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Like every autumn in Brussels, this one didn’t disappoint with regard to its packed schedule, and we would like to believe that we didn’t either!

We kicked off with the discussion on Cartel Enforcement: Current Practice and Updates where we learned that since February 2018, companies breaching antitrust regulations by taking part in cartels has resulted in hundreds of million in fines, while ¾ of cartel cases originate from leniency applications.

On a different note, Kate Kalutkiewicz updated our members on the state of play with regard to EU-US Trade Deals. A special emphasis was put on China and the current state of trade relations with the US, as an increasing threat of a trade war looms between both countries, plus we discussed the reform of the Dispute Settlement System in the WTO and the view of the US on the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA). More specific trade sectors were also examined, such as chemicals, aluminium and car company regulations.

We also hosted a panel debate on eHealth – Engendering Health Systems’ Sustainability. The positive impact that eHealth can have on EU member States’ Health Systems was stressed throughout the discussion between the panellists and the participants. A wider implementation of digital health across the EU would allow, amongst others, tremendous savings resulting from the use of mobile health applications. A better pooling of data at the EU level would also have huge benefits, reducing for instance the time to diagnose rare disease. The main issue in this field arises from data privacy, record linkage and a lack of incentives from both doctors and governments to use digital technologies.

Under the Future Relations Committee, the chamber organised three events, starting with the roundtable debate with legal industry and the UK Justice Minister on EU-UK Civil Judicial Cooperation, Lucy Frazer. At this event we had the opportunity to discuss how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has created many legal complications due to the intertwining of UK and EU law. It can be seen as one of the largest areas to negotiate in the agreement as companies wish for the legal protection to remain consistent, or at least to have a large enough transition period so that the adjustment is smooth. The second event saw Philip Rycroft, DExEU Permanent Secretary, give an Update of the UK EU Exit planning process, and finally we hosted the UK Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, who updated us on the current situation in the negotiation process.

Our last event in September was organised with our members Digital Together, who took part in the workshop Digital Movers and Consumers. The objective was to initiate the creation of a dialogue between digital businesses, non-digital businesses, consumer associations, policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure that all viewpoints are shared to help formulate appropriate future regulation and legislation in the digital space in Europe.

Just two days before a crucial Parliamentary vote, we hosted a debate on Single Use Plastics , where many concerns and issues for industry were raised, in particular the issue on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and its lack of clarity.

Our FDI Screening Mechanisms event kept our members informed, helping us to understand that the EU has no single Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) screening mechanism, but several states in the EU have their own screening mechanism, which are strongly related to national security.

Finally, to finish the month of October, we organised a discussion on eCommerce after Coty and beyond, during which we heard about the Coty decision, which saw the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that luxury good suppliers may prohibit the online sale of their goods by authorised retailers on third-party platform (such as Amazon) – a fascinating example of the intricacy of the enforcement of e-commerce rules.

If you want to learn more about our events, please visit our website, read our detailed event reports or join us at one in the future.

Bernada Cunj

Head of EU Events and Policy

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium

Evolving_Europe_twitter_ad_2

We are collaborating with COBCOE – the Council of British Chambers of Commerce, who will reveal results of their research with businesses throughout the region on what businesses need to help build a competitive Europe. The Evolving Europe project, with debates in London and Brussels, will provide a voice for business in identifying how Europe needs to change to improve growth, competitiveness and the ease of doing business. These debates will feed into a White Paper to be launched at the end of the year. It will be based on original research and debate at the two key events in London and Brussels on 11 and 17 November, respectively.

A clear majority of members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium believe the UK should remain in the EU. UK membership of the EU is vital both for the UK and the future of the EU and the UK Referendum is an opportunity to give momentum to reform.  As a key member of COBCOE, we are working together to give businesses a voice through this initiative.

The debates will be driven by 5 key questions:

  • What needs to be reformed and why?
  • Why is the EU necessary for the global economy?
  • How is a wider Europe necessary for the global economy?
  • How, from a business view, could the EU work better?
  • How will Europe compete in the future?

Confirmed panelists for the London debate include:

  • Jackie Minor, Head of Representation, EC Representation in the UK
  • Andy Bagnall, Director of Campaigns, CBI
  • Sir Thomas Harris, Chairman, European Services Forum
  • Roland Rudd, Chairman, Business for New Europe
  • Martin Manuzi, Regional Director Europe, ICAEW
  • David Thomas MBE, Executive Chairman, COBCOE

And in Brussels:

  • Philippe de Backer MEP
  • Tom Parker, Vice-President – British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium
  •  David Thomas MBE, Executive Chairman, COBCOE

For all the details and registration for the London Debate, click here

For all the details and registration for the Brussels debate, click here

Official_Robert-Madelin

by Robert Madelin, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology

For decades, the single market has delivered new rights and opportunities to European citizens and businesses. The right to travel, live or study abroad. The right to benefit from the best goods and services the EU has to offer, wherever they originate. The right for businesses to enjoy a world of opportunity, trading and transacting beyond borders – selling to a potential market of hundreds of millions of people.

But increasingly our lives are going digital. All kinds of new activities are going online. From entertainment to healthcare, broadband networks offer a new platform and a new boost for any kind of business. New initiatives like cloud computing or big data allow companies in all sectors to benefit from high-quality, flexible services; and increase their productivity across the board.

Indeed this new online platform is a particular boon for the most dynamic, smaller businesses. Because the online world offers much lower barriers to entry, and much higher capacity for innovation, many European innovators and entrepreneurs are using it successfully to spread new ideas. As David Cameron himself put it – the digital sector is one of the engines of a modern economy.

But as much economic activity goes online – the risk is that we rediscover the borders we have spent decades trying to bring down in the offline, “real” world. In effect taking away from the freedoms that the EU single market is supposed to safeguard.

It’s all well and good to have the right to bid for foreign government contracts – but what if, in practice, you have to use paper, pen and postal services to do so across the border — and the time and burden then become prohibitive? Online, it’s easy to buy or sell physical CDs or books across borders – but often you cannot do so for their digital equivalents, like MP3s or eBooks – because of copyright rules or “geoblocking” (preventing online content from being viewed in particular member states, for legal or commercial reasons). And while it’s a boon for businessespeople to easily travel: often they find high roaming charges mean those trips become a lot more expensive; or alternatively, they just switch their phone off and lose all contacts and connectivity for the duration.

As the world goes online, such barriers are an increasing obstacle to our economy. Especially for those businesses looking to innovate and expand across borders. Online, distance should not be a barrier; we should ensure our legal framework is not a barrier, either.

Over the last five years, the EU has taken significant steps to bring these barriers down. All Europeans now have at least basic broadband. New EU rules make it easier, for example , to sign a contract or take part in public procurement online across borders, thanks to the new Regulation on e-Identification and Trust Services. EU regulations have brought down the cost of roaming significantly – and stand to go even further. A cloud computing strategy will ensure more trust and more consistent standards across the EU for this promising new technology. And so on.

But there is further to go. The European Council has underlined the urgency of delivering the digital single market by 2015 at the latest. Indeed, the benefits of such a digital single market could amount to over 4% of EU GDP; an economic impact at least as big as that of the 1992 programme which created Europe’s Internal Market for goods in the first place.

And the response of the incoming Juncker Commission has been clear: Europe needs a digital single market, not least for the benefit of every innovative and growing business. The incoming Commission have already been clear – for example – that copyright rules need reform; and that geoblocking runs contrary to the core principles of a single market. With a Vice President specifically in charge of creating that digital single market, we are well placed to take Europe into the digital 21st century.

On Tuesday 9th October 2012 we welcomed Joaquin Almunia, Vice-President and Commissioner on Competition, to talk about Enhancing international competition and cooperation to fight protectionism.  During his presentation Commissioner Almunia focused on various issues such as competition policies, state aid, mergers, antitrust and cartels.

The Commissioner argued that a new process of state aid linked with growth policies will help. Commissioner Almunia’s goal is to find until the end of next year a new framework for different use of public money in internal market. Restoring the banking structure would be problematic and he proposed a revised framework into public services so as to analyse further the distribution of public money.

During his presentation, Commissioner Almunia analysed a few points and on cases on mergers. Last year, he argued, more than 300 mergers were analysed in depth and showed problems. The strict policy in this field proposed by the European Commission indicates its importance.

Regarding Antitrust, the fight against cartels was emphasised by the Commissioner. The benefits of the cooperation of cartels, facilitates the investigation of trade companies. Antitrust investigation abuses the market production of some companies, the Commissioner argued.

Furthermore, patents are a focus area of the Commission and there is a need to introduce more competition in this area, since the difference between the rights of holders of patents and intellectual property rights aren’t yet clarified.

Finally, questions were raised by the participants related to subsidiarity of the companies in the extent of patents, the possibility of criminalisation in antitrust issues, private enforcements, and the value chain of food industry in the national competition authorities.
Please click here to view the pictures

Topic of the discussion: Enhancing international competition and cooperation to fight protectionism

Speaker:  Mr Joaquin Almunia, Vice-President and Commissioner on Competition

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Christina

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