Thursday, 7 June 2018: EU to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports, European leaders in talks on creating asylum centre outside EU, Anti-fraud watchdog sheds light on fraud trends


EU to impose retaliatory tariffs on US imports: The European Union says it will start imposing duties from July on a list of US products in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe. European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said Wednesday that formalities in finalising the list should be completed this month and that the new duties start applying from July. The EU says it will introduce rebalancing tariffs on about 2.8 billion euros worth of US steel, agricultural and other products, including bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice. The EU has also taken a complaint to the WTO. Should the case still be ongoing after three years, the bloc plans to impose further tariffs of 3.6 billion euros on US products. Sefcovic said it was a measured and proportionate response to the unilateral and illegal decision taken by the United States. The EU exported some 5.5 million tons of steel to the U.S. last year. European steel producers are concerned about a loss of market access but also that steel from elsewhere will flood in. The US trade deficit fell to a seven-month low in April as exports rose to a record high, lifted by an increase in shipments of industrial materials and soybeans.,,, (US trade deficit)

European leaders in talks on creating asylum centre outside EU: Several EU countries are discussing setting up a camp for rejected asylum seekers in a country on the continent but outside the EU, two national leaders said on Tuesday. Germany, the Netherlands and Austria were among those involved in the discussions, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told local media, adding he hoped a pilot project could pave the way for an improved European asylum system. Speaking in Brussels, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz confirmed the plans, saying talks had already reached an advanced stage. Both Rasmussen and Kurz said talks were being held directly between European governments and not within the EU framework. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was not immediately opposed to such an initiative.

Anti-fraud watchdog sheds light on fraud trends: The EU’s anti-fraud agency Olaf has been busy. 2017 saw 197 investigations leading to 309 recommendations to recover of 3 billion euros for the EU budget. Three countries – Romania, Poland and particularly Hungary seemed to be the focus of the most intense scrutiny. Trends in anti-fraud investigations, as well as specific cases and operations led by Olaf are presented in the annual report which was published at a news conference at its Brussels HQ on Wednesday. The most common type of anti-fraud cases included corruption, conflict of interest and the manipulation of tender procedures that affecting EU structural funds, where in some instances organised crime groups attempted to gain a profit. Attempts to defraud funds destined for research projects or the refugee crisis have increased, while dodging customs duties orchestrated through transnational criminal schemes have become common, according to Olaf.,,

EU lawmakers agree to cap price of intra-EU calls: EU governments and lawmakers have agreed to cap the price of calling from one EU country to another, seeking to score another political victory with citizens after the elimination of mobile roaming surcharges. The deal clinched in the early hours of Wednesday after twelve hours of negotiations is part of a wider overhaul of the bloc’s 15-year-old telecoms laws to encourage operators to invest in fiber broadband networks and open up radio frequencies for next-generation 5G services. But in a twist on the original proposal the European Parliament pushed for the prices of international calls within the EU to be capped, arguing that they were often disproportionately high. Under the provisional deal, calls from one EU state to another will be capped at 19 euro cents per minute while text messages will cost no more than 6 euro cents each.

Parliamentary election: Iraq to hold manual recount of May election results
EU reforms: Merkel calls for only one location for EU Parliament
Armament: EU wants to spend 6.5 billion euros on roads suitable for tanks
ECB: Inflation picks up
Global Peace Index: Refugees now make up one percent of world population


I can be very frank and open and say that if we are unable to come up with a common response to migration challenges the very foundations of the EU will be at stake.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday that the EU’s future would be endangered if member states failed to overcome a poisonous impasse over a common policy to handle asylum.


Spain’s new prime minister names cabinet with women in majority: Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez named his cabinet on Wednesday, with women taking most of the posts at the top of government for the first time in the country’s history. Announcing his choices at a press conference on Wednesday evening, Sanchez said the nationwide feminist strike on 8 March had marked “a before and an after” when it came to gender equality in Spain. Sanchez drew from a wide range of professions, choosing an astronaut for science minister, a state attorney specialising in the prosecution of jihadist attacks for justice minister and a climate change treaty negotiator for environment minister. His appointments include Carmen Calvo, a former culture minister, who will serve as deputy prime minister and equalities minister, and Nadia Calvino – currently budget director general at the EU Commission – who will take the role of economy minister.,

Italy’s new government wins confidence vote: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won a confidence vote in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday, confirming his government’s majority after promising tough negotiations with Europe over the economy. Italy’s new government will review the previous administration’s shake up of mutual and co-operative banks, Conte told parliament, without giving any details. Conte, who heads a coalition that unites the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, also confirmed that his government would look into separating investment banking from retail banking.,

Czech premier Babis reappointed: Czech President Milos Zeman re-appointed Andrej Babis as prime minister on Wednesday, endorsing a coalition-in-waiting that would give the anti-Nato communists a say in policymaking for the first time since the country’s 1989 revolution. Czech politics have been in deadlock since January when the minority government of Babis’ anti-establishment ANO party lost a parliamentary confidence vote. Babis, who is under police investigation over corruption allegations, has governed in a caretaker capacity since then. News last week that President Milos Zeman planned to reappoint him triggered the latest in a series of street protests that have echoed some voters’ unease over signs of backsliding on democracy in other eastern EU states.

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German cabinet moves to reduce healthcare costs: On Wednesday, Germany’s Cabinet approved Health Minister Jens Spahn’s proposed new legislation designed to provide relief to citizens who have public health insurance. The bill would require employers to cover 50 percent of employees‘ insurance premiums beginning January 1, 2019. Politicians such as Christian Democratic Union politician Spahn, and his colleague Andrea Nahles, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party, lauded the bill’s sense of fairness. Nahles emphasised the justness of the bill’s half/half principle, which would reestablish parity between contributions made by employees and employers. Some 56 million Germans are publicly insured. German businesses decried the proposal because of the costs. The proposal will now move on to Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, for a vote. It does not require approval by the upper house, the Bundesrat.

Germany: US ambassador Grenell should „reconsider role“ after Europe comments

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Spreading the word about Italian expertise: Craftsmen in the Basilicata region of southern Italy have become part of the EU-backed „Mapping Basilicata“ project. Some 100 firms from three sectors: food, fashion and furniture, participated in the project. It cost some 1,260,000 euros, half of which came from European Cohesion funds. It is part of the overall Operational Programme 2007-2013 for Basilicata. In a region where working alone was the norm, the collaborative project has now taken root. And with Matera one of next year’s European Capitals of Culture, it’s hoped this new spirit will get a further boost.



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