Commission adopts proposals on cheaper cross-border payments and fairer currency conversions for consumers; Action Plan to improve military mobility
Cheap euro transfers everywhere in the Union and fairer currency conversions
The European Commission proposed today to make cross-border payments in euro cheaper across the entire EU. Under current rules, there is no difference for euro area residents or businesses if they carry out euro transactions in their own country or with another euro area Member State.
Today's proposal aims to extend this benefit to people and businesses in non-euro countries. This will allow all consumers and businesses to fully reap the benefits of the Single Market when they send money, withdraw cash or pay abroad. All intra-EU cross-border payments in euro outside the euro area will now be priced the same - with small or zero fees - as domestic payments in the local official currency. This is a major change, as fees for a simple credit transfer can be exorbitant in some non-euro area Member States (up to EUR 24 for a transfer of EUR 10!). Today's hefty fees are an obstacle to the Single Market as they create barriers to cross-border activities of households such as buying goods or services in another currency zone and to businesses, in particular SMEs. This creates a major gap between euro area residents who benefit from the single currency, and non-euro area residents who can only make cheap transactions within their own country.
The Commission also proposed today to bring more transparency and competition to currency conversion services when consumers are buying goods or services in a different currency than their own. At the moment, consumers are usually not informed or aware of the cost of a transaction that involves a currency conversion. The proposal will therefore require that consumers are fully informed of the cost of a currency conversion before they make such payment (e.g. with their card abroad, be it a cash withdrawal at an ATM or a card payment at a point of sale, or online). This means they will be able to compare the costs of different conversion options to make a fair choice.
In line with President Juncker's commitment to a fully-fledged Defence Union by 2025, the Commission presented an Action Plan to improve military mobility within and beyond the European Union.
Today's Action Plan identifies a series of operational measures to tackle physical, procedural or regulatory barriers which hamper military mobility. Working closely with the EU Member States and all relevant actors will be key for the implementation of this Action Plan.
Concretely, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the EU Military Staff will develop military requirements, which reflect the needs of the EU and its Member States, including the infrastructure needed for military mobility. The Council is invited to consider and validate those military requirements by mid-2018.
By 2019, the Commission will identify the parts of the trans-European transport network suitable for military transport, including necessary upgrades of existing infrastructure (e.g. the height or the weight capacity of bridges). A priority list of projects will be drawn up. The Commission will take into account possible additional financial support for these projects in the next multiannual financial framework.
The Commission will also look at options to streamline and simplify customs formalities for military operations and assess the need to align rules for the transport of dangerous goods in the military domain. In parallel, the European Defence Agency will support Member States in developing arrangements on cross-border movement permissions.
The Commission, the European External Action Service and the European Defence Agency will work in close coordination with the Member States for the effective implementation of these actions. They will be carried out in full respect of the sovereignty of Member States over their national territory and national decision-making processes.
Next long-term budget for the EU
Following a first orientation debate on the next long-term budget for the EU - the Multiannual Financial Framework - on 10 January 2018, and the presentation of Commission contribution of 14 February to the Leaders' meeting on 23 February 2018, the College today held another discussion to prepare this important proposal. The future budget is part and parcel of the debate on the Future of Europe launched by the Commission White Paper on the future of Europe on 1 March 2017 and further enriched by the Commission reflection paper on the future of EU finances on 28 June 2017. Today's discussion contributed to shaping the architecture of the next Multiannual Financial Framework which will be presented by the Commission on 2 May 2018.
European Citizens' Initiative
The European Commission has today adopted its second report on the application of the European Citizens' Initiative Regulation. Since this new tool entered into force in 2012, an estimated 9 million Europeans from all 28 Member States have now supported a European Citizens' Initiative. Four successful initiatives have so far collected over 1 million signatures each and the Commission has committed to follow-up actions on 3 of them.
On European Citizens' Initiative the Juncker Commission has taken a more political approach, with all requests for registration (before signatures can be collected) now being heard by the College of Commissioners and partial registrations being granted in some cases. These changes have resulted in a significant increase of the number of initiatives accepted for registration: about 90% of proposed initiatives since April 2015, compared to 60% of all proposals in the previous 3-year period. After its first Report on the Application of the European Citizens' Initiative, the Commission proposed a new Regulation to make the European Citizens' Initiative more accessible, less burdensome and easier to use for organisers and supporters.
Action Plan on military mobility