EU COMMISSION – Weekly meeting12 March 2019 – Strasbourg, France
Commission reviews relations with China and registers a European Citizens’ Initiative; Brexit update
Against the backdrop of China’s growing economic power and political influence, the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini reviewed European Union-China relations and the related opportunities and challenges.
With today’s Joint Communication, the European Commission and the High Representative aim to start a discussion to refine Europe’s approach to be more realistic, assertive and multi-faceted.They set out 10 concrete actions for EU Heads of State or Government to discuss and endorse at the European Council of 21 March.
These actions are formulated in the context of relations with China, but some of them relate to the EU’s global competitiveness and security. In general, the EU’s response will pursue three objectives:
- Based on clearly defined interests and principles, the EU should deepen its engagement with China to promote common interests at global level.
- The EU should robustly seek more balanced and reciprocal conditions governing the economic relationship.
- Finally, in order to maintain its prosperity, values and social model over the long term, there are areas where the EU itself needs to adapt to changing economic realities and strengthen its own domestic policies and industrial base.
Specifically, the Commission and the High Representative invite the European Council to endorse the following 10 actions:
Action 1: The EU will strengthen the EU’s cooperation with China to meet common responsibilities across all three pillars of the United Nations, Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development.
Action 2: In order to fight climate change more effectively, the EU calls on China to peak its emissions before 2030, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Action 3: The EU will deepen engagement on peace and security, building on the positive cooperation on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran.
Action 4: To preserve its interest in stability, sustainable economic development and good governance in partner countries, the EU will apply more robustly the existing bilateral agreements and financial instruments, and work with China to follow the same principles through the implementation of the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia.
Action 5: In order to achieve a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, the EU calls on China to deliver on existing joint EU-China commitments. This includes reforming the World Trade Organisation, in particular on subsidies and forced technology transfers, and concluding bilateral agreements on investment by 2020, on geographical indications swiftly, and on aviation safety in the coming weeks.
Action 6: To promote reciprocity and open up procurement opportunities in China, the European Parliament and the Council should adopt the International Procurement Instrument before the end of 2019.
Action 7: To ensure that not only price but also high levels of labour and environmental standards are taken into account, the Commission will publish guidance by mid-2019 on the participation of foreign bidders and goods in the EU procurement market. The Commission, together with Member States, will conduct an overview of the implementation of the current framework to identify gaps before the end of 2019.
Action 8: To fully address the distortive effects of foreign state ownership and state financing in the internal market, the Commission will identify before the end of 2019 how to fill existing gaps in EU law.
Action 9: To safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed. To kickstart this, the European Commission will issue a Recommendation following the European Council.
Action 10: To detect and raise awareness of security risks posed by foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, Member States should ensure the swift, full and effective implementation of the Regulation on screening of foreign direct investment.
European Citizens’ Initiative
The European Commission has today decided to register a European Citizens’ Initiative entitled ‘Housing for all’.
The objective of the initiative is “to bring about better legal and financial framework conditions to facilitate access to housing for everyone in Europe”. The organisers call on the European Commission to ensure “easier access for all to social and affordable housing, not applying the Maastricht criteria to public investment in social and affordable housing, better access to EU funding for non-profit and sustainable housing developers, social, competition-based rules for short-term rentals and the compilation of statistics on housing needs in Europe.”
Under the Treaties, the EU can take legal action in this area, for example when it comes to internal market rules as well as strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in Europe. The European Commission has therefore decided to register the Initiative. The Commission’s decision concerns only the legal admissibility of the proposal. The Commission has not yet analysed the substance.
The registration of this Initiative will take place on 18 March 2019, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers. Should the Initiative receive one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the European Commission will have to react within three months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
The College has been updated on current political developments including the latest on the Article 50 negotiations. President Juncker indeed agreed last night with Prime Minister May on a set of legal assurances and meaningful clarifications to the Withdrawal Agreement, and the nature of the backstop in particular. These assurances complement the Withdrawal Agreement without reopening it. They are legally binding. President Juncker recommended to President Tusk that the European Council endorses these documents at the European Council on 21-22 March, subject to a prior positive vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement.