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Week ahead: ‘Democracy is too precious for a move fast and break things attitude’ Jourová

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This week the European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová will present new rules  on online political advertising. The new proposal will be presented on Thursday (25 November). 

Speaking at the Lisbon Web Summit (2 November) Jourová said that current political digital advertising was an unchecked race of dirty and opaque methods: “We have to hit the slow down button, because our democracy is too precious for this move fast and break things attitude.”

Jourova said that when it comes to the targeting methods, we have to hit the slow down button: “When it comes to micro-targeting techniques, it is clear this is a black box, we simply do not know enough, except when we get the glimpse into the engine room through yet another scandal, or via a whistleblower.”

The vice president says that sensitive information on sexual orientation, race, religion or political views should not be used for targeting purposes. There should also be transparency on targeting and amplification techniques. The Commission’s proposal will cover the entire production chain to include companies like Cambridge Analytica, the ad tech industry and others.

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Asked about what she discussed with Frances Haugen when they met at the summit, Jourova said that Haugen thought the Commission’s proposals were going in the right direction, she also urged the EU to be tough with the large platforms. 

The proposal on political advertising will be part of a broader package on reinforcing democracy and integrity in elections: protecting election integrity and promoting democratic participation; revision of the statute on the funding of European political parties and European political foundations; and amendments to the directives on the right of EU citizens to vote in European and local elections. 

Capital Markets Union 

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Other Commission issues tabled for the weekly college meeting include a discussion on the progress of the Capital Markets Union, an update on progress a year after the CMU action plan was presented. There will also be a proposal for a European single access point (ESAP) for companies to disclose financial and non-financial information.  This will be presented on Thursday.

Belarus

The other item will be a joint update from the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell and Executive Vice President Margaritas Schinas on the situation at the EU’s external border with Belarus and the possibility of sanctions against transport operators.

Council

The General Affairs Council (ministers with responsibility for ‘Europe’) will meet today to start preparation for the European Council to be held on 16-17 December 2021. Items on the agenda include crisis preparedness, an update on EU enlargement and association processes, review of the state of play on EU–UK relations and a ‘country-specific’ discussion in the context of the annual rule of law dialogue, as well as a discussion on the Commission work programme for 2022.

On Tuesday (24 November), the EEA Council (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) will meet to assess the adoption of EU law and the financial mechanism that they pay as their contribution to the EU’s economic and social cohesion. They will also hold a policy debate on the New Industrial Policy and will hold an informal exchange of views on China, Belarus and the Strategic Compass in the margins. 

The ASEM (Asia-Europe) summit will take place on Thursday and Friday (26 November) of this week.

On Thursday, the Competitiveness Council of ministers responsible for the internal market and industry will be invited to adopt a general approach on both the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Ministers will also hold a policy debate on the implementation of the recovery plan for Europe. 

On Friday, the Competitiveness Council will continue with a focus of research, principally the future governance of the European Research Area; and, space, in particular space traffic management, the discussion will also no doubt consider Russia’s anti-satellite missile attack on one of its own satellite, but seen as a demonstration of its potential to threaten European satellites. 

European Parliament Plenary and Committee week ahead (thank you, European Parliament)

Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the Conference of Presidents decided to approve the President’s proposal to reintroduce remote participation and voting for MEPs as of 22 November.

Plenary

Reform of EU Farm Policy. On Tuesday, MEPs are set to give the green light to the new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). This reformed CAP aims to be greener, fairer, more flexible and transparent. The Chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Parliament’s rapporteurs will hold a press conference at 13h. (debate and vote Tuesday)

COP26 Climate Pact. Following the deal reached in Glasgow on Saturday 13 November after two weeks of negotiations, MEPs will debate the outcome of the COP26 negotiations on Wednesday morning.

COVID-19. Parliament will discuss with the Commission the current situation, future EU action, and coordinating more effectively member states’ measures, in light of rising COVID-19 cases across the EU. (Monday (22 November))

Situation in Belarus/Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. On Wednesday at 12.00, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address MEPs. On Tuesday afternoon, MEPs will hold a separate debate with Council and Commission on the security and humanitarian consequences of the situation in Belarus and at its border with the EU.

Rule of law and fundamental rights in Slovenia. On Wednesday (24 November), MEPs will assess media freedom and the state of democracy in Slovenia, as well as the country’s delay in appointing a representative to the EU Prosecutor’s Office.

EU Budget 2022. MEPs are set to approve the deal between Parliament and Council negotiators on next year’s EU budget, supporting priorities such as health, the young and climate action. The agreed figures are €169.5 billion in commitment appropriations and €170.6bn in payment appropriations. (debate Tuesday, vote Wednesday)

EU Summit debrief with Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen. Plenary will review the 21-22 October European Council with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen. Topics likely to be raised by MEPs include the EU’s response to COVID-19, the surge in energy prices, and the situation of the rule of law in the EU (Tuesday).

Committees

Digital markets. A draft law aiming to put an end to unfair practices by big online platforms (so-called "gatekeepers") and allowing the Commission to impose fines to sanction such behaviour will be put to a vote in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (Monday evening).

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China

Competition: EU and China meet during 22nd Competition Week to discuss competition policy priorities

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Officials and experts from the EU and China will meet online from 29 November to 2 December 2021 to discuss about their co-operation on competition law and enforcement. The discussions will focus on the green transition and how China's Fair Competition Review System and the EU's State Aid framework can contribute to it. Participants will also discuss mechanisms to control potentially anti-competitive acquisitions in the digital sector and the practical challenges of investigating digital markets. In addition, there will be updates on the proposed revisions to China's Anti-Monopoly Law and recent regulatory and competition policy developments in the EU.

The 22nd EU-China Competition Week follows the longstanding tradition of biannual competition dialogue between the EU and the anti-monopoly enforcement agencies in China. It is part of the Competition Co-operation project, a five-year EU funded programme offering technical co-operation to competition authorities in Asia. It also provides a platform for exchanges on competition policy between the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The objective is to exchange experiences and strengthen convergence in competition policy, to the benefit of citizens and businesses in both the EU and in Asia. More information about the European Commission's bilateral dialogue with China in the field of competition policy is available on the Commission's website.

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coronavirus

Commission hosts second matchmaking event to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 medicines

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Today (30 November), the Commission is hosting a pan-European matchmaking event to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 medicines in Europe, as part of the actions under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics. Following a first matchmaking event on COVID-19 medicines in July 2021 and a previous matchmaking event on COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, this event aims at strengthening the participation of EU companies in value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics and speeding up connections among the participants. It also broadens the focus: from therapeutics specifically used to treat COVID-19, to also including those used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, as well the production of disposable materials, such as syringes, and ingredients needed for making such medicines.

The event gathers companies from the European Economic Area as well as other businesses and organisations included in the portfolio of 10 most promising treatments, presented by the Commission in the follow-up to the COVID-19 Therapeutics strategy. In order to facilitate matchmaking events, the Commission issued a comfort letter in March 2021 (based on the Antitrust Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 8 April 2020) providing guidance, relevant also for this event, on how the matchmaking and exchanges between participating companies, including direct competitors, can take place in compliance with EU competition rules. The matchmaking event is organised by the Commission's Task Force for industrial scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, in close co-operation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The event is also hosted in partnership with the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and the European Cluster Alliance (ECA), which are supporting the Commission in running an EU survey to assess EU capacities for COVID-19 therapeutics production. More information about the event is available here.

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European Commission

President von der Leyen addresses the special session of the World Health Assembly of the WHO

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On 29 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) addressedthe World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gathers between 29 November and 1 December for its second-ever special session. The President welcomed the Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, President von der Leyen commended the leadership of South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, underlining that South Africa's analytical work and transparency have allowed a swift global response to save lives. She praised South Africa as an example of international cooperation in times of cross-border health threats.

Building on the Global Health Summit of May and on the G20 Summit last month, President von der Leyen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to uphold equity, good governance, multilateral cooperation and solidarity as the only ways out of the current health crisis. The European Union and its Member States will continue working to help achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 and will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and vaccination. In this sense, the President confirmed that the EU aims at sharing at least 700 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 with low and middle-income countries. That is on top of the €3 billion in financing that the EU provided to help create the ACT-Accelerator for global vaccination through COVAX and the ongoing efforts to develop vaccine manufacturing in Africa and in South America. The full speech is available here and can be re-watched here.

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