Protection of EU firms, negatively affected by the US decision, on the agenda
European Union leaders last week demonstrated a united approach to keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact. Meeting in Sofia ahead of the EU- Western Balkans summit, they also agreed to initiate work to protect European companies negatively affected by the US decision, which involves Washington re-imposing sanctions on Iran. After the US move, the Iran issue entered ad hoc in the agenda of the leaders' dinner last Wednesday in the Bulgarian capital. Commenting on “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration”, the European Council President Donald Tusk said that, looking at President Trump's latest decisions, “someone could even think, with friends like that, who needs enemies”.
The Commission aims at protecting citizens from pollution
Standing up for Europeans' need to breathe clean air, the Commission made last week further steps to provide national, regional and local actors with practical help to improve air quality across Europe and stepped up its enforcement against seven Member States who have breached EU rules on air pollution limits and type approval for cars, the EU press service reported.
 
Pressure on external borders persists, vigilance and preparedness to respond needed
The Commission put forward last Wednesday a proposal to upgrade the Visa Information System (VIS), the database containing information on persons applying for Schengen visas, in order to better respond to evolving security and migratory challenges and improve the EU's external border management, the EU press service reported.
 
Italy to have a cabinet of change
The leaders of Italy's two political upstarts, the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League, announced last week they have agreed on the final draft of a “contract for a government of change”.
Bulgarian road hauliers: Mobility Package kills us
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, EU Mobility and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and representatives of Bulgaria's road haulage industry talked for more than three hours in Sofia on 14 May. As a result, the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency drafted a proposal on the key points of the EU Mobility Package that displease the Bulgarian road transport companies, which was immediately sent for consideration to the European Commission. A day later, the EC returned the texts with its amendments.
Tightening cooperation to counter cyber-attacks
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Cyber-attacks on civilians and military targets are increasing and the EU countries have to cooperate more closely to counter the threats. This said MEPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence in a non-legislative resolution, backed by 45 votes to 8, with 8 abstentions, on 16 May.
Money laundering rules amended
The EU Council adopted last Monday a directive strengthening EU rules to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing as part of an action plan launched after a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe in 2016, the EU press service reported.
How effectively EU spends on migrants, border controls
If the EU isn't to become an indifferent fortress, the human rights monitoring of how funds are used is vital, said Emily O'Reilly, European Ombudsman. She was the keynote speaker at a public hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels on 16 May dedicated to assessing the flow of EU migration funding within the Union.
Radical separatist elected as new Catalan leader
Quim Torra, a fierce campaigner for Catalonia's independence, was appointed regional president last Monday, pledging to keep fighting for a break from Spain, news wires reported.
Czech Republic makes step toward coalition government
The Czech centrist ANO party approved last week a coalition agreement for a new government with the centre-left Social Democrats, but still the deal has to be approved by Social Democrat party members, which is far from certain.
Bavaria introduces contested police legislation amid protests
The local parliament in the southern German state of Bavaria passed controversial police legislation last Tuesday extending police powers, with critics warning of an infringement of civil liberties.
Blockchain model to cut SMEs costs
Applying the 'blockchain' model to areas like energy use, supply chains and governance would cut costs for firms and empower citizens, the Industry Committee said in a non-binding resolution voted last Wednesday.
Protecting citizens' privacy
Few days ahead of the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May, the Commission presented a set of concrete actions needed to protect citizens' privacy and make the EU's Digital Single Market a reality before the end of 2018.
In Brief
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EU Ombudsman opens probe into Selmayr rapid promotion
 
EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly opened last week an investigation into the controversial promotion of Martin Selmayr, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's right-hand man. The probe follows complaints filed by Dutch and French MEPs about his sudden rise. In a letter to the Commission, O'Reilly insists to get by 15 June answers to seven clear questions about its handling of Selmayr's appointment as secretary general. She also asked the Commission to hand over all documents and all legal advice concerning the promotion.

Dialogue and cooperation with Cuba to be further strengthened
 
The EU-Cuba Joint Council met last Tuesday for the first time, discussing implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement which has been provisionally applied since November 2017. “Today we celebrate an important step in relations between the EU and Cuba. We meet to turn the page and give a new impetus to our joint work,” EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. The EU and Cuba agreed to start discussions on five topics, including countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, control of conventional arms, and human rights.

Future farm policy to rely on fair funding, MEPs urge
 
The post-2020 EU farm policy must be smarter, simpler, fairer and more sustainable, but also well financed and truly common to continue delivering food security in the EU, according to MEPs. The Agriculture Committee adopted last Wednesday a set of proposals on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020. The EU farm policy must rest on a common set of objectives, rules, tools and checks. Member States should design their national strategies on this basis and pick actions they feel best suited for them, MEPs claimed.

Emergency aid for Greece, Spain, France and Portugal
 
Budget Committee MEPs approved last Wednesday a report by Jose Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT) on an aid package aimed at helping Greece, Spain, France and Portugal, hit by natural disasters in 2017. The aid includes €50.6m for reconstruction in the Centro region in Portugal, hit by violent forest fires, and €3.2m for Spain to overcome the damage in the neighbouring region of Galicia. France will be assisted with €49m to repair the damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in Saint Martin and Guadeloupe. Greece will be supported with €1.3m to overcome the aftermath of the Lesbos earthquakes.

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