Commission calls for coordinated exit strategy across Member States, updates its work programme and moves to overhaul the export authorisation scheme; Member States debate sunset clause for SURE reinsurance scheme.
- Exit Strategy: A roadmap by the European Commission outlines conditions necessary for a gradual loosening of restrictions, as well as steps to re-open European public life in a piecemeal manner. The draft calls for action to be coordinated amongst Member States. One element that has attracted major attention in Brussels is the announcement of a “rapid alert function” to identify and monitor trade disruptions (see page 13).
- At an informal meeting of the Health Council, Commissioner Margaritis Schinas outlined three essential sets of criteria for the relaxation of confinement in Member States:
- Epidemiological criteria, showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilised for a sustained period.
- Sufficient health system capacity, taking into account, for example, the occupation rate for intensive care units and the availability of healthcare workers and medical material.
- Appropriate monitoring capacity, including large-scale testing means to quickly detect and isolate infected individuals, as well as tracking and tracing capacity.
- President von der Leyen said in a press conference that the re-shoring of key industries should involve a green process by creating a circular economy with shorter, more diversified supply chains. President Von der Leyen said that “the European Green Deal is exactly the right answer also to the corona crisis.”
- According to a leaked version of the Commission’s updated work programme, several legislative files will be delayed due to COVID-19 (source: POLITICO).
- Digital Services Act(DSA) – could be delayed; originally set to be released in Q4 2020 but according to the draft “moving it to Q1 2021 would be unlikely to have an important negative impact.”
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)– the draft says that due to the pandemic, legislation might not land before the first three months of 2021, “but preferably not later.”
- Cybersecurity: Review of the Network and Information Security Directive (NIS Directive) still scheduled for Q4 2020.
- Sustainability: The initiative “Empowering the consumer for the green transition,” which is part of the Circular Economy package, could be delayed from Q4 2020 to 2021. Legislation on common chargers will likely be pushed back from Q3 2020 to next year.
- Consumers: The non-legislative Consumer Agenda, foreseen for Q4 2020, will go forward as planned.
- Privacy: The review of the GDPR will take place in June – according to the document it “would need to also reflect the [coronavirus] crisis reality,” in the context of data being used to fight pandemics.
- Commissioner Hogan joined an informal meeting of Trade Ministers and in an introductory statement presented the perspective of the Commission on various trade-related aspects in the context of COVID-19. Key take-aways:
- Gauging the exact economic impact of the pandemic remains difficult, but an open trade policy will be central to recovery. Rules-based trading remains essential, so do the EU’s efforts to modernise the WTO. The EU also needs a dialogue on what it means to be “strategically independent” and how supply chains would look like.
- The export authorisation scheme will get an overhaul: the European Commission is consulting with Member States on a revision. According to the Commission announcement, under the revised scheme protective masks would be the «only remaining category, where an export authorisation is necessary in order to secure an adequate supply to protect the health of Europeans. The new scheme also requires EU countries to authorise exports of emergency supplies in the context of humanitarian aid. The new mechanism is set to be in place for 30 days as of 26th The Commission will act as a Clearing House, delivering decisions within 48 hours.
- Commissioner Hogan invited Member States to coordinate and share information on foreign investments ahead of the entry into force of a new set of FDI-screening rules, dated for October of this year. The aim is to prevent foreign takeovers of European strategic assets and technology. Two areas are targeted, namely the monitoring of ongoing and planned acquisitions, and voluntary exchange of information on pending FDI screening among Member States.
- Hogan provided examples on possible tariff liberalisations in response to the pandemic, such as on medical equipment, international cooperation, and a more permanent plurilateral agreement on medical equipment.
- The Commissioner briefly touched on the newly established interim appellate body of the WTO, and G20 efforts.
- The Commission has published guidelines for the management of waste in the context of COVID-19. According to the document, waste collection services should continue to collect dry recyclables, residual, and bio-waste to prevent public health risks. Collection frequency may be adapted temporarily, though.
- EP x Commission: The EP’s INTA Committee has published a new draft agenda for an extraordinary meeting on 21st The agenda includes an exchange of views with Commissioner Hogan on the export authorisation scheme for personal protective equipment as well as the impact of COVID-19 on trade.
- A cross-party alliance has put forward a draft motion for a resolution, calling for EU coordination action to combat COVID-19 to be in line with the Green Deal and the objective to become climate neutral by 2050. Prepared by EPP, S&D, Renew, and the Greens, the motion details that a recovery package should kick-start the economy, improve resilience, create jobs, and assist in the ecological transition.
- On Tuesday, 14th April, the “European alliance for a green recovery was launched, initiated by EP ENVI Chair Pascal Canfin (RE, FR). Over 180 ministers, MEPs, CEOs, NGOs and trade unions joined this call for massive investments to trigger a new European economic model after the COVID-19 crisis, which would be designed around green principles.” (source: Dods EU)
Council (and other ministerial bodies)
- Five Member States (Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden) demanded a sunset clause be added to the Commission’s SURE proposal (employment reinsurance scheme for workers and otherwise economically active citizens) during a Council meeting. Other countries argued that such a clause would not be necessary given the temporary nature of the bill. Ministers are set to discuss the bill on Friday, 17th April (source: POLITICO).
Tackling the Virus
- The European Commission has issued guidelines on mobile applications to support contact tracing in the EU’s fight against COVID-19. Apps are supposed to fully comply with EU data protection and privacy rules, are to be installed voluntarily, and use the least privacy-intrusive technology possible. Furthermore, apps should rely on the expertise of health authorities and epidemiologists, and should be operable across borders.
- The Commission has issued guidelines on COVID-19 in vitro diagnostic tests and their performance.
- The Council of the EU adopted by written procedure two proposals which amend the EU budget for 2020 in order to free up funds to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, the proposals include €115 million for co-financing measures to address the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes helping Member States repatriate stranded citizens as well as obtain personal protective equipment through joint procurements. A further €3.6 million is committed to strengthening the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). In addition, €350 million will be made available to support Greece as the country faces increasing migratory pressures.
- After the Commission proposed to activate the EU Emergency Support Instrument, the Council has given its fast approval for €2.7 billion to support the healthcare systems of Member States. Read more details here.
- Brexit: In a joint statement of the EU Commission and Downing Street, both parties said Mr. Frost and Mr. Barnier had a “constructive” meeting on Wednesday, 15th April, taking stock of the technical work done so far. The timetable sets out further negotiation rounds on 20th April, 11th May, and 1st June, to be held via video conference. The UK also reiterated its commitment to the transition period deadline on 31st
- Volkswagen will restart production at two facilities in Germany and Slovakia as of Monday, 20th A number of international production sites will follow on 27th April (source: POLITICO).
- ACEA chief Eric-Mark Huitema asked for consultations on issues such as batteries disposal, vehicle production, and emission standards to be put on hold so that the automotive sector could concentrate on the fight to economically survive the crisis. According to Huitema, the industry had no time to “fill in questionnaires” that were not relevant for the time being.