EU News

Commission registers ‘Ban Glyphosate’ European Citizens’ Initiative

The European Commission has decided today to register a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) inviting the Commission “to propose to Member States a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

The initiative will be formally registered on January 25, 2017. This registration will start a one-year process of collection of signatures in support of the proposed ECI by its organisers.

The Commission’s decision to register the Initiative concerns only the legal admissibility of the proposal. The conditions for admissibility, as foreseen by the ECI Regulation, are that the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act, that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious and that it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union.

The College of Commissioners discussed the legal admissibility of the proposed ECI today and concluded that the legal conditions for the registration of the ECI were fulfilled. The College has not analysed the substance of the initiative at this stage.

Should the ECI receive one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react within three months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not follow the request and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.


ECIs were introduced with the Lisbon Treaty and launched as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens in April 2012, upon the entry into force of the ECI Regulation which implements the Treaty provisions.

Once formally registered, an ECI allows one million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.

If – and only if – a registered ECI receives the signatures of one million validated statements of support from at least seven Member States, the Commission must decide whether or not it would act, and explain the reasons for that choice.

EU Commission clears acquisition of Hilding Anders by KKR

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Hilding Anders of Sweden by KKR of the US.

KKR owns and manages private equity funds investing in companies active in a variety of sectors. Hilding Anders manufactures and markets beds, mattresses and related products. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the companies’ activities do not overlap and are very limited on related markets. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

EU Commission clears South African agricultural mechanisation joint venture between Barloworld and German BayWa

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture by Barloworld South Africa and BayWa Aktiengesellschaft of Germany. Barloworld South Africa belongs to the South African Barloword group which produces earthmoving, power systems, materials handling and agricultural equipment, automotive and logistics services. BayWa is a German group active in agriculture, building materials and energy. The joint venture will distribute agricultural machinery and parts and provide related services in South Africa. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the joint venture will have no or negligible activities within the European Economic Area (EEA). The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

EU Commission proposes enhanced Market Access for Sri Lanka as reform Incentive

Removal of customs duties would be accompanied by rigorous monitoring and conditional on continued commitment to sustainable development, human rights and good governance

The Commission proposed on January 11, 2017, that a significant part of the remaining import duties on Sri Lankan products should be removed by the European Union in exchange for the country’s commitment to ratify and effectively implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour conditions, protection of the environment and good governance. These one-way trade preferences would consist of the full removal of duties on 66 % of tariff lines, covering a wide array of products including textiles and fisheries.

These preferences would come under a special arrangement of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences, known as GSP+. This arrangement is designed to support developing countries by fostering their economic development through increased trade with Europe and providing incentives to take tangible measures towards sustainable development. The European Parliament and the Council have now up to four months to raise potential objections before the measures become effective.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “GSP+ preferences can make a significant contribution to Sri Lanka’s economic development by increasing exports to the EU market. But this also reflects the way in which we want to support Sri Lanka in implementing human rights, rule of law and good governance reforms. I am confident of seeing timely and substantial further progress in these areas and the GSP+ dialogue and monitoring features will support this reform process. This should include making Sri Lankan counter-terrorism legislation fully compatible with international human rights conventions.”

Granting access to the GSP+ scheme does not mean that the situation of the beneficiary country with respect to the 27 international conventions is fully satisfactory. Instead, it offers the incentive of increased trade access in return for further progress towards the full implementation of those conventions, and provides a platform for engagement with beneficiaries on all problematic areas. As is the case for all GSP+ countries, the removal of customs duties for Sri Lanka would be accompanied with rigorous monitoring of the country’s progress in the area of sustainable development, human rights and good governance.

Sri Lanka had already benefited from GSP+ in the past. In 2010 the EU decided however to stop the preferential treatment for Sri Lankan imports due to the failure to address reported human rights violations in the country. In 2015, the new government of Sri Lanka set out a path of major reforms aiming for national reconciliation, respect of human rights, the rule of law and good governance principles, as well as sustainable economic development. The Sri Lankan government applied for GSP+ in July 2016 and the Commission’s assessment has concluded that it met the GSP+ entry criteria set out in the EU Regulation.

Sri Lanka has taken important steps to improve the respect of human rights and extend good governance. A significant development is the 19th Constitutional amendment, which re-establishes the independence of key institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission. Sri Lanka has also taken concrete actions to among other things: ensure cases of missing persons are examined; offer better protection of witnesses and victims; release persons detained under controversial anti-terrorism regulations; combat child labour. Sri Lanka has also re-engaged with the UN system, in particular the UN Human Rights Council, where it has made commitments to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Moreover, Sri Lanka has achieved most of its Millennium Development Goals, especially in health, education and gender equality.

At the same time, more needs to be done to improve on issues of concern. Sri Lanka must ensure its counter-terrorism legislation is fully in line with international human rights conventions. As a matter of priority, it must put a definitive stop to the use of torture by security forces and the related impunity. The government must also see through policy and legislative processes to improve the rights of women and children, for example with regard to discrimination, domestic violence, minimum age of marriage, sexual exploitation, as well as harassment of trade unions. All of these issues would be subject to GSP+ monitoring to ensure that positive progress continues to be made.

The EU is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market accounting for nearly one-third of Sri Lanka’s global exports. In 2015, total bilateral trade amounted to EUR 4.7 billion. EU imports from Sri Lanka amounted to EUR 2.6 billion and consisted mainly of textiles as well as rubber products and machinery.

There are currently 8 GSP+ beneficiaries: Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Paraguay and the Philippines.

EURATEX on EU Commission intentions to change anti-dumping & subsidy legislation

Euratex welcomes the reflection process carried out by the Commission over the last months to address the needs of the European industry and to tackle unfair trade practices.

Further to its letter to Commissioner Malmström in January 2016, Euratex reiterates that China does not meet the 5 criteria required to qualify as a market economy.

However, Euratex is aware that the Commissions put efforts to tackle overcapacities and to strive for preservation of European jobs by proposing to change the anti-dumping and anti- subsidy legislation.

In a globalized world, the European textile & clothing industry struggles for competitiveness thanks to continuous innovation and through the development of front-runner specialities. Above all, our industry needs fair trade in order to grow and create job. We thus welcome the improvement of the anti-subsidy proceedings allowing to take into account the new subsidies in the course of an investigation. Euratex is also looking forward for the Council and Parliament’s approval of the withdrawal of the Lesser Duty Rule.

Nevertheless, Euratex would like to point out some questions deriving from the Commission’s proposal and to draw attention on the necessity to focus on sectoral needs.

The Commission’s proposal to change the AD-AS legislation by creating a new methodology for the calculation of the anti-dumping and introducing the concept of “significant distortion” may open a lot of uncertainty for the European companies. There are a number of questions revolving around the WTO compatibility, the drafting of the reports, the burden of proof, the management of the transition period, the timetable for adoption of this proposal and the subsequent reaction of China. Euratex joins its voice to that of the European business community to urge the Commission to strongly act and clarify these points.

Finally, Euratex highlights the necessity to address sectoral problems through dedicated initiatives. Tackling barriers to trade in China, protecting IPR, ensuring stability of raw material prices and addressing overcapacities remain our priorities.

To respond to the latter, Euratex asks DG Trade for setting up a specific task force on overcapacities in man-made fibres and yarns. Euratex and its concerned members are committed to working with the Commission on the specific challenges faced by the sector. We believe such initiative beneficial to strengthen the future of the European textile industry.

EU calls for mandatory ‘Kill Switches’ on robots

European lawmakers have proposed that robots be equipped with emergency “kill switches” to prevent them from causing excessive damage. Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes

The proposal on robot governance was approved by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee on Thursday. The issue will now be considered by the European Commission, which is the bloc’s top regulator.

“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics,” said Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal. “To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework.”

Here is what lawmakers have proposed:

Kill switch

The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines.

For example, designers should include “kill switches” so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn’t work as designed.


Stop the killer robots

The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the “laws of robotics” described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.

Asimov’s laws stipulate that a robot must never harm or kill a human and always obey orders from its creator. Robots must protect their own existence — unless doing so would cause harm to a human.

Robot 2

Remember: It’s just a robot

The proposal also says that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations. That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments.

“You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human,” said Delvaux. “You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you.”

The report cites the example of care robots, saying that people who are physically dependent on them could develop emotional attachments.

Who’s responsible for misbehaving robots?

The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme — similar to car insurance — that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots.

Robot 3

Give robots rights?

The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of “electronic persons.”

This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently.

It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations — for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause.

Should robots pay tax?

If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security.

EU member states should also consider implementing a universal income to blunt the impact of the job losses.


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