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No need to rush - This autumn is not the time for premature, short-sighted decisions

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Abraham Liu, Huawei Chief Representative to the EU Institutions (pictured).

"Very much like the rest of 2020, this autumn and winter will also be different from normal times. Regrettably, the Coronavirus Pandemic will continue to test our resilience and adaptability for the foreseeable future. As we enter Europe’s cold season, many among us will be anxious about the months ahead. Yet as in every complicated situation, there is also hope" - writes  Abraham Liu, Huawei Chief Representative to the EU Institutions

"Looking at what we have jointly achieved in the earlier part of 2020, I cannot but also be optimistic: progress on vaccines is coming along impressively. We have been able to curb the mortality of the virus. Overall, we now know so much more about this disease than we did in March. Yes, the weeks ahead will be difficult. But I am confident that all over Europe, we will overcome the virus and we will return to normality.

The other day I visited the House of European History in Brussels. History, and Europe’s tumultuous history in particular, teaches us that nothing can be taken for granted. At numerous times in the past, humanity has experienced a loss of knowledge and technology. It then took enormous efforts and a very long time to get back what had been stupidly destroyed. Let me be clear: There exists no automatism that we can retain our current level of technological development. Without stability and predictability, there is no progress. If the Pandemic teaches us something, it is that technology is humankind’s best ally to beat the virus and also to prevent similar viruses threatening us all in the future. We have no other viable option but to invest in technology and to bank on progress!

Whether the United States and China have now entered Graham T. Allison’s famous “Thucydides Trap” is not for me to judge. What I do believe and advocate though is that Europe has a key role and responsibility in ensuring stability in the months ahead. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel rightly point out that the EU is not an object, but a subject in international relations. International companies such as Huawei need a strong Europe to shape an inclusive tech-world of tomorrow. A world in which Europe leads on tech-regulation and in which new technologies are deployed in line with European values and principles.

The European Union can only be strong if its 27 Member States also stand up to its principles and do not give in to short-term pressures. The EU toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity is an intelligent and encompassing approach which gives EU countries appropriate time to come to their conclusions. This solid European method should not be undermined by third parties ahead of elections. Wherever European governments receive pressure these days to go down the path of potentially discriminatory actions violating EU law, I would like to tell them: take a deep breath. Do take your time. Do not rush into actions you might not have thought through.

Let me be clear: Huawei is deeply committed to Europe. We are here to stay and we will invest heavily in Europe’s ICT ecosystem. In the last 20 years, Huawei has decisively contributed to the successful digital transformation of societies all across Europe. Just look at Poland and Romania: in both countries Huawei has provided secure, fast and affordable telecom networks that are the backbone of the impressive economic growth both Poland and Romania have experienced in recent years. In Warsaw and in Bucharest, Huawei has set up large regional operations employing thousands of people.

Huawei has the know-how and the determination to team up with the European Union as a key partner to deploy global standards on Cybersecurity, to make the European Green Deal a reality and to partner with the continent’s automotive industry to jointly reinvent mobility.

I believe that in the not too distant future we will be looking back on the year 2020 as a moment of accelerated transition where some key players took a longer breath to take the right decisions when history called upon them. Take this deep breath and think for a moment before giving in to short-sighted pressure! "

Business

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Apple on App Store rules for music streaming providers

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that it distorted competition in the music streaming market as it abused its dominant position for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store. The Commission takes issue with the mandatory use of Apple's own in-app purchase mechanism imposed on music streaming app developers to distribute their apps via Apple's App Store. The Commission is also concerned that Apple applies certain restrictions on app developers preventing them from informing iPhone and iPad users of alternative, cheaper purchasing possibilities.

The Statement of Objections concerns the application of these rules to all music streaming apps, which compete with Apple's music streaming app “Apple Music” in the European Economic Area (EEA). It follows-up on a complaint by Spotify. The Commission's preliminary view is that Apple's rules distort competition in the market for music streaming services by raising the costs of competing music streaming app developers. This in turn leads to higher prices for consumers for their in-app music subscriptions on iOS devices. In addition, Apple becomes the intermediary for all IAP transactions and takes over the billing relationship, as well as related communications for competitors. If confirmed, this conduct would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of an investigation.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “App stores play a central role in today's digital economy. We can now do our shopping, access news, music or movies via apps instead of visiting websites. Our preliminary finding is that Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store. With Apple Music, Apple also competes with music streaming providers. By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition. This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.” A full press release is available online.

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Aviation/airlines

Portugal extends COVID-19 air travel curbs until mid May

Reuters

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Portugal is extending until 16 May flight restrictions that stop non-essential travel from countries including Brazil with high coronavirus incidence rates, and added India to the list due to the rapid rise in infections there.

Travellers from countries where 500 or more cases per 100,000 people have been reported over a 14-day period - which also include South Africa, France and the Netherlands - can only enter Portugal if they have a valid reason, such as for work or healthcare, the government said on Saturday.

Arrivals must then quarantine for 14 days.

The decision on India means Portugal is joining a growing number of countries imposing such restrictions. Neighbouring Spain also on Saturday said passengers arriving there from India must go into quarantine for 10 days to avoid spreading COVID-19, a government bulletin said. Read more

Portugal said people from countries where the incidence rate is 150 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, such as Spain and Germany, can also travel by plane to the country only for essential reasons.

They will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure for Portugal. Those without a test will have to take one on arrival and wait for the result at the airport.

The extension of air travel restrictions came on the same day most of Portugal moved to the final phase of a gradual easing of rules imposed in January to tackle what was then the world's worst COVID-19 surge.

As infections dropped sharply, lockdown restrictions started to be eased in mid March. Schools, restaurants and cafes, shopping malls, museums and other non-essential services have since reopened, but under strict rules to reduce contagion risk.

Portugal's 1,200 km land border with Spain also reopened on Saturday after more than three months of restrictions and border checks.

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Competition

Vestager accuses Apple of abusing its role as gatekeeper in music streaming market

Catherine Feore

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The European Commission accuses Apple of abusing their position as a gatekeeper in the music streaming market.

In its ‘statement of objections’ the Commission says music streaming app developers who want to reach Apple device users (iPhone, iPad) have to use Apple store and are charged a 30% commission fee on all subscriptions. They are also obliged to follow Apple’s ‘anti-steering provisions’, which limit developers from informing consumers of alternative purchasing possibilities outside of apps. 

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Our preliminary finding is that Apple is a gatekeeper to users of iPhones and iPads via the App Store. With Apple Music, Apple also competes with music streaming providers. By setting strict rules on the App store that disadvantage competing music streaming services, Apple deprives users of cheaper music streaming choices and distorts competition. This is done by charging high commission fees on each transaction in the App store for rivals and by forbidding them from informing their customers of alternative subscription options.”

Markus Ferber MEP, European People’s Party group spokesman on economic affairs welcomed the development: “There is always a big risk of abuse for a platform operator like Apple to give preference to its own services on its platform compared to competing services. 

“Apple has been using its App Store for a while to keep its competitors at bay by using dodgy contractual clauses and exorbitant fees. By making use of these anti-competitive practices, gatekeepers such as Apple are preventing true competition from emerging in the first place.”

Long overdue

Ferber also called the Commission’s action long overdue: “It took years for EU competition authorities to get their act together. Apple’s competitors have had to take the hit in the meantime. We urgently have to move from ex-post competition enforcement to ex-ante prevention of market abuse. The Digital Markets Act can be a powerful tool in this regard.”

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