Trump steps back, giving pause to EU and six other countries until next round of negotiations
Last week was hectic for the EU, as its leaders tried hard to convince US President Trump that the Union ought to be excluded from slapping tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. Exemptions were finally granted at the last minute, saving face and avoiding a trade war, for now. The US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a US Senate panel that President Trump had decided to exempt the EU and six other countries from steel and aluminium tariffs, at least temporarily.
The forum will meet leaders from EU28 and Western Balkans
Maria Koleva, Brussels
The leaders of EU28 had all-inclusive debates on their agenda at the spring European Council that took place in Brussels on 22-23 March. Kicking off with economic matters mainly, and focusing on transatlantic trade, they also had on the plate issues such as taxation and external relations, and in EU27 format they discussed Brexit.
Commission denies that the rules are anti-American and target Google, Facebook and Amazon
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Every 24 hours 20bn emails are exchanged across the globe, and in the same time 800m videos are uploaded and 150m posts published. According to Pierre Moscovici, EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, behind these figures stays a flourishing business.
Asylum seekers in EU go down
The first-time asylum seekers who applied for international protection in the EU Member States in 2017 were significantly less that those a year ago, according to the Eurostat data released last Tuesday.
Thousand dedicated jihadists waiting to return to Europe
More than 1,000 dedicated IS jihadists could be waiting to return to Europe, according to a stark warning from the continent's policing boss. Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, was in Bulgaria's capital on 19 March for a meeting of members of committees of European parliaments that monitor the work of Europol (JPSG). The head of the EU's law enforcement agency said that up to 6,000 EU nationals are thought to have gone to join the militant group since 2014, and a third are still unaccounted for.
Free wi-fi hotspots to spread across Europe
The Commission launched last Tuesday the WiFi4EU web portal aimed at helping local authorities to set up wi-fi hotspots in public spaces, the EU press service reported. With the launch, municipalities across Europe are invited to register their details ahead of the first call for projects in mid-May in order to benefit from EU financing to build free public wireless internet hotspots.
EU regulation on gas pipelines to and from third countries tightened
All gas pipelines coming from third countries into the EU must comply fully with EU gas market rules on EU territory, according to amendments to the EU gas market directive, which was last Wednesday approved by the Industry and Energy Committee. Any exceptions must be strictly time-limited, and the Commission and Member States affected must be involved in deciding them, MEPs insisted.
EC dismisses Poland's judicial overhaul defence
The Commission dismissed last Tuesday Poland's latest defence of court reforms that critics say weaken democracy, potentially paving the way for more clashes with Warsaw after weeks of some rapprochement, news wires reported.
Do not drop vaccination rates, MEPs warn
Waning public confidence in vaccination is a major challenge and has already brought about health consequences, Health Committee MEPs said last Tuesday during a debate on the matter. In a resolution adopted after the debate, MEPs noted with concern that epidemiological data show significant gaps in vaccines being accepted and insufficient coverage rates to ensure the public is adequately protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, the EP press service reported.
Effectively countering tax avoidance via safe havens
The Commission delivered last Wednesday on its pledge to ensure that less and less EU funds are being transferred through non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by issuing special guidelines to tackle the matter, the EU press service reported. These guidelines mark the first step in a long battle and aim at ensuring that EU funds do not inadvertently contribute to global tax avoidance.
Merkel promises tougher approach on migrants
German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised last Wednesday tougher approach on migration issues in her first major speech of her new term, news wires reported. Addressing the Bundestag after forming a new government, she called her famous “We can do this” statement from 2015, when over a million migrants flooded the country, a “point of crystallisation” in a process that “has divided and polarised our country.”
Boosting multimodal transport for better future
A high-level meeting on the topic “Multimodal Transport for Europe” took place in Sofia on 20 March 2018.
Baltics inch closer to grid synchronisation
At a meeting in Brussels last Thursday, the heads of state and government of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and the EC president (pictured), expressed their dedication to synchronising the electricity network of the Baltic states with that of the rest of EU by 2025.
Dutch reject more internet tapping
Dutch voters have narrowly rejected at a referendum last Thursday a law that would give spy agencies the power to carry out mass tapping of internet traffic, news wires reported.
Revised rules will protect posted workers
A provisional deal was struck last week by MEPs and Council on pay and labour conditions of posted workers, EP press service reported.
In Brief
Europeans to vote on next Parliament on 26 May
The next elections to the European Parliament will take place in most Member States on 26 May 2019, EU governments agreed last Tuesday. The date, favoured by the parliament itself, is subject to final approval but is unlikely to be altered. As few countries traditionally vote on other days of the week, the election is formally scheduled for 23-26 May. European political groups are already preparing for the EU election, with mainstream parties concerned that, as in the 2014 vote, turnout may remain low and relative support may grow for politicians hostile to the EU.

Budget control MEPs to probe Martin Selmayr appointment
Budget control MEPs put a series of questions last Tuesday to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in order to clear facts about his close aide Martin Selmayr's appointment as Commission's next Secretary General. Furthermore, Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, in charge of budget and human resources, will be quizzed on Selmayr's appointment at a public hearing on 27 March. According to MEPs, the procedure used to appoint Selmayr lacked integrity and transparency.

Slovakia's new government likely to continue old policies
Slovakia's president Andrej Kiska appointed last week the new government of Peter Pellegrini (pictured), after the cabinet of PM Robert Fico's three-party coalition stepped down following large street protests sparked by the last month shooting deaths of an investigative journalist and his fiancee. Pellegrini, former deputy Premier, who changed five ministers of the 14 in the previous government, pledged to “renew the stability of Slovakia.” His team is likely to continue Fico's strong anti-migrant policies. The organisers of the street protests said they will be closely watching the new government's steps.

Albania's PM Edi Rama urges Brussels to open accession talks
Albania's PM Edi Rama said last week at the EP that his country “fully deserves” to start the negotiations to join the EU. Albania is on the eve of a crucial month to open accession talks. “We have gone through many difficulties and made many efforts to arrive to this moment, the EU is our destination, everyone is ready to sacrifice and support very painful reforms,” Rama told the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, who also attended the debates. Rama stressed the progress made by his government to undertake reforms in the five key areas requested by the EU.