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EU Delegation to RoK Holds Seminar With Journalists

20/12/2019 - 03:54
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Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea held a Seminar for Journalists on December 5 at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. The seminar elaborated on the European Union's new leadership and the new Commission's 6 priorities including the European Green Deal, the issues related to the RoK such as GDPR and Adequacy of the RoK's level of personal data protection, EU-RoK trade relations with a focus on multilateralism and WTO, and the EU's climate cooperation with the RoK. 

The seminar opened with welcoming remarks and presentations by the EU Ambassador to the RoK Michael Reiterer. "We exepct swift passage of bills on data protection and labour rights that have been pending at the Korean National Assembly for years," said the EU Ambassador. "The EU and the RoK also agree on the need to modernise the EU-RoK FTA, which enetered into force in 2011 and needs to be updated according to the current business envrionment." 

Below is the full speaking points of the EU Ambassador to RoK Michael Reiterer.

1. The new European Commission's priorities

  • A European Green Deal: Make the EU the world's first "climate neutral" continent. Enact legal requirement to be carbon neutral by 2050. Cut 55% of emissions by 2030. Extend the Emissions Trading Scheme to maritime, traffic and construction sectors. Boost use of sustainable energy sources through new taxation structure. Promote circular economy and use clean technology. Invest €1 trillion over next decade in research and innovation. Fund climate transition in poorer regions. Strengthen bio-diversity and reducing use of plastics.
  • An economy that works for people: Support SMEs' access to markets and financing, promote Member States' growth reforms and investment, strengthen the international role of the euro;  integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals into monitoring of national economic strategies. Enact a legal instrument to ensure a fair minimum wage negotiated through social dialogue – improve conditions for digital platform workers. Ensure access to education and health care for all children, promote work-life balance and bring more women into the workforce, implement a European plan to fight cancer; create new anti-discrimination legislation, promote gender equality address gender-based violence.
  • A Europe Fit for the digital age: Develop joint standards for 5G networks; balance the flow and use of data while preserving privacy and security; promote digitalisation of government services; bring down barriers to learning across borders, triple the Erasmus+ budget
  • Promoting Our European Way of Life: Annual reporting by the European Commission on the rule of law in Member States; Reinforce border protection and share the burden of Member States that face the most pressure from migration; address the conditions that prompt people to leave their countries of origin,   Strengthen cooperation in tackling cross border crime and terrorism.
  • A stronger Europe in the World: Be ambitious and assertive in promoting multilateralism and the rules-based global order;  ensure trade agreements demand highest standards of climate, environmental and labour protection; appoint a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer to ensure compliance with deals; develop a comprehensive strategy towards Africa; reaffirm perspective for neighbours in Western Balkans to join the EU, push for qualified majority voting on foreign policy; increase budget for external action by 30% to € 120 billion; increasing the budget for defence research and capability development
  • A new push for European Democracy: Convene a Citizens Conference on the Future of Europe from 2020-2022 and follow up with legislative action and openness to treaty change;  increase the power of the European Parliament by allowing a majority to initiate legislation and look at improving the system of nominating the leaders of EU institutions.

2. GDPR & Adequacy of the RoK's level of protection

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies across the European Union since over one year. It is at the centre of a coherent and modernised EU data protection landscape.
  • Strong data protection rules are essential to guarantee the fundamental right to the protection of personal data. They are central to a democratic society and an important component of an increasingly data-driven economy.
  • The EU aspires to seize the many opportunities that the digital transformation offers in terms of services, jobs and innovation, while at the same time tackling the challenges these bring.
  • Identity theft, leaks of sensitive data, discrimination of individuals, in-built bias, sharing illegal content and the development of intrusive surveillance tools are just a few examples of issues that increasingly feature in the public debate where it is clear that people expect their data to be protected.
  • Data protection has become a truly global phenomenon as people around the world increasingly cherish and value the protection and security of their data.
  • All Member States but one [SI] have adopted their national data protection law.
  • Looking beyond the EU, many countries have adopted or are in the process of adopting comprehensive data protection rules based on principles similar to those of the Regulation, resulting in a global convergence of data protection rules.
  • This convergence offers new opportunities to facilitate data flows, and therefore trade, as well as cooperation between public authorities, while improving the level of protection for the data of individuals in the EU when it is transferred abroad.
  • Data protection is a stepping-stone for key priorities for the next Commission, such as artificial intelligence.
  • The Commission intensified its engagement with third countries, which has yielded important results. For example, the EU-Japan mutual adequacy arrangement created the world’s largest area of free and safe data flows.
  • Adequacy negotiations with the Republic of Korea are at an advanced stage, especially with the adoption of PIPA (Personal Information Protection Act) amendment bill passed at Committee level.
  • Once adopted by the plenary in the National Assembly, which will ensure the establishment of an independent data protection supervisory authority with the power to enforce the data protection rules, the main safeguard will be in place.
  • Additional safeguards may be needed for transfers of personal data from the EU but they would not require further changes in the law. This concerns both the rules that apply to commercial operators, under the Personal Information Protection Act, and the rules that apply to the access by public authorities to personal data for law enforcement and national security purposes.

3. EU-RoK trade relations with a focus on WTO

3-1. Overview of EU-Korea trade relations and FTA

The corner stone of our economic relationship is the EU Korea Free Trade agreement (FTA), in force since 2011. EU-Korea bilateral trade in goods is worth over EUR 100 billion annually, up by 50% since the entry into force of the FTA. The EU is the 4th largest trade partner of Korea, right after China, ASEAN and the US, but before Japan. Korea is the 8th largest trade partner of the EU ahead of countries such as India and Brazil.  The EU (33% of total FDI stock in Korea) is by far the largest foreign investor in Korea.

Overall, the economic gains from the agreement are symmetrically distributed in absolute values between the EU and Korea. According to the ex-post evaluation conducted by an independent contractor which the Commission earlier published, the Korean economy gained additional €4.9 bn and the EU economy €4.4 bn through our FTA. This excellent result happened despite the fact that the external environment, notably the post financial crisis period was not particularly supportive, weighing on demand and trade.

Eight years into the entry into force of the EU-RoK FTA, four core ILO Conventions have still not been ratified by the RoK. The EU looks forward to the speedy ratification of the four core ILO Conventions. The EU remains open, even during Panel of Expert proceedings, to finding a mutually agreed solution to the dispute, which sees Korea coming into conformity with its obligations under the FTA.

Once a "state-of-the-art-FTA", the EU-Korea FTA is being over-shadowed by newer FTAs (CETA, EPA with Japan), which incorporate newer features that could be of our interest. The EU is of the view that the EU-Korea FTA needs to be improved and modernised, not just to fix problems that emerged during the FTA implementation, but also to explore the possibility to add some new chapters which have been introduced into recent FTAs (such as a chapter on SMEs, Corporate social responsibility).

FTA modernisation will be placed high on agenda for the EU-Korea Trade Committee at ministerial level that will take place in Brussels next year (the date yet to be finalised).

3-2. Common values and interests in multilateralism and WTO reform

Both the EU and Korea support a rules-based trading system with the WTO at its core. Indeed, the EU is a large, stable, reliable like-minded trade partner for Korea.

The global trading system – with the WTO at its heart – is facing a ‘make or break’ moment. All three of the WTO’s functions are under pressure and in need of reform: administering multilateral trade rules, serving as a forum for trade negotiations and providing a mechanism to settle trade disputes.

The EU is at the forefront of tackling WTO reform. The EU has been making concrete proposals, continuing and accelerating work, and submitting textual proposals and working on future proposals. This is in order to reform all three main functions of the WTO of dispute settlement, rulemaking and monitoring/consultation. The EU will continue to engage on WTO reform.

The reform of the WTO will be the EU’s top priority. The EU is contemplating a profound overhaul of the organization, not tweaking the system at the margins. We will need to consider a fresh look at the question of exceptions for developing countries, which should only be available where and when needed. The WTO will also need to reflect on its decision-making process. We need mechanisms to facilitate the integration of plurilateral approaches in the WTO framework. This would introduce a new dynamic into the organization and will be key for several negotiations, including on e-commerce.

The EU is not alone in doing all this work. The EU would like Korea to more proactively engage in jointly carrying out WTO reform. We should continuously work together, harder than ever, to maintain the rule-based multilateral trading system of the WTO.

4. Climate cooperation with the RoK

A blueprint in Energy, Environment, Climate Change Policy in Korea and the EU

We need to step up our efforts on climate change, clean energy transition and preserving our natural environment. It has become increasingly urgent as countries all over the world, including Europe and the Republic of Korea, have been seeing increasing evidence of devastating effects of impact of climate change, including on the deterioration of global biodiversity, water resources and ecosystems.

The EU and the ROK share similar approaches on the alignment of climate, energy and environment policies. At the same time, both the EU and the Republic of Korea are facing unprecedented challenges that require global and sustainable solutions.

Yet global climate action remains insufficient. The science, including last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the impacts of 1.5° (and recent Report on the ocean and cryosphere and the Report on climate change and land), leaves no doubt about it.

 It will require an unprecedented transformation of our energy systems, transport, buildings, urban, land and industrial systems as well as changes in human behaviour to mitigate it, without delay. 

But the science also tells us, and our experience in the EU confirms it, that taking ambitious climate action and making our economies more sustainable has multiple and tangible benefits, such as modernising our economies, creating new jobs, businesses and technologies, improving public and ecosystem health.

We also need to act on the strong calls by the stakeholders and citizens, especially the youth, as seen all over the world, for enhanced action, ambition and considerations for future generations.

Recognising this urgency, Europe is determined to lead the fight against climate threat. We are more resolved than ever to implement the Paris Agreement fully and effectively.

The EU has already exceeded its emission reduction target for 2020, and will surpass its target for 2030. Instead of the foreseen 40%, we expect a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of around 45%, as compared to 1990 levels. Turning our targets into concrete action is what matters, and this is what the EU is doing.

In November 2018, the EU put also forward its strategic vision for a climate-neutral EU- the Long Term Strategy. This strategy was fully informed by the IPCC 1.5 degrees special report. The European Council will continue the discussions around the Long-Term Strategy on 12-13 December, with a majority of European leaders already supporting the EU's proposal to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.

But the ambition doesn’t stop here: President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen laid out her vision for a European Green Deal for Europe in her political guidelines and campaign, where climate features prominently.

This is an ambitious agenda that strives for the EU to be the first climate neutral continent and puts climate action at the center of the political priorities for the next administration.

Energy represents 75% of the Union's GHG emissions. Considering that clean energy provided by the energy sector to other sectors has significant decarbonisation potential, energy will be central to the European Green Deal, which President Elect Ursula von der Leyen has announced as a flagship project for the incoming European Commission, and which will be elaborated when the new Commission takes office.

The deployment of clean technologies in the energy sector can contribute to the success of the decarbonisation in other sectors, such as industry and manufacturing.

The EU has already adopted key energy, transport and climate legislation and is about to adopt its long-term strategy. Implementation will now be crucial. This however is not enough to deliver on such as a challenging objective as carbon neutrality. It cannot be decided from the top. It cannot be a set of isolated measures. It cannot be achieved without appropriate support, in particular for those most in need.

The EU cannot be alone. This is what the European Green Deal is about. A comprehensive and consistent framework to support all components of society in realising, step by step, carbon neutrality.

To do this we are already working to deliver smarter, decentralised, digitalised and more open energy networks to provide new sustainable energy services for empowered consumers. Increased ambition for emissions reductions to 55% by 2030 will mean accelerated modernisation of energy grids. Research, innovation, competitiveness and industrial policy will be at the core of this transformation.

A just transition requires protecting vulnerable consumers and tackling energy poverty. This part of ensuring a just transition is closely tied to other priorities of the President-elect delivering an economy that works for people notably the commitment to fight poverty and fully implement the European pillar of social rights.

We will also identify energy and climate flagship projects, for example in the areas of renovation of buildings, coal regions in transition and clean energy islands and offshore wind.

In view of the new Commission and the European Green Deal, the EU continues to be strongly committed to fighting environmental degradation and preserving the environment for future generations. Our work in the area of environment will focus on circular economy, biodiversity and actions against plastic and chemicals, addressing pollution challenges and setting new standards for biodiversity.

All of these topics are of our common interest with RoK. By working together we can contribute to the development of a greener and more sustainable global economy.

President Moon also reaffirmed that the ROK will step up its own efforts to cut carbon emissions with his new initiative on Blue Sky at the last United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in Sep. The P4G Summit will be hosted in Korea next year in order to keep the momentum and strengthen the international community's solidarity to implement the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.  

At subnational level, the local government and cities in the ROK are committed to leading climate action by phasing out coal power plants or actively promoting the uptake of renewables.

These have sent out a strong signal. In that respect, EU-RoK cooperation on climate and energy issues has become more positive recently, with stronger interest from the Korean side to collaborate with the EU both in the bilateral and international context.


Climate projects funded by the Partnership Instrument (PI) in RoK 2014-2020

ONGOING PI PROJECTS (as of 26 November 2019)

  • Low Carbon Action in the Republic of Korea

Budget: 2.4 M EUR

Period: January 2018- January 2021

OBJ: To contribute towards climate action and transition to low carbon resilient economy in RoK. In particular, by strengthening EU-RoK networking, dialogue and multi-stakeholder cooperation at the non-state actors' level.

  • Strategic partnerships for the implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA)


Budget: 25 M EUR

Period: January 2018 - January 2021

OBJ: to scale up climate policy collaboration with major economies and promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement, by fostering exchanges and collaborations among national and subnational administrations, business communities, the academia and civil society stakeholders from Europe and other major economies

  • IUC: Sustainable and Innovative Cities and Regions in Asia

Countries: CN, HK, ID, MY, SG, ROK, VN

Budget: 4.6M EUR

Period: December 2015- December 2020

OBJ: Support Asian cities to improve urban policies and engage in sustainable urban planning, including through the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

COMPLETED PI PROJECTS (as of 26 November 2019)

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