Top News from the European Commission 16 February – 13 March 2015

Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalistsThe European Commission reserves the right to make changes
16-18/2: Commissioner Stylianides visits Senegal and Mali
18/2: A Capital Markets Union to unlock investments in Europe
24/2: How digital is your country? Find out in the new EU Digital Index
25/2: The Commission presents Energy Union Strategy
26/2: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package
3/3: High-level international conference on Ebola
3/3: Commission presents European environment — state and outlook 2015
Monday 16 – Wednesday 18 February: Commissioner Stylianides visits Senegal and Mali
The news:
The EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides will visit the Sahel region of Africa (Senegal and Mali), where close to 20 million people will face food shortages and more than 5.5 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2015.
The visit puts West Africa firmly among the Commission’s humanitarian aid priorities, especially the resilience agenda which aims at strengthening the capacities of the local communities to face recurrent humanitarian crises. The Commissioner will meet with representatives of the Senegalese and Malian governments, the UN and NGOs. During the visit he will also participate in a development donor conference for Mali. In Mali, he will pay particular attention to the deteriorating security situation which further adds to the humanitarian crisis.
The background:
The Sahel region is still reeling from the aftershocks of four consecutive food and nutrition crises (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012). Food security has worsened further because of the spill-over effect from conflicts in Mali, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, raising dramatically the number of displaced people and refugees in the region.
Since the start of 2014, the European Commission has provided more than €200 million to assist the people affected by the Sahel crisis. The European Union has been instrumental in the creation of AGIR, a global alliance to strengthen the resilience of local communities in West Africa which has set itself a ‘zero hunger’ goal by 2032.
The event:
Commissioner Stylianides will meet President Macky Sall of Senegal on Monday, 16 February. In Mali, he will meet President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and members of the government (17 February). He will attend the Donors Conference, meet with the UN Humanitarian Country Team and other humanitarian partners in Bamako. EbS will cover the visit with photos and video material.
The sources:
Europe by Satellite:
Factsheet on Sahel:
Factsheet on Mali:
Factsheet on the EU support for resilience in West Africa:
The contacts:
Catherine Ray, +32 229 69921, [email protected]
Irina Novakova, +32 229 57517, [email protected]

Wednesday 18 February: A Capital Markets Union to unlock investments in Europe
The news:
On 18 February, the European Commission will launch a Green Paper consultation on the Capital Markets Union (CMU) for all 28 EU Member States. This consultation follows a first orientation debate at the College of Commissioners which was positive and supportive of the project (see IP/15/3800).
The background:
The CMU is one of the flagship projects of this Commission and ties in with the ambition to boost jobs and growth in the EU. It aims to create a single market for capital for all 28 Member States by removing barriers to cross-border investment and lower costs of funding within the EU. It is designed to help businesses to tap into a greater diversity of sources of capital from anywhere in the EU and offer investors and savers additional opportunities to put their money to work. Well-functioning capital markets will also facilitate the mobilisation of private financing in the context of the Investment Plan for Europe.
In many parts of Europe businesses – especially SMEs – remain heavily reliant on banks for their funding needs. A key objective of the CMU will be to increase sources of funding so that businesses have easier access to credit through capital markets as well as banks, including cross border access.
The Commission aims to make its consultation phase broad and inclusive: it will call for input from the European Parliament, national parliaments, Member States, citizens, SMEs, end users, the non-governmental sector as well from as the financial sector. Based on the feedback it receives, the Commission will unveil an Action Plan on the CMU during third quarter of 2015. 
The event:
Jonathan Hill, EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, will give a press conference at the midday briefing in the Commission’s press room (timing TBC). A press release, a MEMO as well as the Green Paper will be issued on the day.
An ‘off-the-record’ technical briefing will also be organised in the morning in the press room (timing TBC).
Available on EbS
The sources:
Information on financial services:
Information on Commissioner Jonathan Hill:
Speech on “Capital Markets Union – finance serving the economy”
The contacts:
Vanessa Mock, +32 229 56194, [email protected]
Maud Scelo, +32 229 81521, [email protected]

Tuesday 24 February – How digital is your country? Find out in the new EU Digital Index
The news:
How many citizens go online to watch videos online or use public services? How many smaller businesses sell over the internet? How many homes have high-speed broadband? The answers to these questions – and 60 more – are found in the new EU Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI).
The Index looks at areas including connectivity (how widespread, how fast and how affordable broadband is), internet skills, the use of online activities from news to shopping, how integrated different digital technologies are (e-invoices, cloud services, e-commerce, etc), and at digital public services such as e-government and e-health. It looks country-by-country – and at Europe as a whole.
The background:
The Index compiles new data and uses a weighting system to rank each country based on digital performance.
This information is particularly relevant as the European Commission prepares its Digital Single Market strategy, due in May — so that the EU’s single market freedoms can “go digital”.
The objective is to make the most out of the great opportunities offered by digital technology, which knows no borders. Citizens should be able to access services, music, movies and sports events on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe. Companies should be able to develop their activities in the EU, with the same data protection and consumer rules wherever their server is based. By creating a Digital Single Market, Europe can generate up to €250 billion in additional growth, and hundreds of thousands of news jobs, in the next five years.
The event:
The Index will be presented and discussed at the Digital4EU forum in Brussels on 24 February. Both Vice-President Ansip(@Ansip_EU) and Günther H. Oettinger (@GOettingerEU) will take part. Live coverage will be provided via web-streaming.
The contacts:
Mina Andreeva, Tel.: +32 229 91382, [email protected] 
Marie Frenay, Tel.: +32 229 64532, [email protected] 

Wednesday 25 February: Commission presents Energy Union Strategy
The news:
The European Commission will adopt a Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy. The Energy Union is one of the key priorities of the new Commission as laid down by President Juncker in his political guidelines.
The Energy Union Strategy will go hand in hand with a Climate Communication “Road to Paris” and a Communication reporting on the electricity interconnection target of 10%.
The background:
Much has been done in the field of energy over the last years. The EU has started to build the most integrated, competitive and sustainable Internal Energy Market in the world. Still the current energy policies are unsustainable in every sense of the term and don’t deliver all benefits that citizens and companies can expect.
Some few examples:
The fact that most of the EU’s energy comes from outside the EU, notably from a few countries which use their energy supply as a political bargain puts the EU at constant risk for disruptions. Energy systems in Europe are fragmented into 28 national silos and some parts of the EU are still insufficiently integrated in the energy system.
EU companies are facing gas prices which are no less than three times higher than those enjoyed by their American counterparts. This is a huge burden for industry and EU’s economy overall.
And when it comes to low-carbon technology: among the top 10 solar energy companies, none is European. Still too much energy is wasted, and the EU has not yet built the low-carbon economy and society.
The event:
Wednesday 25 February: Press conference with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and EU-Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (details to follow).
Press release and MEMOs available on the day.
The sources:
More information about the Commission’s priorities:
The contacts:
Anna-kaisa Itkonen, +32 229 56186, [email protected]
Nicole Bockstaller, +32 229 52589, [email protected]

Thursday 26 February: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package
The news:
On Thursday 26 February, the European Commission will adopt its monthly infringements package. These decisions cover all Member States and most of EU policies and seek to enforce EU law across Europe in the interest of both citizens and businesses.
The background:
Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.
There are three successive stages: Letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and referral to the Court of Justice.
If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU. After only one written warning, Commission may refer a Member State back to the Court and it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties based on the duration and severity on the infringement and the size of the Member State.
The event:
A comprehensive fact sheet on all referrals and reasoned opinions, specific press releases on each referral and a fact sheet on the procedure will be available on the dayin the Press Release Database:
The sources:
For more information on infringements:
On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12
The contacts:
Overall coordination:   
Ricardo Cardoso, +32 229 80100, [email protected]
Justyna Milanowska, +32 229 94246, [email protected]
Seán Pól De Búrca, +32 229 72216, [email protected]

Tuesday 3 March: High-level international conference on Ebola
The news
The European Union and key partners are organizing a high-level international conference on Ebola on 3 March to take stock of the fight against the outbreak, coordinate further action for the total eradication of the disease and discuss the recovery process in the most affected countries.
The event will be co-chaired by Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as Togo as Ebola coordinator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations and the African Union.
The European Union will be represented by Vice-President and High Representative Federica Mogherini; the Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica; the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and the EU Ebola coordinator and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
More than 80 delegations have been invited, including Ministers from all West African countries and EU Member States, other countries that are contributing to the fight against Ebola, and relevant partners, such as UN agencies, the IMF, the World Bank, NGOs, the private sector and research institutes.
The background:
West Africa is currently facing the largest and most complex Ebola epidemic on record. The outbreak primarily affects three countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So far, more than 22,500 cases have been confirmed and more than 9,000 victims have died.
The European Union has been monitoring the spread of Ebola and taken collective action at home and abroad. It has mobilised humanitarian, political, financial and scientific resources to help contain, control, treat and ultimately defeat the virus. The EU and its Member States have pledged over EUR 1.2 billion to fight the epidemic. The EU is contributing EUR 414 million to provide emergency measures and longer-term support as well as the development of vaccines and treatments.
The event:
The one-day event will take place in the Egmont Palace in Brussels. Facilities for the press and interview opportunities will be available on the spot. EbS will cover the event.
To attend the conference, please fill in the registration form at the link below, indicating your media profession in the “function” field:
The contacts:
Catherine Ray, +32 229 69921, [email protected]
Irina Novakova, +32 229 57517, [email protected]
Sharon Zarb, +32 229 92256, [email protected]

Tuesday 3 March: Commission presents European environment — state and outlook 2015
The news:
A major 5 year report, released by the European Environment Agency reveals the state of the environment. EU Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella, will draw on the report’s findings, presented by the Director of the European Environment Agency, Hans Bruyninckx, to outline Europe’s vision and opportunities to advance environmental policy and significantly improve the standard of living of its citizens.
The background:
The European environment — state and outlook 2015 report, provides a comprehensive assessment of the European environment’s state, trends and prospects, and places it in a global context. It informs European environmental policy implementation and analyses the opportunities to modify existing policies in order to achieve the EU’s 2050 vision of living well within the limits of the planet’s resources.
Short term trends are encouraging as European policies have reduced several environmental pressures; several of these have also been decoupled from economic growth. Yet looking to the long term prognosis there is a less positive picture.
Some examples:
Environmental policies have brought improvements in drinking water and bathing water quality. Hazardous pollutants have been reduced though serious health impacts still prevail in urban areas. Looking ahead, the less positive outlook reflects that (1) inside and outside Europe, climate change, depletion of natural resources, and biodiversity loss can have potentially wide ranging and long-term effects on our health and life quality; and (2) urbanisation and human vulnerabilities such as our ageing population can reduce the gains we have made through improved environmental awareness.
The event:
Tuesday 03 March: press conference with EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella and the Director of the European Environmental Agency, Hans Bruyninckx.
Press release and background note available on the day.
The sources:
The full report:
Information on EU Commissionner Karmenu Vella:
The contacts:
Enrico Brivio, +32 229 56172, [email protected]
Iris Petsa, +32 229 93321, [email protected]
Source: technology

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