It is the biggest such agreement Brussels has ever negotiated, according to analysts
The European Union and Japan last Friday reached an agreement on a free trade pact, thus opening up markets for each others' production, news wires reported. The news was first reported by Japanese PM Minister Shinzo Abe, quoted by Japan's Kyodo news agency. Later on it was confirmed by Brussels. According to analysts, it is the biggest such agreement the EU has ever negotiated and finalised, as it is creating an economic zone with 600m people and approximately 30% of the world GDP. “We welcome the finalisation of the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Japan,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said last Friday in a joint statement.
MEPs prolonged the timeline of EFSI until the end of 2020
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main prop of the Juncker Plan to be improved, beefed up and to be prolonged until the end of 2020, was approved by MEPs on 12 December and thus endorsed the agreement that the EP and national governments reached three months ago.
 
Lawmakers suggest EU jurisdictions to be included in the tax haven “blacklist”
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The final document with findings and a list of 210 recommendations, made by the EP’s Special Inquiry Committee into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Evasion, known as PANA, was backed with wide majority by MEPs on 13 December at the plenary sitting in Strasbourg.
 
Twenty-five EU states sign PESCO
European Union Member States on 11 December moved ever closer towards establishing a defence union, after the European Council adopted the creation of a new European defence and security cooperation network known as PESCO. The new defence union is expected to address immediate threats without having to rely on NATO for all of the EU's defence needs.
Farmers receive more tools for coping with market volatility
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Measures that make stronger farmers’ position in the food supply chain towards additional crisis-prevention and management instruments, stabilising farmers’ incomes and simplifying the EU farm policy were backed on 12 December by MEPs during their last for this year plenary session in Strasbourg.
World is losing battle against climate change
We're not moving quickly enough. We all need to act. We are losing the battle. With these words French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed last Tuesday dozens of world leaders and company executives at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Organised two years after the Paris Climate Conference, it was aimed at breathing new life into the battle against climate change after this summer US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the US out of the international accord.
New PM, same old cabinet
Svetoslav Stefanov
Poland reshuffled its government mid-term hoping the change will somehow renew its energy and lessen the international difficulties encountered by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS).
Mexico seeks free trade deal with EU
Mexican Economic Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on 13 December that his country could reach agreement on a major trade deal with the EU in a few weeks.
New tax guidelines to help cross-border investors
The Commission tabled last Monday new guidelines on withholding taxes to help Member States reduce costs and simplify procedures for cross-border investors in the EU, the EU press service reported. The new Code of Conduct offers solutions for investors who, as a result of how withholding taxes are applied, end up paying taxes twice on the income they receive from cross-border investments.
EP backs Schengen expansion
Bulgaria and Romania once again received the unequivocal support of the European Parliament for their accession to the Schengen area during a parliamentary session debate last Wednesday, BTA reports.
Investment plan for Europe: EFSI extended until 2020
The European Council extended on 12 December the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) until 31 December 2020, with a target of half a trillion euros of additional investments. EFSI is the central pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, known as the Juncker Plan.
British parliament votes to have last say on Brexit deal
Prime Minister Theresa May's government was dealt last Wednesday a serious blow, when lawmakers voted changes to its Brexit blueprint, effectively handing themselves more say over a final exit deal with the EU, news wires reported.
EC renews glyphosate approval for 5 years
The Commission renewed last Tuesday EU approval of glyphosate for a period of five years, following scientific assessment that there is no link between the pesticide and cancer in humans, the EU press service reported.
Supporting regions in transition
Five European regions will benefit from tailored support under a new EU-funded pilot action aimed at helping them turn from coal to other sectors of economy, the EU press service reported. Hauts-de-France (France), Norra Mellansverige (Sweden), Piemonte (Italy), Saxony (Germany) and Wallonia (Belgium) have been selected after a call for interest launched by the Commission in September 2017.
Turning sunlight into sustainable fuel
The Commission launched last Tuesday a competition on artificial photosynthesis aimed at turning the sunlight into fuel, the EU press service reported.
Polish parliament votes to reshape judiciary
Poland's Parliament adopted last Friday widely condemned legislation to reshape the country's courts, shrugging off criticism from the EU that the measures would threaten the rule of law and place judges more firmly under government control.
In Brief
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Common EU-wide penalties for money laundering proposed
 
New measures to step up EU fight against money laundering were last Monday agreed by the Civil Liberties Committee. MEPs seek to introduce EU-wide definitions of money laundering related crimes, including practices that are not currently deemed a crime in all EU countries. They also seek an EU-wide minimum term of imprisonment of at least two years in cases with aggravating factors, such as organised crime. “The vote marks an important milestone in the fight against organised crime at a European level. This directive will deprive criminals of their most important asset, money,” rapporteur Ignazio Corrao (EFDD, IT) said.

Register of delegated acts puts decision-making on spotlight
 
A new online register, launched last Tuesday, will make it easier to find and track EU decisions taken in the form of delegated acts, which are used to supplement or amend EU laws. They are most common in the areas of economy, agriculture, environment and public health, the single market and trade, and are a form of secondary legislation used to update technical requirements in legislation. Parliament and the Council empower the Commission to draft delegated acts, which are then submitted to them. To help the public and interested parties to follow this part of the EU decision-making process, a new common online register is being launched by the three institutions.

Serbia, Montenegro move on membership talks
 
The EU advances membership talks for Montenegro and Serbia by opening last Monday two new chapters for each Balkan country in accession negotiations. Montenegro began accession talks with Brussels in 2012 and now has 30 from all 35 chapters open. Serbia has been in EU membership talks since January 2014 and the new chapters bring to 12 the total number of opened ones. The Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn praised the two Balkan countries for the progress. Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker said he expects Serbia and Montenegro will join the bloc by 2025.

Agreement reached on fishing quotas for 2018
 
After marathon talks last Wed­nesday the EU ministers reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for 2018 in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea following negotiations at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 11, 12 December. The ministers added nine fish stocks, species of fish in defined geographical areas, to those that are managed sustainably, bringing the total to 53. EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella (pictured) welcomed the outcome. For the first time at EU level, it was agreed to close eel fisheries for three months during their migration period.

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