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Commission launches Access2Markets portal to support trade by small businesses

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The European Commission has launched the Access2Markets online portal to help small and medium-sized firms trade beyond the EU’s borders. The new portal responds to requests from stakeholders to better explain trade agreements and help companies ensure their products are eligible for duty discounts. It will serve both companies that already trade internationally and those that are only starting to explore opportunities in foreign markets.

The new portal was presented today at a high-level, virtual event, 'The road to recovery – empowering small businesses to trade internationally', hosted by Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and attended by some 600 representatives of small and medium-sized companies.

Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis (pictured) said: “We need to help our companies, in particular our SMEs, to derive maximum benefit from our trade agreements. This is why we have created this new portal to help our smaller companies navigate the world of international trade. This one-stop-shop will help European firms to make the most of the EU’s network of trade agreements and get the best access to the markets, products and inputs they need to grow and to stay competitive.”

The European Union has a large network of trade agreements with over 70 countries and regions and is currently negotiating a raft of new deals. Access2Markets breaks this complex set of rules down into practical information so that smaller firms can have access to relevant information more easily. Concretely, Access2Markets delivers the trading conditions to import goods to the EU and to export goods to over 120 foreign markets.

Small businesses represent 88% of all EU exporters. Their exports account for one third of all EU exports and support 13 million jobs. Global markets are an important source of growth for European small and medium-sized companies. Paying particular attention to small businesses in the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is therefore essential.

“Small businesses are vital to our economy that thrives on the goods and services they provide,” said Véronique Willems, secretary-general of the European association of small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEunited. “SMEunited is pleased to see the launch of the Access2Markets portal. This portal will help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome obstacles to tapping the global market. Providing them with better access to information that is tailored to their needs will be to the benefit of all Europeans.”

The portal allows companies to look up the following details for imported and exported goods, in just a few clicks:

  • Tariffs
  • Taxes
  • Rules of origin
  • Product requirements
  • Customs procedures
  • Trade barriers
  • Trade flow statistics

The new Access2Markets portal also includes explanations, tutorials and FAQs to help new as well as experienced traders analyse the benefits of trade with each of the EU’s trading partners. It provides an overview of EU laws on products and services, as well as contact details for customs and other public authorities in EU member states and in the EU’s trading partners. Businesses can also use the portal to contact DG TRADE to report trade barriers they encounter.

Access2Markets’ self-assessment tool, ROSA, provides special assistance on the rules that define the ‘economic nationality’ of a product, known as ‘rules of origin’. These are tailor-made in every trade deal, making sure that sensitive market sectors are protected and that companies can claim reduced or eliminated customs duties as set in the agreement. Companies can also find information on how trade agreements regulate trade in services or on the conditions to invest, or take part in public calls for tenders in a foreign market.

Every product traded internationally has a code that determines what import duties and national or local taxes need to be paid. On Access2Markets, businesses can find not only the code but also what duties they need to pay in each jurisdiction. The portal’s My Trade Assistant tool enables businesses to look up information on duties, taxes, product rules and requirements on a product-by-product basis for each market.

The portal is optimized for use on smartphones and tablets. It includes a host of additional user-friendly functions to help businessmen and women get the most out of the EU’s trade agreements. And, of course, it is completely free of charge.

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Commission approves €400 million Danish aid scheme to support production of electricity from renewable energy sources

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a Danish aid scheme to support electricity production from renewable sources. The measure will help Denmark reach its renewable energy targets without unduly distorting competition and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Denmark notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a new scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources, namely onshore wind turbines, offshore wind turbines, wave power plants, hydroelectric power plants and solar PV.

The aid will be awarded through a competitive tendering procedure organised in 2021-2024 and will take the form of a two-way contract-for-difference premium.. The measure has a total maximum budget of approximately €400 million (DKK 3 billion). The scheme is open until 2024 and aid can be paid out for a maximum of 20 years after the renewable electricity is connected to the grid. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Danish scheme is in line with EU state aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in Denmark and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal and without unduly distorting competition.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy (pictured), said: “This Danish scheme will contribute to substantial reductions in greenhouse emissions, supporting the objectives of the Green Deal. It will provide important support to a wide range of technologies generating renewable electricity, in line with EU rules. The wide eligibility criteria and the selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will ensure the best value for taxpayers money and will minimise possible distortions of competition.”

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Russia: Summoning of the Russian Ambassador to the EU

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European Commission Secretary General Ilze Juhansone and External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov (pictured) to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday (30 April) to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation. 

Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.

Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia's expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.

They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

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Parliament launches the Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize

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The European Parliament has launched a journalism prize in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured), a Maltese investigative journalist murdered in 2017.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, launched on 16 October 2020, the third anniversary of her death, will reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values.

"The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize will recognize the essential role that journalists play in preserving our democracies and serve as a reminder to citizens of the importance of a free press. This prize is designed to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they do and show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists," said Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala.

Prize money of €20,000

The €20,000 annual prize will be awarded as of October 2021 to journalists or teams of journalists based in the European Union. Candidates and the eventual laureate will be chosen by an independent panel.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who reported extensively on corruption, money laundering, organised crime, sale of citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. Following harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017.

The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Critical of failings in the investigation, in December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action.

Published on 28 April, the report Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists from the Council of Europe lists 201 serious violations of media freedom in 2020. This figure marks a 40% increase from 2019 and is the highest figure recorded since the platform was established in 2014. A record number of alerts concerned physical assault (52 cases) and harassment or intimidation (70 cases).

Parliament strongly advocates the importance of a free press. In a May 2018 resolution, MEPs called on EU countries to ensure adequate public funding and to promote a pluralist, independent and free media. Parliament has once again underlined the importance of media freedom in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch this Facebook live interview about the Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize.

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