The Brussels Report

North Macedonia has begun the process to obtain NATO membership. The Japan-EU Free Trade Agreement. Maxi fine antitrust to MasterCard

Macedonia's PM Zoran Zaev arrives to give a news conference during a referendum night on changing Macedonia's name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union in Skopje, Macedonia, September 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Macedonia's PM Zoran Zaev arrives to give a news conference during a referendum night on changing Macedonia's name that would open the way for it to join NATO and the European Union in Skopje, Macedonia, September 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

NATO - North Macedonia seeks entry

Northern Macedonia has begun the process to obtain NATO membership. The initiative followed the approval by the Macedonian parliament of the constitutional change that has officially changes the name of the country into Northern Macedonian Republic and sanctioned the end of the dispute with Greece, which has undertaken not to oppose a veto against Skopje's request to become a member of NATO and the European Union, a request it had repeatedly thwarted since the Post-Yugoslav republic gained its independence in 1991. The Macedonians will obtain full membership of the Atlantic Alliance once the protocol is ratified by all current members of NATO. The European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hanh congratulated Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the entire government. "The European Union will do its best to ensure that the next step, that is to say the opening of EU membership negotiations may follow within the year", were Hahn's words.

Vote: 10 with honours for Zaev but also for Tsipras, for their wisdom and because they managed to convince their parliaments and public opinions

EU - Japan accord is in effect

As of 1 February the Jefta, (Japan-Ue Free Trade Agreement) is in force. The agreement signed by the European Union and Japan will completely redesign business opportunities between the two trade areas, thanks to a considerable (albeit progressive) reduction of tariffs and duties. The operators will have to apply for an authorised exporter certificate if they are to take advantage of the subsidized tariffs. The EU reckons European exporters will save around one billion euro in tariffs. Japan will eliminate tariffs on 94% of all imports from the European Union, including tariffs on  80% of all fish and agricultural production. On the public works front, the free trade agreement will enable European companies to bid for tenders in many Japanese cities, even in important sectors such as railways, which up to now had been off limits. The European Union will remove tariffs on 99% of Japanese goods.

Vote 10 to EU and Japan, knocking down walls against the tide

EU - Mastercard fined

The European Commission has levied a significant fine on Mastercard for having violated antitrust regulation by limiting the opportunities for retailers and economic operators to obtain lower commissions from banks located in other countries that belong to the Single Market. A practice that violates community regulations and which, according to the Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, has enabled Mastercard to artificially bump up card usage costs, damaging consumers and retailers. The American credit card company is the second largest card payment system in Europe in terms of cards issued and transaction value. Mastercard provided the  Commission with full cooperation, and this allowed it  to obtain a 10% discount on the fine. "This decision" reads a note published by the American company "only refers to practices concerning the past, over a  limited period of time, under two years, and shall not entail any need for changes in our current commercial practices".

Vote: 7 to the Commission for exercising its supervisory powers, but a 6 also goes to Mastercard for having helped to rewrite the rules on business sustainability

@ilarias

This article is also published in the March/April issue of eastwest.

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