Foreign ministers discuss steps to further deepen Bashar al-Assad's regime isolation
European Union foreign ministers threatened last Monday new sanctions against Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, but held off from joining expected new punitive US measures against Russia, news wires reported. After Britain and France joined the US in missile attacks meant to knock out Syrian chemical arms facilities, EU foreign ministers discussed steps to deepen the isolation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The EU will continue to consider further restrictive measures against Syria as long as the repression continues,” all 28 foreign ministers said in a statement after their talks in Luxembourg. France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his British counterpart Boris Johnson earlier briefed fellow ministers on the air strikes.
Circular Economy package: No more than 10% landfilling by 2035
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Squandering and wasteful behaviours and the manner of just 'use and throw away' should be stopped, said MEPs, overwhelmingly backing last Wednesday in Strasbourg four new legislative proposals on waste management and the circular economy.
 
In spite of its overall importance, the bio-economy sector is mainly made up of small companies
The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced last week the launch of a new financing initiative that aims to unlock close to €1bn of investment in the agriculture and bio-economy sector, the EU press service reported. The bio-economy sector encompasses the value chains of production and the processing of food, material and energy using renewable biological resources from land and sea.
 
Berlin, Paris talk Eurozone reform
German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled her willingness to find compromises with France when it comes to reforming the EU, as she hosted French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on 19 April. Macron headed to Berlin, hoping to breathe fresh life into his grand vision for EU reforms in the face of growing German resistance.
Investing in people skills is key priority
The principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights and how they can be applied in order to improve workforce skills and qualifications as a means to fight long-term unemployment, and how to ensure equal opportunities and access to the labour market, were focus of a two-day meeting of EU employment and social policy ministers in Sofia on 17-18 April.
Cutting CO2 of waste, agriculture, transport
Maria Koleva, Brussels
Carbon dioxide emitted by transport, farming, housing and waste to be cut by 30% by 2030, and deforestation to be balanced out by planting new trees, foresee two very important EU laws backed by the MEPs at their plenary session in Strasbourg on 17 April. The new rules will safeguard that the EU meets its overall collective commitment in view of the Paris Climate Agreement to lower with 40% greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, with respect to 1990 levels.
Albania, Macedonia backed to start membership talks
The EU backed the opening of formal membership talks with Albania and Macedonia as the bloc looks to expand into the Balkans and grow for the first time in years.
Campaign insists public to decide on final Brexit deal
A new campaign has been launched in the UK calling for the British public to have a say on the final Brexit deal between Britain and the EU, news wires reported. Called the People's Vote campaign, it is a cross-party initiative supported by pro-EU MPs who want the country to have another referendum before Britain leaves the bloc.
Poland guilty of logging in ancient forest
Poland's decision to beef up logging in the country's protected Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is in breach of EU law, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last Tuesday.
Macron urges for European debate
To cope with upheavals worldwide, we need a sovereignty that is greater than our own, but which complements it: a European sovereignty, French President Emmanuel Macron told MEPs at a debate on the future of Europe held on Tuesday at EP plenary in Strasbourg with the participation also of the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Buildings in EU to be zero-energy in 3 decades
Buildings are responsible for 40% of total energy consumption in Europe. In order to stop this squandering, MEPs pushed for almost zero-energy buildings in the EU by 2050, with indicative milestones for 2030 and 2040, in a vote on Tuesday.
100 social enterprises present their products
Over 100 social enterprises from Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, France, the UK, Greece and Tukey presented their products and services during the Seventh European Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, 16-18 April in Sofia.
MEPs: Secretary-General appointment was coup-like
With a resolution adopted last Wednesday, MEPs asked the Commission to reassess the procedure for appointing its Secretary-General Martin Selmayr, the EP press service reported.
MEPs vote to shed light on companies' true owners
With a big majority of 574 to 13 votes, MEPs supported last Thursday a December agreement reached with the Council to shed light on the true owners of letterbox companies, the EP press service reported.
Mogherini: Western Balkans will be part of the EU's future
The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has held talks with prime ministers of the Western Balkans countries, encouraging them to “further deepen and address with renewed energy” the work needed for the EU future of their countries.
More restrictions on migrants in Austria
Asylum seekers will be forced to hand over their mobile phones and up to €840 in cash to the authorities, under measures approved by the Austrian cabinet last Wednesday.
In Brief
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Negotiations on mandatory Transparency Register begin
 
Political negotiations how to further strengthen the EU Transparency Register were launched last Monday. At their first inter-institutional talks, EP negotiators Sylvie Guillaume and Danuta Hubner, Deputy Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency Monika Panayotova, and Commission First VP Frans Timmermans held an in-depth exchange of views on making certain types of interactions with their respective institutions conditional on registration. Achieving a mandatory Register would represent the most significant improvement to the Transparency Register since its launch in 2011.

New funding rules for EU political parties approved
 
New rules to ensure that public funding for European political parties is used properly were approved last Tuesday by the Parliament. MEPs backed a Commission proposal that only national parties, but not individuals could form a European party. This is to prevent individual members of a national party from forming more than one European party in order to maximise their access to public funds without giving their parties a proper European dimension. “Cross-party membership will not be possible anymore, and funding will be linked more precisely to actual voting results at EU level,” Rainer Wieland (EPP, DE) said.

European retail sector to be further strengthened
 
The Commission published last Thursday a set of best practices to support Member States' efforts to create a more open, integrated and competitive retail sector, which is one of the biggest in the EU economy. The sector is changing rapidly with the development of e-commerce and multi-channel retailing. “The future of the European retail sector depends on its ability to develop innovative business models and maximise new opportunities. We are offering advice to Member States on how best to apply EU rules and follow the best examples,” Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said.

Organic food rules tightened to match consumer expectations
 
New rules to ensure that only high-quality organic food is sold in the EU and to boost organic production were approved last Thursday by the European Parliament. MEPs gave the go-ahead to the new EU law on organic production and labelling, which main features include strict, risk-based checks placed along the supply chain; imports complying with EU standards; and an overall boost for organic food production across Europe. Thanks to Parliament's insistence, checks will be carried out on-site and for all operators, at least annually.

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