Top EU heads fuel hopes that the UK divorce decision could be changed
Top EU officials made a series of remarks last week showing that a Britain move to reverse its Brexit decision would be welcomed. The remarks came after floating speculations about possibility for a second referendum in the UK. The idea of a new vote following the June 2016 Brexit referendum was emitted a week ago by Nigel Farage, a leading Brexit campaigner.
The new rules will create a better tax environment for SMEs
The Commission proposed last Thursday new rules to give Member States more flexibility to set Value Added Tax (VAT) rates and to create a better tax environment to help SMEs flourish, the EU press service reported.
 
The urgent clean-up plan aims to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030
The environmental impact of plastic is finally receiving the EU attention it deserves. Following China's decision to ban imports of “foreign garbage” from the start of 2018, Brussels on 16 January launched a plastics strategy designed to change minds in Europe.
 
May, Macron reach new border deal
Britain will pay tens of millions toward border security in France and support French military missions as part of moves to bind the countries closer together after Brexit.
EU needs resilience to Russian propaganda
In a topical debate at the plenary last Wednesday, MEPs voiced an alarm about Russia's increasing propaganda influence on Member States, and suggested strengthening The East Stratcom, EU's strategic communication team, the EP press service reported.
Propping up SMEs, innovation projects
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The EIB, the bank owned by the EU countries, in the last year approved a record number of 901 projects, supporting SMEs, emboldening innovation, propping up crucial infrastructure construction works and tackling climate change. In digits, practically €30bn went to small businesses and about €14bn were infused into innovation undertakings.
Peevski targeted by the Fake News Factory again
After realising that no one in Bulgaria buys their fake news items against our publisher, lawmaker Delyan Peevski, the trio of oligarchs and experienced manipulators Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev has activated its connections across Europe in the past several months.
European ideal inspires future
The European ideal has always been inspired by a spirit of optimism and a belief in a better future, it has been tested, but has not been broken, said Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar before the EP plenary on Wednesday.
European consumers benefit of new online payment rules
Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2), aimed at modernising Europe's online payment services, entered into force as of 13 January in order to make online payments cheaper, easier and safer, the EU press service reported.
Catalan dilemma deepens as MPs elect separatist speaker
Catalonia deepens its political confrontation with Madrid as the regional parliament elected a separatist speaker at its first session last Wed­nesday. Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) deputy Roger Torrent, 38, received the backing of three pro-independence groups in parliament, a sign for a possible return of sacked nationalist Carles Puigdemont as the region's leader.
Czech government quits after losing confidence vote
The cabinet of Czech PM Andrej Babis resigned last Wednesday, a day after losing a confidence vote in the billionaire politician's first attempt to form a government, news wires reported.
Romanian socialist MEP named first woman premier
Romania's president Klaus Iohannis appointed last Wednesday Viorica Dancila (pictured), a member of the EP representing the Social Democratic Party (PSD), as the country's new prime minister.
High-Level Expert Group on Fake News met in Brussels
The first meeting of the High-Level Expert Group on Fake News was held on 15 January in Brussels.
Sweden to battle disinformation
Sweden is to create a new public authority tasked with countering disinformation and boosting the population's resilience in the face of possible influence operations, local media reported.
New initiatives to boost EU's digital skills
The Commission adopted last Wednesday new initiatives aimed at improving key and digital competences of European citizens and to promote common values and pupils' awareness of the functioning of the EU.
Targets for energy efficiency and renewables raised
The Parliament signalled last Wednesday readiness to negotiate with the Council on binding targets to boost energy efficiency by 35% and the renewables share in the total energy mix by 35% across Europe by 2030, the EP press service reported.
Oligarchs attack Brussels
The club of Bulgarian oligarchs who have pooled finances and media outlets in a bid to destabilise the country has gone as far as attacking Brussels in its attempt to stave off the looming retribution for its members' crimes. Ivo Prokopiev, Tsvetan Vassilev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev, the first three of whom have been indicted, are obviously extremely concerned by the planned changes to the constitution that will lift the time limits for launching legal proceedings regarding crimes connected to the privatisation process, the measures designed to stop the secondary plunder of CorpBank's assets that have been approved at first reading.
In Brief
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Ombudsman urges ECB chief to leave G30 club
 
The EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly (pictured) recommended last week that ECB President Mario Draghi suspend his membership of the Group of 30 (G30) as it risked hurting public confidence in the ECB's independence. According to the ombudsman, the Eurozone's institution takes decisions that directly affect the lives of millions of citizens, and it is important to demonstrate that there is a clear separation between the bank as supervisor and the finance industry which is affected by its decisions. The G30 is a Washington based private group of central bank governors, private sector bankers and academics. 

EU offers Switzerland carte blanche on settling disputes
 
The EU has proposed letting a special arbitration court settle some disputes under a new treaty it is trying to strike with neutral Switzerland, sources involved in the discussion said. The idea is to help address Swiss reluctance to let the European Court of Justice act as a referee, which is anathema to the far-right Swiss People's Party, parliament's largest. Many conservatives are wary of giving “foreign judges” such power. Swiss officials were still considering the offer, the sources said.

Greek parliament approves more reforms despite protests
 
Greece's parliament last Monday passed a series of reforms demanded by lenders in exchange for fresh bailout funds. The bill introduces a new electronic process for foreclosures on overdue loans and arrears to the state, opens up closed professions, restructures family benefits and makes it harder to call a strike. About 20,000 people rallied outside parliament during the vote. The reforms would help Eurogroup to unlock about €6.5bn in bailout loans and to conclude that Greece has done enough to leave the bailout programme later in the year.

MEPs demand strict controls for cyber-surveillance tools
 
EU export controls should be extended to cyber-surveillance tools to avoid human rights violations, MEPs said in a vote last Wed­nesday, setting the Parliament's position for negotiations with EU ministers. The EU is currently updating its rules on the export control of dual-use items to keep up with new technologies and to prevent authoritarian regimes from spying on their own citizens. “The EU cannot contribute to the suffering of courageous activists, who often risk their lives for freedom and democracy. Trade should promote security, stability and human rights in the world,” rapporteur Klaus Buchner said.

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