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Single market and the pandemic: Impacts, EU action and recovery

18-06-2020

The coronavirus crisis caused an asymmetric shock to both supply and demand in the EU, inflicting unprecedented economic harm: the deep recession in 2020 is likely to be followed by a fragile recovery in 2021. The downside risks are high and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration. European economies are highly integrated: about two-thirds of the EU's total trade in goods takes place on the single market, through its tightly knit network of supply chains, financial connections and ...

The coronavirus crisis caused an asymmetric shock to both supply and demand in the EU, inflicting unprecedented economic harm: the deep recession in 2020 is likely to be followed by a fragile recovery in 2021. The downside risks are high and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration. European economies are highly integrated: about two-thirds of the EU's total trade in goods takes place on the single market, through its tightly knit network of supply chains, financial connections and trade relationships. However, the pandemic has severely impacted the free movement of persons, goods and services in the EU, on which the market is based. While the depth of the economic downturn and the strength of recovery vary across EU Member States, many of those that were hardest hit by the pandemic happen to have the least policy space to respond to it. Left unaddressed, an uneven recovery across the EU risks creating divergences, fragmentation and permanent damage to the single market, which will have a negative impact on the EU's recovery as a whole. The EU has acted on many fronts since the onset of the crisis. Initially, it provided first-response measures – such as the suspension of State aid rules and a roadmap for lifting containment measures – designed to address multiple emergencies in the single market and the EU economy. It has also developed a comprehensive longer-term response to enable economic recovery and repair the damage inflicted by the crisis, while at the same time protecting and deepening the single market and rendering it more autonomous. The EU will offer large-scale asymmetric support and financial support, that will be distributed through existing and novel instruments. Some experts warn that the proposed recovery plan, while a step in the right direction, may be financially insufficient and too slow to disburse. The European Parliament has asked for a major recovery package worth €2 trillion.

Digital taxation: State of play and way forward

19-03-2020

The digitalisation of the economy and society poses new tax policy challenges. One of the main questions is how to correctly capture value and tax businesses characterised by a reliance on intangible assets, no or insignificant physical presence in the tax jurisdictions where commercial activities are carried out (scale without mass), and a considerable user role in value creation. Current tax rules are struggling to cope with the emerging realities of these new economic models. The European Union ...

The digitalisation of the economy and society poses new tax policy challenges. One of the main questions is how to correctly capture value and tax businesses characterised by a reliance on intangible assets, no or insignificant physical presence in the tax jurisdictions where commercial activities are carried out (scale without mass), and a considerable user role in value creation. Current tax rules are struggling to cope with the emerging realities of these new economic models. The European Union (EU) and other international bodies have been discussing these issues for some time. In March 2018, the EU introduced a 'fair taxation of the digital economy' package. It contained proposals for an interim and long-term digital tax. The European Parliament supported both proposals, widening their scope and coverage and backing integration of digital tax into the proposed Council framework on corporate taxation. However, there was no immediate political agreement in the Council. As finding a global solution at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) level or a coordinated EU approach was not yet feasible, some Member States started implementing or designing national digital taxes. As an indication of difficulties around this issue, the introduction of these taxes in France heightened trade tensions between the EU and the United States of America, with the latter favouring a 'voluntary' tax system – a position which may prevent a global agreement. Over the last few years, the OECD has nevertheless made progress on developing a global solution and proposed a two-pillar system: while the first pillar (unified approach) would grant new taxation rights and review the current profit allocation and business location-taxation rules, the second (GloBE) aims to mitigate risks stemming from the practices of profit-shifting to jurisdictions where they can be subjected to no, or very low, taxation. The EU is committed to supporting the OECD's work, but if no solution is found by the end of 2020, it will again make a proposal for its own digital tax.

Annual report on EU competition policy

04-03-2020

During the March I plenary part-session, the European Parliament is expected to discuss the annual report on EU competition policy (2019), adopted by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The report highlights the growing importance of the international dimension of competition policy in a globalised world and the challenges stemming from the digitalisation of the economy. It also points to issues related to the effectiveness of competition policy instruments, as well as how they may support ...

During the March I plenary part-session, the European Parliament is expected to discuss the annual report on EU competition policy (2019), adopted by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The report highlights the growing importance of the international dimension of competition policy in a globalised world and the challenges stemming from the digitalisation of the economy. It also points to issues related to the effectiveness of competition policy instruments, as well as how they may support the European Green Deal.

Is data the new oil? Competition issues in the digital economy

08-01-2020

The global debate on the extent to which current competition policy rules are sufficient to deal with the fast-moving digital economy has never been more pertinent. An important part of this debate concerns the market power of large high-tech companies that dominate many online markets. The main factors behind these developments are economies of scale and scope, network externalities, and the rising economic significance of data, which are a highly valuable commodity in an online economy. While being ...

The global debate on the extent to which current competition policy rules are sufficient to deal with the fast-moving digital economy has never been more pertinent. An important part of this debate concerns the market power of large high-tech companies that dominate many online markets. The main factors behind these developments are economies of scale and scope, network externalities, and the rising economic significance of data, which are a highly valuable commodity in an online economy. While being indispensable to the development of potential game changers – such as artificial intelligence – data are also a crucial input to many online services, production processes, and logistics – making it a critical element in the value chain of many different industries. Data-dependent markets are also characterised by a high level of concentration and, according to many experts, high entry barriers relating to access to and ownership of data – which make it difficult to challenge the incumbent companies. On the other hand, the large players are generally considered to be very productive and innovative. Some studies, however, show that the diffusion of know-how and innovation between the market leaders and the rest of the economy may be affecting competiveness in general. One possible way to correct these shortcomings is to regulate the sharing of data. While the risks of policy-making in this field are generally well-known and centre around the need to protect privacy – particularly where personal data are involved – and to prevent the collusive aspects of data sharing, there is currently no global model to follow. The European Union has taken multiple initiatives to unlock data markets through modern, user-centred laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the regulation on the reuse of public sector information. The global thinking seems to gradually favour more prudent oversight of the market, considering its economic heft.

EU industrial policy at the crossroads: Current state of affairs, challenges and way forward

02-12-2019

Industry plays a pivotal role in the EU's economy and growth model. Today, however, it stands at the crossroads, heavily affected by new disruptive forces, ranging from the rise of new technologies to shifts in global economic power and evolving geopolitical circumstances. Addressing these challenges raises a number of critical dilemmas, such as the need to pursue openness of markets and trade while protecting industry from unfair competition, or the need to promote greener and more sustainable industry ...

Industry plays a pivotal role in the EU's economy and growth model. Today, however, it stands at the crossroads, heavily affected by new disruptive forces, ranging from the rise of new technologies to shifts in global economic power and evolving geopolitical circumstances. Addressing these challenges raises a number of critical dilemmas, such as the need to pursue openness of markets and trade while protecting industry from unfair competition, or the need to promote greener and more sustainable industry while maintaining its global competitiveness. It also prompts a reconsideration of the EU's strategic positioning from a defensive to an offensive policy stance. These developments have triggered a lively debate on the need for a renewed, more assertive, comprehensive and coordinated industrial policy at EU level. This paper reviews the current state of affairs and key challenges facing the EU and provides an analysis of the main policy options going forward.

EU competition policy: Key to a fair single market

30-10-2019

Competition policy has been found to make a positive contribution to the EU's economic growth and the EU has one of the most robust competition policy systems in the world. European competition policy encompasses many fields, not least antitrust measures, merger control and State aid. It is enforced by the European Commission, whose decisions can be contested in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Recent policy developments include the antitrust damages system and the framework empowering ...

Competition policy has been found to make a positive contribution to the EU's economic growth and the EU has one of the most robust competition policy systems in the world. European competition policy encompasses many fields, not least antitrust measures, merger control and State aid. It is enforced by the European Commission, whose decisions can be contested in the Court of Justice of the European Union. Recent policy developments include the antitrust damages system and the framework empowering national competition authorities. Topics discussed in this paper include the role of competition policy in the digital era, merger control, instruments such as the leniency programme, commitments and settlements, and the potential impact of current political developments.

A decade on from the financial crisis: Key data

17-10-2019

The financial crisis began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, starting a worldwide chain reaction. The EU economy contracted for five consecutive quarters, with growth returning only in the second half of 2009. Stimulatory and fiscal actions by national governments and the EU, and the Eurosystem's loose monetary policy, helped achieve recovery. It was short-lived, however, as in 2010 a sovereign debt crisis resulted from a loss of financial market confidence, with soaring public debt. Yields on ...

The financial crisis began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, starting a worldwide chain reaction. The EU economy contracted for five consecutive quarters, with growth returning only in the second half of 2009. Stimulatory and fiscal actions by national governments and the EU, and the Eurosystem's loose monetary policy, helped achieve recovery. It was short-lived, however, as in 2010 a sovereign debt crisis resulted from a loss of financial market confidence, with soaring public debt. Yields on government bonds, particularly in the periphery countries, rose dramatically. Ad hoc rescue devices, such as the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, brought the situation under control, later supported by the pledge of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi to do 'whatever it takes' to save the euro. The acute phase of the crisis ended in 2014, followed by a period of extremely low inflation and weak growth. To boost inflation, facilitate bank lending and stimulate the economy, the Eurosystem relied increasingly on quantitative easing. While 2017 was the EU's best year since the crises, with economic performance returning to pre-crisis levels, recent data suggest that the momentum is weakening, both in and outside the EU.

A decade on from the crisis: Main responses and remaining challenges

17-10-2019

It has been a decade since the financial crisis erupted and changed the world in 2008. Few at the time guessed what would be its magnitude and long-term consequences. The interconnectedness of the economy and the financial sector facilitated the spread of the crisis from the United States to Europe. First, the EU faced the Great Recession in the 2008-2009 period and then, after a short recovery, several Member States succumbed to the sovereign debt crisis. The combined crises had catastrophic consequences ...

It has been a decade since the financial crisis erupted and changed the world in 2008. Few at the time guessed what would be its magnitude and long-term consequences. The interconnectedness of the economy and the financial sector facilitated the spread of the crisis from the United States to Europe. First, the EU faced the Great Recession in the 2008-2009 period and then, after a short recovery, several Member States succumbed to the sovereign debt crisis. The combined crises had catastrophic consequences for economic growth, investment, employment and the fiscal position of many Member States. The EU engaged in short-term 'fire-fighting' measures such as bailouts to save banks and help stressed sovereigns, while at the same time reforming the inadequate framework. While signs of moderate recovery showed in 2014, the risk of falling into deflation or secular stagnation remained high, and it was only in 2017 that the EU economy returned to a state similar to that of before the crisis. The signs in 2019 are not so promising however. Many efforts have been made to improve resilience in the EU and the euro area. These have included improving the stability of the financial sector, strengthening economic governance, creating a safety net for sovereigns in distress and carrying out structural reforms, particularly in the countries most affected. In addition, the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken unconventional policy measures. Nonetheless many argue that the pace of the reforms has slowed down considerably since 2013 when the economic situation began to improve. The legacy of the crisis is still present and many challenges persist. These include the absence of a clear and agreed vision for the future of economic and monetary union (EMU), perennial macroeconomic imbalances and high public deficits in a number of Member States, and the ongoing risk of a doom loop between sovereigns and the banking sector. Post crisis vulnerabilities also include rising inequalities, youth unemployment and high in-work poverty risk levels. See also our infographic, A decade on from the financial crisis: Key data, PE 640.145.

Hearings of the Commissioners-designate: Margrethe Vestager – Vice-President: A Europe fit for the digital age

26-09-2019

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication ...

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication skills'. At the end of the hearings process, Parliament votes on the proposed Commission as a bloc, and under the Treaties may only reject the entire College of Commissioners, rather than individual candidates. The Briefing provides an overview of key issues in the portfolio areas, as well as Parliament's activity in the last term in that field. It also includes a brief introduction to the candidate.

Economic impacts of artificial intelligence (AI)

01-07-2019

Artificial intelligence plays an increasingly important role in our lives and economy and is already having an impact on our world in many different ways. Worldwide competition to reap its benefits is fierce, and global leaders – the US and Asia – have emerged on the scene. AI is seen by many as an engine of productivity and economic growth. It can increase the efficiency with which things are done and vastly improve the decision-making process by analysing large amounts of data. It can also spawn ...

Artificial intelligence plays an increasingly important role in our lives and economy and is already having an impact on our world in many different ways. Worldwide competition to reap its benefits is fierce, and global leaders – the US and Asia – have emerged on the scene. AI is seen by many as an engine of productivity and economic growth. It can increase the efficiency with which things are done and vastly improve the decision-making process by analysing large amounts of data. It can also spawn the creation of new products and services, markets and industries, thereby boosting consumer demand and generating new revenue streams. However, AI may also have a highly disruptive effect on the economy and society. Some warn that it could lead to the creation of super firms – hubs of wealth and knowledge – that could have detrimental effects on the wider economy. It may also widen the gap between developed and developing countries, and boost the need for workers with certain skills while rendering others redundant; this latter trend could have far-reaching consequences for the labour market. Experts also warn of its potential to increase inequality, push down wages and shrink the tax base. While these concerns remain valid, there is no consensus on whether and to what extent the related risks will materialise. They are not a given, and carefully designed policy would be able to foster the development of AI while keeping the negative effects in check. The EU has a potential to improve its standing in global competition and direct AI onto a path that benefits its economy and citizens. In order to achieve this, it first needs to agree a common strategy that would utilise its strengths and enable the pooling of Member States' resources in the most effective way.

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