EP voted Data Protection Package

On 14th of April, MEPs gave their final approval to the new rules aimed at providing citizens with a better control of their personal data and, at the same time, to create a high, uniform level of data protection across the EU. The new package will substitute the Data Protection Directive1 which is currently in force. The current Directive dates from 1995. The digital world has changed substantively in the last 20 years.

The new rules will harmonise consumer rights, ensure legal certainty and fairer competition and enable citizens to decide which personal information they want to share. Along with that, the data protection package also includes a directive on data transfers for policing and judicial purposes, thus setting European standards for information exchange between law enforcement authorities.

Migration: Turkey Action Plan started

As a result of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan decided on 29th November 2015 and the EU- Turkey statement of 7th March, the EU and Turkey agreed rules to try and stop irregular migration from Turkey to the EU by means of an agreement that targets the business model of people smugglers. It also seeks to remove any incentive to seek out irregular entry into the EU.

The key to the new rules is a deal whereby Turkey agrees to take back all immigrants who arrive illegally into the EU from Turkey and in return gets to send an immigrant legally to the EU. For each Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU and, the EU, in close cooperation with Turkey, will accelerate the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

Dutch Referendum on EU-Ukraine Association

Strong anti-EU sentiments have been made public by the Netherlands. The EU Association Treaty on Trade and security with Ukraine, already signed by the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government and approved by all other EU nations, was rejected by two-thirds of Dutch voters on 7th  of April. That is, 64% of Dutch voters seek to oppose not only the Treaty but also wider European policymaking as regards the migrant crisis and the economy as well. The turnout was 2% over the quorum for this particular referendum.

If this result can be interpreted as a sign of rising Euroscepticism from the Netherlands, which is holding now the EU’s rotating presidency, will be for the Dutch government to assess. In any event the government will need to suggest a way forward to satisfy all parties: Keeping the Ukraine agreement in force provisionally, or to draft, maybe, a list of exemption clauses for the Netherlands.

Panama Papers

On April 3, 2016 reports based on the so-called “Panama Papers” – and 149 of the documents themselves – obtained from Mossack Fonseca (a Panama-based offshore services provider) were published. The documents were received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The identities of offshore company shareholders and directors associated with Mossack Fonseca were revealed and the reports illustrated how heads of state or government, as well as government officials, close relatives, and close associates of various heads of government of more than forty other countries hide assets from public scrutiny.

Brussels Attacks

On the morning of 22nd March 2016, three nail bombs were set off in Brussels, right in the “heart of Europe": two at Zaventem Airport (close to the American Airlines check-in row), and one at Maalbeek metro station (near to the EU Institutions). 35 people (including three suicide bombers) were killed, and over 300 people were injured. Another bomb was later found during a search of the airport. Responsibility for the attacks has been claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The bombings occurred just a few days after Salah Abdeslam, a suspected accomplice in Paris attacks, was captured in Molenbeek. Belgian investigators believe that Abdeslam's arrest may have hastened the Brussels bombings, which may have been planned before the arrest or even planned for Paris.

European Commission activates exceptional measures to further support European farmers in crisis

On the 14th  of March, the EC announced what is meant to be an additional package of exceptional measures using all available means within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in order to support EU farmers (the core targeted subjects of this package of measures are the fruit and vegetable sectors along with the dairy and pigmeat) but also, at the same time, to safeguard the EU internal market without relinquishing flexibility for Member States to make use of those tools depending on their particular national situation.

For a specific period of time, the EC is opening up the exceptional opportunity (which was already introduced in the 2013 CAP reform but never used before)  to authorise producer organisations and cooperatives from the dairy sector to arrange agreements upon their production and supply. Besides and significantly, Member States will be able to provide, as state aid, up to € 15000/year per farmer without applying whatsoever a national ceiling to that.

Brexit

The United Kingdom EU membership referendum is scheduled to take place in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on 23 June 2016. In September 2015 the government agreed the proposed question to the public as follows: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” with one possible response between: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.

The result will be known by the next edition of Across. Boris Johnson, the voice of the Leave campaign, has become more and more strident even accusing President Obama of harbouring the resentments of an ex colony. He is becoming more ridiculous so as to loose.

Commission publishes Report on functioning of Insurance Block Exemption Regulation

On 17th of March, the EC published a report on the functioning of the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation, which, general speaking, exempts a whole number means of cooperation between insurers in the insurance sector from EU antitrust rules under certain conditions. The current rules, the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation (IBER), expire on 31 March 2017.

By this date, the Commission needs to decide whether to either amend the Regulation or let it expire. There was a public consultation in 2014, followed by questionnaires addressed to customers, intermediaries’ federations and as well as mutual insurance associations. On 26 April 2016, the Commission is expected to meet with stakeholders and discuss the report's assessments. This feedback from stakeholders will contribute to the thorough overall outlook of the market, which will might help the Commission on reaching its definitive proposals on the IBER to come.