EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: The European Commission services have published an updated guide to explain how EU rules in the fields of state aid, public procurement and the internal market apply to services of general economic interest (SGEI).  The guide provides simple & comprehensive answers to the most frequent questions asked by public authorities, service users & providers and other stakeholders.
Originally published in 2010, it has now been revised to take account of the new state aid rules on SGEI that the Commission adopted in December 2011 & April 2012 - the so-called ‘Almunia’ Package.  

The document provides useful guidance for the provision of social services, in addition to other SGEI.  The importance of having high quality, efficient social services will be underlined by the Commission's forthcoming Social Investment Package.
Press release & links
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is working with the UK Government and other devolved nations to prevent Scotland losing £ms of European Structural Funds. It follows the recent agreement by the European Council on the EU’s budget for 2014-20. 
The deal, reached by the European Council – including the UK - would mean that structural funds budgets will be allocated on a new formula, which in the UK favours densely populated regions

The UK’s overall allocation for 2014-20 would fall by approximately 6%.  However, initial calculations suggest that Scotland could face a drop of over 30% - a cash terms fall of around €300m.
Press release & links
EU News: The foreign affairs committee said accession talks with Iceland should be completed as soon as both sides are ready, in a vote on Tuesday on Iceland's progress towards joining the EU.  It welcomed the opening of 21 chapters in the negotiations but would have preferred all to be opened.
MEPs believe that EU accession would enhance Iceland's role in Northern Europe & in the Arctic and at the same time boost the European position in efforts to find sustainable policy solutions for the Arctic region.
Press release & links ~ Croatia ready to become 28th member state, say MEPs
EU NewsFisheries Committee MEPs backed a proposed ban on discarding unwanted fish of 35 species caught in the Skagerrak (between the North Sea & the Baltic) in a vote last Tuesday.  The ban, totake effect gradually between 2014 & 2016, would be enforced with a remote electronic monitoring system.

The discard ban regulation would oblige fishing vessels to land all caught fish in order to halt ‘discards’ - the practice of throwing fish back into the sea, usually because they are of an unwanted species or size.  Most discarded fish die, which is wasteful & aggravates overfishing.
Press release
EU NewsVictims of violence, in particular domestic violence, will be able to count on EU-wide protection.  Last week, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers reached a political agreement in principle on a proposal by the European Commission for an EU-wide protection order.  
The agreement means women who have suffered domestic violence will be able to rely on a restraining order obtained in their home country wherever they are in the EU.  Such protection is in particular vital for many women in Europe: around 1 in 5 have suffered physical violence at least once in their life, according to surveys.
Press release & links
EU News: The European Commission will not prolong or renew a set of specific guidelines on the application of EU antitrust rules (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU) to maritime transport services.  The current maritime guidelines will therefore expire on 26 September 2013.
Press release & links
EU News: The next batch of EU economic governance legislation should do more to deliver growth and the European Commission's new powers to vet Eurozone countries' budgets will be better democratically controlled, thanks to a draft ‘two-pack’ deal struck by EP and Council negotiators last week. It also lays down clear rules for countries seeking EU financial help.

The deal must now be approved by Parliament as a whole.  A vote is expected to take place in the second week of March
 and the rules will enter into force shortly thereafter. The texts of the legislative proposals lay down detailed procedures for persuading member states to amend their national budgets in line with Commission recommendations.
Press release & links
EU News: The European Commission is proposing to open domestic rail passenger markets to competition by 2019 to complete the European railway market.  Views differ amongst transport committee MEPs, with fears that unprofitable lines will be closed down.
Press release & links
EU News: Recently, the European Commission called on Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland & Portugal to take action to address deficiencies in the implementation of EU legislation concerning the welfare of animals, and specifically to implement Directive 2008/120/EC which requires that sows are kept in groups during part of their pregnancy.
Press release & links
EU News: Recently, the European Commission has decided to refer the UK to the EU Court of Justice for its reduced VAT rate on the supply and installation of energy-saving materials.  This measure goes beyond what is allowed under the VAT Directive.
Press release & links
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