President Juncker is confident that a trade deal with Tokyo can be reached this year
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Looking through the progress in the ongoing talks on the Free Trade Agreement with Tokyo, launched in 2013, topped the agenda of the European Union-Japan Leaders meeting that was held on 21 March in Brussels. During their discussions, European Council President Donald Tusk, EC Pre­sident Jean-Claude Jun­cker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe underlined as well the importance of the Stra­tegic Partnership Agre­e­ment that is being negotiated in parallel between the two parties.
EU finance ministers urged joint efforts to fight for free trade
European Union finance ministers expressed on 21 March worries about the surge of protectionism particularly prompted by the United States and vowed efforts to safeguard free trade after what one of them called a "surreal" meeting of finance chiefs of the world's 20 biggest economies on 18-19 March, Reuters and Xinhua reported.
The UN-backed administration in Tripoli asks for cash to curb the number of illegal migrants
In attempt to search for a sustainable way to curb illegal migration from the shores of North Africa to Europe, foreign ministers from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Switzerland met last Monday with their counterparts from Algeria, Libya and Tunisia in Rome.
UK pushes button to start EU exit
British PM Theresa May is going to formally start the EU exit by triggering the Lisbon Treaty Article 50 on 29 March, the government spokesman announced last Monday. The move, which comes nine months after a referendum, will officially start the process of negotiations about Britain's EU exit.
New reform aims to better shield customers online
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Rules that will ensure effective detection and breaking online breaches of consumers’ rights across the EU were backed on 21 March with a wide majority by the members of the EP Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.
Giving people's say on Europe's future
Maria Koleva, Brussels
A few days before the official celebration of the Treaties of Rome in the Italian capital, the European Parliament in Brussels on 21 March hosted a unique session of the so-called “Citizens' Parliament”.
Multi-speed Europe proclaims unity on 60th anniversary
Amid a growing storm, the European Union celebrated at the week’s end in Rome the 60th anniversary from the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which set the foundation of the current bloc.
Hopes for TTIP talks revival
Negotiations for a mega US-EU trade deal are still alive, news wires reported, citing a senior US diplomat.
Frontex redirects resources to Bulgaria-Turkey border
Frontex is redirecting part of its resources in central Europe to the Bulgaria-Turkey border, announced the agency's executive director Fabrice Leggeri during a hearing on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency at the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee last week, BTA reported.
Two ECIs target citizens rights
The Commission registered last Wednesday two European Citizens' Initiatives (ECI) concerning the rights of Union citizens in the Brexit context and at the same time rejected a third proposal entitled 'Stop Brexit', the EU press service reported.
Macron wins first French presidential TV debate
Five leading presidential candidates laid down the gauntlet last Monday for the France’s first-ever candidates’ debate held before the first round of a presidential election.
National antitrust authorities to get serious power boost
The Commission set out last Wednesday new rules aimed at deepening the partnership with national competition authorities by enabling them to more effectively enforce the EU rules, the EU press service reported.
Curbing exploitation of textile workers
Development Committee MEPs backed on 21 March a resolution that calls on the Commission to table rules obliging all players in the textile and clothing industry supply chain to respect the labour and human rights of their workers.
Intellectuals appeal for new beginning
Over 300 European intellectuals, academics, think tanks directors, experts, and personalities from across the EU have signed an appeal entitled “A genuine EU to ensure welfare, security and democracy” with which they call upon the Heads of State and Government meeting in Rome on 25 March to open the way to a re-foundation of the EU, ANSA reported.
Compromise on Rome Declaration of 27 reached
Negotiations to agree on a text for the final declaration of the EU summit in Rome to be adopted on 25 March have ended successfully and the document will be signed by the leaders of al 27 Member States, ANSA reported last week.
In Brief
Unregistered lobbyists to be denied EP entry, MEPs urge
All EU lobbyists looking to influence legislation should be required to sign the transparency register before being allowed to enter the Parliament, according to a resolution approved last Tuesday by the Constitutional Affairs Committee. The resolution, drafted by Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, DE), notes that non-transparent interest representation may pose a significant threat to the integrity of policymakers. MEPs also reiterate the need to withdraw access privileges from interest organisations that refuse to cooperate with Parliament on inquiries.

Dijsselbloem proposes European Monetary Fund
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - the Eurozone's bailout fund - should ultimately be turned into a European version of the IMF, the head of Eurozone finance ministers said on 20 March in a German newspaper. "I think it would make a lot of sense for the Eurozone bailout fund ESM to be developed into a European IMF in the medium to long term," Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He said the ESM should "build up the technical expertise that only the IMF has at the moment." German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has also proposed turning the ESM into a European monetary fund to improve the management of crises in Europe.

Step to copyright exceptions for blind people approved
New draft rules to make more books available in formats designed for blind and visually impaired people were approved by the Legal Affairs Committee on 23 March. The draft legislation, which brings EU law into line with the Marrakesh Treaty, provides for copyright exceptions for formats such as audiobooks and Braille. MEPs agreed that Member States should not be allowed to impose any additional requirements on these copyright exceptions, such as compensation schemes for publishers or commercial availability checks prior to the exchange of accessible format books.

Italy under test on EU rules against new banks bailout
Italy's finance minister said he had a good discussion with EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager on 21 March on plans to support ailing bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena with public money, but indicated there was no date set to reach a deal. The Commission has to assess whether Italy's public support for Monte Paschi, the country's fourth largest bank, is in line with EU state aid rules. Padoan said that a similar request of public aid from two non-listed smaller Veneto banks, Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, is being scrutinised by the ECB, which has to assess the viability of the two lenders.