Mr Pence told the European Union leaders his country is determined to continue the partnership
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Undoubtedly, the visit of US Vice-President Mike Pence in Brussels on 19 and 20 February allayed the tensions and showed the EU that between the two allies there are more common goals than differences. President Donald Trump’s stance on Brexit and the EU integrity, his attitude toward free trade deals, and his sharp words about the “obsolete” NATO had caused deep frustration in some European capitals.
Athens agrees to make new reforms and further cut spending
The Greek government agreed last Monday to make new reforms to cut up to 2% of GDP in spending in the coming years in order to break the deadlock with creditors over next bailout tranche.
 
Commission scolds Member States but does not punish their offenses
Member States are making headway in implementing the individual policy guidance they received last year around the "virtuous triangle" of boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms and ensuring responsible fiscal policies.
 
Brexit Bill passed in House of Lords
Theresa May has won the first round in her battle with the Lords to secure authority for triggering the Brexit process by the end of next month as last Tuesday House of Lords gave an unopposed second reading to the EU Notification of Withdrawal Bill after a marathon two-day debate involving more than 180 speakers, news wires reported.
Enforcing protection of customers shopping online
At the first Competitiveness Council under the Maltese Presidency that took place in Brussels on 20 February, industry and research ministers from EU countries agreed on a general approach to strengthen consumer protection cooperation in the internal market.
Energy consumption below its 1990 level
In 2015, gross inland energy consumption, which reflects the energy quantities necessary to satisfy all inland consumption, in the EU amounted to 1626 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), which is below its 1990 level (-2.5%), although not much, and down by 11.6% compared to its peak of almost 1840 Mtoe in 2006, the Eurostat announced in a special report.
Deporting migrants easily
Germany has called for the EU to scrap human rights safeguards so migrants can be deported to countries currently considered unsafe, according to a leaked government paper cited by news agencies.
Dutch MPs vote Ukraine treaty
Dutch lower house voted last Tuesday in favour of Ukraine association compromise, although 61% of voters had rejected it at referendum held last April. As expected, the compromise struck between PM Mark Rutte and the Commission was backed by the parliament. Last December, Rutte managed to add amendments to the deal which make clear what it is actually about.
Romania scraps decree on graft
Romania's governing coalition proposed a new justice minister last week as part of a cabinet reshuffle aimed at putting an end to a period of upheaval triggered by a decree on graft that was later scrapped.
EU further tightens screw on corporate tax dodgers
The EU continued its battle to close tax avoidance loopholes as last Tuesday finance ministers agreed their position on rules to close down 'hybrid mismatches' with the tax systems of third countries, news wires reported.
Italy ruling party threatened by schism as Renzi quits
Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi quit as head of the ruling Democratic Party (PD) last Sunday, in order to trigger the process for a new congress via which he is expected to seek a fresh mandate.
Spain starts investigation on €60bn bank bailouts
Spanish parliament voted last Wednesday to form a commission to investigate the 2012 financial and banking crisis, which lead to bank bailouts worth over €60bn, news wires reported.
Mass demonstration in Malta against press law reform
Thousands of people demonstrated in Malta last Sunday, answering a call by the main opposition party to protest against what it described as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression, news wires reported.
Eastern Europe revolts over lower food quality
The Czech Republic will push the EU to ban the sale of lower quality food in Eastern Europe under the same brand name, while the better one is sold in the west, Reuters reported citing the country's agriculture minister.
EU agri-food exports reach record high
The annual value of EU agri-food exports in 2016 hit a new record level with total exports reaching €130.7bn, up €1.7bn compared to 2015.
Study shows who gains what from Single Market
The EU Single Market generates important gains for citizens and businesses, shows a new study on the topic, which found that it contributed to creation of 3.6 million additional jobs and also helped boosting the EU’s GDP by 1.7% or nearly €250bn a year.
Bavaria to ban full-face veil
The German state of Bavaria has announced plans to ban the full-face veil in government workplaces, schools, universities and while driving. “Communication happens not only via language but also looks, facial expressions and gestures,” Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said.
In Brief
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France calls mini-summit on EU future in Versailles
 
French President Francois Hollande has called a mini-summit in Versailles on 6 March on the future of the EU and as a preparation for the EU summit in Brussels on 9-10 March, aimed at finalising the formulation of a vision for the future of the Union after Brexit. He has invited for the summit the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain. “It's not about deciding between the four of us what Europe should be. That's not our conception, but we are four important countries and it is up to us to say what we want to do together,” Hollande said at a news conference.

Agreement on cooperation with Afghanistan signed
 
The EU vowed support for the Afghan people last Saturday as it signed a cooperation agreement with Afgha­nistan. The agreement, signed in the presence of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, is the first contractual relationship between the EU and Afghanistan and establishes the legal framework for EU-Afghanistan cooperation. The deal confirms EU commitment to Afghanistan's future development during what is termed the "Decade of Transformation" (2015-2024).

WTO confirms Russian ban on pork imports is illegal
 
The WTO's Appellate Body confirmed that Russia's import ban from 2014 on live pigs, pork and other pig products from the EU violates international trade rules. The ruling concerns a ban imposed by Russia because of the outbreak of African Swine Fever in areas in the EU close to the border with Belarus. In August 2016, a WTO panel acknowledged that the Russian measures are not based on the relevant international standards and violate WTO rules. The ruling confirms this finding, thereby sending another strong signal to Russia and all WTO Members on their obligation to respect international standards.

New app to track invasive alien species across Europe
 
The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed an online application that will help citizens identify and share information about 37 invasive alien species in Europe. It contains detailed information and photos of those animals and plants, making it possible for citizens to use their phones' navigation system and cameras to capture images of them. By sending the exact location of a sighting and a photo via the app, users contribute to crowdsourcing the maps showing where invasive aliens species occur, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics said.

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