EU news focus

What has Europe done for you? 7-13 April 2014

EU News Focus

In this week’s edition, you will particularly read about how the EU institutions act to protect our health, support our farmers and defend our fundamental freedoms.

European Parliament

Reducing noise for neighbours of airports

Transport and Tourism Committee MEPs have agreed to a deal with the Council on noise-related traffic restrictions at European airports to bring EU rules in conformity with the principles of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. If the whole Parliament backs this deal next week, the new rules (applicable two years after their publication) will maintain the competence of regional and national authorities for “noise-related operating restrictions.” Indeed, MEPs did not want the Commission to meddle with agreements negotiated between airport operators, regional authorities and citizens. However, people living in airport’s neighbourhoods should receive more and better information, and health problems related to airport operations’ noise should be given greater consideration. MEPs believe “local communities and other stakeholders” must become more involved in the noise reduction process.

Support for the deal with the Council on promoting EU farm products

Members of the EP Agriculture Committee supported a deal with the Council which will allow improving the promotion of European farm products both abroad and at home. Some strengths of European farming include high food safety and sustainability standards, as well as requirements regarding the traceability of food. Promotion campaigns should be funded only by the EU (max.70-80% of the cost of a campaign; more in case of “serious market disruption or loss of consumer confidence”) and the “proposing organisation”, not by Member States.

Other key points of the deal are the possibility for the Commission to launch campaigns “to remedy serious market disturbances and losses of consumer confidence”, and the list of products covered by various support measures is extended.

This deal will now be discussed at the last plenary session of this legislature, next week. If adopted by the EP plenary, the text will then have to be formally adopted by the Council as well.

If you want to read more about the European Parliament’s activity each week, click here.

European Commission

The Joint Procurement Agreement for pandemic vaccines and medicines

Thanks to this Joint Procurement Agreement (JPA), EU Member States will be able to buy pandemic vaccines and medicines together rather than individually. This will ensure such vaccines and medicines are available “in sufficient quantities and at a correct price should a cross border health threat emerge.” This initiative is a reaction to the difficulties faced by some Member States, during recent pandemics, to procure these vital medical products. Let us note that this initiative is voluntary and will enter into force only after 10 Member States will have signed it.

The scope of the agreement may be extended to other medicines than pandemics vaccines and a financial commitment would arise only when a purchasing contract is signed on the basis of the JPA. The JPA will enable any participating Member State to make a proposal to the others to organise a common purchase of specific medicines. Two steering committees will be created: one in charge of general JPA-related matters and one in charge of issues related to specific procurement procedures.

Two public consultations on cross-border taxation

On 10 April, the European Commission launched two public consultations and created an expert group on the topic of cross-border taxation with a view to identifying solutions to tackle remaining obstacles to cross-border activity in the Single Market. The Commission presented statistics showing that only 2.8% of the EU population live in a Member State other than their State of origin, and around 30% of EU citizens buy (online or not) products from businesses located in another Member State. Cross-border economic activity currently remains hindered by risks of double taxation and by tax complexity. The expert group will particularly focus on measures related to direct taxation, in particular income taxation and inheritance taxation. The first public consultation is about “tax problems which citizens who are active cross-border face,” while the second will cover inheritance taxation. The first consultation will enable the Commission to get a clearer picture of the remaining obstacles faced by citizens in cross-border situations and of “good practices” already applied in some member States. The second consultation aims at establishing whether some progress has been made in avoiding double taxation of inheritances and gifts since the 2011 Recommendation. The expert group will provide further information and suggest solutions.

If you want to know more about the Commission’s action, click here.

Court of Justice of the European Union

The Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC) is invalid (cases C-293/12 and 594/12, Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and Others)

This directive aimed at harmonising national rules “concerning the retention of certain data which are generated or processed by providers of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks.” The traffic and location data, as well as the data to identify the user/subscriber had to be retained and made available by services providers “for the purpose of the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime.” Now, the CJEU found that the directive “entails a wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data, without that interference being limited to what is strictly necessary.” The Court considered that, although the data about the communication and the information consulted was not retained, the information gathered could, “taken as a whole, […] provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained.” This constituted a violation of the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.” Regarding potential justifications to such restriction to these fundamental rights, the Court noted that “the fight against serious crime and, ultimately, public security” constitute an objective of general interest. However, the EU authorities violated the principle of proportionality by adopting the directive: while the objective pursued may indeed be attained thanks to the data retention, such retention was “not sufficiently circumscribed to ensure that that interference is actually limited to what is strictly necessary:” there was no “differentiation, limitation or exception” to data retention; no “objective criterion” could ensure that national authorities use the data only for the directive’s purpose of fighting crime; the data retention period was not always adequate; there were not “sufficient safeguards to ensure effective protection of the data against the risk of abuse and against any unlawful access and use of the data”; and the directive did not “require that the data be retained within the EU.”

If you are interested in learning about more European Court’s judgments, click here.

Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

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