Policy News

April 2019

Simpler energy efficiency labels for household appliances
The European Commission has adopted new energy efficiency labels for household appliances including, dishwashers, washing machines and fridges, lamps, televisions as well as commercial fridges. The labels will make energy efficiency information more clear for consumers and help them make better informed purchasing choices. The labels will be on display in stores across Europe and on-line as of 1 March 2021.

Code of practice against disinformation: Commission takes note of the progress made by online platforms and urges them to step up their efforts
The European Commission has published monthly reports from Google, Twitter, and Facebook, on their progress in combatting online disinformation. In the run up to the European Parliament elections in May, Google, Twitter, and Facebook have committed to report their progress in meeting the commitments that are most relevant to the election campaign such as, scrutiny of ad placements and political and issue-based advertising.

Google fined €1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising
The European Commission has fined Google for breaching antitrust rules. For over ten years, Google used its market dominance to impose restrictive and anti-competitive contracts with third party websites to prevent other suppliers of online search, advertising their search services on these websites.
 

March 2019

Reminder - EU Grants Registration, REC Programme
All UK beneficiaries of the European Union’s Rights, Equalities and Citizenship Programme (REC) have been asked to register their project and organisation with the Cabinet Office. Registration details can be found on the Cabinet Office’s Gov.UK website.

Political agreement to modernise EU copyright rules
The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached an agreement to adapt EU copyright rules to keep pace with the digital age and ultimately, ensure that content creators get paid for their work, be it newspaper copy, music or other copyrighted content. The new rules have caused much controversy as articles 13 and 11 oblige, respectively:
  • all but the smallest and newest web services to do everything they can to stop users uploading copyrighted content without authorization, if the platforms want to avoid being directly liable for infringements;
  • only “individual words or very short extracts of a press publication” can be used without a license, except in cases of “private or non-commercial uses of press publications carried out by individual users.”
The agreed text must now be formally confirmed by the European Parliament and the Council. Once confirmed and published in the Official Journal of the EU, the member states will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into their national legislation. With regards to the new exceptions, the effect on publishing operations in the UK should be limited as many of the reforms mirror the changes the UK implemented following the 2011 Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property.

European Commission adopts new list of third countries with weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regimes
The European Commission has listed 23 third countries that it considers to have weak systems for combatting anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. As a result, the Commission expects banks and other entities covered by EU anti-money laundering rules to apply increased checks on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions linked to these countries to better identify any suspicious money flows. The new list was drafted following assessment of existing threat, the legal framework and controls in place for preventing money laundering and terrorist financing risks and their effective implementation as well as recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force.

February 2019

New rules on safety features for prescription medicines sold in the EU are now in force
The Falsified Medicines Directive adopted by the EU in 2011 introduced rigorous controls to ensure that medicines are safe and that the trade in medicines is rigorously controlled. As of 9th February 2019, the final part of the Directive, the ‘safety features’ Delegated Regulation came in to force, which means that all manufacturers are obliged to apply safety features to each pack of medicine: a tamper-proof security seal and a 2D barcode. Government guidance has been published advising all stakeholders on how to comply with the Safety Features Regulation. This Directive is already in UK legislation hence, UK manufacturers will need to comply, Brexit notwithstanding.

Countering illegal hate speech
The EU Code of Conduct’s fourth evaluation has found that the initiative is delivering positive results. The Code was created by the European Commission, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube and has since been joined by other major IT platforms. It is designed to respect freedom of expression whilst combatting online hate speech as criminalised by the Framework Decision on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia. The recent evaluation has discovered that 89% of flagged content is now assessed within 24 hours and 72% of content deemed hate speech is removed compared to 40% and 28% respectively when the Code launched. Despite this, the evaluation finds that companies still need to improve their feedback to users.

Secure access to health data across borders
The European Commission has published a Recommendation aimed at making it easier for patients to receive more personalised, efficient and cost-effective care as they travel around the European Union. Adding to the idea of a digital single market, the ‘European Electronic Health Record Exchange format’ proposes secure cross-border electronic sharing of patient's summaries, e-prescriptions, laboratory results reports, images, medical imaging reports and Hospital discharge reports. This is to be implemented through a joint coordination process working with member states and relevant stakeholders. The expansion will be particularly reliant on the existing Member State Digital Health Service infrastructure.

January 2019

Updated guidance on data protection post Brexit 
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued guidance to businesses and organisations on how to ensure they continue to comply with data protection law after the UK leaves the EU.  The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be incorporated into UK law post Brexit and hence, the standards that it sets will need to be adhered to by organisations and businesses that share “personal data” with organisations from the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU. 

In brief, the ICO advises the following:
  • For UK organisations that only share data within the UK, there will be no change;
  • For personal data flows from the UK to the EEA, organisations will be able to continue to send personal data to organisations in the EEA as they do currently;
  • But, personal data flow from the EEA to the UK will become restricted post Brexit;
  • If organisations have offices, branches or other establishments in the EEA, EU data protection rules will still apply to their European activities even after the UK leaves the EU; 
  • If organisations are ONLY based in the UK, but offer goods or services to individuals in the EEA or they monitor the behaviour of individuals located in the EEA, then EU data protection rules will apply to the processing of personal data relating to those activities;
  • if organisations receive personal data from EU organisations then they should consider, with EEA partners, putting in place safeguards to ensure that personal data can continue to flow after the exit date.
If an “adequacy agreement” is negotiated with the EU affirming that the UK offers an adequate level of data protection, there will be no need for specific safeguards. However, the ICO recommends that safeguards are implemented in any case, and that organisations should consider putting standard contractual clauses (SCCs) in place if they receive data from the EEA and it has published an interactive tool to help organisations with using these clauses. 

The ICO alerts organisations to the fact that it will not continue to regulate the EU data protection regime and hence, organisations may have to deal with the ICO as well as with European supervisory authorities in every EEA and EU state where individuals are affected by their activities.

ECJ opinion: Google can limit the “right to be forgotten” to internet searches made in EU member states only
In a case lodged in the French courts against Google, Advocate General Szpunar gave his opinion that an EU data protection law obliging search engines to comply with individual requests to remove webpage links relating to them should not “have effects beyond the borders of the 28 member states”. Therefore, if this non-binding preliminary ruling is upheld, it would mean that the EU’s “right to be forgotten” would not be enforceable outside the EU. In giving his opinion, the Advocate General stated that the “scope of the 'Right To Be Forgotten' (has to be limited) in order to protect global freedom of expression and prevent Europe from setting a precedent for censorship that could be exploited by other countries.“

December 2018

EU Institutions agree on cybersecurity measures
 The European Commission, Parliament and Council have reached agreement on the EU Cybersecurity Act which gives the EU Agency responsible for cybersecurity (European Union Agency for Network and Information and Security, ENISA) the mandate to better support member states to deal with threats and attacks. The strengthened mandate of the Agency will include implementing the EU-wide certification framework to ensure that consumer devices and online services are secure. For more information, click here

European Parliament and Council agree on the adoption of stronger rules to stop cyber-criminal activity related to non-cash payments
The European Parliament and the Council have reached an agreement on the Commission's proposal to strengthen the capacity of member states to prosecute and sanction cyber criminals committing non-cash payment fraud, such as bank cards, cheques, mobile payments and virtual currencies. The Commission’s proposal is for a new Directive providing more stringent rules to combat fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment to better assist victims of online payment fraud as well as to crack down on cyber-criminals activity. Member States will now have 2 years to transpose the rules into national legislation.

UK funding guarantee: register your Rights, Equalities and Citizenship funded project with UK government!
The Cabinet Office has opened an online registration system to allow UK beneficiaries of EU funding programmes including REC, to register for the UK funding guarantee in the event of no-deal. Once registered, project leads will be informed of next steps in the process. The webpage will remain open after the UK leaves the EU so that UK applicants can continue to register as and when they are informed that their bid has been successful. Full details, a FAQs page and the pro-forma are available on GOV.UK.

European Commission has adopted the 2019 Rights, Equalities and Citizenship Annual Work Programme
The European Commission has published the 2019 Rights, Equalities and Citizenship Work Programme which continues to focus on protecting rights and promoting non-discrimination. The total budget for the 2019 Programme is EUR 64 771 000 which will be used to fund activities developed by public authorities, universities, NGOS and other organisations.

A new Funding and Tender Portal replaced the Participant Portal and 2019 calls for proposals for action grants are expected to be published on the new portal by 15 January 2019.  In addition, part of the funding will be used to finance operating grant for framework partners, studies, the monitoring of legislation, information campaigns, exchange of good practices, EU Presidency conferences etc.).

Elimination of violence against women

To mark International Day for the elimination of violence against women on 25th November 2018, the European Commission hosted a conference on 4th December, to raise awareness, facilitate national and cross-border collaboration, provide information and educate about violence against women. The event brought together participants from EU institutions, Member States, International Organisations, NGOs, the private sector and academics to share practical lessons learnt from local projects and explore collaborations needed to combat gender-based violence. Discussion topics included:
  • impact and results of Daphne-funded projects – led by a professor at Coventry University, a partner in the REPLACE2 project which aimed to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) in the EU;
  • opportunities and challenges offered by the Istanbul Convention and the #Metoo movement with regards to developing cross-European legal standards, changing attitudes, and combatting stereotypes;
  • importance of co-operation between Member States, European institutions and NGOs in combating violence against women;
  • impact of the EU's actions so far to combat gender-based violence.

November 2018

UK's participation in Justice and Home Affairs during the transition period
During the transition period, the UK will need to apply all elements of EU Justice and Home Affairs acts, with the following exceptions:
  • it can choose to opt-in/opt-out to measures amending, replacing or building upon those acts;
  • it cannot opt-in to completely new measures but, the EU may invite the UK to cooperate in relation to such new measures, under the conditions set out for cooperation with third countries;
  • If an agreement on the future relationship in this field comes into effect during the transition period, the relevant areas of existing EU law will cease to apply to the UK.
For more information please see the press release published by the European Commission.

Data protection post transition
The Draft Withdrawal Agreement provides that, after the end of the transition period, the UK has to continue to apply EU data protection rules until the EU has established, by way of a formal “adequacy decision”, that the personal data protection regime of the UK provides data protection safeguards which are “essentially equivalent” to those in the EU.

Defence and Security: access to EU databases and systems
In the Outline Political Declaration on the future relationship, the UK states that it wishes to remain part of “all existing security arrangements” including, a new form of extradition and database sharing. Temporarily, during transition, the UK will be able to continue to request access to systems that provide intelligence on suspects - mainly in relation to investigations that are already under way. However, the draft deal states that once transition ends, the UK will be locked out of all EU databases and systems and a “special security treaty” would be required to enable the UK to regain “some” access post transition.

NAO report highlights lack of border preparedness for ‘no deal Brexit’
The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report assessing the readiness of the UK’s Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs for coping with a ‘no deal Brexit’ where no agreement is concluded between the EU and the UK before the latter leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. The report points out that the number of extra exporters who will be completing customs forms for the first time after Brexit will be between 145 000 – 250 000 whilst staffing levels will only be restored back to previous levels rather than increased significantly to cope with increased demand post-Brexit. Finally, the NAO also concludes by giving 11 out of 12 IT border projects an amber warning, meaning that it considers these to be at risk of not being completed by 29 March 2019. 
Following the closure of the European Partnership at the end of March 2019, this website is no longer active and will not be updated. However, it will be kept live for a period of time as an archive resource.