The EU Member States authorised the opening of negotiations for a new partnership agreement with the UK and formally nominated the Commission as the EU’s negotiator. The negotiations will be led by Michel Barnier.
The aim of the EU in its negotiation mandate is to achieve an ambitious economic partnership with the UK. The mandate emphasises that the partnership should be underpinned by robust commitments to ensure a level playing field for open and fair competition, which will be one of the contentious points in the negotiations. The aim is to establish a free trade agreement with zero tariffs and quotas to trade in goods, as well cooperation on customs and regulatory aspects.
The UK government has likewise released its mandate for the negotiations. Its main aim is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement covering substantially all trade. It wants to achieve similar provisions as past EU free trade agreements, such as Canada and Japan. The first formal meeting between the EU and the UK negotiators is expected to take place in early March. EBI will be engaging with the EU’s negotiation team to provide input from the European recreational boating sector.
The Winter 2020 Economic Forecast published on 13 February projects that the European economy is set to continue a path of steady, moderate growth. It concludes that the Euro area gross domestic product (GDP) growth will remain stable at 1.2% in 2020 and 2021. For the EU as a whole, growth is forecast to reduce slightly to 1.4% in 2020 and 2021, down from 1.5% in 2019.
The full forecast, including country-by-country reports and assessments of the potential economic risks can be found here.
The BlueInvest Day, organised by the European Commission brought together start-ups and investors in the blue economy. It included pitching opportunities, matchmaking and plenary sessions. The recreational boating industry was showcased in several pitches and represented among the many start-ups participating. EBI led this participation as one the showcase organisations selected by the European Commission and was represented with its own stand.
In the plenary sessions, speakers presented the opportunities for public and private funding for the blue economy. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius highlighted the policy dimension, which follows from the European Green Deal. A key part of this is investment in the blue economy that can help the sector to thrive and combine sustainability with business success. This also offers substantial opportunities for companies in the recreational boating industry.
At the BlueInvest Day, the BlueInvest Fund was launched with €75 million equity by the European Commission and European Investment Bank. It will be managed by the European Investment Fund and will provide financing to equity funds that target and support innovation in the blue economy. The condition for funding is that the activity takes place in the marine environment or using marine resources.
The European Commission's BlueInvest platform supports investment readiness and access to finance for early-stage businesses, SMEs and scale-ups. For more information, please consult the BlueInvest Platform here.
With Croatia currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020, it plays a key role in the EU policy-making process and leads the policy discussions at EU level. An EBI delegation therefore met with Ambassador Goran Štefanić (Deputy Permanent Representative, Croatian Permanent Representation to the EU) and Nevenka Žiža (First Secretary for Transport, Croatian Permanent Representation to the EU) to discuss the key issues for the boating industry.
The importance of sustainability for boating industry was highlighted, including circular economy, EU funding for environmental transition and the importance of marinas as connecting point for citizens and marine environment. Furthermore, the role of tourism as an increasingly important and growing aspect of the recreational boating industry was underlined.
Several meetings of national ministers will address the issue of sustainable tourism and maritime industry during the Croatian presidency, including meetings of national Tourism Ministers and Transport Ministers. Tourism is an important element for the country’s Council presidency, and it wants to develop a European tourism brand and to develop tourism opportunities. The EBI delegation was made up of Robert Marx (Council member, EBI & President, BVWW), Yves Lyon-Caen (President, FIN) and Philip Easthill (Secretary-General, EBI).
The EBI delegation also met with the Cabinet of the Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries to introduce the recreational boating industry and its key priorities at highest political level. The discussion focused on the importance of sustainability for the boating industry, the need for mutual recognition of boating and skipper licenses through a clear legal framework at EU level and the overall challenges and trends in the industry.