The Commission will scrap or amend 80 of about 450 proposals waiting for Parliament or Council approval
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Implementing the announced Investment Plan to boost the EU economy, opening up the opportunities in the Digital Single Market for citizens and businesses, launching the European Energy Union, and putting forward a new, balanced European Agenda on Migration are among the 23 initiatives in the Commission’s 2015 work programme, adopted by the College of Commissioners on 16 December. This agenda for change, as it was promulgated, was presented at the European Parliament in Strasbourg by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his first deputy Frans Timmermans, who is in charge of Better Regulation, Interinstitutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
VP Jyrki Katainen launched an all-Member-States roadshow to promote Juncker's plan
Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, launched a roadshow last week across all Member States to promote Juncker's Investment Plan, worth more than €300bn, and to explain the new opportunities open to governments, investors, businesses, as well as regional authorities, trade unions and communities. The roadshow kicked off last Monday in Romania, where Katainen was joined by Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu.
 
Priorities include winding down an accumulated pile of bills and securing investment financing in critical areas
Parliament approved the draft EU budget for 2015 and a top-up of the 2014 one last Wednesday, the EP press service reported. The budget foresees €145.32bn in commitments and €141.21bn in payments for 2015, and an extra €4.25bn to settle unpaid bills in 2014.
 
Tougher regulation against money laundering agreed
Owners of secretive companies in Europe will have a harder time keeping out of the public eye, EU negotiators agreed last Wednesday, in another blow against opaque business practices after the LuxLeaks scandal, news wires reported.
EU fights threat of stagnation
Yasen Georgiev
Almost seven years into the global economic and financial crisis, it is hardly a secret to anyone that EU Member States' hopes for rapid and sustainable economic recovery remain, for the most part, wishful thinking. Despite tentative indications that it had turned the corner in the beginning of this decade, the EU's and the Eurozone's GDP growth has subsequently proven to be too fragile to stay on its positive course from 2010 and 2011. This, in turn, prompted increasing talk that the crisis will turn out to be a double-dip recession instead of the originally expected lasting recovery following the negative trend.
Europe embarrassed Israel
Israel sought assurances from the US administration last week that Washington would block efforts on Palestinian statehood, as two moves taken by the EU General Court and by the European Parliament heavily embarrassed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas should be removed from the European Union's terrorist list, the General Court of the European Union ruled last Wednesday, saying the decision to include it was based on media reports not considered analysis.
War on terror failed to end widespread terrorism
The Pakistani Taliban slaughtered 141 people, 132 of them children, in a brazen terror attack on an army-run school in Pakistan's Peshawar city on 16 December. The same day, two car bombs killed at least 31 people, including 20 children, in central Yemen's Radaa city, when suspected al-Qaeda fighters targeted Houthi militants.
China in Eastern Europe offensive
China eyes new markets in Central and Eastern Europe as Russian influence fades, news wires reported last Tuesday, while Chinese PM Li Keqiang, accompanied by 200 corporate executives, met 16 leaders of this part of the continent in Belgrade. Li announced that China will establish a new investment fund worth $3bn that will be available to the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC). The fund will be used in new ways, through public-private partnerships and leasing, he said at the Economic Forum held as part of the China-16 CEEC Summit.
Repsol to buy Talisman Energy for $8.3 billion
Spanish oil giant Repsol is to acquire Canadian oil and natural gas producer Talisman Energy in a deal worth $8.3bn, plus the assumption of $4.7bn in debt, ending a months-long search for acquisitions to help boost crude reserves, news wires reported.
European filmmakers showered with awards
Ida, by famous Polish Director Pawel Pawlikowski, has been given the European Film Academy's 2014 Best Film Award. The black-and-white production has won in several other categories, including Best Screenwriter, Best Director, Best Cinema­tographer and the People’s Choice Award. The honours were presented at the Latvian national Opera in Riga on 13 December.
Balkan music is a kind of folly
Ekaterina Tomova
It is extremely important to me to come to Bulgaria and sing in front of the Bulgarian audience, because I feel very comfortable here. And that makes me happy. When I am in Bulgaria, I feel as if I am at home and I sing with my closest people.
In Brief
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Bulgaria to get German expertise
 
Germany will send experts to help Bulgaria with judicial reform, energy projects and EU funds under an agreement PM Boyko Borisov (L) and German Chancellor Angela Mer­kel signed during their meeting in Berlin. Photo: BGNES

Pope Francis celebrates his birthday
 
Pope Francis blows out birthday candles of a cake he received for his 78th birthday as he arrives for the Wednesday General Audience in Saint Peter`s Square, Vatican City, 17 December. Photo: EPA

Christmas card against fracking
 
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood delivered a Christmas card to British PM David Cameron to highlight how the dangerous effects of fracking are compared to asbestos in London, 18 December. Photo: EPA

EU leaders discussed Juncker's €315bn plan
 
The €315bn Investment Plan for Europe, presented by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker a few weeks ago, topped the agenda of the European Council meeting, held in Brussels on 18 and 19 December. This is the first summit steered by the new European Council president, Donald Tusk. EU leaders discussed how to foster investment in Europe, and the direction for work in the coming months through the establishment of a new European Fund for Strategic Investments.

Eurobarometer: Confidence in Union is increasing
 
Confidence in the EU and its institutions is increasing, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey published last Wednesday. According to it, the number of Europeans who say they have a positive image of the EU has risen from 35% last June to 39% in November. 37% have a neutral image and 22% a negative image, down from 25% in June. Moreover, the number of Europeans who say they trust the EU has risen to 37%, up 6% since the previous survey after the EP elections.

Greek parliament fails to agree on president, elections loom
 
The Greek parliament failed to elect a president during the first round of voting last Wednesday and the ballot will be repeated on 23 December. The only candidate, former Commissioner Stavros Dimas, received 160 votes, with 200 out of 300 MPs needed. A total of 160 MPs voted for Dimas. If the second round is also unsuccessful, Dimas will need 180 votes in a third round on 29 December. With no president agreed on, Greece must hold general elections in a month.

New sanctions on Crimea and Sevastopol approved
 
The EU Council announced on 18 December the approval of substantial additional sanctions on investment, services and trade with Crimea and Sevastopol, reinforcing the EU's policy of not recognising their illegal annexation by Russia. New measures add to an import ban on goods from Crimea and Sevastopol, imposed in June, as well as restrictions introduced in July on trade and investment related to certain economic sectors and infrastructure projects.

Initial deal on capping card payment fees reached
 
An initial deal on capping fees charged for paying with debit or credit cards across the 28-nation EU has been reached by negotiators from governments and the economic committee of Parliament. The cap would apply to both cross-border and domestic card-based payments and should result in lower costs for consumers. For domestic transactions, EU countries can apply the cap of 0.2% to the annual weighted average transaction value within the card scheme. For credit card transactions, the agreed cap is 0.3% of the transaction value.

The Flying Santa
 
High wire performer Falko Traber poses as the Flying Santa on his motorcycle kitted out like a reindeer sleigh above the Christmas Market in Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo: EPA

Virgin of Compassion
 
Virgin of Compassion, Rila Monastery. A Boris Maskrachki replica of an 18th century icon.

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