Week Ahead (22 February)
W/C Monday, 22 February - EU-UK Joint Committee on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement to meet
The latest meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement will be held this week, with the ongoing difficulties of implementing the Northern Ireland protocol on the agenda. The European Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, co-chair of the committee, told a meeting of the Irish Committee on European Union Affairs last Tuesday that the EU is proposing the creation of a clearing house committee which will work to solve issues relating to the new trade barriers created by the UK's exit from the bloc.
Šefčovič was critical of the British government's approach to the implementation so far, saying that EU officials had reported failures to adhere to the basic obligations of the protocol at Larne and Belfast ports. He also said that EU officials had not been given access to the UK's certification data, particularly the Customs Declaration Service, despite prior agreement on the issue.
Tuesday, 23 February - Vestager to appear before internal markets committee
The European Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, will appear before the Internal Markets and Consumer Protection Committee of the European Parliament tomorrow to discuss the Digital Markets and Digital Services Acts. Introduced in late December, the new acts seek to ensure that big tech companies take responsibility for the content of their products and propose fines of up to 6% of the previous year's turnover for failure to comply.
The Digital Services Act includes the first definition of a "very large platform" as being those with more than 45 million users - equivalent to 10% of the population of the European Union - and states that those companies are to be targeted due to their "disproportionate influence" on the internet habits of EU users. The Digital Markets Act, meanwhile, aims to strengthen and update the EU’s existing competition regulation framework by adding a new ‘market investigation tool’ to address structural competition problems that current rules cannot address effectively.
In advance of tomorrow’s debate, the Dutch government has published a position paper on the Digital Markets Act which suggests that the Commission should take notice of companies which offer a suite of different services on their platforms and which may be designated as a "gatekeeper" company as a result. The report notes that the Dutch government will advocate for "a designation procedure in which more account is taken of the role of ecosystems".
Tuesday, 23 February - Eurostat HICP inflation data to be released
HICP inflation data for January will be released tomorrow. The Eurostat flash estimate on inflation for January was released on 3 February and suggests that the annual inflation rate will jump to 0.9%, after stalling at -0.3% for four months in succession. The expected increase in the annual inflation rate can be attributed to changes in the methods employed to calculate inflation, including the use of new HICP weighting.
Wednesday, 24 February - Portuguese presidency to host financial transactions tax discussion
The Portuguese EU presidency is hosting a meeting of tax officials from all 27 member states on Wednesday to seek a consensus on how a financial transaction tax can be introduced across the EU. The idea of such a tax has been around since 2011 and has been the subject of negotiations among ten member states under the enhanced co-operation procedure for some time.
The Portuguese presidency is hoping to make inroads into the matter, and a briefing paper released last week frames Wednesday's meeting as a gateway to an "inclusive discussion among all member states" on how an FTT can be achieved.