EU carbon border tax

The European Green Deal, proposed by President von der Leyen to be delivered in the initial 100 days in office, will include the first European Climate Law enshrining the 2050 climate-neutrality target into legislation. The Green Deal will include a more inclusive Emissions Trading System (ETS), as well as a Carbon Border Tax to mitigate ETS’s effects on the market.

An extension of the ETS in the airlines sector will be translated to increased costs for the industry and additional taxes. The adjustment tax is yet to be formally proposed, but it aims to prevent businesses from relocating to laxer jurisdictions, creating ‘carbon leakage’, and to protect them from non-EU competitors.

The additional tax-burdens are met with criticism due to their incompatibility to WTO rules and the distortion of the level-playing field. If not applied unanimously with European unilateral backing, the tax adjustment risks high costs for businesses and consumers. Additionally, sectors with a high degree of cross-border division of labour or a global supply chain will be most heavily affected. Ramifications of the supposed tax were also felt in wider sectors outside the energy industry, as the levy is feared to worsen trade relations with the US, causing increased tariffs on EU products.

EU to enforce rules on online payments

The European Payments Service Directive II (PSD2), in force since January 2018, is currently stirring debate among Member States regarding the process of its implementation. The Directive is designed to harmonize and simplify money transfers inside the EU, decrease fraud in online payments, and inform consumers about the rights and obligations.

The revised PSD2 extends several obligations concerning data protection and information to and from international payments. It mandates stronger security requirements for online transactions and obliges providers to request customer authentication and demands they register. While the PSD2 compliance date was set for September 2019, the European Banking Authority unconditionally extended the implementation period in order to allow for full application of the new requirements. Nevertheless, a fixed common EU-wide transition period, agreed upon by Member States, is anticipated by the European Commission in order to ensure state-wide compliance.

Enforcement of PSD2 will allow consumers and merchants to increasingly benefit from the internal market and e-commerce. Its efficient integration will increase competitiveness and cost-efficiency for consumers and service providers. PSD2 will allow companies, other than banks, to offer new financial services to the public with consumers’ consent.

EU restrictions on electrical and electronic materials

European legislation restricting the use of hazardous substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment was approved in 2003 and has since been reviewed in 2011 and 2017. The European Commission initiated in September a consultation to collect public and business’ opinions in order to assess the performance of the restriction of hazardous elements, the management of chemical waste and the impact of these materials on human and environmental health. Currently the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBB and PBDE in electrical and electronic equipment is restricted. Four phthalates were recently added to this list in July 2019.

The evaluation will assess the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance and coherence of the current RoHS. The consultation will evaluate the functioning of the Internal Market, ensuring that the current legislation avoids distortion of competition that arises from differing product requirements among Member States. Input from the consultation will shape the Commission’s decision on policy options for the future. Amendments to the directive will affect a wide scope of manufacturers, as any product, which requires electric currents, is within scope. It has potential to affect the circular economy, restrict chemicals, and increase the standards of chemical waste management.

Alber & Geiger ranked among top lobbying firms in Europe

Alber & Geiger has been recognised for the fourth consecutive year as one of the top lobbying firms in Europe. The firm was shortlisted in four categories, including Lobbying the European Parliament, Consultancy Campaign of the Year and Consultancy of the Year by the Public Affairs Awards Europe 2018. Alber & Geiger picked up the award for the second year in a row in the Lobbying Member States category for its ability to generate Member State support at the EU level as well as work at national and local level in particular Member States.

Alber & Geiger’s team has decades of experience in representing clients in Europe through a broad range of activity. Our team is involved in many EU policy issues and regulatory matters, as well as active before all EU institutions and agencies, in addition to special national and local officials at the Member State level in Europe. Many of Alber & Geiger’s practitioners have a deep understanding of EU legislative and administrative procedures.

EU to regulate endocrine disruptors

On 7 November 2018, the European Commission adopted a Communication on endocrine disruptors. The Communication lays the groundwork for potential, new regulatory measures that will address endocrine disruptors across different areas in the EU, and beyond.

Currently, the EU legal framework on endocrine disruptors is incoherent. First, different approaches apply to different sectors. Second, different regulatory approaches exist in different pieces of EU legislation that regulate endocrine disruptors. Against this backdrop, the EU will launch a process to assess whether existing EU legislation on endocrine disruptors delivers its overall objectives. In addition, it will set a common definition for the identification of endocrine disruptors. The review and expected new legislation shall provide more coherence.

The European Commission will consult with all stakeholders as it reviews and prepares to revamp the rules on endocrine disruptors. It will also rely on output from stakeholders as it sets out to include endocrine disruptors in the existing international system for classification of chemicals.

EU to strengthen rule of law compliance

In 2014, following threats to the rule of law in several Member States, the European Commission decided to launch a framework to address such systemic threats through dialogue with the concerned countries. Until now the process consists of an assessment of the problems, followed by concrete recommendations and a monitoring mechanism.

Building on the existing framework, the European Commission has set out to strengthening the capacity of the EU to ensure effective and equal protection of the rule of law in all Member States. It is expected that a panel of experts would assess the rule of law situation in each Member State and make a public summary of the findings. The strengthened requirement for rule of law compliance raise the risk of concerned countries being stripped of EU funding through suspension or reduction of payments.

Member States, and all countries that rely on EU funding, must pay close attention to how they are meeting their rule of law commitments and communicate this effectively to the European institutions.

EU to regulate facial recognition

The European Commission is planning a regulation, which will tighten the limits on the use of facial recognition technology. The regulation would give EU citizens’ rights over the use of their facial recognition data, marking a precedent in how the EU regulates artificial intelligence.

The European Commission wishes to reinforce European citizens’ protection, which is currently mandated under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The existing GDPR already prohibits the collection of biometric information used to identify individuals, unless the person gives explicit consent.

The new regulation is anticipated to require the reclassification of facial recognition data, as biometric data under GDPR, therefore explicit consent from the person in question will be necessary. Thus, the regulation will limit private companies’ and public authorities’ use of facial recognition technology and wider AI technology.

EU-US new trade negotiations

After the failure of the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2016, the EU has decided to engage again in new trade discussions with Trump administration. According to the EU negotiating directives, the new agreement should address only trade in goods and the related tariffs, excluding the contentious area of agriculture and food standards. However, President Trump has been very vocal on the need for the EU to liberalise its agricultural market and, among other things, to lift the long-standing ban on American hormone-treated beef.

The benefits of an EU-US agreement have been highlighted by several economic studies. According to the economic analysis drafted by the European Commission, the elimination of tariffs would lead to cost reductions for economic operators and an increase of bilateral EU and US exports of 8% and 9% respectively.

The following months will be crucial to test how serious is the engagement of both parties. European stakeholders are expected to contribute with their views, in order to ensure that their concerns are taken into consideration during the bilateral talks.

EU to accelerate its mobility reforms

The Mobility Package proposed by the European Commission risks to paralyse Europe. In April 2019, the European Parliament has approved its position to negotiate with the Council of the European Union on new rules concerning posting of drivers, rest times and cabotage. According to the European Commission, the new rules are expected to boost competitiveness and to improve social rights and working conditions of European drivers.

The newly proposed reforms have met with widespread opposition in Central and Eastern European Member States. The local syndicates have blamed the new norms to create disparity between rich and poor countries, and to advantage investments and business in targeted States.

The new Parliament will need to face this challenge and to make sure that Europe moves all together.

Alber & Geiger recognised by The Lawyer European Awards 2019

Alber & Geiger has been shortlisted in two categories by the prestigious The Lawyer European Awards 2019, namely: Law Firm of the Year Benelux and the European Energy and Infrastructure Deal of the Year.

We are among the leading law firms in the exceptionally competitive Benelux category, particularly due to strategic detail, client satisfaction and outright quality. We were also highly commended for our niche – government relations law firm – with focus on lobbying before the EU institutions and Member States governments.

The Alber & Geiger team is also proud to have been recognised for its achievement in the field of EU energy and infrastructure, especially for helping clients overcome EU regulatory hurdles in relation to competition and energy policy.