Tag Archives: European Union Institutions

The EU says it doesn’t need Nord Stream 2, but only Germany can block it | Instant News


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union does not need the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for its energy security but any decision to stop a project bringing Russian natural gas to Germany must come from Berlin, a senior European Commission official said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen at the gas pipeline construction site Nord Stream 2, near the city of Kingisepp, Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019. REUTERS / Anton Vaganov

The $ 11 billion pipeline project led by Russian state energy company Gazprom, whose completion is more than 90%, will double the capacity of an existing submarine pipeline passing through Ukraine and eliminate Kyiv’s transit costs.

The project pits Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, against central and eastern European countries that say it will increase the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas.

“For the EU as a whole, Nord Stream does not contribute to the security of supplies,” Ditte Juul Jorgensen, director general of the Commission’s energy department, told lawmakers on the European Parliament’s industry committee.

Investments over the past decade in other pipelines, liquefied natural gas import terminals and interconnectors in Europe have secured sufficient supplies to meet the bloc’s energy needs, he said.

Any decision to stop the project must be made by Germany, said Juul Jorgensen.

“Actually stopping development requires a decision at the national level. That is not a decision that can be taken at the European level, “he said.

Nord Stream 2 is facing increased scrutiny as European relations with Russia deteriorate over the treatment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The European Parliament last month asked the European Union to stop building a pipeline in response to Navalny’s arrest.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin, in large part symbolic action on the issue.

Despite US sanctions on the pipeline, Berlin is sticking to Nord Stream 2, which it says is a commercial project.

(This story adds the dropped “official” word)

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Edited by Sonya Hepinstall

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China has tried to intimidate Hong Kong activists in Germany, Berlin said | Instant News


FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong and Chinese national flags flying behind a pair of surveillance cameras outside the Central Government Office in Hong Kong, China July 20, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

BERLIN (Reuters) – China has been trying to intimidate Hong Kong residents living in Germany since pro-democracy protests erupted in the city two years ago, the German interior ministry said in a letter to a lawmaker published on Tuesday.

The letter sent to the chairman of parliament’s human rights committee, Gyde Jensen, in response to requests for information on the matter, could add to the pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a firm line on China’s human rights.

“Since the start of the protests in Hong Kong, increased efforts by Chinese state actors in Germany to influence public opinion supporting the Chinese government as well as actions against protest supporters have been identified,” the ministry said in the letter, first published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and reviewed on Monday. Tuesday by Reuters.

The letter cites a protest in support of Hong Kong activists in Hamburg on 17 August 2019 in which Chinese counter-government demonstrators filmed and photographed participants “possibly for purposes of intimidation”.

About 720 people from Hong Kong have residence permits in Germany, he said.

Jensen, a member of the liberal FDP party, told Reuters: “It is time for the German government to realize that Chinese government actors can pose a threat to Hong Kong’s exiled citizens.”

“Unfortunately I am skeptical that the mechanisms used by our security agencies are sufficient to protect those affected effectively,” he said.

The Chinese Embassy in Berlin did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesman for the German interior ministry said he was not aware of the letter.

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The EU says copyright law sets the situation apart from Australia | Instant News


FILE PHOTO: 3D printed Facebook logo placed on broken glass above the European Union flag print in this illustration taken on January 28, 2019. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU countries do not face the same situation as Australia, where Facebook is blocking all media content from its platform, due to new copyright rules protecting publishers in Europe, the bloc’s executive said Thursday.

A European Commission spokesman declined to comment directly on the move by media giant Facebook to escalate a dispute with the Australian government over payment for content.

“In the European Union, the situation is different,” the spokesman said in written response to questions.

“Copyright reform – which needs to be turned into national law by June 7, 2021 – is already starting to bring tangible results to the European media sector, as evidenced by the recent announcement of a found agreement between Google and publishers in France.”

The dispute between Australia and Facebook centers on a planned Australian law, which would oblige Alphabet Inc’s Facebook and Google to reach a commercial agreement to pay news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or agree on prices by arbitration.

Although Australia is a small market, the law is closely watched around the world by regulators, and could be a test case for a bigger global push to force internet giants to share more of their revenue with content providers.

Under the EU’s stricter copyright rules, online platforms must sign licensing agreements with musicians, artists, writers, news publishers and journalists to use their work.

The European Commission’s position is that “quality press and journalism is not free” so the Copyright Directive creates the conditions for fair bargaining between press editors and online platforms.

Reporting by John Chalmers, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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The Swiss-EU treaty dispute is becoming real as a shortage of medical devices draws near | Instant News


* Seamless medical equipment trade may end from 26 May

* Switzerland’s small market triggers concern over thousands of products

* Scramble for the treaty threatens Switzerland’s access to EU research funding

ZURICH, February 18 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s years of stalemate with the European Union over a stalled bilateral agreement could have an immediate real-world impact by fueling a shortage of medical devices that are now being trafficked seamlessly across borders.

Switzerland’s refusal to support the agreement – which would ensure non-member Switzerland adopts EU single market rules – could cripple the medical device trade when the industry standard collective recognition agreement (MRA) for them expires in May.

The clashes signaled erosion creeping from the uncomfortable relationship between Switzerland and the EU, its biggest trading partner which has lost Britain a member, as the network of bilateral economic agreements that froze over time becomes increasingly obsolete.

Swiss scientists fear the dispute could hinder their access to the 96 billion euro ($ 116 billion) European Union’s Horizon research program now being drafted.

The standoff could also disrupt medical supplies to the EU which is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half of Switzerland’s exports of medical devices used in things such as surgical procedures are sent to the EU, while Switzerland imports more than $ 3 billion worth of these items annually from the EU.

The two sides have clashed before over the draft agreement, which Bern has rejected since 2018 until open points are clarified about state aid, EU citizens’ access to Swiss social benefits, and unilateral Swiss rules protecting high wages.

Playing a political ball, Brussels in 2019 refused to recognize Swiss exchange trading rules that are on par with EU standards, sparking revenge.

But disrupting the trade in devices like respirators to treat COVID-19 patients would be an entirely different matter.

“We are very concerned about the supply chain,” said Beat Egli, vice president of the Swiss association Medtech which represents a sector that employs 63,000 people.

SMALL NOT BEAUTIFUL

Barring a swift deal to stop the clock, the current open market medical device trade ends when the EU switches to a new authorization regime on May 26.

Swiss manufacturers face an additional fee of around 100 million Swiss francs ($ 112 million) and a recurring fee of 75 million a year if they have to switch to an official EU representative, Swiss Medtech said.

But the bigger problem is that importing the EU’s essential products into a country of only 8.6 million people may not be worth the bureaucratic complexity of serving the Swiss market.

A Swiss Medtech survey in November found up to a quarter of all imported medical equipment – about 75,000 – could fall by the wayside, but it’s unclear for months which will disappear as suppliers and importers sort out the systems.

Even something as simple as replacement respirator parts can wreck a supply chain.

“The Swiss manufacturers are very aware that sooner or later they have to do something … but I am very concerned about the EU manufacturers. They may not know the new requirements, “said Egli of Swiss Medtech.

The lobby wants a transition period of at least 18 months to cushion the blow, but is not sure it will get that in a decision the Swiss government is preparing.

“If the MRA reforms are not adopted by May 2021, measures are being developed to mitigate the potential negative impacts,” the Federal Public Health Office said without providing any details.

BOOTED FROM THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The German medical sector association BVM and its allied groups have appealed for a renewal of the MRA or at least an appropriate transition period, warning that emergency, trauma and diabetes care products as well as for dialysis and chronic respiratory disease are particularly at risk.

“Especially against the backdrop of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it must be ensured that no supply bottlenecks arise with medical products and that care for high-risk patients is adequately guaranteed,” he said.

Bern has closed talks to revive the agreement, which has continued under new chief negotiators on both sides.

But Brussels, which has made it clear that Switzerland will not gain access to a new single market until the agreement is made, is clearly irritated by moves in Bern amid domestic opposition spanning the political spectrum.

The dispute has research institutes concerned ahead of talks about Swiss access to the Horizon scheme which will start in April or May. “Everyone wants to compete and take part at the highest levels of research, and if Switzerland is no longer part of Horizon’s funding program, it will be like being knocked out of the football Champions League,” said Detlef Guenther, vice president of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

“No longer participating in schemes like this would seriously damage Switzerland, our institutions and the economy.”

($ 1 = 0.8286 euros) ($ 1 = 0.8975 Swiss francs)

Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Edited by Toby Chopra

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Epic Games has Apple in a fight against EU antitrust regulators | Instant News


BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The creators of Fortnite Epic Games have been battling Apple for the European Union’s antitrust regulators, escalating disputes with the iPhone maker over the App Store payment system and control over app downloads.

The two companies have been locked in a legal dispute since last August, when the game maker tried to avoid Apple’s 30% fee for some in-app purchases on the App Store by launching its own in-app payment system.

That prompted Apple to kick the Fortnite Epic game off the App Store and threatened to terminate affiliate accounts that effectively blocked distribution of the Unreal Engine, a software tool used by hundreds of app creators to create games.

Epic Games founder and chief executive Tim Sweeney said Apple’s control over its platform tilted the level of the playing field.

“The 30% they charge as their application tax, they can make it 50% or 90% or 100%. “Under their theory of how this market is structured, they have the right to do that,” he told reporters.

“Epic is not asking the court or regulators to convert this 30% into some other number, just to restore competition on iOS,” he said, referring to Apple’s mobile operating system.

The company also accused Apple of barring rivals from launching their own game subscription services on its platform by preventing them from bundling multiple games together, even though its own Apple Arcade service did that.

Apple says the rules apply equally to all developers and Epic has broken them.

“In a way that judges described as fraudulent and confidential, Epic enabled features in its app, which were not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the intention of violating App Store guidelines that apply equally to every developer and protect customers,” the company said in a statement. a statement.

“Their reckless behavior is making customer pawns, and we hope to explain this to the European Commission,” he said.

Apple has taken small steps in recent months to change its practices, including lowering costs for some developers and giving them a way to challenge its decisions, neither of which has satisfied company critics.

Fortnite is scheduled to return to iPhone at some point in the mobile Safari browser. Epic and Apple have in recent weeks traded documents and made depositions ahead of the scheduled May hearing in Epic’s lawsuit filed last year.

The commission, which is investigating Apple’s mobile payment systems, Apple Pay and the App Store, confirmed receipt of the complaint.

“We will judge based on our standard procedures,” said a spokesman for the Commission.

Epic Games has also filed complaints with the UK Competition Court of Appeals and the Australian supervisor.

Big companies such as Microsoft Corp., Spotify and Match Group Inc have also criticized Apple’s App Store fees and rules.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Edited by Barbara Lewis, Edmund Blair and David Goodman

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