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Van Rompuy: Soon Europe could be the only continent to still depend on imported energy

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Herman_Van_RompuyIn a speech held by Herman van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, he stated that “Europe could be the only continent to still depend on imported energy” and that that we are in a race for resources that makes energy prices higher.

Speech by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy at the European Parliament – 28 may:

Last week’s meeting of the European Council was short but effective. It was an opportunity  for leaders to devote some time to defining priorities for the Union in the field of energy.  We also gave a new impulse to files that had been long blocked, notably on tax fraud and  tax evasion. In other words: it was quite different from the crisis management meetings we  have got used to! The fact that we can look to the future is good: much remains to be done,  but we are on the right track

Let me start on energy, how it effects our consumers, and our economies. Since the last  summit devoted to energy, in February 2011, considerable progress has been made.  Member States, for instance, made further steps towards completing our internal energy  market. Together with the Council, you have adopted the Energy Efficiency Directive,  which will help us to achieve our energy efficiency target of 20% by 2020.

At the same time, the world has changed since February 2011. As one of the leaders put it:  “we are now in the middle of a global energy revolution”. It suffices to look across the  Atlantic to find ample proof of that. We are also faced with a race for resources, driving up  energy prices. And soon Europe could be the only continent to still depend on imported  energy.  

Frankly, it is not a comfortable situation to be in. Not for our households, who feel the  weight of high energy prices. That’s why the interest and rights of consumers were so  central in our exchanges. Nor for our industry, which finds it hard to compete with foreign  firms who often pay twice as less for electricity. If we want to keep factories and jobs in  Europe, sustainable and affordable energy is key.

In the room, I felt a strong awareness that we, in Europe, have no major ‘game changer’ on  the horizon. There was an equally strong consensus, reflected in the European Council conclusions, that we need a common approach – rather than 28 separate ones. A common  approach consisting of four points:

– First, energy efficiency. The adoption of the Energy Efficiency Directive gave a real  boost; the challenge now is implementation. After all, the cheapest, cleanest and safest  energy is the one not consumed!  – Second, creating a true single European energy market. Leaders insisted on the need for  urgent progress, ahead of the overall 2014 deadline, and the 2015 deadline on  interconnections. Several members of the European Council stressed the need to better  interconnect our energy infrastructure, and this is reflected in the conclusions. – But for that – and it’s the third priority – we need investments. No less than €1 trillion by  2020, in modern infrastructure and also in Research & Development. Our Connecting  Europe Facility can certainly play an important role here.

All the more reason to rapidly  reach an agreement on the next Multiannual Financial Framework! But a large part of  future investments will have to come from the private sector. However, to spend on, say,  pipelines today, investors need a sense of where we want to be in ten or twenty years time.  So a more predictable energy and climate policy is vital.  Planning ahead is vital, but also sensitive, as we see from the April vote in the European  Parliament on the Commission’s so-called ‘back-loading amendment’. On the 2030  Framework itself, consultations are ongoing, based on a Green Paper by the Commission.  The European Council welcomed this paper. By the end of the year, the Commission will  put more concrete proposals on the table, after which the European Council will revert to  this topic, in March 2014. In the meantime, it is important that preparatory work continues  at other levels.  Fourth and final priority: diversifying our energy sources. Member States that manage to  reduce their dependency on one single supplier or on one single supply route see the benefits of this diversification. The challenge is clear: Europe has to exploit its energy  potential to the full. In the field of renewable energy, which is also a great source of jobs.  But also by developing safe and sustainable ways to tap other resources – conventional and  unconventional. Yes, this can include appropriate use of shale gas, which could become part of the energy mix for some member states, perhaps less for others. The Commission  will further assess this. It is, of course, explicitly recognised in the Treaty that it is up to  each country to decide its own energy mix.  I consider it an important signal that we jointly agreed on these four points.

There is now  an urgent need to follow-up on what leaders decided. That’s why, in the conclusions:  – we stressed the need for better coordination, especially, and in advance, on major national  energy decisions with an impact on other countries; I call upon the rotating Presidencies to  translate this into concrete action at the level of Ministers;

– we asked the Commission to analyse prices and impact on households by the end of the  year, so that these data can feed into other thematic European Council meetings which I  scheduled – most of which also related to competiveness;  – we decided to come back to our energy policy already in December, to make sure we  make progress in implementing these orientations.

Our second focus at this European Council meeting was on tax evasion and tax fraud. This  was not a new topic, and certainly a sensitive one, where progress is difficult. Yet, this  European Council was different. Why? Well, there was unusual momentum, partly due to a  series of scandals in different countries. In times of budgetary consolidation, when  governments have to take hard decisions that directly affect the life of citizens, tax fraud  and tax evasion become more unacceptable than ever. It is a matter of public confidence in  the fairness of tax systems. And the amounts are staggering. Hundreds of millions of euro  which go missing annually in Europe.

So it was the right time to start stepping up the fight, which is why I decided to bring this  issue on the agenda of the European Council. By nature tax evasion is something no  country can solve on its own. So despite being such a sensitive question – reflected in the  Treaty-requirement for unanimity – there is no doubt about the need to be united, if we  want to win the battle against tax fraud and tax evasion. It is a global problem, and only by  being united in Europe can we lead by example at the global level.  Already in March, we had touched upon this question, and the prospect of a summit  devoted to tax fraud and tax evasion put more pressure and helped set things into motion,  after years of standstill. So I am pleased that the European Council managed to unblock a  number of frozen items. There is movement, a real acceleration, with clear deadlines for  results. Today, I’m happy to report to you on first concrete results. Especially on four  points.  First, on VAT fraud: leaders expect their ministers to sign off no later than end of June on  a set of rapid-response measures so governments can crack down on fraudsters. This is a  breakthrough. Urgent action is imperative, and pragmatic solutions can easily be found  when political will is there.  Second point. You may know that, two weeks ago, ahead of the European Council, I  participated for the first time in an ECOFIN breakfast, where I stressed to finance ministers  the need to step up our fight against fraud and evasion. Two weeks ago finance ministers  agreed on the negotiation mandates on savings taxation, after two years of blockage. The  Union is now in a position to start negotiating immediately with Switzerland,  Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino to ensure these countries apply EU  standards. It will do so on the basis of the revised savings directive. This in itself is an  important signal, as it points to a Union-wide consensus on a text now in its fifth year of  negotiation – for the conclusion of which we now set an end-of-the-year deadline. Third point, which is linked: we all want the Union to push hard for a global standard of  automatic sharing of information, covering a full range of taxable income, and we’ll  promote this strongly in for a like the G8 and G20. I am glad the timely initiative by a  group of member states that sparked this action is now firmly embedded in a Union-wide  approach. Let me stress here that automatic exchange of information already exists in the  European Union, but it needs to be strengthened and its scope broadened.

Our Union law,  the revised savings directive and a revised administrative cooperation directive, for which  the Commission will make a proposal in June, will provide for a sound framework, tailored  to the needs of the tax administrations of Member States.  Fourth point: a number of issues related to business taxation. Tackling profit-shifting, taxbase-erosion and aggressive-tax-planning calls for a coordinated approach, in Europe and  worldwide: we all agree on that. Here too we set deadlines for the end of the year, for  instance on revising the parent-subsidiary and the money laundering directives. We will  monitor closely progress made against tax fraud and tax evasion, and come back to it at the  December European Council.  Finally, we briefly discussed the situation in Syria, reaffirming our commitment to a  political solution. We gave our support to the initiative for an international conference  based on the Geneva June 2012 principles, as a chance to re-start the political process. We  tasked foreign ministers to prepare the Conference and to decide on the common sanctions  regime (since it is due to expire on June 1st).  Yesterday the Foreign Affairs Council reiterated EU calls for a political solution of the  conflict and welcomed the initiative for an international conference. The Council also  extended for a further 12 months all the current restrictive measures with the exception of  the arms embargo. On this point a number of important conditions that will guide national  policies were agreed. The Council also agreed that Member States will not proceed at this  stage with the delivery of such equipment. Ministers decided they would revert to this  question before 1 August 2013 on the basis of a report by the High Representative on  developments of the Geneva talks.  So all in all we had a focused European Council, which set many things into motion – with  many deadlines – and incidentally taking place exactly one year ahead of the beginning of  the European elections. An extra reason for all of us to be focused on results!  Before concluding, I would like to share one more thought with you, on an issue which  was also raised by your President, Martin Schulz: youth unemployment. At our next  meeting in June, I will put the fight against unemployment high on our agenda.  The June European Council will be an opportunity to mobilise efforts at all levels around  one shared objective: to give young people the guarantees that they will be either in  training, further education or employment within four months of leaving school. This was  reflected in a Council recommendation adopted on 22 April.

In recent days, several Member States announced that they would come forward with ideas  to foster youth employment or share best practices. I welcome and encourage these  initiatives. On Friday, I sent a letter to the Members of the European Council, inviting  them to share ideas and to actively engage in the preparations of the June meeting. In my  letter, I also called on the social partners to act jointly, ahead of the June summit.  In the European Council, tackling youth unemployment is a long-standing priority,  underlined in the Compact for Growth and Jobs and the €6 billion set aside for the Youth  Employment Initiative in the European Council proposal on the MFF. We should make sure that this initiative can be fully operational by the 1st January 2014. Together with the  Council, your support, the support of the European Parliament is needed to make that happen.  We must rise to the expectations of the millions of young people who expect political  action. I thank you for your attention.

 

Source: http://www.consilium.europa.eu, Foto: wikipedia

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The last day with Great Britain in the EU, the first day of a new relationship that we want to be close

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Great Britain, the historical partner of the EU, leaves our table but remains a friend of the European Union, said MEP Vasile Blaga in a statement sent to CaleaEuropeană.ro.

December 31 is the last day on which the UK still applies Community law, and from January 1 the Brexit agreement will be applied, having already been signed by European officials.

“There are a few more steps for this agreement, concluded in extremis, on Christmas Eve: the evaluation of the agreement by the European Parliament, the British Parliament and its ratification by the Parliaments of all Member States,” said Blaga.

“We are talking about an extremely important agreement given that official figures show that over 3 million EU citizens live in the UK and over one million Britons live in one of the 27 Member States. The agreement has been worked on, and often on the brink of collapse, by a team led by Michel Barnier who deserves congratulations for the tenacity with which he defended the rights of European citizens and European companies. It is an unprecedented agreement, no other such agreement has been concluded by the EU so far, from a commercial and economic point of view. Basically, the historical partner of the EU leaves our table but remains a friend of the EU. Because not even a democratic vote can cancel a family relationship and a history like the one between Europe and Great Britain “, declared Vasile Blaga.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: “A coordinated vaccination campaign at European level, an example of unity and solidarity”

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, PPE) welcomes the start of the vaccination campaign at the same time in the European Union.

„The debut of the European level vaccination campaign, which is more or less simultaneous in all European Union states, has not been able to mobilize the EU to be able to provoke the annulment of all countries.” It is clear that you are critical of the address of the module in the European Commission to manage the contracting seminar with vaccines, tattoos, but through care, the moment of this moment, the functioning of the European Union, according to the European Plan.

The European MP informed Romania about the 150,000 vaccine dose of Pfizer BioNtech: „The European Commission has allocated 10 million vaccine doses for Romania to COVID 19″, said Vasile Blaga.

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Op-ed: Biden can help unite Europe. A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively

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A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively, writes former Romanian PM Mihai-Răzvan Ungureanu, in a joint op-ed with two US experts. The op-ed released to CaleaEuropeană.ro is published as an epistemic response to a piece authored by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Klaus Leggewie in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for a German-French Federation as a “breath of fresh air” for Europe. 

By Robert Braun, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu and Dan Perry

The incoming Biden Administration is expected to break with its predecessor’s obsessively transactional foreign policy, enabling progress on issues ranging from global warming to international trade to human rights. An important consequence, not obvious from headlines at the moment, involves Europe.

Outgoing President Trump’s evident disdain for global cooperation, supranational governance and the European Union in particular has had a devastating effect on those who yearn for greater European political union. It emboldened the UK’s Brexiteers, Euroskeptic leaders in the east and nationalists in almost every country, creating a paralytic continental bad karma. Trump’s departure holistically offers a moment for the European Union to regain its ambition, boldness and creativity.

The EU embodied a successful economic vision, but failed to transform that business case into a shared political values to an extent that could drive action. The treaties of Maastricht and Rome ultimately amounted the rhetorical flourishes and bureaucratic advances that could not sweep aside nationalist resistance. This is now best exemplified by the  Polish-Hungarian effort to derail the European budget and halt political oversight over individual countries’ authoritarian practices.

If Europe is to make its mark in the world, it needs a bold vision for political union: tighter control over exploitive and corrupt practices of local and multi-national companies, an inclusive social net with universal basic income, a welfare system socially and economically strengthening unions and representation bodies, and safeguards for the independence of the free press, of universities and of civic-cultural institutions.

A unified Europe can be a beacon of progressive values and modernity to the world. This should be the response to those in the world who derided Europe as an ossified vessel of yesterday while benefitting from its values. 

This will strengthen Europe, and make it a better partner to a rejuvenated, post-Trump United States – and to other democracies. It is a vision that the new U.S. Administration will be able to get behind.

Of course, this is not currently the direction of things, nor will it be without an electrifying course correction. In theory, there would be a variety of ways to shock the system. We’d like to throw our support in favor of constitutional unification of Germany and France, an idea floated recently by French MEP and 1960s student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit and German political scientist Claus Leggewie.

France and Germany have fought bitter wars, and can view each other through a narrow lens of stereotype and historical grievance. They have different labor market politics and instincts about fiscal and monetary policy. They speak different languages, and each possesses a profound patriotic instinct that may seem at odds with a ceding of national sovereignty. France is also more interested than Germany in a European security mechanism independent of the United States.

And they both have fostered business interest, sometimes at the expense of others in the European Union, that were grounded in “nation first” ideals.

And yet, France and (West) Germany are the two largest founding members of the European Economic Community that grew into the EU of today. The differences between their political and economic structures are minor when one considers their common fealty to Western and European values of the post-Renaissance and Enlightenment.  They are also the two strongest forces for political union among major EU members; there is a scenario where they agree to blaze the path.

A constitutionally unified, politically strong core would create economies of scale – combined population of 151 million and GDP of 6.73 trillion that make up 40% and 44% respectively of the bloc with the UK factored out – that would be irresistible, and prove that language need not be a barrier in a world in which English (ironically in light of Brexit) and innovation are unifying forces. 

Different languages may pose a challenge. But Canada, even with succession initiatives in Quebec, proves community and understanding are more about shared values than similar languages. Respect for different cultures and strong compassionate leadership are at the core of New Zealand’s political success. There is real reason to assess that a successful Franco-German unification would soon draw in an essentially liberal and internationalist countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, linguistic satellites like Austria and Luxembourg, and then large countries of the southern cone like Italy, Spain and Portugal. 

What of former east bloc countries where populist nationalists currently hold sway?  The euphoria of expansion was driven by both idealism and business interests, and while it yielded economic growth for the East it also left many in that region with resentments about a perceived neocolonialism, yielding a nationalist backlash.  Deft political diplomacy and considerable sensitivity will be required to avoid a repeat. A strong European political union may create the political momentum to rejuvenate a progressive urban electorate in Eastern Europe as well. Western European politicians should also find ways to acknowledge that peoples east of Vienna are valuable beyond picking asparagus, caring for the elderly and doing menial jobs for less. 

It seems far-fetched today. Nations tend to wait for crises to break established paradigms. We propose getting ahead of the curve. Germany and France can jump-start the process of European unification.

National identity – indeed tribalism – has been one of the building blocks of civilization. The question has always been granularity.  Right now, what is needed for stability, prosperity and global impact is a European identity.  It won’t be easy, because local identities are strong. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Quite probably, very much lost.

* * *

Historian Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was prime minister and foreign minister of Romania. Social Theorist Robert Braun was a top aide to Hungary’s prime minister and is a senior researcher at Vienna’s Institute for Advanced Studies. Dan Perry was Europe-Africa Editor and Mideast Editor of the Associated Press news agency and is managing partner of the Thunder11 communications firm.

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