The Brief, powered by Eni: EU wants us out of the roam zone

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Hats off to the European Commission for squeezing two crowd-pleasing stories into one week. Just yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker celebrated the 1 million ‘Erasmus babies’ (TMI, really) during a celebration of the programme. Tomorrow the EU wants to score again when it gets rid of mobile roaming fees within Europe.

It only took ten years of negotiations. But starting tomorrow, many Europeans will get to cash in on the ban on roaming surcharges for calls, SMS and data use in time for their summer holidays. That’s good news for a lot of people. Eurobubblers will only wish it could have come into effect a few days earlier since many of them will already be on their way back from Strasbourg tomorrow after this week’s Parliament session.

But one of the best things about the ban on roaming is that the Commission will probably have to stop bragging about it once it’s finally out there. But don’t hold your breath.

It has been a constant source of self-promotion for the Commission. In a way, that’s understandable, considering it took a decade to get this far. But now we have a roaming ban, Erasmus won’t have another round birthday for a while and Macron already won in France. The EU will soon need another glue to hold itself together. Stepping up defence cooperation probably won’t cut it. Because that’s basically about killing people.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The jury is out on whether roaming will turn out to be nothing more than a blast of hot air. A ten year-long blip of overpromising something that sounds good to citizens.

But the truth is that there are plenty of ways for consumers to still get swindled even when they think they can ‘roam like at home’ (the Commission’s catchphrase). Telecoms companies can choose not to offer roaming at all, leaving you with no service when you travel. There have been warnings that firms could even raise their domestic rates to balance out costs, or pull a number of other slick moves to dodge the ban. And as several MEPs have been quick to point out, if you make a call to another EU country when you are at home, it will still be billed as a more expensive international call.

For a lot of Europeans, this is a good time to make yourself at home and roam up a storm. Once cracks in the new system emerge, the big hype will be over.

THE ROUNDUP

MEPs have demanded greater legal clarity and social protection for gig economy workers but warned against stifling innovation.

The Parliament this week adopted watered-down tax transparency obligations for multinationals. But EU companies operating abroad will be exempted from the obligations, for fear of harming their competitiveness.

If the polls are right, France will have Europe’s second most gender-balanced parliament after next Sunday’s second-round votes are counted. Voters are rejecting the traditional parties’ lists of “old white men”.

French President Emanuel Macron told Theresa May the door to the EU was “always open” in case she changed her mind about Brexit.

Commissioner Pierre Moscovici expects a debt-relief deal on Greek loans this week. He said “things are moving in the right direction.” Athens is cracking down on record levels of tax avoidance as companies pay employees up to a quarter of their salaries in untaxable vouchers.

Rome’s 5 Star mayor said the city can’t take any more migrants, and the Commission yesterday opened infringement procedures against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic over their refusal to cooperate with EU refugee relocation quotas.

Finland’s government survived a populist scare after hard-line anti-immigration coalition partner the Finns Party split down the middle, with more moderate MPs agreeing to prop up the conservative government.

Consumer groups want the EU to ban cartoon characters designed to sell foods to children, who are “unable to distinguish between advertising and entertainment”.

Ahead of World Elder Abuse Day tomorrow, a report has condemned human rights failings in Europe’s care homes.

Things just got confusing for vegans. The EU’s top court today ruled that vegetable products cannot be marketed using designations such as milk, cream, cheese or butter.

After Erasmus turned 30 yesterday, Europe’s border-free Schengen zone celebrates its 32nd birthday today.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The Eurogroup is meeting tomorrow and Greece will once again be on the agenda. The EU-US justice and home affairs ministerial meeting is also taking place in Malta.

Views are the author’s.

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