EU to move ahead with aviation strategy

aviationIn 2015, the European Commission presented an ambitious Aviation Strategy for Europe. Several proposals are still under scrutiny in the EU’s legislative bodies. Others are placed on hold in the European Council.

Recently, the Commission presented its Open and Connected Aviation Package, which aims at safeguarding EU airlines on the international market, protecting international air carrier competition, and provide the EU with the opportunity to take actions against jeopardizing external factors. Besides the proposal for a Regulation on Safeguarding Competition in Air Transport, the package also includes interpretative guidelines for ownership and control of EU airlines as well as public services obligations.

With the recent package, aviation policies have again regained traction, and ought to be on the forefront of the political discussions in the coming months. Whereas the package aims at strengthening the EU aviation sector, both EU and non-EU companies will have to adapt to the changes in airport services, as well as the rights of travelers and workers.


EU to digitalize healthcare

healthcareThe European Commission is adopting additional measures to promote digital innovations in healthcare. The recent midterm digital single market review calls for new health care legislation. The review was based on the 2014 European Commission communication to reach cost effective, as well as financially sustainable and resilient healthcare in the EU.

The aim is to transform the system from a hospital-based healthcare model to a person-centred and integrated model. Further to this, the Commission already launched a public consultation concerning personal health data, and the sharing of data to advance research.

The public consultation will have an impact on the new policy communication to be presented by the end of 2017. Considering that the EU health care sector is lagging behind with the use of technology, we expect the upcoming proposals to have an incisive impact for providers.



EU to unionize cross-border payments

international paymentEarlier this year, the European Commission published the Consumer Financial Service Action Plan. Its objective is to improve transparency, and to address price inequalities in cross–border payments in currencies other than the Euro.

Currently, the Single Euro Payment Area (“SEPA”) Regulation harmonizes all cross–border electronic payments, and ensures that all bank transfers denominated in Euro are subject to the same conditions as domestic payments.

A public consultation is now gathering feedback from interested stakeholders. The consultation is open until end October 2017. We expect a legislative proposal to follow at the beginning of 2018, which will aim at removing the remaining barriers in the single market for financial services, and enhance competition amongst financial service providers within the EU.


EU to improve road safety

traffic safteyThe European Commission is in the preparatory phase to present new legislative proposals to support technological progress of road vehicles. The aim is to minimize the risk of injury to the vehicle occupants and other road users.

A recent Inception Impact Assessment presented options for a possible update of the 2009 General Safety Regulations as well as the Pedestrian Safety Regulation. Currently, the Commission is collecting views on vehicle safety systems from stakeholders.

There are 19 specific vehicle safety measures under consideration for a possible revision of the regulations. Depending on the findings of the consultation, mandatory features will be imposed on cars, light commercial vehicles, buses, trucks and trailers. Hence, the automotive industry will have to adjust, and comply with the new requirements.


EU to revise agricultural polices

The EU is determined to simplify and modernize the Common Agricultural Policy (“CAP”). This follows the 2016 findings of the Agricultural Markets Task Force and the Inception Impact Assessment, which was recently concluded.

Overall the aim of the review is to strengthen the position of European farmers and producers. More concretely, the revision will single out and address existing obstacles in the functioning of the food supply chain concerning agricultural products.

The agricultural reform will be on the agenda of the European Commission going forward. Concrete proposals will follow suit, concerning market transparency, unfair trading practices as well as monitoring of parcels with state of the art technologies.

It is expected that for one, the EU will hold large retailers more accountable towards producers in the supply chain, and secondly, that digital farming and the use of modern technologies will be further promoted. A public consultation is currently open for all stakeholders until mid-November 2017.


EU to regulate telecoms

telecomunicationMembers of the European Parliament are pushing for a broader telecom reform to boost competition in the EU. The European Parliament wants to give national regulators new control powers in EU countries which are dominated by very few companies.

It differs from the initial Commission proposal from September 2016, which didn’t mention the necessity to address oligopolies. The position is controversial. Critics argue that giving regulators additional tools could have unprecedented consequences.

The European Parliament’s ITRE Committee is expected to vote on the final position in the upcoming months. The EU will further tighten the grip on big telecom companies, and facilitate competition on the market for smaller player by ensuring a more balanced distribution of market power.


EU to regulate drones

The EU institutions and Member States governments are considering various options and regulatory tools to propose suitable rules for drone operation in the European Union. The European Commission, the body responsible for issuing the formal proposal, has recently confirmed that a drone regulation is necessary and would be up and running as 2019.

The proposal is set to balance the need for safe drone utilization as well as the necessary framework for the development of the drone sector. The EU rules are expected to require compulsory drone registration as well as drone identification. Drones will also face limits both in terms of their place of operation and altitude. It is also widely believed that rules that apply today to the airline industry, such authorization and tracking will also spillover to drones. There have also been calls for a drone license for operators.

Member states and the European Parliament will soon scrutinize the proposal and eventually approve the rules that would apply to drones across the EU.

EU access to encrypted data

At the turn of the year, the European Commission made a proposal for a regulation focusing on the protection of personal data in electronic communication, the so-called ePrivacy Regulation.

Currently, the ePrivacy Directive ensures the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector, especially the protection of confidentiality of communications, in line also with the Data Protection Directive.

The ePrivacy Regulation proposal will repeal the ePrivacy Directive and modernise data protection. It will establish a legal framework, which takes account of the important technological and economic developments in the electronic communication sector, such as new services of interpersonal communications and machine-to-machine communications.

Member states want easier access to encrypted data as part of investigative police investigations. EU countries also want companies to develop new technology and tools to improve the automatic detection and removal of content that incites to violence. The European Parliament has recently challenged and demanded that authorities in the EU cannot break the electronic protection.

The final piece of legislation will require the approval of the European Parliament and Council.

EU to block foreign investments

In February 2017, three Member States (France, Germany and Italy) sent a letter to the European Commission demanding greater EU powers to control, and if necessary block, third country takeovers. This because many European companies face restriction to buy foreign companies. But this is not the case with foreign firms. On the contrary, they are increasingly buying European firms, in key strategic sectors.

In the recent European Summit, Member States welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to analyse investments from third countries in key and sensitive sectors. Overall, Member States support the European Commission to have some role in screening investments. Yet Member States oppose giving the European Commission veto powers. Member States wish to retain the power to assess and protect key sectors.

The EU is determined to improve further the framework to control strategic investments. We expect further details in the field of foreign investments in September. Further information will emerge on what the EU mechanism would entail and how it would work in practice, next to the national screening competences.

EU considers food labelling

Back in 2008, the European Commission issued a proposal for legislation on providing food information to consumers. The proposal was approved. It included food labelling rules and nutritional information. But Members of the European Parliament rejected a mandatory system that would have labelled food based on the traffic light system.

The idea is now gaining momentum once again. Under the rumoured initiative, producers would have to adopt red, orange or green labels based on the quantity of specific nutrients. Several Member States and numerous Member of the European Parliament wish to adopt the traffic light system. They believe the scheme is quick and efficient and it would allow consumers to make healthier choices.

This is one of the initiatives that is set to come about. Overall, the EU institutions and the Member States have put the focus on junk food. The European Commission and EU countries are not satisfied with the self-regulatory approach of the industry. The EU institutions and the Member States are set to embark on stricter rules against advertising, marketing and sponsorship of foods, which would be of compulsory nature and not simply voluntary.