Tag Archives: EC

Leyen hosts meeting with Stoltenberg

Brussels 15.12.2020 Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had discussions at the European Commission on Tuesday, 15 December 2020, about how to further strengthen NATO’s cooperation with the European Union.

While the Secretary General often meets with EU leaders and EU Commissioners, this is the first time that a NATO Secretary General attended a meeting of the College of Commissioners, a sign of the deepening partnership between NATO and the EU.

The joint press point by the NATO Secretary General and the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, as well as footage of Secretary General’s arrival, were available remotely.

Among discussed issues were closer cooperation on cyber-security, countering disinformation, climate change & its geopolitical impact, and increasing our resilience against hybrid attacks.

EU Spring 2020 Economic Forecast

The coronavirus pandemic represents a major shock for the global and EU economies, with very severe socio-economic consequences. Despite the swift and comprehensive policy response at both EU and national level, the EU economy will experience a recession of historic proportions this year.

The Spring 2020 Economic Forecast projects that the euro area economy will contract by a record 7¾% in 2020 and grow by 6¼% in 2021. The EU economy is forecast to contract by 7½% in 2020 and grow by around 6% in 2021. Growth projections for the EU and euro area have been revised down by around nine percentage points compared to the Autumn 2019 Economic Forecast.

The shock to the EU economy is symmetric in that the pandemic has hit all Member States, but both the drop in output in 2020 (from -4¼% in Poland to -9¾% in Greece) and the strength of the rebound in 2021 are set to differ markedly. Each Member State’s economic recovery will depend not only on the evolution of the pandemic in that country, but also on the structure of their economies and their capacity to respond with stabilising policies. Given the interdependence of EU economies, the dynamics of the recovery in each Member State will also affect the strength of the recovery of other Member States.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that works for People, said: “At this stage, we can only tentatively map out the scale and gravity of the coronavirus shock to our economies”.

“While the immediate fallout will be far more severe for the global economy than the financial crisis, the depth of the impact will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, our ability to safely restart economic activity and to rebound thereafter. This is a symmetric shock: all EU countries are affected and all are expected to have a recession this year. The EU and Member States have already agreed on extraordinary measures to mitigate the impact. Our collective recovery will depend on continued strong and coordinated responses at EU and national level. We are stronger together.”

Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, said:“Europe is experiencing an economic shock without precedent since the Great Depression. Both the depth of the recession and the strength of recovery will be uneven, conditioned by the speed at which lockdowns can be lifted, the importance of services like tourism in each economy and by each country’s financial resources. Such divergence poses a threat to the single market and the euro area – yet it can be mitigated through decisive, joint European action. We must rise to this challenge.”

A large hit to growth followed by an incomplete recovery

The coronavirus pandemic has severely affected consumer spending, industrial output, investment, trade, capital flows and supply chains. The expected progressive easing of containment measures should set the stage for a recovery. However, the EU economy is not expected to have fully made up for this year’s losses by the end of 2021. Investment will remain subdued and the labour market will not have completely recovered.

The continued effectiveness of EU and national policy measures to respond to the crisis will be crucial to limit the economic damage and facilitate a swift, robust recovery to set the economies on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.

Unemployment is set to increase, though policy measures should limit the rise

While short-time work schemes, wage subsidies and support for businesses should help to limit job losses, the coronavirus pandemic will have a severe impact on the labour market.

The unemployment rate in the euro area is forecast to rise from 7.5% in 2019 to 9½% in 2020 before declining again to 8½% in 2021. In the EU, the unemployment rate is forecast to rise from 6.7% in 2019 to 9% in 2020 and then fall to around 8% in 2021.

Some Member States will see more significant increases in unemployment than others. Those with a high proportion of workers on short-term contracts and those where a large proportion of the workforce depend on tourism are particularly vulnerable. Young people entering the workforce at this time will also find it harder to secure their first job.

A steep drop in inflation

Consumer prices are expected to fall significantly this year due to the drop in demand and the steep fall in oil prices, which together should more than offset isolated price increases caused by pandemic-related supply disruptions.

Inflation in the euro area, as measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), is now forecast at 0.2% in 2020 and 1.1% in 2021. For the EU, inflation is forecast at 0.6% in 2020 and 1.3% in 2021.

Decisive policy measures will cause public deficits and debt to rise

Member States have reacted decisively with fiscal measures to limit the economic damage caused by the pandemic. ‘Automatic stabilisers’, such as social security benefit payments compounded by fiscal discretionary measures are set to cause spending to rise. As a result, the aggregate government deficit of the euro area and the EU is expected to surge from just 0.6% of GDP in 2019 to around 8½% in 2020, before falling back to around 3½% in 2021.

After having been on a declining trend since 2014, the public debt-to-GDP ratio is also set to rise. In the euro area, it is forecast to increase from 86% in 2019 to 102¾% in 2020 and to decrease to 98¾% in 2021. In the EU, it is forecast to rise from 79.4% in 2019 to around 95% this year before decreasing to 92% next year.

Exceptionally high uncertainty and risks tilted to the downside

The Spring Forecast is clouded by a higher than usual degree of uncertainty. It is based on a set of assumptions about the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic and associated containment measures. The forecast baseline assumes that lockdowns will be gradually lifted from May onwards.

The risks surrounding this forecast are also exceptionally large and concentrated on the downside.

A more severe and longer lasting pandemic than currently envisaged could cause a far larger fall in GDP than assumed in the baseline scenario of this forecast. In the absence of a strong and timely common recovery strategy at EU level, there is a risk that the crisis could lead to severe distortions within the Single Market and to entrenched economic, financial and social divergences between euro area Member States. There is also a risk that the pandemic could trigger more drastic and permanent changes in attitudes towards global value chains and international cooperation, which would weigh on the highly open and interconnected European economy. The pandemic could also leave permanent scars through bankruptcies and long-lasting damage to the labour market.

The threat of tariffs following the end of the transition period between the EU and United Kingdom could also dampen growth, albeit to a lesser extent in the EU than in the UK.

For the UK, a purely technical assumption

Given that the future relations between the EU and the UK are not yet clear, projections for 2021 are based on a purely technical assumption of status quo in terms of their trading relations. This is for forecasting purposes only and reflects no anticipation or prediction with regard to the outcome of the negotiations between the EU and the UK on their future relationship.

This forecast is based on a set of technical assumptions concerning exchange rates, interest rates and commodity prices with a cut-off date of 23 April. For all other incoming data, including assumptions about government policies, this forecast takes into consideration information up until and including 22 April. Unless policies are credibly announced and specified in adequate detail, the projections assume no policy changes.

The European Commission publishes two comprehensive forecasts (spring and autumn) and two interim forecasts (winter and summer) each year. The interim forecasts cover annual and quarterly GDP and inflation for the current and following year for all Member States, as well as EU and euro area aggregates.

The European Commission’s next economic forecast will be the Summer 2020 Interim Economic Forecast which is scheduled to be published in July 2020. This will cover only GDP growth and inflation. The next full forecast will be in November 2020.

Sargsyan for EC-EAEC co-operation

sargsyan

“At the initial stage of Armenia’s membership in Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) was received with hostility by some of our Western partners, but I am glad that the time will put everything in its place, we are ready to promote the mutually beneficial rapprochement of the EU positions, and EAEC Armenia is interested in pan-European co-operation..”, – said Serge Sargsyan, the president of Armeina, attending the center of “Carnegie” in Brussels.

He also noted that existing in Yerevan to Tehran close economic, political and cultural ties transforms Armenia into a solid platform to enter the Iranian market for European companies.

“Armenia can become the most reliable and shortest transit route connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea ports, in our relationships, we never questioned our relations because of the third countries in Armenia’s cooperation,”- said Sargsyan, adding that Armenia is ready to become a stable partner in the region, which will contribute to the process of facilitating the contradictions of big players, the development of economic ties, and the formation of an effective investment policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Mogherini in US: 'mission impossible'

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini at the State Department in Washington

Anna van Densky, OPINION

Difficult to imagine less suitable personality to represent nowadays the EU diplomacy in the US, than an ardent promoter of political Islam in Europe, an Italian Socialist – Federica Mogherini, with both Socialism and Islam living winter in the EU.

However the gravity of the situation is beyond personal views and Mogherini’s political convictions: the whole disposition of the foreign policy in the EU makes her visit pretty useless a priori  as a result of an exaggerated loyalty to President Obama, and the US Democrats, the EU has mixed into the US presidential campaign supporting #Hillary, and undermining #Trump, demonstrating an astonishing myopia of the EU diplomacy, unable to anticipate the responsibly to work with any elected by Americans president.
Alas, after the US presidential elections, the EU diplomacy appeared not only to be myopic, but having as much flexibility as a gout patient, struck by multiple arthritis poor losers the EU protagonists continued opposition against President Trump, some as a policy, the others as a credo.
The leader of the European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella spit oil on fire accusing President Trump of manipulating the UK as a ‘Trojan horse’ to destroy the EU from within. The UK closeness with the US new President is ‘endangering worldwide democracy’,  he assumed, in an interview to anti-Trump TV news channel.
The EU Socialists were not in solitude to continuing the self-imposed ‘holy war’ against the US new administration – the appointed in an obscure procedure Pope Curia fume style, the president of the European Council Donald Trump threw his glove, publishing an open letter, naming President Trump among ‘threats’ to the EU unity. Although odd for a conservative liberal, the personal views of Tusk were also circulated in the world media, downgrading already hostile mood of the ‘Trump-era’ EU-US relations.
The head of the European Commission,  Jean-Claude Juncker did not stay aside, adding his share to ‘anti-Trump’ rhetoric, blaming him ‘populism’, and similarities with European raising nationals, very much appreciated by latest, already seeing inspiration in Trump’s anti-terroristic legislation.
So far the only head of the EU institutions, who showed a diplomatic attitude to the EU-US relations was the new Chair of the European Parliament, a compatriot of Mogherini – Antonio Tajani from the centre-right, although his moderate attitude can be explained by his rise after the US elections. Tajani restrained from confrontational remarks, explaining that in his position he will express the views of the EP as a collective body, but not of his own. A reasonable approach, but not a panacea, as there hardly any ‘collective’ views in the EU in foreign policy.
Within a growing schism among member states on all the major issues: Russia, Syria, Libya, Iran, Palestine – there is no one single big dossier evoking genuine unanimity.
Mogherini ‘sympathy’ visit to Tillerson, with no results and no perspectives, no common grounds and no common interests, reveals the naked truth of the profound crisis of the EU, reflected in the illusionary errands of its top diplomat. However one conclusion of this visit is definite: in gambling with the US elections, the EU lost it political capital, and Brussels, as de facto capital of the EU lost, as consequence,  its significance as the world’s diplomacy stage.

 

Leviathan gas in high ranks

gas-field

Today high-level contacts between Israel and European countries on laying a gas pipeline from the Leviathan natural gas reservoir are about to take place. Reportedly the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources director general Shaul Meridor will travel to Brussels  on Monday 23/01 to meet his counterparts from Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and the European Commission officials. The meeting is arranged to prepare for a summit between the four countries’ energy ministers next month in Israel.

However the issue of its economic viability of the Leviathan has been debated for some time without any definite outcome. Gas experts express doubts about the project’s benefits: transporting gas over such distances would increase the price by $3-4 per heat unit. The same time such a projet fits into the energy diversificaiton policy of the EU, aiming at independence, or at least lesser dependence  from Russian gas imports.

 

Barnier argues with Guardian

michel-barnier
The interpretation of the newspaper ‘The Guardian’ was denied by the chief negotiator for Brexit of the European Commission Michel Barnier personally via Twitter:
Barnier tweeted: “When asked on equivalence I said: EU would need special vigilance on financial stability risk, not special deal to access the City.”
Additionally the EU spokesman said the Guardian report did “not correctly reflect” Barnier’s comments to an in camera meeting with members of the European Parliament last week.
 The EU officials offered their view, explaining that Barnier was making a point  when asked about Brussels’ willingness after Brexit to recognize British financial regulations as “equivalent” in rigor to those of the EU was that, as a lot of EU business was likely to still pass through the City, EU equivalence rules would have to be much more tightly drafted compared to those for smaller centers.

On 27 July 2016 Michel Barnier  was appointed as the European Commission’s chief negotiator with the United Kingdom over leaving the European Union under Article 50.

 

(Sources: Twitter, EC, Guardian, Reuters)

 

 

Frontex: supports migrants returns

migrants-return

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has launched a project supporting returns of migrants across the EU with the assistance of experts from member states and Schengen associated countries. The creation of experts pool is part of agency’s expanded mandate. The profiles of return experts have been developed by Frontex in cooperation with the national authorities and the European Commission.

The return pool will ultimately consist of 690 return monitors, return escorts and return specialists. Its number of specialists was based on data of past return operations, risk analysis and return activities foreseen in 2017.

“Our ability to draw on a pool of qualified return officers and experts will help increase efficiency and provide already overstretched national authorities with much-needed support. This is particularly important in Greece and Italy, which received record numbers of migrants last year,” – said Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex executive director.

In December last year, Frontex issued the first call for voluntary contribution to the pool, swiftly receiving responses covering more than a half of requested agents.

Return agents will support identification of irregular migrants and acquisition of travel documents, including cooperation with consular authorities of countries of origin of returnees. They will operate in coordination with the country of origin authorities to monitor the return in compliance with respect to human dignity and fundamental rights.

All the experts will be able to identify persons in need of protection and refer them to the competent national authorities. The return pool will also include specialists in the protection of children’s rights.

All members of the pool will be fully trained before their deployment to ensure uniformly high standards in all their activities. The training curriculum for the return experts has already been developed.

Individual return decisions are issued by the judicial or administrative authorities of the individual European countries and only those authorities can decide who should be returned.

The return of migrants, or repatriation, has already caused discontent, and even protests in some countries, where the population disproves the governmental agreements to accept the unsuccessful in their claims to stay in EU individuals in exchange for financial aid as it happened in recently in Mali. 

The Emergency Trust Fund for aid to African countries to cope with the repatriation of migrants was set at Valletta Summit 2015, pledging €1.8 billion.

In 2016, Frontex coordinated the return of 10 700 migrants in 232 return operations. The agency also assisted Greece in the readmission of 908 people to Turkey. In 2015 totally 1,321, 560 requests from asylum seekers were registered in EU.

However the right-wing political forces in Europe are not impressed by the scale and speed of the repatriation process, pointing out that the few individuals return last year is not relevant in proportion to more than one million migrants entering the EU 2016 by various routs.