EU Declares War on Piracy

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In January 2018, the European Commission signaled the beginning of public consultations aiming on mapping out markets, which thrive by the abuse of intellectual property rights. The initiative is a first step in a series of escalating responses to a form of organised fraud amounting to a 5% of the total imports to the EU and resulting in damages exceeding the 85bn € for EU producers annually. The EU black list will be followed by custom controls and legislative efforts to crack down on pirates as well as consumer awareness campaigns.

The initiative, however, has raised many eyebrows worldwide, amidst rumours related to the targeting of specific competitive to the EU markets. Specifically, manufacturers from China as well as certain Balkan countries feel pinned down by the impending reforms. Furthermore, serious concerns have been raised on the effect that overly restrictive regulations might have on products considered ‘similar’ or ‘substitutes’.

One thing though is certain, that the new rules will affect a considerable part of the global market.

Alber & Geiger Recognised as Top Lobbying Firm

aviationAfter a record number of entries for 2017, the finalists for the EU Public Affairs Awards have finally been revealed. Building on the success of the previous year, the second round of the most prestigious lobbying event took place this November in Brussels.

Once again, we have made an impact. Our team’s enthusiasm and dedication made the difference, vindicating nominations in four categories, namely: Lobbying Firm of the Year, Top Member States Lobbyists, Best Lobbyists in the EU Parliament and Lobbying Campaign of the Year. Alber & Geiger was the clear winner in the Lobbying Member States category for its ability to deliver business opportunities and policy solutions to clients in several jurisdictions. The judges highlighted our ability to shape legislation in Member States and activate Member States for EU-level advocacy efforts.

The new recognition of our efforts inspires us to step up our work and get things done faster and more efficiently. We are a success story in government affairs and our clients trust fuels our efforts for constant improvement of our services.

EU to Tackle ‘Fake News’

aviationAmidst increasing complaints, mainly from small and medium market players, the European Commission is launching a series of initiatives to promote fairness in platform to business relations. The initiative is part of a wider strategy to promote transparency and fairness in the Digital Single Market, including countering the recent scourge of fake news.

Social media are gaining ground from printing press as a source of information for an increasing number of citizens. The tidal wave of malicious propaganda and fake news is a huge source of unregulated revenues and poses a direct threat to businesses, business models and consumers alike. Recognizing that the current pattern of news reporting is not sustainable, the European Commission has called for a counter initiative on misinformation with an alignment of policy, legislative and technological measures.

The new strategy is seeking to find a balance between fundamental political and economic rights and the citizen’s right to access reliable information, while it’s expected to raise the regulatory stakes for major online platforms in case they refuse to comply and cooperate. The European Commission has launched public consultations exploring the scope of future actions and it appears willing to adopt an aggressive strategy to tackle fake news by recently allocating funds to the taskforce countering online disinformation. The proposals will most likely not only affect social media operators but also businesses.

EU to Approve Rules for Gas Pipelines

telecomunication The EU has launched a final call to arms to complete the existing Gas Directive and clarify the EU energy principles by common rules for gas pipelines, which enter the internal gas market. The objective is to step up efforts to maintain viable alternative gas transit flows after failing to derail the Nord Stream 2 link. The new rules are about to apply to existing and future, domestic and offshore pipelines alike.

The initiative is an attempted response to concerns over the increasing EU energy dependency, which is only expected to be exacerbated over the coming years. The amendment of the Energy Package is expected to ensure that all major pipelines in the EU, or entering EU territory, are operated under the same transparency regime and are accessible to all other operators. This approach is believed to maximise competition and avoid conflicts of interest between operators, ensuring at the same time the resilience of the EU’s gas supplies as well as fair prices.

The present proposal delineates the EU’s attempt to break specific energy export monopolies, providing a new incentive for existing and potential competitors to commence negotiations with the EU. Despite, the business as usual appearances, the proposal shuffles the cards in the ongoing energy game in the EU. Moreover, it is likely to trigger heated reactions in an attempt to open up the energy market to new business opportunities by diversifying the energy sector and reducing dependency on imports.

EU to Tax Tech Giants

aviationThe European Commission is going ahead with plans for a fair taxation regime on digital giants, aiming to balance the low tax regimes that cost EU governments billions of Euros in foregone revenues. The objective of the initiative is to define a fair, efficient and growth friendly approach to the taxation of digital economy.

The current regime is not attuned to the digital era. Rather, it was mainly designed for traditional economies and does not capture activities based on intangible assets and data. Digital firms nowadays are taxed mainly on profits declared in fiscal havens and low tax regimes. That has infuriated many EU Member States due to their inability to impose a more equitable taxation based on the companies revenues. The new plan is designed to force mainly major tech firms to start paying revenue tax in any country that their activities are taking place. Furthermore, in accordance to the OECD standards, some Member States have proposed an additional withholding and an equalization tax.

There are concerns on whether this is the right approach to solve this multi-billion puzzle. Amidst questions on the effects on competition, many believe that a targeted crack down on leading tech firms is doomed to fail. In addition, drawing analogies from corporate taxation regimes to the digital economy can impede growth and drive away digital giants. Regardless, all financial ministers have acknowledged the existing issue and have agreed to proceed together to the drafting of a new proposal. With increasing and vocal opposition, reaching a common understanding seems like an arduous effort and currently all options are open to debate.

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.