptation action, and NOTES the central and necessary role of a robust enabling policy environment for the mobilisation of private sector finance. NOTES that the EU has in place, and will continue to develop and improve, a broad set of instruments to mobilise private sector finance for international climate action. 

5.        STRESSES the importance of multilateral development banks in catalysing the transformational change envisaged by the Paris Agreement, including through meeting their 2020 climate finance pledges. URGES these banks, including those recently founded, to continue to scale up climate-related investments whilst using their resources more innovatively and effectively to mobilise private capital, and to further align their activities with the Paris Agreement and related Sustainable Development Goals, including helping to build in-country capacity for project design and implementation. 

       Also WELCOMES the efforts of multilateral development banks to mainstream climate considerations across their portfolios, working from their own core strengths and mandates. Thus ENCOURAGES MDBs to further reduce the financing of coal power plants, taking into account the current development and energy needs of our partner countries. ENCOURAGES international and regional financial institutions and UN agencies to provide information to Parties through the UNFCCC secretariat on how they mainstream climate objectives and incorporate climate resilience measures into their development assistance and climate finance programmes. 

6.        HIGHLIGHTS that the transparency framework will be a key factor for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement by improving the tracking of: (i) climate finance; and (ii) progress made in implementing actions planned in the nationally determined contributions. STRESSES the need to ensure balanced progress across all aspects of the transparency framework. STRESSES the importance of a timely and effective implementation of the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency and other initiatives to strengthen transparency. WELCOMES the substantive progress made in the UNFCCC negotiations on the modalities of accounting for financial resources provided and mobilised and SUPPORTS the need to further develop methodologies for tracking, in a credible manner, private finance mobilised through public interventions, which enables aggregation while avoiding double counting. In this regard, ENCOURAGES the application of the principles for accounting for mobilised private finance being developed by the OECD Research Collaborative and the Development Assistance Committee. 

7.        EMPHASISES the importance of an efficient global climate finance architecture. RECOGNISES the important contribution of international financial institutions and mechanisms to climate finance and REITERATES its willingness to continue to support such institutions and mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund. STRESSES the need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness, as well as the coherence and complementarity of the current institutional architecture for climate finance under the UNFCCC. UNDERLINES that these improvements would allow efficient access to climate finance by developing countries to support country-driven strategies towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. 

8.         STRESSES the importance of scaling up resources to address the needs and support of the poorest and particularly vulnerable developing countries such as Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. RECOGNISES in this regard at the 10th anniversary of its launch, the important contributions of the Adaptation Fund, as one piece of the broader adaptation finance landscape. HIGHLIGHTS that the EU and its Member States collectively are making, and will continue to make efforts to channel a substantial share of public climate finance towards adaptation finance and that the EU already supports adaptation through several technical and financial instruments. EMPHASISES the need to support developing countries mainstream climate objectives into development strategies, and in particular for adaptation considerations to be integrated at all levels of development plans. 

9.        REQUESTS the European Commission to provide an overview of international climate finance from the EU, including from the European Investment Bank, and its Member States for 2016 and for the Council to endorse this contribution prior to the UNFCCC COP23. 

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Address by President Donald Tusk to the European Committee of the Regions

It is a real honour and pleasure to be here again at the Committee of the Regions. As I said during my last visit here, I am a true believer in the mission of this institution. Your members are important ambassadors for Europe to the political grassroots, closest to ordinary citizens, and your fingerspitzengefühl for the concerns of local communities helps to keep European policy-making firmly rooted in reality. Europe's self-confidence and well-being depend on the vitality of our cities, regions and municipalities, which is reflected in the Committee's agenda during this Week of Regions and Cities.

We last met 18 months ago, and much has happened since then. At the time, the European Council was working hard to end the most serious migration crisis Europe has ever faced, and also to prevent the exit of one of our largest Member States. As regards the first issue, we have been able to achieve a lot. By ordering the closure of the Western Balkan route and improving our cooperation with Turkey, the flows of irregular migrants on this path to Europe were stemmed by 98 per cent. However, on the second issue, we have unfortunately not been as successful. On June 23, Britain voted for Brexit. Immediately after the result, I told the media what my father used to tell me: "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Thankfully, this is what has happened. But it did not happen automatically, it took much effort.

Britain's referendum campaign was full of false arguments and unacceptable generalisations. But it would have been a big mistake to interpret the negative result exclusively as a symptom of British exceptionalism and Euroscepticism, because all over Europe, even moderate voters were asking "Is the European Union the answer to problems of instability and insecurity, or is it now standing in the way?" To find a clear answer to this question, at my invitation, the leaders met as a community of 27 in Bratislava in September 2016. The result was the Bratislava Roadmap, which was a set of specific, realistic commitments, carefully tailored to voters' real concerns. On migration, security, the economy and climate. More than this, we needed to move to close the gap between discussing issues and delivering results. Leaders agreed that momentum must be clear on all issues by the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Treaties of Rome in March, with a number of strict deadlines set for key legislation.

The progress we have made since Bratislava didn't come easily. To the contrary, each achievement was a tough battle on the way to restoring public confidence. Let me give some of the most important examples. In the first place, leaders promised never again to allow a return to the uncontrolled migration flows of 2015. As a result, the new European Border and Coast Guard was declared operational in December last year, and help was given to Greece, where over 1,000 European border guards are present. In addition, we have started providing financial assistance to refugees in Turkey. Likewise, earlier this year, after leaders agreed to close the Central Mediterranean route, our effort to train and equip the Libyan coastguard has led to a sharp drop in arrivals to Italy.

On climate: the entry into force in November 2016 of the Paris Climate Change Agreement thanks to EU efforts was a significant boost to our morale. More importantly, it also demonstrated Europe's continued leadership on the global stage. We have been clear since then, also to the new US administration, that the agreement must be implemented and cannot be renegotiated. The EU is now working to fulfil the commitments from Paris, both internally and globally, together with key countries such as India and China.

Europe continues to be a global leader in free and fair trade. A month after Bratislava, we signed the CETA agreement with Canada, and in July this year, a political agreement on an EU-Japan free trade deal. In doing so, we kept our promise to the public at Bratislava to give Europe the power to defend our citizens from unfair trading practices. As you know, new robust trade defence instruments were agreed last week, after months of tough debate. While our ambitious programme of trade expansion continues, we will not hesitate to use these new tools against trade hooligans.

Security was also, rightly, one of citizens' major concerns. We live in an increasingly unstable world, where terrorism, geo-political tension and cyber-attacks threaten our safety and interests on a daily basis. While the European Union's contribution to peace, conflict resolution and humanitarian efforts is globally recognised, we cannot ignore the continued presence of hard power in the world and, indeed, around our own borders. This is why Europe must be even more united, capable of defending itself, and responsive to threats such as hybrid war. To this end, leaders have since Bratislava committed to serious defence cooperation, and begun using the EU's leverage to confront Islamist radicalisation on social media. We have also maintained the pressure to create, modernise and link EU databases needed for border security.

Over the past year, two other developments have brought fresh hope in the European idea. Firstly, our conduct in the Brexit talks has shown the European Union at its best: in terms of unity, political solidarity and fairness towards the United Kingdom, from drafting the EU guidelines to the negotiations themselves. And secondly, the European economy has woken up. Few economic observers would have predicted a year ago that average GDP growth in the European Union would be 2 per cent; that the eurozone would be recording its fastest rate of growth since 2011; or that the common currency would be enjoying the highest levels of popular support in over a decade. Unemployment has now fallen below 8 per cent. Leaders will now discuss the future of our Economic and Monetary Union at the Euro Summit in December.

Denis de Rougemont, the Swiss philosopher whom I referred to last time I was here, once said: "the knowledge of true danger may cure us of false fears". That is what has happened in Europe since we started work on the Bratislava agenda. Europe has got its act together, but given the challenges we face, we cannot be complacent. It is for this reason that at the summit in Tallinn two weeks ago, European leaders discussed how to speed up decision-making at the European level, but above all, how to maintain our unity at 27. I was also given the mandate to develop the Leaders' Agenda for the next two years. I am now in the middle of these consultations, whose main aim is to provide real solutions to real issues of concern for our citizens, inter alia unemployment, irregular migration, fears connected with globalisation, and, of course, still Brexit. Here I would like to refer to Prime Minister Theresa May's recent words. We hear from London that the UK government is preparing for a "no deal" scenario. I would like to say very clearly that the EU is not working on such a scenario. We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called "sufficient progress" will be possible by December. However, if it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that "sufficient progress" hasn't been reached, then - together with our UK friends - we will have to think about where we are heading.

Going back to the Leaders' Agenda for the next two years, your contribution is also very important, and I will pay close attention to it. Last year, I wrote to your President, asking the European Committee of the Regions to start a reflection on Europe, so that the voice of regional and local authorities is heard. I understand that already 100 meetings have been held around Europe to prepare this initiative. I can only thank you for your generous response to this challenge, and I look forward to the results with great interest.

Before you start the debate, allow me - at this extraordinary time for Catalonia and the whole of Spain - to address in your presence the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya , Mr Carles Puigdemont, shortly before his speech. I appeal to you not only as the President of the European Council, but also as a strong believer in the motto of the EU: "United in diversity", as a member of an ethnic minority and a regionalist, as a man who knows what it feels like to be hit by a police baton. And as a former prime minister of a big European country. In brief, as someone who understands and feels the arguments and emotions of all sides.

A few days ago, I asked Prime Minister Rajoy to look for a solution to the problem without the use of force. To look for dialogue. Because the force of arguments is always better than the argument of force. Today I ask you to respect - in your intentions - the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that would make such a dialogue impossible. Diversity should not, and need not, lead to conflict, whose consequences would obviously be bad: for the Catalans, for Spain and for the whole of Europe. Let us always look for what unites us, and not for what divides us. This is what will decide the future of our continent.

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Speech by the President of the Eurogroup at Eliamep in Greece

Speech by Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem on 31 May 2013 at Eliamep, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Europeans,

Thank you all for a warm welcome. This is my first visit to Greece and I try to do as much in one day as I can. I am very pleased to be here for this important discussion on how to tackle the challenges in the euro area Our main goal at the moment is to deliver sustainable growth. I am very conscious of the difficult times that Greece is going through and the huge efforts that are being made by Greek citizens to overcome the country's challenges. The global financial crisis exposed fundamental weaknesses in the way we have run our economies throughout the Eurozone. We are now dealing with the fall out of this crisis and in a way repairing the mistakes of the past. It is a painstaking task, but one that is slowly but surely bearing fruit.

The Greek economy, as that of other countries in the Eurozone, is forecast to return to growth at the beginning of 2014.

  • Confidence is returning. This is supported by the achievement of fiscal targets; the credibility of recently legislated reforms; and by strong improvements in Greece's cost competitiveness.
  • The banking sector is strengthening as deposits and liquidity return, following EU/IMF disbursements and Greece's debt reducing measures.
  • The rebalancing of the economy towards export-oriented growth has begun and, as a result of improved competitiveness, net exports are expected to be positive this year.
  • Measures designed to cut red tape and definitively end closed markets and professions are starting to bed-in and the business environment is improving. As your Prime Minister said to me today: to roll out the red carpet and clear out red tape. 
  • Market sentiment is more positive. For example Fitch recently upgraded Greece to B minus. Spreads on Greek bonds are decreasing.

I realise these positive developments are not yet apparent in the daily lives of Greek citizens. I also realize the measures that are needed to get Greece back on track are extremely demanding. But once a country has lost access to the financial markets radical action becomes essential and unavoidable to return to fiscal sustainability. Indeed across the whole of the euro area, we have no choice but to take the difficult decisions required to return our economies to growth and at the same time retain our social model, which is our ultimate goal.  

So I welcome the fact that the indications for the future are positive and that the work undertaken to date in Greece has not been in vain. We are making progress in the right direction:
towards growth and jobs. As in many other European countries, the key concern here in Greece is of course unemployment with unacceptably high levels; especially among the younger generations. By threatening the prospects of younger Europeans, unemployment is threatening the very fabric of our society.We cannot let young people pay the price of past mistakes. 

The euro area cannot provide the answers to all individual problems. But Euro zone Member States can, by working together, take measures to improve access to the labour market and improve competitiveness. Europe supports programs to create new job opportunities for the young. The EU Structural Funds can also help underpin continued investment in infrastructure and social services.

The euro area has a clear strategy in this regard, although it will always need to take into account the circumstances in individual countries and sometimes be adjusted

First, we must continue, in a sensible way, fiscal consolidation that will enable us all to get our public finances back on a sustainable footing. High debt levels cause costs of borrowing to rise, they stand in the way of productive investments, they prevent spending on education. We have a duty not to put a heavy burden on future generations with enormous public debts, and to bring public finances under control in all Eurozone countries. Let me stress this point. Tax reform is about fairness. Lack of fairness undermines the tax morale, and confidence in our common institutions. Strong resolve is needed. This is crucial to improve revenue collection, which will contribute to the achievement of fiscal targets.

Secondly, the Eurozone countries must tackle the root of the problems that led to the initial collapse of the financial sector. To do so we must push forward with the completion of a Banking Union. New capital requirement rules will make the financial sector better equipped to manage risks and absorb shocks. The recently agreed Single Supervisory Mechanism will ensure that we will finally have independent European checks and balances for banks. The next step is to finalize the instrument for direct recapitalization of banks and hopefully we will reach political agreement in June. And at the same time agreement on bank resolution (the so-called Recovery and Resolution directive): a set of clear rules on how to resolve banks.

In this regard, we must make sure that those that aim to benefit from excessive risk taking, will also be those that bear the lion's share of the burden of a rescue. We hope to make significant progress before summer on these elements of the banking union.  

Thirdly, we must press ahead with the structural reforms needed to create new competitive strength and enhance growth. Europe has to become more competitive in the current global context. This implies improving education, better quality of public services, reforming the judicial system and stimulating the business environment. This is in the end how the jobs lost during the crisis will be replaced. So our structural reform agenda for all countries and especially for Greece must be about fostering entrepreneurship and innovation.

European funds should be fully used to this purpose. The European Investment Bank is making even more funds available to extend credit to SMEs, so no business opportunities are missed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Greece is making good progress in difficult times, moving in the right direction. The key priority now is to ensure this improved fiscal position is sustainable in the long term by tackling the imbalances in the economy which made Greece, as other Eurozone countries, vulnerable to the global financial crisis. Greece has a longer tradition than any other European nation of ingenuity and of competing with the best. Looking forward it is well placed to exploit its truly strategic geographical position in view of today's global trade flows, and it has a wealth of human capital and natural resources upon which to draw. As we work together to the best position for Europe to compete globally, Greece has a major contribution to make. So it is crucial that we strengthen the European economy together and that euro area partners stand side by side in these difficult times. Our future depends on our ability to cooperate as equal partners as we reform our economies. This is the spirit I wish to continue to foster in the euro area and which will deliver results. 

I thank you for your attention and I look forward to having a discussion with you.

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