News | 2024

I. A&G Newsletter Q2 2024

1. Commission Unveils Blueprint for Tomorrow’s Digital Infrastructures

The European Commission unveiled a comprehensive strategy aimed at enhancing the innovation, security, and resilience of Europe’s digital infrastructures, which are crucial for the continent’s economic competitiveness. This initiative emphasizes the necessity for robust, secure, and extensive digital connectivity to facilitate emerging technologies such as telemedicine, automated driving, and precision agriculture, which are essential for transitioning into the future.

At the heart of this strategy is a digital connectivity package designed to kickstart discussions among stakeholders, Member States, and allies on shaping future EU policies.

This includes a White Paper that delves into Europe’s current digital infrastructure challenges and outlines potential investment, innovation, security, and Digital Single Market strategies.

Additionally, a set of recommendations focuses on improving the security and resilience of submarine cable infrastructures through enhanced EU-wide coordination in governance and funding.

A key aspect of the proposal is the development of a “Connected Collaborative Computing” Network (“3C Network”) aimed at establishing comprehensive infrastructures for cloud and edge computing. This initiative intends to facilitate the development of innovative technologies and AI applications across various sectors through a collaborative approach, possibly through large-scale pilots or new significant EU projects.

The strategy also emphasizes the importance of synergizing existing initiatives, like the Next Generation Cloud Infrastructure and Services project, with funding programs such as the Connecting Europe Facility and Digital Europe. It suggests a potential coordinating role for the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) to foster a collaborative connectivity and computing ecosystem.

Furthermore, the EU aims to maximize the digital single market’s potential by advocating for a balanced competitive environment and reevaluating the regulatory framework to reflect the convergence of telecoms and cloud technologies. This might include harmonizing telecom operator authorizations, integrating spectrum governance at the EU level, revising wholesale access policies, accelerating the transition from copper networks, and promoting the environmental sustainability of digital networks.

To secure Europe’s network and computing infrastructure—an essential component of its economic security—the EU proposes incentivizing the development and bolstering the security and resilience of strategic submarine cable infrastructures. This includes the possibility of establishing a joint governance system and revising financial instruments to better support European Cable Projects.

In response to calls from Member States and stakeholders, the Commission aims to enhance EU coordination, assess and mitigate security risks, develop a Cable Security Toolbox, and streamline permit procedures for cable projects. An expert group on Submarine Cable Infrastructure will be established to oversee these efforts.

Concluding, the Commission has initiated a public consultation based on 12 scenarios presented in the White Paper, which will remain open until June 30, 2024. The feedback received will inform future policy actions.

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2. Support for EU Farmers: Targeted Review for Common Agricultural Policy Proposed

The European Commission has proposed revisions to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to simplify regulations for EU farmers while ensuring the policy remains robust, sustainable, and competitive. These revisions, particularly concerning conditionality and CAP Strategic Plans, aim to alleviate control-related burdens on farmers, allowing for greater environmental compliance flexibility. Additionally, national administrations are to receive more leeway in applying standards.

This legislative proposal responds to numerous requests from farmers’ organizations and Member States, complementing ongoing efforts to lessen administrative loads for farmers. It endeavors to balance the need for sustainable agricultural transition, stakeholder expectations, and the desire for swift agreement among the European Parliament and Council. The proposal maintains environmental and climate ambitions within the CAP framework.

The Commission therefore proposes a targeted review of certain conditionalities in the Regulation on CAP Strategic Plans, such as GAEC 8 on non-productive features, GAEC 7 on crop rotation, and GAEC 6 on soil cover during sensitive periods.

Under the proposed changes to the CAP, EU farmers will be encouraged, but not required, to maintain non-productive areas like fallow land for biodiversity, with financial incentives offered through eco-schemes. The revisions will allow farmers more options in meeting crop rotation requirements, enabling them to choose between crop rotation and diversification based on their specific environmental conditions and challenges, such as drought or excessive rainfall. Additionally, member states will be granted greater discretion in determining sensitive periods for soil cover, adapting practices to suit regional climatic variability and conditions, thus offering tailored approaches to sustainable farming.

The Commission also proposed some exemptions. This includes targeted exemptions and potential derogations for adverse weather conditions, alongside a proposal to simplify amendments to CAP Strategic Plans and relieve small farms under 10 hectares from compliance-related controls and penalties.

Furthermore, the Commission proposes to enhance farmers’ positions within the food supply chain, introducing a production cost observatory, suggesting improvements to contract regulations and producer organizations, and contemplating new cross-border enforcement rules against unfair trading practices. An evaluation of the Directive on unfair trading practices is also planned, with the first report due in spring 2024. Another evaluation that legislative proposals could accompany is planned for 2025.

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3. Commission Proposes Measures against Counterfeiting and Intelectual Property Protection

The European Commission introduced a Recommendation known as the EU toolbox against counterfeiting to strengthen the fight against counterfeiting and enhance the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) both online and offline. This initiative seeks to promote cooperation among rights holders, service providers, and law enforcement agencies, and to encourage the adoption of modern tools and best practices. It outlines strategic measures to protect companies’ intangible assets from counterfeiting and cyber-theft, including the use of the IP Enforcement Portal by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the adoption of modern techniques to tackle new forms of counterfeiting.

The Recommendation suggests several key actions, such as establishing a unified contact point for IP enforcement, modernizing the Memorandum of Understanding on counterfeit goods online, and introducing dynamic injunctions to tackle mirror websites. It also promotes alternative dispute resolution for IP disputes, reviews sanctions for criminal IP offences, and supports market surveillance enhancements. Additionally, it aims to integrate IP education in training curricula and introduce IP practices tailored to AI and virtual worlds.

For SMEs, the Recommendation offers financial support through an “IP scan enforcement voucher” under the SME Fund, a Cybertheft Prevention Toolkit, and guidance on utilizing AI while protecting intangible assets. The Commission, in partnership with the EUIPO, will monitor the Recommendation’s implementation and evaluate its effectiveness in three years to determine the need for further EU-level measures.

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4. New Action Plan to Boost Biotech and Biomanufacturing in the EU

The European Commission has outlined a comprehensive plan to enhance biotechnology and biomanufacturing within the EU, as detailed in the Communication on Building the future with nature. This plan addresses various challenges and aims to align with the Communication on the EU’s long-term competitiveness, highlighting biotechnology’s potential to revolutionize sectors like agriculture, energy, and healthcare through advancements in life sciences, digitalization, and artificial intelligence (AI).

To overcome obstacles such as regulatory complexity and access to finance, the Commission proposes several actions including leveraging research, stimulating market demand for bio-based products, streamlining regulatory pathways for quicker market access, fostering investments, and enhancing biotech-related skills. Key initiatives include the development of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Synthetic Biology Accelerator (EU IBISBA), exploring bio-based content requirements, establishing an EU Biotech Hub, promoting regulatory sandboxes, and advocating for specific challenges on biotech in the European Innovation Council (EIC) accelerator programme.

Furthermore, the Commission intends to support international cooperation, the use of AI in biotech, and review the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, emphasizing the sector’s role in achieving a more competitive, resilient EU capable of facing green and digital transitions.

The Commission will also review the EU Bioeconomy Strategy by end 2025.

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5. Commission Launches New Strategy on Carbon Capture and Climate Neutrality

The Commission’s newly adopted Industrial Carbon Management Communication outlines a strategy to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050, proposing the development of at least 50 million tonnes per year of CO2 storage capacity by 2030, expanding to approximately 280 million tonnes by 2040. The plan includes preparatory work on a future CO2 transport and storage regulatory package, and strategies to scale up markets for CO2 capture and storage, including project permitting guidance and an atlas of potential storage sites.

The Commission will assess necessary volumes of CO2 removals, aiming to integrate these into the EU Emissions Trading System, and will work to establish a clear carbon accounting framework to encourage the use of captured CO2 in industrial processes. To foster an attractive investment environment for carbon management projects, the EU proposes promoting these projects through energy infrastructure programs, assessing funding mechanisms, and enhancing research and innovation, including through Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund. Furthermore, the EU intends to engage in international cooperation to harmonize reporting and accounting for carbon management activities, ensuring that international carbon pricing frameworks account for removals in challenging sectors.

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II. A&G Newsletter Q1 2024

1. Commission to Expose Hidden Foreign Influence Through ‘Defence of Democracy’

The EU seeks transparency when third countries lobby to influence its democratic processes. The European Commission introduced a Defence of Democracy package before the 2024 European elections, focusing on a law to boost transparency and accountability in foreign interest representations. It also offers two recommendations to ensure elections are free and fair and to increase citizen and civil society engagement in policymaking. This initiative aims to tackle the threat of foreign interference and promote civic participation in democracy. According to a Eurobarometer survey, 81% of Europeans view foreign interference as a significant issue, highlighting the need for action against hidden foreign influence.

The proposal introduces uniform rules for higher transparency and accountability in such lobbying activities across the EU.

The proposal foresees the following transparency requirements:

  • Registration in a Transparency Register: entities lobbying for third countries must join a transparency register, with Member States creating or modifying their own registers accordingly.
  • Public access: key details of lobbying activities, like funding amounts, involved countries, and objectives, will be publicly accessible.
  • Record keeping: lobbyists must maintain records of their activities for four years post-completion.

The proposal sets fair rules to protect fundamental rights:

  • Independent supervisory authorities will be empowered to request limited records in duly justified cases only and in a proportionate manner;
  • Authorities need to ensure that registration does not lead to negative consequences
  • Possibility to derogate from the publicity of information in duly justified cases;
  • It standardizes rules across the EU, preventing extra requirements by Member States.
  • The Commission aims to establish global norms for managing foreign influence, respecting fundamental rights.

The Commission looks forwards for the European Parliament and Council to swiftly advance legislative proposals in democracy before the European parliamentary elections and calls for broad support from national entities to implement the European Democracy Action Plan and the Defence of Democracy package. Ahead of the 2024 European elections, the Commission will enhance dialogues and partnerships with online platforms and signatories of the Disinformation Code, focusing on transparent political ads and tackling AI-driven disinformation. This effort aims to safeguard the integrity of elections and combat disinformation effectively.

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2. Commission Proposes Streamlined ‘One Substance, One Assessment’ Chemicals Reform

The European Commission is introducing three law proposals to make chemical safety checks more consistent and efficient across the EU. This plan, known as the “one substance, one assessment” package, is part of a broader Chemicals Strategy aiming to protect health and the environment better. The plan involves redistributing responsibilities among four EU agencies to ensure clear and unified assessments of chemicals found in everyday items like medical devices, toys, pesticides, and foods.

The benefits of these changes include easier access to information about chemicals for everyone, more uniform processes, and quicker decisions on chemical risks. This means that once a potential hazard is identified, steps can be taken more swiftly to address it, leading to improved safety for people and the environment.

The proposals aim to:

  • Enhance collaboration and consolidate scientific and technical work on chemicals in the European Chemicals Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, the European Environment Agency and the European Medicines Agency. This effort aims to make assessments more consistent and allow for the reuse of data across different regulations.
  • Create a Common Data Platform, and introduce a ‘one-stop shop’ access to data on chemicals.
  • It will include data on hazards, physico-chemical properties, presence in the environment, emissions, uses, environmental sustainability of chemical substances and on ongoing regulatory processes. This platform will incorporate existing platforms such as the Information Platform on Chemical Monitoring (IPCHEM), the Public Activities Coordination Tool (PACT), and the EU chemicals legislation finder (EUCLEF).
  • It will broaden their coverage to nearly all EU chemical laws, adding new tools and databases, such as a repository of human and environmental values.
  • Set up a system to collect data on chemicals in people (like in blood or breast milk) across the EU, helping estimate citizens’ chemical exposure.
  • Create a framework to quickly detect, identify and prevent widespread chemical risks, like PFAS. This system will allow rapid response and track the effects of regulatory measures on chemicals.
  • Empower the European Chemicals Agency to generate data when needed.
  • Guarantee transparency of scientific studies on chemicals, including those contracted by businesses.

These proposals are now waiting for further examination and approval by the European Parliament and the Council.

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3. New Measures to Enhance Access to In Vitro Diagnostics Proposed

The European Commission plans to extend the deadline for companies to comply with the In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Regulation (IVDR), given certain criteria. This move is designed to boost patient care by increasing the accessibility of crucial healthcare devices. Moreover, the Commission plans to boost Medical Device sector transparency, including hastening certain aspects of the European Database on Medical Devices – EUDAMED.

In vitro diagnostics (IVDs) like HIV, pregnancy, and COVID-19 tests are crucial for health assessments, necessitating the EU’s updated regulatory framework since May 2022 to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Despite this, many IVDs in the market still do not meet these new standards, particularly high-risk devices critical for blood and organ donation testing. To address this, the European Commission proposes extending compliance deadlines to facilitate the transition without sacrificing safety, recognizing the impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that produce these devices. The extension varies by device risk, with high-risk devices (class D) until December 2027, significant risk devices (class C) until December 2028, and lower risk devices (class B and A) until December 2029. Additionally, manufacturers must notify of potential supply interruptions to ensure patient care continuity.

The Commission also aims to enhance medical device transparency through the early mandatory use of the European Database on Medical Devices (EUDAMED) by late 2025, offering a comprehensive view of EU market devices. This initiative, pending approval from the European Parliament and Council, includes a forthcoming evaluation in 2024 to assess the legislation’s impact on device availability, focusing on specific needs and the burden on SMEs.

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4. Commission Unveils AI Package to Support AI Startups and SMEs

The Commission has introduced a support package aimed at European startups and SMEs to foster the development of trustworthy AI, aligning with EU values and the pioneering EU AI Act. This act, agreed upon in December 2023, promotes the use and development of reliable AI across Europe. Following President von der Leyen’s 2023 address, the initiative grants innovative AI startups access to Europe’s supercomputers to develop their AI models. Launching with the Large AI Grand Challenge in November 2023, offering financial and supercomputing support, this package includes measures like privileged supercomputer access for AI startups and innovators, to bolster AI innovation and startup growth.

The proposal includes:
An amendment of the EuroHPC Regulation to set up AI Factories, a new pillar for the EU’s supercomputers Joint Undertaking activities. This includes:

  • Acquiring, upgrading and operating AI-dedicated supercomputers to allow fast machine learning and training of large General Purpose AI (GPAI) models;
  • Enabling access to the AI dedicated supercomputers, contributing to the widening of the use of AI to a large number of public and private users, including startups and SMEs;
  • Offering a one-stop shop for startups and innovators, supporting the AI startup and research ecosystem in algorithmic development, testing evaluation and validation of large-scale AI models, providing supercomputer-friendly programming facilities and other AI enabling services;
  • Enabling the development of a variety of emerging AI applications based on General Purpose AI models.
    The Commission plans to create an AI Office to oversee AI policy development and coordination across Europe, and to monitor the implementation and enforcement of the upcoming AI Act.

The EU outlines key activities for AI Start-Up and Innovation:

  • Financial backing through Horizon Europe and Digital Europe for generative AI, aiming for €4 billion in investments by 2027.
  • Initiatives to enhance the EU’s generative AI talent through education and training.
  • Support for AI start-ups and scale-ups with public and private funding, including venture capital and the EIC accelerator Programme and InvestEU.
  • Speeding up the creation and use of Common European Data Spaces for the AI community to train and refine models. A new report on these data spaces offers the latest developments.
  • Launching ‘GenAI4EU’ to foster new use cases and applications in 14 industrial and public sectors, covering robotics, health, and more.

The Commission, along with several Member States, is setting up two European Digital Infrastructure Consortiums (EDICs):

The ‘Alliance for Language Technologies’ (ALT-EDIC) focuses on creating a shared European infrastructure for language technologies. Its goal is to overcome the lack of data for European languages needed to train AI, promoting linguistic diversity and cultural richness, and aiding in the development of large European language models.

The ‘CitiVERSE’ EDIC will utilize advanced AI tools to improve Local Digital Twins for Smart Communities. This effort aims to assist cities in simulating and optimizing various processes, including traffic and waste management.

In the AI@EC Communication, the Commission outlines its strategic approach to the use of AI, anticipating and preparing internally for the implementation of the EU AI Act.

The European Parliament and the Council will now consider the Commission’s proposed amendments on the Regulation establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking.

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5. A European Citizens’ Initiative on Cannabis Got Partially Registered

The Commission has partially approved the ‘European Cannabis Initiative,’ a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). The organizers of the initiative proposed three main objectives:

  • To urge the Commission to convene a trans-European citizens’ assembly on cannabis policy, including sanctions and the coherence of member states’ policies.
  • To encourage the Commission to promote access to medical cannabis and facilitate the transport of cannabis and its derivatives prescribed for therapeutic purposes, thereby ensuring the unrestricted exercise of the right to health.
  • To request the Commission provide the necessary resources for researching cannabis for its therapeutic purposes.

The Commission registered only the second and the third objectives. Meanwhile, the request to organize a trans-European assembly on cannabis policy was not registered, as it exceeds the Commission’s authority for legal action. At this point, the Commission has not evaluated the content of the proposals; the registration solely reflects a legal judgment and does not imply the Commission’s final stance or planned actions.

The organizers now have six months to start collecting signatures. If the initiative gathers one million endorsements from at least seven Member States within a year, the Commission must respond, detailing whether it will act on the proposals and the reasons for its decision.

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6. New Rules on Animal Welfare regarding Transport, Home Pets, and Fur Farms

The Commission announced a significant overhaul of EU animal welfare regulations, marking the largest reform in 20 years. This includes introducing, for the first time, regulations for the welfare and traceability of dogs and cats bred, kept, and sold for economic reasons. The reform is in line with the Farm to Fork Strategy part of the European Green Deal for sustainable agriculture and food production.

The reform aims to enhance the welfare of the 1.6 billion animals transported annually within and from the EU, incorporating the latest scientific, technological advances. New standards will set uniform EU requirements for breeding, housing, and managing dogs and cats in various facilities, alongside mandatory identification and registration for these animals to combat illegal trade and improve welfare standards.

Additionally, the Commission is taking steps in response to the ‘Fur Free Europe’ European Citizens’ Initiative, advocating for a ban on fur farming and the sale of fur products in the Single Market, reflecting the ongoing public concern over animal welfare.

Better rules for the transport of animals:
The rules on animal transport are 20 years old. The new rules focus on key areas to guarantee animal welfare in transport:

  • Shorter travel times, access to rest, water and feeding, and special rules for vulnerable animals
  • Allowances to ensure minimum space for the different animals
  • Transport in extreme temperatures will be subject to strict conditions
  • Tightened rules for the exports of live animals from the Union
  • Digital tools to facilitate the enforcement of transport rules

Better welfare for dogs and cats:
The proposal introduces uniform EU standards for the welfare of dogs and cats in breeding establishments, pet shops, and shelters, without imposing new regulations on citizens and pet owners.

Reply to the European citizens’ initiative ‘Fur Free Europe’:
The Commission also responded to a European Citizens’ Initiative “Fur Free Europe”. The Commission has requested EFSA to assess the welfare of fur-farmed animals scientifically. Based on this review and an evaluation of economic and social effects, the Commission will decide on the most suitable course of action.

The legislative proposals will be presented to the European Parliament and the Council. Regarding the European Citizens’ Initiative, EFSA will start its scientific evaluation at the Commission’s request and is expected to provide its findings by March 2025.

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III. A&G Newsletter Q4 2023

1. Commission Proposes Initiatives to Curb Microplastic Pollution from Plastic Pellets

For the first time, the European Commission is proposing measures to combat microplastic pollution caused by unintentional plastic pellet releases. Annually, 52 to 184 thousand tonnes of pellets are inadvertently released into the environment, often due to mishandling across the supply chain. The new proposal mandates that all EU operators handling pellets adopt preventive measures, aiming to slash pellet release by up to 74%. This significant reduction is expected to lead to cleaner ecosystems, contribute to plastic-free rivers and oceans, and minimize health risks.

The Commission suggests a three-step approach: prevent spills, contain any accidental releases, and clean up post-spill.

Key Aspects of the Proposal:

  • Implementation of Best Practices: Operators are required to follow best handling practices, already in use by industry leaders, scaled according to the size of the operation or transport activity.
  • Mandatory Certification and Self-Declarations: Larger companies must acquire certification from independent third parties, while smaller businesses should self-declare their compliance, aiding authorities in enforcing regulations.
  • Harmonized Loss Estimation Methodology: A standardized method, developed by standardization bodies, will be introduced to monitor losses. This methodology aims to improve environmental and health awareness and accountability.
  • Simplified Requirements for SMEs: Recognizing the substantial presence of SMEs in the pellet supply chain, the proposal includes more manageable requirements for micro and small operators.

Next Steps:

The proposed Regulation on preventing pellet losses will be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. It requires all operators, including non-EU entities, to adhere to these regulations within 18 months of their enactment.

In its ongoing efforts to curb microplastics pollution, the Commission will continue to develop and implement relevant legislation concerning products and waste. It also remains committed to leading international efforts in ending plastic pollution.

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2.  EU Proposes Blueprint for Critical Infrastructure to Enhance Response to Cross-Border Disruptions

The European Commission has put forward a Council Recommendation for a Critical Infrastructure Blueprint, aiming to strengthen the EU’s coordinated response to threats and disruptions targeting critical infrastructure. This proposal comes amid a highly volatile geopolitical climate, highlighted by Russia’s war against Ukraine, increased hybrid attacks, and the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Critical infrastructure is essential in the EU, as it underpins vital societal functions and ensures the seamless provision of crucial services.

The EU has already implemented measures to safeguard critical infrastructure and minimize the impact of service disruptions. Following the Nord Stream pipeline incident, the Commission recommended accelerating protective measures and enhancing incident response coordination through this Blueprint. The EU-NATO Task Force on infrastructure resilience, established in March 2023, also contributed by identifying current security challenges and offering recommendations to strengthen resilience. This proposal builds on those initiatives, complementing existing EU crisis management tools, cybersecurity measures, and protocols against hybrid threats.

Objectives of the Critical Infrastructure Blueprint:

The Blueprint provides a structured approach for managing significant critical infrastructure incidents, focusing on three primary goals:
Enhanced Situational Awareness: To better understand the nature, origin, and potential impacts of significant incidents on both operational and strategic/political levels across Member States.
Coordinated Public Communication: To ensure consistent messaging post-incident, which is crucial for countering misinformation and maintaining public trust.
Effective Response: By reinforcing Member States’ responses and promoting cooperation within the EU, the Blueprint seeks to mitigate incident effects and swiftly restore essential services.

Application and Actions:

The Blueprint is activated under two scenarios:

  • When an incident significantly disrupts six or more Member States.
  • When an incident in at least two Member States requires urgent EU-level policy coordination due to its extensive and significant technical or political impact.

The response includes information exchange, organizing expert meetings, situational reports, coordinating public communication and responses, and, if requested, technical support from other Member States or EU bodies. It involves setting up contact points for all stakeholders and sharing incident information with the Council Presidency and the Commission.

Next Steps:

The Council will discuss this proposal, marking a crucial step in strengthening the EU’s ability to protect and respond to disruptions in its critical infrastructure.

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3. New Measures in Place to Counter Threats from Civil Drones

Both drone and counter drone technologies are ‘exploding’. Yet flying one in the European Union can pose security threats even with the safety measures in place. Existing drone rules as well as certification and registration requirements have made it difficult to use such devices for malicious purposes in the EU. Despite that, their capabilities, which make them an ideal tool to carry out intricate malevolent attacks, represent growing security risks. There have been cases of drones used for criminal activities, including smuggling and spying on critical infrastructure, as well as privacy and safety concerns in residential areas.

Against this backdrop, the European Commission adopted a communication to tackle threats posed by the illegal and perilous use of civil drones.

The new counter-drone policy aims at ensuring that fast-developing tech and the increased number of drones don’t result in unmanageable growth of threats in civil space

The plan, part of an EU Drone Policy, focuses on six key initiatives:

  1. Good practices and information sharing: This will be achieved by improving the coordination of current projects and establishing a specialized group of counter-drone experts within the Commission.
  2. Regulatory Review: The policy includes examining existing regulations to identify areas that need improvement. The goal is to standardize laws and procedures throughout the EU.
  3. Technology Guidance: The EU will assist Member States in selecting the most suitable commercial cyber and non-cyber counter-drone technologies. This support will be provided through expert advice from the counter-drone expert group and the Joint Research Centre (JRC).
  4. Operational Support and Training: Practical guidance and operational assistance will be extended to Member States. This includes broadening counter-drone training programs to encompass the private security sector and law enforcement agencies.
  5. Fostering Research and Innovation: The strategy supports research and innovation through budget programs like Horizon Europe.
  6. Increased Funding: There will be a boost in financial support with the launch of a call for proposals on counter-drone solutions. This initiative is part of the Internal Security Fund thematic facility work programs for 2026-2027.

Next steps:

This Communication details plans up to 2030, including a mid-term review in 2027 and a comprehensive overhaul of the EU’s counter-drone programme by 2030.

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4. EU Plans a Stronger Visa-free Travel Suspension Policy

The European Union is planning for stronger mechanisms to suspend visas, aiming to revamp the region’s challenging migration system effectively.

Visa-free travel has been a boon to the economy, society, and culture, significantly benefiting the travel and tourism sectors across the EU and its partner nations. As a key aspect of the EU’s external relations, visa policies play a vital role in fostering international partnerships.

However, the changing geopolitical landscape presents new challenges to visa-free travel. Issues such as the misuse of visa-free privileges, including irregular migration misalignments with EU visa policies, citizenship-for-investment programs in visa-exempt countries, and state-backed manipulation of migrant flows, have become pressing concerns.

To effectively tackle these issues, the European Commission is introducing a revised visa suspension mechanism. This move follows President von der Leyen’s commitment to strengthen the mechanism and monitor visa-free countries, as stated before the European Council on 20 March 2023. Accompanying this proposal is the sixth report under the existing Visa Suspension Mechanism.

The revision aims to:

  • Broaden Suspension Criteria: The mechanism will now include cases like insufficient alignment with EU visa policy, hybrid threats, and investor citizenship schemes.
  • Extend Procedure Duration: To allow more time for corrective actions. An urgent procedure will also be introduced for rapid response to significant threats or surges in arrivals.
  • Enhance Monitoring and Reporting: Strengthening the Commission’s oversight of countries where issues are detected.

The sixth report, covering countries in the Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership, and regions with investor citizenship schemes, urges these countries to better align with EU visa policies and address issues like unjustified asylum claims, irregular migration, organized crime, and corruption. It specifically points out the risks associated with investor citizenship schemes facilitating visa-free EU entry.

The Commission will maintain its comprehensive monitoring approach for all visa-exempt countries, as outlined in its May 2023 Communication. This includes annual reporting to the European Parliament and the Council, focusing on migration and security challenges in visa-free countries.

Next Steps:

The proposed changes to the Visa Suspension Mechanism will now be negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission will also continue to include visa liberalization assessments in its annual enlargement package and, where applicable, EU accession negotiations.

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5. EU Aims to Simplify Living, Working, and Traveling Across Member States for Europeans

The European Commission has unveiled a strategic Communication outlining concrete steps to digitize the coordination of social security systems across Europe. This initiative aims to simplify and expedite access to social security services for citizens and businesses by utilizing digital tools, ultimately reducing administrative burdens.

This digitization will enhance information exchange between national social security institutions, thereby speeding up the recognition and granting of eligible benefits across borders. It’s a move that promises to ease the process for Europeans living, working, and traveling abroad, assist companies in conducting business in other EU countries, and facilitate the cross-border coordination of social security by national administrations.

Despite previous efforts to streamline the cross-border flow of social security information, challenges persist. National institutions, healthcare providers, and labor inspectorates still struggle with accessing and sharing data due to the lack of interoperability between national systems. Additionally, costs are incurred in issuing and verifying entitlement documents.

This Communication reviews the current progress in digitalizing social security coordination, outlines ongoing initiatives, and proposes future actions to fully harness the benefits of digitalization.

Key Measures Proposed:

Accelerating EESSI Implementation: Member States are urged to fully operationalize the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) by the end of 2024, transitioning from paper-based processes to digital exchanges.

Online Social Security Coordination: Enhancing online procedures for social security coordination, aligning with the Single Digital Gateway Regulation, for seamless cross-border movement and work, and faster access to benefits.

Participation in ESSPASS Pilot: Member States are encouraged to engage in the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) pilot, aimed at simplifying the issuance and verification of social security entitlements across borders.

Introduction of EU Digital Identity Wallets: Advancing the use of EU Digital Identity (EUDI) wallets to carry digital entitlement documents, like the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), for instant verification by relevant authorities.

The Commission will support these actions through technical assistance and EU funding, involving instruments like the Digital Europe Programme and InvestEU. The European Labour Authority will contribute by sharing best practices and facilitating exchanges among national authorities.

Next Steps:

The Commission invites the European Parliament and the Council to endorse this approach and calls for collaborative efforts among Member States and stakeholders for implementation. Annual meetings will be held to monitor progress.

This digitalization is also crucial in the context of ongoing negotiations on revising EU social security coordination rules. The Commission urges a swift agreement on this revision to modernize the legal framework and pledges continued support to co-legislators in achieving this goal.

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6. The 2024 Commission Work Programme to focus on simpler rules for citizens and businesses

The 2024 Commission Work Programme, emphasizes the simplification of regulations for EU citizens and businesses.

The Programme reviews past achievements and introduces new proposals and initiatives focused on reducing bureaucratic complexities. Already, 15 proposals have been introduced since March 2023, with 26 more rationalization proposals announced today, detailed in a dedicated annex alongside evaluations and fitness checks.

With the 2024 European elections approaching, the Commission’s new initiatives are carefully chosen to fulfill its commitments and address new challenges. These initiatives resonate with President von der Leyen’s 2023 State of the Union address and letter of intent, aiming to streamline operations without compromising on social, safety, consumer protection, environmental, or economic standards.

With less than a year until the 2024 European elections, the Commission will put forward 18 new policy proposals to tackle emerging challenges and follow through on its commitments from 2019. They include:

  • the launch of a dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU
  • an initiative to give AI start-ups access to EU high-performance computers
  • a European space law
  • a focus on economic challenges related to labour and skill shortages, education, social dialogue, inflation and ease of doing business
  • stronger cooperation to fight the smuggling of migrants

Key to this strategy is the reduction of burdensome reporting requirements by 25%. Notable steps include reforming the Union Customs Code, projected to save traders around €2 billion, and revising statistical survey rules to save approximately €450 million, particularly benefiting SMEs.

The Work Programme introduces simplifications across various policy areas, such as consolidating overlapping obligations, reducing business impact, and enhancing digitalization.

The Commission has fulfilled over 90% of its 2019 Political Guidelines commitments. In 2024, collaboration with the European Parliament and Council will be crucial to finalize outstanding proposals, ensuring that Europe’s citizens and businesses fully benefit from EU policies.

The Commission remains committed to the European Green Deal, ensuring a fair, smart, and inclusive green transition. This includes citizen and industry dialogues, support for vulnerable groups through the Social Climate Fund, strategic dialogues on EU agriculture’s future, and digital age initiatives like AI start-ups access to high-performance computers and a European space law proposal.

Challenges like labor and skill shortages, education, inflation, and ease of business will be addressed in 2024. Support for Ukraine against Russia’s aggression, partnerships with Africa, fair trade, defense capability development, fighting migrant smuggling, and preparing for an enlarged Union are also top priorities.

Our team enjoys long-lasting relationships and understands the complexities to help shape decisions.


7. Commission Proposes EU-Wide Disability and Parking Card

The European Commission has put forward a legislative proposal to enhance freedom of movement for individuals with disabilities. This initiative aims to ensure that they can equally access special conditions, preferential treatments, and parking rights in other EU Member States. The proposal introduces a universal European Disability Card and upgrades the existing European Parking Card for those with disabilities, both of which will be recognized across the EU.

European Disability Card:

Currently, the lack of international recognition of disability status hinders individuals from accessing certain benefits while traveling in the EU. The proposed European Disability Card will provide verified proof of disability throughout the EU, ensuring equal access to special conditions and preferential treatments in various sectors such as transport, cultural events, museums, and leisure facilities. This card will be issued by national authorities and will complement existing national cards or certificates.

Enhancing the European Parking Card:

Recognizing the importance of private car transport for many with disabilities, the Commission proposes enhancements to the European Parking Card. This updated card will grant equal parking rights in any EU Member State and will come in a standardized format, replacing national versions and ensuring EU-wide recognition.

  • Accessibility and Compliance
  • To ensure the cards are user-friendly and to minimize administrative burdens, the proposal requires Member States to:
    Issue both physical and digital versions of the cards.
  • Publicly disclose the issuance and withdrawal rules in accessible formats.
  • Ensure service providers inform about the specific conditions and advantages available to individuals with disabilities in accessible formats.
  • Member States are also mandated to enable actions under national law by individuals with disabilities, their representative organizations, and relevant public bodies to ensure compliance. Upon the Directive’s adoption into national law, Member States will be expected to enforce fines and corrective measures for any violations.

Next Steps:

This proposal by the Commission is set for discussion in the European Parliament and the Council. Once adopted, Member States will have 18 months to integrate the Directive’s provisions into their national laws. This move marks a significant step towards ensuring more inclusive and accessible travel for individuals with disabilities across the EU.

Alber & Geiger – Ensuring your voice is heard

IV. A&G Newsletter Q3 2023

1. EU and Philippines to Revive Stalled Trade Negotiations

The EU and the Philippines have declared their plan to investigate the revival of talks for a forward-looking, equitable, and environmentally conscious free trade agreement (FTA), placing sustainability as a central tenet. In the coming days, both entities will initiate a mutual ‘scoping process’ aimed at gauging their alignment regarding the prospective FTA. A positive outcome from this process, followed by consultations with member nations, would enable the EU and the Philippines to recommence FTA negotiations.

The relaunch of talks was at the top of the agenda of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her visit to the Philippines.

President von der Leyen engaged in discussions with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to enhance relations, which had experienced deterioration due to human rights concerns in recent times. In a joint statement, Von der Leyen expressed that this marked the initial visit of an EU commissioner to the Philippines over 60 years of diplomatic ties, and she believed it would pave the way for “expediting a fresh phase of collaboration.”

“The Philippines is a key partner for us in the Indo-Pacific region, and with the launch of this scoping process we are paving the way to taking our partnership to the next level,” von der Leyen said.

After recommencing FTA negotiations with Thailand earlier this year, this declaration highlights the significant value of the Indo-Pacific region within the EU’s trade priorities. It sets the stage for enhanced trade connections with another dynamic economy in South-East Asia, solidifying the EU’s strategic involvement in this rapidly developing area.

The proposed agreement involves a range of ambitious provisions, including substantial commitments for market access, efficient sanitary and phytosanitary procedures, and the safeguarding of intellectual property rights, including Geographical Indications.

Notably, the EU places a significant emphasis on sustainability within this FTA. The core of the agreement is set to incorporate rigorous and enforceable regulations about Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD). This underscores the EU’s commitment to fostering responsible and sustainable trade practices within its economic partnerships.

Alber & Geiger can assist to get an advantage in trade negotiations goals with a proven track record.

2. Commission Intensifies Efforts to Safeguard Children from Unsafe Toys

The European Commission has introduced a new Toy Safety Regulation aimed at enhancing child safety by amending the existing guidelines. While toys introduced into the EU market are already recognized for their safety standards on a global scale, these proposed revisions seek to further fortify this safeguarding, particularly against potentially harmful chemicals.

The envisioned regulations also target the reduction of the considerable number of unsafe toys that are currently available within the EU, with a particular focus on those sold online. This initiative not only strives to create a more equitable environment between domestically produced toys and imported counterparts but also underscores the Commission’s dedication to child welfare.

Simultaneously, the proposed rules ensure the unobstructed circulation of toys across the Single Market, preserving the principle of free movement while enhancing the overall safety of toys available to children. This initiative, taken by the European Commission, signals a concerted effort to enhance child protection, establish equitable competition, and maintain the high standards of toy safety within the EU.

Building upon existing regulations, the current proposal seeks to update safety standards for toys marketed within the EU, regardless of their origin. The primary goals of this proposal are:

  1. Enhancing Protection against Harmful Chemicals: The proposal not only maintains the ban on carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reproductive toxic substances (CMRs) but also extends the prohibition to other detrimental chemicals. Specifically targeting chemicals with adverse effects on children, the proposal forbids substances such as endocrine disruptors, those affecting the respiratory system, and toxins to specific organs.
  2. Amplifying Enforcement: To ensure the availability of only safe toys in the EU, the proposal mandates a Digital Product Passport for all toys. This passport includes compliance information as per the proposed Regulation. Importers must furnish digital product passports at EU borders, including for online sales. An innovative IT system will screen passports at external borders, identifying shipments requiring thorough customs inspections. While national inspectors will continue conducting checks, the proposal grants the Commission authority to remove unsafe toys from the market in cases not explicitly covered by the Regulation.

Our experienced team can help influence opinions and agendas.

3. Commission Takes Action on Animal Testing Phase-Out Following European Citizens’ Initiative

In response to the European Citizens’ Initiative titled “Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics — Commit to a Europe Without Animal Testing,” the European Commission announced in July its commitment to expediting the reduction of animal testing across the continent. This decisive action signifies the Commission’s dedication to aligning with citizens’ concerns regarding cruelty-free cosmetics.

The Commission plans to introduce a roadmap encompassing both legislative and non-legislative measures aimed at minimizing animal testing. This roadmap’s overarching goal is to transition towards animal-free regulations within chemicals legislation while concurrently promoting alternative testing methods. Additionally, the Commission aims to reinforce its backing of scientific advancement by facilitating research into alternatives to animal testing and potentially harmonizing Member States’ efforts in this domain.

In response to the European citizens’ initiative’s objectives, the Commission outlines its strategy as follows:

Protect and strengthen the cosmetics animal testing ban: The Commission highlights the existing prohibition on cosmetic products tested on animals under the EU Cosmetics Regulation. While this ban doesn’t cover safety tests for chemical risk assessment mandated by the EU Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the interplay between these regulations is under review by the Court of Justice. The Commission will consider potential legislative changes based on court case outcomes.

Transform EU chemicals legislation: With a commitment to reducing and eventually eradicating animal testing in chemical-related regulations, the Commission plans to collaborate with stakeholders on a roadmap for animal-free chemical safety assessments. This roadmap will guide forthcoming actions to eliminate animal testing within EU chemicals legislation.

Modernise science in the EU: While the Commission doesn’t deem a legislative proposal necessary for ending animal use in research, training, and education, it will continue robust support for alternative methodologies through funding. The Commission will initiate measures to expedite the decrease in animal testing across research, education, and training, including exploring coordination of Member States’ activities, organizing workshops, and sustaining new training initiatives for young scientists.

The Commission registered the European citizens’ initiative ‘Save Cruelty-Free Cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without Animal Testing’ on 30 June 2021. Its organizers collected support between 31 August 2021 and 31 August 2022. On 25 January 2023, after verification of 1,217,916 statements of support by the Member State authorities, the organizers submitted the initiative to the Commission for examination and reply.

Alber & Geiger can help organizations voice their interests and concerns to EU policymakers.

4. Commission Reveals Global Gateway Investment Plan for Latin America and Caribbean

Team Europe will invest over €45 billion to support the reinforced partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean until 2027 via the Global Gateway program. This is the main outcome of the two-day EU-CELAC summit held in July. EU leaders and leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean meet in Brussels eight years after their last gathering for the third EU-CELAC summit.

They discussed a broad range of issues to bolster the partnership, including:

  • enhanced cooperation in multilateral fora
  • Global peace and security
  • trade and investment
  • efforts to combat climate change
  • justice and security for citizens,

In the end, the leaders adopted a declaration expressing their commitment to renew and strengthen their longstanding bi-regional partnership, reinforce their dialogue, and cooperate to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

Meanwhile, the Global Gateway program includes a list of over 130 projects to make the fair green and digital transition a reality on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some examples of the projects:

The EU will work with LAC partners on Critical Raw Materials (such as lithium and others) in the region (Argentina, Chile), as well as with the Critical Raw Materials Club to strengthen sustainable supply chains.

Brazil: The EU will collaborate with the Brazilian government and EU private sector to expand telecom networks in the Amazon region.

Costa Rica: The EU will help with the electrification of public transport. Conversion of urban bus fleet to electric: 40 public e-vehicles contributing to a reduction of 5,000 CO2 ktons per year.

Colombia: Construction of a metro line.

Jamaica: Deployment of 5G to reach island-wide broadband access.

Paraguay: Upgrade of the electricity network with support to the Administración Nacional de Electricidad.

EU-LAC Digital Alliance: EU-LAC digital cooperation activities are underway such as the extension of the BELLA cable and the creation of two regional Copernicus centers for disaster risk reduction, climate change, and land and marine monitoring.

In Chile, the EU has developed a Team Europe Initiative (TEI) on Green Hydrogen (GH2), to promote investment opportunities.

The GGIA will support LAC countries’ policies towards a climate-neutral economy and a resilient society that lives in harmony with nature. The EU and its Member States have pooled their resources to jointly establish the Team Europe Initiative ‘Brazil Tropical Forests’. The EU will also contribute to the Amazon Fund.

LAC-Health Resilience initiative, supporting the development of local medicines and vaccine manufacturing and health systems resilience, including regulatory frameworks.

LAC-Global Green Bonds Initiative, fostering the development of the green bond market in LAC, thus mobilizing capital for financing a sustainable transition.

In Panama, the EU supports a joint project on universal access to energy.

‘Inclusive Societies’ program to tackle inequalities, reduce poverty and social exclusion, and enhance social cohesion within Latin American and Caribbean countries. It will promote gender and social policies, education and skills development, protection, and social inclusion, with a specific emphasis on women and youth.

Alber & Geiger can ensure state interests are heard and considered as the EU intensifies their global investment support.

5. EU’s New Policy on End-of-Life Vehicles to Promote Circularity in the Automotive Sector

The European Commission has unveiled fresh regulations aimed at establishing a circular materials economy for end-of-life vehicles.

The new initiative will enhance resource access for the EU’s economy, support its environmental and climate goals, strengthen the single market, and help tackle challenges related to the changing automotive industry.

To support the sector’s transition, the Commission has revised current legislation and suggests a single regulation emphasizing key aspects for enhancing design, collection, recycling quality, and simplifying reporting requirements:

“Design circular”: Promoting easier dismantling through improved vehicle design with clear instructions for part replacement.

“Use recycled content”: Mandating that 25% of the plastic used in new vehicles must be recycled from end-of-life cars.

“Treat better”: Ensuring better-quality raw materials recovery, including critical ones, and supporting the reuse and recycling of parts.

“Improve governance”: Establishing national Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to finance waste treatment, improve recycled material quality, and enhance cooperation.

“Collect more and smarter”: Implementing stricter rules, digital tracking, and penalties to prevent vehicle disappearance and banning non-roadworthy vehicle exports.

“Cover more vehicles”: Gradually including motorcycles, lorries, and buses for comprehensive regulation.

The upcoming regulation, set to replace the existing guidelines concerning end-of-life vehicles and material reuse, recycling, and recovery, is anticipated to yield significant environmental advantages. These benefits encompass a yearly reduction of 12.3 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2035, improved utilization of 5.4 million tons of materials, and heightened retrieval of vital raw materials.

The proposed measures are expected to generate €1.8 billion in net income by 2035. This will lead to the creation of more jobs and improved earnings for the waste management and recycling sector. Additionally, these actions will promote enhanced road safety in other countries by preventing the export of unfit vehicles and decreasing detrimental pollution and health hazards in nation’s importing used EU vehicles.

Implementing the regulation will result in long-term energy savings, reduced reliance on imports, and the promotion of sustainable business models.

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6. Commission Registers European Citizens’ Initiative on Taxing Great Wealth

The Commission has approved the registration of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) titled ‘Taxing Great Wealth to Fund Ecological and Social Transition.’ This initiative calls on the Commission to establish a European tax on substantial wealth to support environmental and social progress. It aims to combat climate change, address inequality, and ensure that European citizens contribute fairly to these goals.

It’s important to note that the decision to register the initiative is purely a legal formality and doesn’t pre-determine the Commission’s final legal or political stance on the initiative. The Commission has not yet examined the proposal’s substance.

The next steps involve the organizers having six months to collect signatures. If the ECI garners one million statements of support within a year from at least seven different EU Member States, the Commission will be obliged to respond. The Commission will then decide whether to advance the request, accompanied by an explanation of its decision-making.

Our team enjoys long-lasting relationships and understands the complexities to help shape decisions.

7. Commission Unveils EU Strategy to Lead Web 4.0 and Virtual Worlds

In a bid to stay at the forefront of technological advancements and create a secure and inclusive digital landscape, the European Commission has introduced a fresh strategy focusing on Web 4.0 and virtual worlds. This strategic move aims to foster an environment that is open, secure, trustworthy, fair, and accessible to all EU citizens, businesses, and public entities.

The rapid evolution of the internet is transforming the digital landscape, with Web 4.0 emerging as the next phase beyond the current Web 3.0. While Web 3.0 emphasizes decentralization, openness, and user empowerment, Web 4.0 will introduce seamless integration between digital and real-world elements, offering enhanced interactions between humans and machines.

This forward-looking strategy aligns with the EU’s economic outlook for the post-2030 era, which underscores digitalization as a primary driving force. Web 4.0 is poised to usher in a world characterized by intelligent, interconnected, and immersive experiences. The global virtual world market is estimated to surge from €27 billion in 2022 to over €800 billion by 2030.

The Commission’s vision is for Web 4.0 and virtual worlds to embody EU values, uphold individuals’ rights, and provide fertile ground for European businesses to flourish.

In alignment with the 2030 objectives of the Digital Decade policy program, the European Commission has introduced a comprehensive strategy focusing on the digitalization pillars of skills, business, and public services. The fourth pillar, infrastructure, falls under the Commission’s broader efforts on connectivity, cloud computing, and edge capacities.

Empowering individuals and reinforcing skills

The strategy emphasizes empowering individuals by fostering skills and awareness, ensuring access to reliable information, and nurturing a pool of virtual world specialists. By the end of 2023, the Commission will promote guiding principles for virtual worlds proposed by the Citizens’ Panel and guide a ‘Citizen toolbox’ by early 2024. Skills development, particularly among women and girls, will be supported through Digital Europe Program projects, along with aid for digital content creators via the Creative Europe program.

Business: Supporting a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem

To address fragmentation and promote excellence in the virtual world and Web 4.0 value chain, the Commission plans to establish a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem. This includes a potential Horizon Europe Partnership on Virtual Worlds starting in 2025. Innovation will be encouraged through support for EU creators, media companies, and regulatory sandboxes.

Government: Supporting societal progress and virtual public services

The EU is investing in initiatives like Destination Earth and European Digital Twin of the Ocean projects, aiming to advance science, precision applications, and informed public-policy decisions. Additionally, the Commission will launch two public flagships, “CitiVerse” for urban planning and a European Virtual Human Twin for clinical decisions.

Shaping global standards for open and interoperable virtual worlds and Web 4.0

To prevent domination by a few major players, the Commission will engage with global stakeholders and promote open and interoperable standards for virtual worlds and Web 4.0, aligning with EU values and vision.

Alber & Geiger – Ensuring your voice is heard in the EU’s tech transformation.

8. Green-Freight: Paving the Way to Profitability with a Lighter Carbon Footprint

The European Commission has unveiled a comprehensive set of measures aimed at revolutionizing the freight transport sector for a more sustainable future. These initiatives focus on enhancing rail infrastructure management, providing stronger incentives for low-emission trucks, and increasing transparency regarding greenhouse gas emissions from freight transport. The overarching goal is to boost sector efficiency and contribute to the ambitious target of reducing transport emissions by 90% by 2050, as outlined in the European Green Deal, all while fostering continued growth in the EU single market.

Optimizing Rail Capacity

With rail infrastructure becoming both expensive and congested, the proposed regulation seeks to optimize rail track usage, enhance cross-border coordination, improve punctuality and reliability, and attract more freight companies to rail transport. This will not only benefit the freight sector but also passengers who will enjoy additional rail services, better network utilization, and improved cross-border connectivity.

The current annual, national, and manual approach to capacity management creates bottlenecks, particularly at borders, hindering the functioning of the Single Market. The new regulation builds on the Timetable Redesign Project and aims to address the unique needs of both passenger and freight rail services.

Incentives for Low-Emission Trucks

Over 50% of EU freight is currently transported by road, a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal revises existing rules to allow extra weight for zero-emission vehicles, promoting cleaner technologies. As these technologies evolve and become lighter, cleaner vehicles will gain a payload advantage over conventional lorries.

The proposal also encourages the adoption of more aerodynamic cabins and energy-saving devices to enhance driver comfort, safety, and the efficiency of zero-emission powertrains.

CountEmissionsEU: Comparing carbon footprints

The Commission is putting forth a standardized method for companies to compute their greenhouse gas emissions, which can be utilized for public disclosure or contractual obligations. This proposed approach aligns with the recently adopted ISO/CEN standard, focusing on quantifying and reporting emissions from passenger and freight transport operations. This move towards consistent data collection from door to door will empower service providers to evaluate their offerings and provide consumers with the information needed to make informed decisions regarding transportation and delivery choices.

These proposals will now undergo review and consideration by the European Parliament and the Council as part of the legislative process.

Alber & Geiger – Ensuring your voice is heard in the EU’s tech transformation.

9. Textile Circular Economy: Reducing Waste, Boosting Markets for Used Textiles

The European Commission proposed rules meant to hold textile producers accountable for the entire lifecycle of their products while fostering sustainable textile waste management practices across the EU. This initiative, aligned with the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, seeks to accelerate the development of separate collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling systems for textiles, offering numerous benefits.

Increasing the availability of used textiles is expected to generate local employment opportunities, reduce consumer costs, and mitigate the environmental impacts of textile production.

The proposed legislation introduces mandatory and standardized Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for textiles in all EU Member States. EPR schemes have proven effective in managing waste from various products, including packaging, batteries, and electronic equipment. Producers will shoulder the costs of textile waste management, providing them with incentives to reduce waste and enhance textile product circularity.

Producers’ contributions to EPR schemes will be based on the environmental performance of textiles, a concept known as ‘eco-modulation.’

The rules will facilitate Member States’ compliance with the requirement to separately collect textiles by 2025, aligning with existing legislation. Producer contributions will fund investments in a separate collection, sorting, reuse, and recycling infrastructure. The proposed waste management regulations prioritize sorting textiles for reuse and recycling when they can’t be reused.

Additionally, social enterprises engaged in textile collection and treatment will benefit from increased business opportunities and a larger market for second-hand textiles.

The proposal encourages research and development into innovative circularity technologies for the textile sector, such as fiber-to-fiber recycling.

Addressing the issue of illegal textile waste exports to ill-equipped countries, the new law will clarify the distinction between waste and reusable textiles, curbing the practice of exporting waste disguised as reusable items. These measures complement the proposal for a new Regulation on waste shipments, ensuring that textile waste shipments occur only when there are guarantees of environmentally sound management.

The Commission’s proposal on a targeted amendment of the Waste Framework Directive will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative procedure.

Our team enjoys long-lasting relationships and understands the complexities to help shape decisions.

10. EU’s Bold Vision on Climate Change, Environment, Peace, Security, and Defense

The European Commission and the High Representative, Josep Borrell adopted a Joint Communication outlining the European Union’s strategy for addressing the growing impacts of climate change and environmental deterioration within the fields of peace, security, and defense.

Climate-related extremes, temperature, and sea level rise, desertification, water shortages, biodiversity threats, environmental pollution, and contamination pose grave risks to global well-being, potentially leading to displacement, migration, pandemics, social unrest, instability, and conflicts. Europe’s armed forces, too, grapple with the shifting and complex conditions driven by climate change, prompting allies and partners to reassess their policies.

This Joint Communication presents a fresh perspective and establishes a framework for the EU’s response to these challenges, encompassing society, security operations, and heightened global competition for resources and technologies necessary for a sustainable transition.

A New Approach to Climate and Security Nexus

The Joint Communication sets out four main priorities:

Strengthening planning, decision-making, and implementation, through reliable and accessible evidence-based analysis on the climate and security nexus;

Operationalizing the response to climate and security challenges in EU external action, inter alia through integrating the climate and security nexus in regional and national conflict analyses;

Enhancing the climate adaptation and mitigation measures of Member States’ civilian and military operations and infrastructure to lower costs, and carbon footprints, while ensuring that operational effectiveness is maintained;

Reinforcing international partnerships through multilateral fora and with partners such as NATO, in line with the EU’s climate change and environment agenda.

The EU seeks to enhance the integration of climate, peace, and security considerations in its external policies through this Communication. It outlines a comprehensive strategy, spanning data, policies, missions, defense, and collaboration with third parties, to ensure that the impacts of climate change are systematically addressed across all facets of external policymaking, planning, and operations.

This plan aims to bolster the EU and its partners’ resilience and security amid the mounting climate crisis, fostering synergies between diverse policies to ensure that external actions and capabilities are poised to confront these pressing challenges effectively.

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V. A&G Newsletter Q2 2023

1. Commission Revamps Agri-Food Marketing Standards for Consumer Needs and Sustainability

The European Commission is proposing to revise marketing standards for various agri-food products including fruits, vegetables, fruit juices, jams, honey, poultry, and eggs to support informed consumer choices and prevent food waste. Key proposals include:

  • Origin labelling: A mandatory requirement to label the country of origin on honey, nuts, dried fruits, ripened bananas, and processed fruit and vegetables. This aims to increase transparency and promote EU production.
  • Food waste: Revisions address food waste and packaging waste. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables suitable for local consumption will be exempt from marketing standards, offering consumers cheaper options and benefiting local producers. Safe products affected by natural disasters may also be sold.
  • Packaging: Products for donation may be exempt from main labelling requirements to reduce red tape and facilitate donations.
  • Fruit juices: Labels may state “with no added sugars” to clarify that fruit juices cannot contain added sugars. Reformulated fruit juice may be labelled as “reduced-sugar fruit juice”. The term “coconut water” may be used alongside “coconut juice”.
  • Jams and marmalades: The minimum fruit content of jams will be increased, providing consumers with less sugar and more fruits. The term “marmalade” will be allowed for all jams.
  • Eggs: Solar panels may be used in free-range egg production to encourage renewable energy. Eggs will be marked at the farm to improve traceability.

Next Steps:
The proposals will undergo public feedback and scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council. Alongside this, the Commission plans to adopt new marketing standards for cider, perry, and pulses.

EU marketing standards aim to maintain high-quality products, protect consumers, and ensure consistency within the EU market. They also facilitate international trade. As agricultural markets evolve due to innovation and changing consumer demands, these proposals aim to promote sustainable products and address new consumer and operator needs.

Alber & Geiger can assist agriculture firms achieve their legislative and regulatory goals in the EU.

2. Commission Proposes Criteria to Fight Greenwashing and Deceptive Environmental Claims

The European Commission is proposing common criteria to prevent greenwashing and misleading environmental claims. The proposal aims to ensure that when a product or service is marketed as environmentally friendly, it truly is. It is intended to help consumers make informed choices and to ensure a level playing field for businesses truly committed to sustainability.

The proposal comes in the wake of a 2020 study that found over half of the environmental claims examined in the EU to be vague, misleading, or unfounded. The lack of common rules for voluntary green claims has led to ‘greenwashing’ and unfair competition.

Under the proposal, companies making ‘green claims’ will have to meet minimum standards in substantiating and communicating these claims. This includes explicit claims like ‘T-shirt made of recycled plastic bottles’ or ‘packaging made of 30% recycled plastic.’ The proposal also seeks to regulate the proliferation of labels and environmental labels. Any claims must be independently verified and backed by scientific evidence.

Aggregate scoring of a product’s overall environmental impact will not be permitted unless set in EU rules. Comparisons between products or organizations should be based on equivalent data. Moreover, new public labeling schemes will only be permitted if developed at EU level, and new private schemes must show greater environmental ambition than existing ones and get pre-approval.

Next Steps

The proposal is part of a wider package of the European Green Deal and complements the March 2022 proposal on ’empowering consumers for the green transition.’ It will be subject to approval by the European Parliament and the Council.

Our experienced team can help influence opinions and agendas.

3. Global Pact Reached for High Seas Biodiversity Protection

The global community has reached a landmark agreement, the Treaty of the High Seas, aimed at protecting the ocean, addressing environmental degradation, combating climate change, and preventing biodiversity loss. The treaty will facilitate the creation of extensive marine protected areas on the high seas, in line with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Agreement’s commitment to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030. Additionally, the treaty mandates assessment of the impact of economic activities on biodiversity in high seas and includes provisions for capacity-building and technology transfer to aid developing nations. The treaty also provides a framework for equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources.

This treaty was finalized at the 5th Intergovernmental Conference in New York, marking over a decade of global efforts to address this critical environmental issue. The EU and its Member States spearheaded the High Ambition Coalition, comprising 52 nations committed to ambitious ocean protection actions.

The treaty will come into effect once ratified by 60 states. The EU has committed €40 million to a Global Ocean Programme to expedite this process and aid developing countries in preparing for implementation. The formal adoption will occur once legal review in UN languages is complete.

High seas, covering nearly two-thirds of the world’s ocean and seabed beyond national jurisdiction, offer significant ecological, economic, social, and food security benefits. These regions are currently under significant strain from pollution, overexploitation, climate change, and biodiversity loss. This new treaty, an Implementing Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), aims to protect and sustainably use these critical resources.

Alber & Geiger can help maritime and environmental organizations voice their interests and concerns regarding the High Seas Treaty to EU policymakers.

4. EU Commission Proposes Reform to Enhance Renewables and Consumer Protection

The European Commission has proposed a significant reform to the EU’s electricity market design aimed at expediting the shift to renewable energy and phasing out gas. This transformation aims to decrease consumer bills’ reliance on fluctuating fossil fuel prices, protect consumers from potential price hikes and market manipulation, and promote clean industry competitiveness within the EU.

The EU has successfully maintained an integrated electricity market for over two decades, providing security of supply, stimulating decarbonisation, and offering consumers the economic benefits of a single energy market. The energy crisis from Russia’s Ukraine invasion underscores the need to adapt the electricity market for the green transition, securing affordable, renewable power for households and businesses.

The proposed reform includes revisions to the Electricity Regulation, the Electricity Directive, and the REMIT Regulation. These changes introduce measures promoting longer-term contracts with non-fossil power production and incorporate more clean flexible solutions into the system to compete with gas. This will result in a decrease in the impact of fossil fuels on consumer electricity bills and ensure that the lower cost of renewables is reflected in the final cost.

In addition, the proposed reform will enhance competition in the European wholesale energy markets by improving market transparency and integrity. It will also improve consumer protections, offering a wider choice of contracts and clearer information, enabling consumers to secure long-term prices and avoid excessive risk and volatility.

Lastly, the reform aims to boost industrial competitiveness by enhancing the predictability and stability of energy costs. It proposes the deployment of more stable long-term contracts such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and obliges Member States to ensure the availability of market-based guarantees for PPAs.

The proposed reform will now be debated and agreed upon by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be enacted

Alber & Geiger can ensure renewable energy firms’ interests are heard and considered as the EU’s electricity market undergoes transformation.

5. Commission Presents Regulations for Renewable Hydrogen

The European Commission has proposed detailed regulations defining renewable hydrogen in the EU, with the adoption of two Delegated Acts required under the Renewable Energy Directive. These Acts, part of a broader EU regulatory framework for hydrogen, will ensure that all renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) are produced from renewable electricity. The legislation will provide regulatory certainty for investors, aligning with the EU’s goal to reach 10 million tonnes of domestic and imported renewable hydrogen production as per the REPowerEU Plan.

The first Delegated Act establishes conditions under which hydrogen can be considered as an RFNBO, clarifying the principle of “additionality” for hydrogen. This principle ensures that renewable hydrogen generation boosts the volume of renewable energy available to the grid and supports decarbonisation and electrification efforts.

The Act also introduces criteria ensuring that renewable hydrogen is produced only when and where sufficient renewable energy is available. The rules will be gradually phased in, with provisions for hydrogen projects operating before 1 January 2028 and a transition period for electrolysers entering the market.

The second Delegated Act provides a methodology for calculating life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for RFNBOs, considering emissions across the full lifecycle of the fuels. The Acts, following adoption, will be transmitted to the European Parliament and the Council for scrutiny and potential approval or rejection.

The Commission’s hydrogen strategy, adopted in 2020, envisions a comprehensive European hydrogen ecosystem, from research and innovation to production and infrastructure. Hydrogen is expected to play a significant role in decarbonising industry and heavy-duty transport in Europe and globally.

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6. Securing EU’s Green & Digital Future with Critical Raw Materials

The European Commission has presented a comprehensive set of measures aimed at ensuring a secure, diverse, affordable, and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for the European Union (EU). Critical raw materials are essential for various strategic sectors, including the net-zero industry, digital industry, aerospace, and defense sectors. Currently, the EU heavily relies on imports of these materials, often from quasi-monopolistic suppliers in third countries. The proposed regulations seek to mitigate the risks associated with such dependencies and enhance the EU’s economic resilience.

The Act establishes clear priorities for action by updating the list of critical raw materials and introducing a list of strategic raw materials. The Act sets benchmarks for domestic capacities along the supply chain, aiming to achieve a minimum of 10% extraction, 40% processing, and 15% recycling of the EU’s annual consumption of strategic raw materials by 2030. It also limits the share of each strategic raw material from a single third country to no more than 65% at any relevant processing stage.

The Act aims to create secure and resilient EU supply chains for critical raw materials by reducing administrative burdens and simplifying permitting procedures. Strategic Projects will receive support for access to finance and shorter permitting timeframes. Member States will develop national programs for exploring geological resources.

To mitigate supply risks, the Act includes provisions for monitoring critical raw material supply chains and coordinating strategic raw material stocks among Member States. Large companies will be required to conduct audits of their supply chains, including stress tests. The EU aims to diversify its imports of critical raw materials through global engagement and partnerships with reliable countries. It will establish a Critical Raw Materials Club for like-minded countries, strengthen the World Trade Organization, and expand sustainable investment facilitation agreements and free trade agreements. The EU will also take trade actions to combat unfair practices.

Next Steps

The proposed Regulation will undergo discussions and agreements in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before its adoption and entry into force. These measures, along with other initiatives, will contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate and digital objectives and enhance the competitiveness of European industries.

Our team enjoys long-lasting relationships and understands the complexities to help shape decisions.

7. Net-Zero Industry Act: Boosting Clean Tech Manufacturing and Green Jobs

The European Commission has launched the Net-Zero Industry Act, a part of the Green Deal Industrial Plan, to scale up clean technology manufacturing and secure a sustainable energy future for the EU. It aims to reach a 40% domestic production capacity of net-zero technologies by 2030, to accelerate the EU’s climate goals, strengthen industries, and create quality jobs.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, emphasized that the Act will create a conducive environment for clean energy sectors crucial for achieving net-zero by 2050, like wind turbines, solar panels, renewable hydrogen, and CO2 storage.

The Act targets technologies essential for decarbonization, including solar and wind energy, batteries and storage, heat pumps, geothermal energy, and others. It also introduces measures to stimulate investment in net-zero technology manufacturing, improve market access, and foster innovation.

Additionally, the Act includes plans for the European Hydrogen Bank to promote renewable hydrogen production within the EU and incentivize its imports.

Next Steps

The proposed Regulation will undergo discussions and agreements in the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before its adoption and entry into force. These measures, along with other initiatives, will contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve its climate and digital objectives and enhance the competitiveness of European industries.

Alber & Geiger – Ensuring your voice is heard in the EU’s clean energy transformation.

8. New Consumer Rights: Commission Introduces Easy and Attractive Right to Repair

The European Commission has put forward a proposal to promote the repair of goods, aiming to benefit consumers and contribute to the goals of the European Green Deal by reducing waste. In the past, replacement has been prioritized over repair, and consumers have lacked incentives to repair goods after the legal guarantee expires. The new proposal seeks to make repair more accessible and cost-effective for consumers, while also stimulating the repair sector and encouraging sustainable business models from producers and sellers.

The proposal includes measures to facilitate repair and reuse. Within the legal guarantee period, sellers will be required to offer repair unless it is more expensive than replacement. Beyond the legal guarantee, consumers will have the right to claim repair from producers for products that are technically repairable under EU law. This ensures that consumers have options for repair and encourages producers to adopt more sustainable practices.

Additional tools and rights will be available to consumers, including a matchmaking repair platform to connect them with repairers and sellers of refurbished goods. An online platform will provide information about repair services and enable consumers to compare offers. A European quality standard for repair services will also be developed to help consumers identify repairers who meet minimum quality standards.

The proposal will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can be implemented. If approved, it will promote a shift towards repair and reduce waste, benefiting consumers and supporting the objectives of the European Green Deal.

VI. A&G Newsletter Q1 2023

I. EU Busy as a Bee to Save Pollinators

In an attempt to reverse the decline of pollinators by 2030, the European Commission (EC) presented ‘A New Deal on pollinators’. The initiative launched by late January consists of a newly proposed strategy that revises the 2018 EU Pollinators Initiative.

The EC acknowledged the growing concern of citizens on the alarming situation of wild pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other insects. “Citizens have been increasingly calling for decisive action against pollinator loss, also through the recent successful European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Save Bees and Farmers’,” the EC noted when introducing the initiative.
Based on the official communication from the EC, the contribution of pollinators to the EU’s agricultural output is estimated to be at least EUR 5 billion per year. However, most of the benefits provided by pollinators remain unquantified. Further on, one in ten bees and butterfly species, and one in three hoverfly species are threatened with extinction.

“The major threats to wild pollinators include land-use change (including urbanization), intensive agricultural management practices (including pesticide use), environmental pollution (including light pollution), invasive alien species, and climate change,” the EC noted in the communication.

The revised initiative will set objectives and actions under three priorities that are going to address the above-mentioned concerns and much more.

  1. Firstly, by improving knowledge of pollinator decline, its causes, and consequences
  2. Secondly, by improving pollinator conservation and tackling the causes of their decline
  3. Third, by mobilizing society and promoting strategic planning and cooperation at all levels

What’s next?
The EC invites the European Parliament and the Council to endorse the new actions and to be actively engaged in its implementation, in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. The new actions will complement future National Restoration Plans where Member States will identify the measures to achieve the legally binding target of reversing the decline of pollinator populations by 2030.

Our team can guide you through the legislative changes being considered to maximise the impact of your positions in the European decision-making process, and to put you in a position to benefit from them.

II. New Tax Transparency Rules for Crypto Providers Serving European Residents Proposed

The European Union is hurrying up to keep pace with the fast-changing crypto asset sectors and fight crypto-related tax fraud with new rules.

It’s a fact that Bitcoin’s market capitalization reached up to EUR 370 billion in January 2023, almost close to Austria’s GDP. Yet Bitcoin is one among over 9,000 crypto-assets available on the market. Hence, the EC sees the need to address the growing crypto-related challenges faced by tax authorities.

A new proposal from the European Commission would require service providers that facilitate crypto transactions for residents in the European Union to share information with tax authorities. The new reporting framework, which would complement the Markets in crypto-assets (MiCA) Regulation, would help tax authorities in member states to detect and counter tax fraud, tax evasion, and tax avoidance. They would do it by tracking the crypto assets and the proceeds gained.
Moreover, the EC estimates that the new reporting framework could raise additional tax revenue between EUR 1 and EUR 2.4 billion per year.

The set-up of this reporting framework would require the amending of the Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC). EU’s DAC dates back to 2011 and it deals with the collection and exchange of tax-related information between Member States. The latest proposal would be the eighth revision of the DAC or simply DAC8. None of the previous seven revisions of the DAC covers crypto markets.

What entities will have to share information?
Based on the proposal, two types of entities will be obliged to report to tax authorities.

Crypto-asset providers: any legal person or undertaking whose professional activity is the provision of one or more crypto-asset services to third parties. The definition used in DAC8 is the same as that of MiCA.
Crypto-asset operators: a provider of crypto-asset services other than a crypto-asset service provider. These operators do not fall within the scope of MiCA

What’s next?
The proposed directive is subject to a special legislative procedure, requiring unanimous support in the Council, following consultation of the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee.
If enacted, the new reporting framework with regard to crypto-assets, e-money, and digital currencies would enter into force on January 1st, 2026.

Alber & Geiger can advise in matters of consumer and privacy protection in crypto in the onset of the new regulatory package and help you maintain your rights and anonymity.

III. EC Takes Action to Unlock Algae’s Full Potential

For those asking how green the bioeconomy is, the European Union is introducing the greenest player in the game. Without assuming that all algae are green, the sure thing is that seaweed is the new gold of the green economy.

The European Commission adopted a communication that proposes 23 new actions that would unlock the potential of algae as a renewable resource in Europe. Those actions aim at improving business environments, increasing social awareness and acceptance of algae and algae-based products by consumers, and closing the knowledge, research, and technology gaps.

“The farming of algae can contribute to achieving the EU’s objectives in terms of decarbonization, zero pollution, circularity, the preservation and restoration of biodiversity, the protection of ecosystems, and the development of environmental services,” the communication noted.

While algae sectors remain untapped in Europe, the European demand for seaweed could increase from around 270 000 tons in 2019 to 8 million tons in 2030 and reach EUR 9 billion in value in 2030 across all sectors, with feed, food, and plant biostimulants (fertilizing products) being the largest. The EC recognizes the potential of the European algae sector for becoming a significant part of the EU blue bioeconomy.

Some of the above-mentioned key actions include:
• Developing a new algae farmers’ toolkit;
• Facilitating access to marine space, identifying optimal sites for seaweed farming, and including seaweed farming and sea multi-use in maritime spatial plans;
• Together with the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), developing standards for algae ingredients and contaminants, as well as for algae biofuel;
• Assessing the market potential, efficiency, and safety of algae-based materials when used in fertilizing products;
• Examining the algae market and proposing market-stimulating mechanisms to support the transfer of technology from research to market;
• Funding pilot projects for career reorientation and supporting innovative SMEs and projects in the algae sector;
• Conducting studies and discussions to gain better knowledge, amongst others, on
• seaweed climate change mitigation opportunities and the role of seaweed as blue carbon sinks, define maximum levels of contaminants and iodine in algae;
• Supporting, through Horizon Europe and other EU research programs, the development of new and improved algae processing systems, novel production methods, and algae cultivation systems;
Promoting awareness-raising actions and analyzing the availability of algae-related data.

What’s next?
The Commission will discuss the communication with the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission will coordinate putting the 23 actions into practice with the Member States, industry (e.g. via the EU4Algae Forum), and other relevant stakeholders. The Commission will prepare a report assessing progress in implementing the Communication by the end of 2027.

IV. EC Registered a Citizens’ Initiative on Vegan Food Availability

What would you think about having vegan meal options available everywhere? The organizers of a European Citizens’ Initiative are asking for an EU law for vegan meal availability. The initiative registered by the European Commission back in October 2022 requires that all private and public food and beverage places in Europe have a vegan alternative available. The organizers highlight that such a law would bring great benefits to the planet concerning the mitigation of the climate crisis, deforestation, wildlife species extinction, use of land, protection of marine life, malnourishment, and food waste.

According to the initiative details, the presence of a vegan option would push a change toward a fairer world for people, animals, and the environment as well as a change in production and consumption needs.
Moreover, the law would allow easy access to vegan alternatives and to expect the vegan cruelty-free choice, the right to choose how to eat, to be kind to animals, etc.
Further on, another advantage of the vegan alternative would be the reduction of animal suffering and food costs.
“We urgently need action rather than empty words. We know what needs to be done. What is missing is the political will to take a new approach and a real commitment,” the Vegan Meals initiative organizers noted.

What’s next?
Following registration, the organizers have six months to open the signature collection. This means that the signature process must open by April. If a European Citizens’ Initiative receives one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react. The Commission could decide whether to take the request forward or not and will be required to explain its reasoning.

V. EU Adopts Drone Strategy 2.0

The European Union is acting to speed up the use and further develop unmanned aircraft technology and its regulatory framework. The adoption of the European Drone Strategy 2.0 lays out how Europe can pursue large-scale commercial drone operations while offering new opportunities in the sector.
“With the right framework in place, the drone services market in Europe could by 2030 reach a value of €14.5 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3%, and create 145,000 jobs in the EU,” the Commission pointed out in its official communication.

However, before pushing ahead with these innovative technologies, the Commission wants to ensure that society supports drones. To address concerns over noise, safety, and privacy, the Strategy, therefore, calls for national, regional, and local municipalities to ensure that drone services are aligned with citizens’ needs.
According to the strategy, drones and their required ecosystem will have become an accepted part of the life of EU citizens by 2030.

They will be used to provide numerous services to the benefit of diversified civilian and defense end-users, including EU citizens, organizations, Member States, and industry. Drones’ aerial operations will include emergency services, inspections, and surveillance using drones to gather data, as well as for the delivery of goods.
Meanwhile, IAM services will start providing regular transport services to passengers, initially using aircraft with a pilot on board but with the ultimate aim to fully automate their operations.

“Unleashing the potential of the EU drone market and services requires the identification of critical technology building blocks, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors and EU space services and mobile telecommunications. This will help the EU build an innovative and competitive drone sector, reducing strategic dependencies,” the Commission highlighted.

Our team can assist you in getting ahead of concrete provisions of EU regulations to tailor them to your business interests to the highest possible extent.

VI. EU to Increase Carbon Sequestration with Forests and Soil

The European Union is turning toward the apparent solution of reducing net greenhouse emissions, by expanding the sink capacity of forests and soil for carbon capture and storage. The EU agreed on a provisional deal the on the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) to increase the EU’s target for net carbon removals by natural sinks to 310 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030.

The LULUCF sector covers the use of soils, trees, plants, biomass, and timber and is responsible for both emitting and absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Among various LULUCF activities, reducing deforestation has the largest potential to reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions, followed by carbon sequestration in agriculture and ecosystem restoration including afforestation and reforestation.
According to the provisional agreement, the current rules under which emissions do not exceed removals (the “no debit rule”) will continue to apply until 2025. For the period from 2026-2030, where removals should exceed emissions, each member state will have a binding national target for 2030.

Member States have many measures at hand to improve their land management, including sustainable forest management or the rewetting of peatlands, and should update their strategic plans under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to reflect the higher ambition for the land sector.

Moreover, the agreement maintains overall general flexibility to support those member states that have difficulties in meeting their targets owing to natural disturbances (such as wildfires, pests, and the effects of climate change and organic soils on emissions), provided that the Union as a whole meets its 2030 target.

This agreement is another step in the adoption of the Commission’s ‘Fit for 55′ legislative package to deliver the EU’s climate ambition under the European Green Deal.

What’s next?
The provisional agreement now requires formal adoption by the Parliament and the Council.
The Commission will submit a report within six months of the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement (to be carried out in 2023), on including non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the scope of the regulation and the setting of post-2030 targets for the land-use sector.

Alber & Geiger can utilize its extensive European network to represent your business interests and propose legislative amendments on your behalf.

VII. EU and Chile Strengthen Political and Trade Partnership

European Union and Chile have concluded negotiations on the EU-Chile Advanced Framework Agreement.

“This landmark agreement is of key geopolitical importance: with the new Advanced Framework Agreement, the EU and Chile take their partnership to the next level to strengthen political dialogue, deepen cooperation and foster trade and investment opportunities,” the European Commission noted.

Further, the agreement puts shared values such as human rights, sustainable trade, and gender equality at the core of EU-Chile relations and it strengthens EU-Chile cooperation on shared global challenges, such as the fight against climate change and the environment.

Among others the agreement defines the following:
• 99,9% of EU exports will be tariff-free, which is expected to increase EU exports to Chile by up to 4,5 billion euros.
• Greater access to raw materials and clean fuels is crucial for the transition to the green economy, such as lithium, copper, and hydrogen.
• Easier for EU companies to provide their services in Chile, including delivery, telecommunications, maritime transport, and financial services.
• Same treatment for EU investors in Chile as for Chilean investors, including in the energy and raw material sector, and vice versa.
• New full-fledged articles on democratic principles, human rights, and rule of law enshrine core shared values at the heart of EU-Chile cooperation.
• Extending the political dialogue to include international peace, justice, and security.
• A renewed focus on science, technology, research, and innovation.

What’s next?

The EU-Chile agreement will consist of two legal instruments, the Advanced Framework Agreement and an Interim Free Trade Agreement (iFTA). Both the EU and Chile will proceed with the legal verification of the agreement. Following that, the EU will propose the Advanced Framework Agreement and the iFTA for conclusion and ratification.

Our team can assist you in getting ahead of concrete provisions of EU regulations to tailor them to your business interests to the highest possible extent.

VII. A&G Newsletter Q4 2022


Transition to a circular economy that replaces conventional business models and products with innovative and sustainable ones goes through a single-use plastics purge in the EU. Still, not all member countries have been keeping the same pace on transposing the Single-Use Plastic Directive into their national laws.

As a consequence, the Commission took legal steps against Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, and Finland. Those countries have not communicated to the Commission the necessary measures to guarantee the full transposition of the Directive.

The latter aims to avert and reduce the impact of single-use plastic products on the environment in general, and on the marine environment and human health in particular. The Directive is a key element of the Commission’s Plastic Strategy and the Circular Economy Action Plan.

To this end, the legislation includes several measures that reduce consumption of specific plastic products that are used once and for short periods, limit placing certain products on market, and other specific product requirements.

Under the Green Deal, Europe needs to meet its environmental objectives.
The aforementioned countries failed to fully transpose the Directive by the deadline. Therefore, the Commission sent them a letter of formal notice and a reasoned opinion to each of them.

France and Denmark were given two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Meanwhile, the other nine countries that had received a letter of formal notice in January 2022, have not communicated the measures to ensure the transposition of the directive. They were given two months to respond and take measures. If not, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice.

Alber & Geiger can help you represent your business interests and ensure your voice is heard by legislators.


Disinformation, propaganda and state-controlled media are real threats to media pluralism and independence, especially in the digital age. Stressing the need for a free press, the Commission decided to tackle all forms of control and pressure over media with the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). The novel set of rules, both rights, and duties of media players will protect journalists and editorial independence in private and public media services. Further on, it will ensure that media can operate without political interference and spyware while achieving public transparency on ownership of media outlets.
Besides the regulation, the EMFA comprises a Recommendation, which is not a binding legislative act. The Recommendation provides a toolbox of voluntary measures for media companies on editorial independence.
Moreover, the Commission proposed to set up a European watchdog, which will replace the existing one established under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The new watchdog will consist of a board of representatives of national regulatory authorities. The Board will have various tasks to wit: promoting a consistent application of the EU media law framework, issuing an opinion on national measures and decisions affecting media markets, coordinating national regulatory rules on non-EU media that pose a risk to public security, etc.
Next, European legislators, the EU Parliament, the Council, and the Commission will negotiate the text of the regulation. Media stakeholders should observe closely this legislation, as it will have a substantial impact on the EU media landscape.

Our experienced team can help you maximize the impact of your position in the European decision-making process and represent your interests in ensuing legislative process.


For Artificial Intelligence to thrive in the European Union, citizens must trust digital innovations.

The Commission adopted for the first time a proposal on AI liability rules that would set out a framework for excellence and trust in AI. Based on the new rules, victims of AI-related damage (be it individuals or businesses) will be eligible for the same standards of protection as they would if harm was caused under any other circumstances. Thus they will have the right to seek compensation for damages caused by AI systems.
The AI liability rules were adopted along with another proposal on updating the existing Product Liability Directive. Both proposals aim at modernizing EU liability rules conforming to the digital age, circular economy, and the impact of value chains. They include changes to existing rules and new sets of rules on strict liability, damages, and compensations.

As noted by the Commission, the purpose of the AI Liability Directive is to lay down uniform rules for access to information and alleviation of the burden of proof concerning damages caused by AI systems, establishing broader protection for victims, and fostering the AI sector by increasing guarantees.

Further on, the AI directive will harmonize certain rules for claims outside of the scope of the Product Liability Directive in cases of damage due to wrongful behavior such as breaches of privacy or damages caused by safety issues.

The Commission highlighted that the new rules strike a balance between protecting consumers and fostering innovation, removing additional barriers for victims to access compensation, while laying down guarantees for the AI sector by introducing, for instance, the right to fight a liability claim based on a presumption of causality.

Next, the proposal will need adoption by the European Parliament and Council.

Our team of experts can aid in benefiting from rule-changes and navigate the new legislative environment with ease.


Asbestos is not a problem of the past, and the Commission is acting to completely avoid it in the future. The dangerous substance was banned in the EU in 2005, yet it remains a threat to the health of workers and people exposed to asbestos products that were used in older buildings. The Commission noted that around 78 percent of occupational cancers recognized in the Member States are related to asbestos.

In October 2021, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a European strategy for the removal of all asbestos.

Now the Commission drafted a comprehensive package on better protecting people from asbestos and ensuring an asbestos-free future.

The package includes a Communication on a European lifecycle approach to asbestos. It focuses on the protection of human health and the environment, in particular in implementing the European Green Deal and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. It spans the action needed to identify asbestos present in buildings, register the information, and safe removal or treatment of asbestos-containing waste while maximizing the protection of workers.

Moreover, the Communication focuses on improving the diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related diseases.

The second component of the package is a proposal to amend the Asbestos at Work Directive to lower the occupational exposure limit value to asbestos; upgrade guidelines to support the Member States, employers, and workers in implementing the new directive; launch an awareness raising campaign on the safe removal of asbestos.
Next, the proposal will be discussed by the European Parliament, and the Member States with the Commission calling for swift approval. Once adopted. Member States will have two years to transpose the directive into national law.

Alber & Geiger can utilize its extensive European network to represent your business interests and propose legislative amendments on your behalf.

V. Commission Proposes Emergency Interventions in Energy Markets

Gas and electricity prices have reached record levels in 2022 and hit all-time highs following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In response to the worsening situation in the energy market, the Commission published a proposal for exceptional electricity demand reduction measures as well as measures to redistribute the energy sector’s surplus revenues to final customers. The proposal aims at reducing the cost of electricity for consumers and ensuring supply during winter. Four measures are expected to achieve those goals: reduction of electricity demand, a temporary revenue cap on ‘inframarginal’ electricity producers, temporary solidarity contribution on excess profits generated from activities in the oil, gas, coal, and refinery sectors, and regulated prices to also cover small and medium-sized enterprises.

Moreover, the Commission stated that it will deepen its discussion with the Member States about the best ways to reduce gas prices, also analyzing various ideas for price caps and enhancing the role of the EU Energy Platform in facilitating lower price agreements with suppliers through voluntary joint purchasing.

Our team can assist you in getting ahead of concrete provisions of EU regulations to tailor them to your business interests to the highest possible extent.


The new Common Agricultural Policy is due to begin in 2023 and the Commission took an important step for the implementation of the policy by adopting the first package of CAP strategic plans for seven countries. Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain are the first that got their strategic plans approved, while the Commission stated that it is committed to quick approval of the 21 remaining plans. The seven plans represent a budget of over €120 billion, including over €34 billion dedicated exclusively to environmental and climate objectives and eco-schemes.

The new CAP policy is designed to shape the transition to a resilient, sustainable, and modern European agricultural sector. It will integrate a more effective way of working. It will provide that funding is distributed to medium and small-sided family farms, as well as to young farmers. They will be supported to take up innovations. Moreover, the CAP policy will allow for increased flexibility for the Member Countries to adapt measures to local conditions.

As noted by the Commission, the new CAP can be the cornerstone for food security and farming communities in the European Union.
The Plans will be in line with EU legislation and should contribute to the EU’s climate and environmental goals, including on animal welfare, as set out in the Commission’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

The CAP can also promote afforestation, fire prevention, restoration, and adaptation of forests. Farmers participating in eco-schemes may be rewarded, inter alia, for banning or limiting the use of pesticides and limiting soil erosion. Between 86% and 97% of the national utilized agricultural area will be farmed under good agricultural and environmental conditions.
Common Agricultural Policy 2023-2027: the Commission approves the first CAP strategic plans


The Commission registered a European Citizens’ Initiative that calls for rules that end the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to citizens born in 2010 onwards as well as measures on cigarette butt-free free beaches and national parks, extended outdoor vapor-free spaces, tobacco advertising, and its presence on audiovisual productions and social media, especially addressing covert advertising through influencers and product placement.

The European Citizens’ Initiative is entitled ‘Call to achieve a tobacco-free environment and the first European tobacco-free generation by 2030′. It aims at protecting younger generations from tobacco addiction and taking action against smoking and tobacco-related environmental damage.

The Commission considered the initiative legally admissible as it fulfilled all the formal conditions.

However, registration does not prejudge the final legal and political conclusions of the Commission on this initiative and the action it will intend to take, if any, in case the initiative obtains the necessary support.
The organizers have six months to open the signature collection. The Commission will have to act if the initiative receives 1 million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different Member States.


The Commission proposed a short-term suspension of EU crop rotation rules to increase cereal production and address strong risks related to food security following the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

The request that came from several Member States is estimated to put 1.5 million hectares of land back into production. Normally, those farmland areas would be left aside for soil quality preservation and improvement of biodiversity.

The derogation is limited and will apply only in 2023 and is restricted to what is strictly necessary to address global food security concerns. Thus, plants used for feeding animals like maize and soya are excluded.

“Every tonne of cereals produced in the EU will help to increase food security worldwide,” the Commission statement pointed out.

Moreover, it is added that the proposal was a result of careful balancing between global food availability and affordability on one hand, and the protection of biodiversity and soil health on the other. The Commission stressed that the transition to a resilient and sustainable agricultural sector in line with the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, and the Nature Restoration Law must continue despite the situation.


The European regulatory framework on standards of quality and safety for substances of human origin (SoHO) intended for human application will align with developments in the sector over the last 20 years. Even though the current legislation adopted in 2002 and 2004 has improved the safety and quality standards related to SoHO, shortcomings, and gaps have been identified.

Thus, the Commission published a proposal that will repeal the Blood Directive and the Tissues and cells Directive.

As noted by the Commission, with the new regulation citizens will be safer in donating or receiving vital substances of human origin (SoHO). The latter includes blood, cells, tissues, and other substances such as breast milk or microbiota. Meanwhile, solid organs will remain regulated under the Organs Directive.

The new regulation will aim at facilitating the cross-border circulation of SoHO, reinforcing solidarity between health authorities, ensuring a supply of critical substances, implementing digital-ready policies, and promoting innovation and high standards of safety and quality.

Next, the proposal will be discussed in parallel by the Council and the European Parliament until the final text is agreed upon. Upon adoption and publication, most provisions will come into force after a transition period of two years, while a three-year transition period will apply for particular provisions.

VIII. A&G Newsletter Q3 2022

I. EU to Propose a Nature Restoration Law

Biodiversity has been a topic that has recently been getting more attention within the EU sphere. After three decades since any major legislative efforts, the European Commission has now revealed plans to propose a new nature restoration law to work in conjunction with their goals on biodiversity, as outlined in the Commission’s 2030 biodiversity strategy.

Currently still in its drafting stage, the upcoming proposal will take large steps to ensure better conservation and restoration habits that could be targeted directly at the national level and will likely come with binding restoration targets. Agricultural productions, construction, pollution, overexploitation and climate change are contributors to Europe’s biodiversity loss, factors which in the wake of current geopolitical events could worse. As such, the upcoming proposal carries significant political weight. Early reports of the upcoming proposal include restoration targets for soils, wetlands, peatlands, free-flowing rivers and marine areas, with potentially more upcoming in the future.

While initially planned for publication in 2021, have pushed back the publication of the draft proposal, likely due to issues pertaining to planning and implementation of goals, and setting achievable targets to ensure member state cooperation. Already there have been some concerns by the agricultural sector regarding the viability of the targets, urging the European Commission to consider the growing needs of the European Union.

Alber & Geiger can help you represent your business interests and ensure your voice is heard by legislators.

II. EU to Reform Consumer Credit Directive

The fourteen-year-old EU Consumer Credit Legislation was initially established with the goal of harmonizing the EU framework on credit and facilitating the emergence of a functioning internal market in consumer credit while providing a high level of consumer protection. The digitalization of the consumer credit sector, and consumers in general, have led to drastic changes in consumer decision making, and the emergence of new providers in the market have led to and decrease in transparency and consumer protection. This was further accelerated by the global health crisis, leaving EU households more financially vulnerable.

The revisions proposed by the European Commission include an extension of the scope of the directive, proposing to cover all loans up to €100.000, interest-free credit, short-term loans up to three months and crowdfunding credit platforms. Further, the proposal suggests a cap on interest rates, as well as annual rate changes, to be set by member states, if not already existing. Adjustments regarding information provision are also proposed, such as the delivery of pre-contractual information to the customer earlier, and more transparent creditworthiness assessments in the interest of the consumer.

The public consultation process has revealed mixed positions on the European Commission proposal, with an overall support for harmonization of current rules and inclusion of the digital environment. However, other revisions, such as information provision and overall scope of the directive, are heavily favoured by consumer organizations, while business associations are more in favour of non-regulatory interventions, or changes limited to the digitalization aspect of the credit sector.

Overall, the varying opinions and financial regulation aspect of the proposal mean that there will likely be delays in its implementations, expected to be later this year.

Our experienced team can help you maximize the impact of your position in the European decision-making process and represent your interests in ensuing legislative process.

III.EU to Increase Share of Rail Traffic

After thorough review of the previous EU rail freight network concluded in mid 2021, general consensus in the European Commission has been that there needs to be more initiative by the European Union to increase rail usage, infrastructure and support all throughout the member states. The new Cross-border rail traffic proposal aims to better the management and coordination of rail transport, in line with the European Green Deal and the sustainable and smart mobility strategy.

Currently, freight rail transport is heavily underutilized in the European Union due to the lack of competitiveness within the sector and the lack of sufficient rail infrastructure. This is not only due to mismanagement of the current systems, but also because minimal cooperation between EU member states and stakeholders in terms of digitalization, traffic systems, transparency requirements, etc.

The cross-border rail traffic legislative proposal has set fourth multiple legislative and non-legislative measures to improve rail usage. Most importantly, railway capacity management to ensure the increased use of current rail infrastructure via improvements made in timetable designs, asset management and capacity allocation. Further improvements are to be made in the areas of traffic and contingency management, stronger integration of rail transport in multi-modal logistic chains, performance monitoring and infrastructure use conditionality.

Looking at the public consultation, the different policy options outlined by DG Mobility and Transport are met with different responses. A majority of respondents do not see a simple Refinement of the existing legal framework for rail freight and passenger traffic as a sufficient measure to bring change to the sector. A substantial portion of respondents favour the DGs suggestion of a comprehensive modernisation and harmonisation of rules, processes and tools for freight, while also implementing some centralization aspects at a European level.

The European Commission envisions the adoption of the new proposal in the third quarter of 2022 and based on the general support for change received by participants of the public consultation, timely adoption could be possible.

Our team of experts can aid in benefiting from rule-changes and navigate the new legislative environment with ease.

IV. EU to update smoking regulations

In line with the European Commission’s ‘Beating Cancer’ plans, announced in 2021, the Commission is now looking to revise and update its recommendations on smoke free environments. The last recommendations made by the European Commission were issued in 2009, calling on Member states to provide protection from tobacco smoke in indoor spaces, indoor public spaces, public transportation and other public spaces, as deemed appropriate. Since then, the tobacco industry has moved towards alternative smoking products, such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco devices. As of now, these alternative methods of smoking are not covered by the smoking recommendations.

The EU Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, in its proposal for a directive revision outlines the issue with these alternative smoking products, citing multiple studies conducted on the novel products and their mostly unknown long-term effects on public health and safety. The update would add this product category under the coverage of the EU smoking recommendation and addressing the technological developments. Moreover, the new revision aims to correct certain grey-areas left by the 2009 recommendation, pertaining to the definition of ‘indoor’ or enclosed spaces, leaving some quasi indoor and outdoor spaces only under the supervision of member states on a case-by-case basis and exposing the public to potential harm.

Overall, the proposal is still in its infancy, currently in its evidence gathering stage. Feedback so far has been very mixed, with strong opinions on either side of the spectrum. While adoption is still far away, proposed for late 2023, it is likely there will be considerable efforts by the tobacco industry to portrait their new products as different from conventional tobacco products.

Alber & Geiger can utilize its extensive European network to represent your business interests and propose legislative amendments on your behalf.

V. EU to set new food waste targets

As part of the European Green Deal, currently at the centre of the EU’s decision making, the European Commission is now proposing new EU-wide targets for food waste reduction. In the EU, up to 20% of all food produced ends up as food waste, not only serving as a large inefficiency in the agri-food chain, but also contributing up to 10% to total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste would alleviate pressure from agricultural production and lessen ethical considerations associated with throwing away food.

The objective of the proposal for directive are threefold. To improve knowledge and awareness on levels of impact of food waste, influence attitudes towards food waste and encourage food waste prevention measures along the production chain and ensuring change in the food value chain towards less waste, such as cooperation between different supply chain actors, awareness programmes, voluntary agreements, food donations and more. While the directive is aimed to cover the EU-level, each member state is free to choose the most appropriate and efficient measures on the national level to ensure best results. So far, there has been large variation across member state regarding food waste reduction efforts, leading to calls for more unified and coordinated approaches to be taken by the European Commission.

The proposal outlines different policy objectives, associated with their respective level of ambition. In a first step, the scope of action, target expression (percentage versus absolute) and member state obligations are proposed, while the second policy steps cover varying food waste reduction targets of 15-25% to 40-50% by 2030.

Currently in its public consultation stage, the proposal has received support by the public and industry associations, calling for more unified efforts across the European Union. The Commission predicts the proposal adoption in mid 2023, a target timeline that is realistic for this proposal.

Our team can assist you in getting ahead of concrete provisions of EU regulations to tailor them to your business interests to the highest possible extent.