Last week, FleishmanHillard Brussels gathered Brussels’ trade community together for a roundtable discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Almost two years after its entry into force, this seemed a good time to take stock.
Speakers Peter Berz, currently heading up the unit in charge of trade relations with the Far East at the European Commission, and Prof. Dong-Sung Cho, Professor of Strategy, International Business and Design at Seoul National University, provided their insights into how the trade deal has impacted our respective economies.
The discussions swiftly began to focus on the concrete lessons that could be drawn from the practical implementation of the Agreement – the key question emerging: how far has the EU-South Korea FTA lived up to expectations?
The consensus in the room was that it certainly has… to a certain extent. With EU exporters estimated to save €1.6 billion annually on eliminated import duties, the EU-South Korea FTA boasts the most ambitious tariff elimination achieved in any of the bilateral EU FTAs. It also aims to address one the most long-standing challenges EU exporters have been facing in critical sectors (electronics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and the automotive sector): Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).
The trade deals with the US and Japan at the forefront of the EU’s trade agenda only confirm the current appetite for bilateral trade agreements across the globe.
The EU’s plate is pretty full up with upcoming trade negotiations. So much so, it will be critical for both policy-makers and industry to ensure that this intricate “noodle bowl” of trade agreements brings palpable economic benefits and regulatory convergence. As a landmark case, the EU-South Korea FTA remains, so far, the largest European “noodle” in this bowl.
Fred Seeger, Francesca Adurno and Roisin Carlos
May 24, 2013
2012 marked the 20 year anniversary of the European Single Market. Over these past two decades, European Union transport policy has been a central pillar of efforts to bolster the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital between the 27 EU Member States.
The transport sector should in many ways see itself as the enabler of the Single Market – the catalyst to the further deepening of trade and economic ties between EU members. Unsurprisingly therefore, transport is a hotly debated area in Brussels covering numerous policy initiatives across the different modes.
Mixed results for market liberalisation
The transport market liberalisation agenda remains high priority, although historically progress has been unequal across modes. Liberalisation of the aviation market in Europe in the 90s ushered in a period of unprecedented growth in air transport and introduced many new entrants and business models into the market. The low fares model has clearly been the major driver in this process. However, Europe’s airspace continues to be fragmented and the patience of EU regulators appears to be wearing thin with Member State reluctance to pool their airspace sovereignty within the Single European Sky process.
The road, port and rail sectors lag further behind. The recent Fourth Railway Package proposed by Brussels in early 2013 is yet another effort by the EU to break open the disconnected and oft protected national railway market. At the same time, the EU will be looking to extend cabotage rules in the road sector in the coming months, despite potential opposition from certain Member States wary of the impact on their own, fragmented, road haulage market vis-à-vis potential European competitors.
An ambitious frontrunner on environmental issues
In terms of environmental protection in the field of transport, Brussels has moved forward with (sometimes overly) ambitious policy goals. The automotive sector continues to be heavily regulated in terms of non-CO2 and CO2 emissions control, with increasingly stringent technological requirements set by Brussels periodically. Whether this stimulates innovation or restricts competitiveness of European producers remains the key open question.
Meanwhile, the EU’s efforts to bring international aviation within its cap and trade emissions trading scheme have been met with international outcry and threats of retaliation by its global trading partners. The move is currently on ice and has certainly provided food for thought for Brussels as it considers taking the same approach to the international shipping sector.
Passenger rights as a flagship
Most EU commentators would point to the passenger rights agenda as the bloc’s biggest success in the transport field – the topic that normally appears first in the table of contents for any European Commission-produced brochure on transport policy. The success of passenger rights legislation is perhaps debatable with significant cost concerns from industry and soon-to-be-addressed problems of implementation throughout the EU. However, it is likely that the rights afforded to EU citizens when, say, flying internationally, far outstrip those of travellers anywhere else in the world.
The changing global landscape
The EU’s detractors would argue that the focus on regulation over liberalisation has placed a net burden on Europe’s transport sector. European legacy airlines and automotive manufacturers continue to struggle faced with global competition, whilst the centre of gravity for the global logistics market seems to continuously shift eastwards.
At the same, the challenge of the EU’s transport agenda must always take note of the principle of subsidiarity. That is to say, the EU is wary of looking to regulate in the more localised aspects of transport policy which remain at the behest of individual EU Member States. Areas such as road safety, urban mobility and infrastructure development (outside of the power of the EU purse strings) have seen, and will continue to see, less influence wielded by the EU executive compared to the national capital.
With European Parliament elections approaching and a new European Commission due to be appointed in 2014, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the European transport policy agenda. Clearly the completion of the single transport market remains an enormous undertaking and the voice of industry will be critical as the new political regime gathers momentum over the next 18 months.
Many of the future priorities will undoubtedly be wrapped up in the EU’s position more globally, as it faces up to rapidly changing trade and transport flows and questions about the bloc’s own economic competitiveness. It is indicative that the world’s three fastest growing trade routes essentially bypass Europe altogether (Asia-Africa, intra-Asia, and Asia-South America).
So whilst there will be continued emphasis in Brussels on getting Europe’s own house in order, this will ultimately be a hollow effort without a firm eye on the external dimension of EU transport policy, and the continued engagement of industry and other stakeholders in the process.
May 22, 2013
Between 13-15 May, Dublin will play host to eHealth Week 2013, a 3 day event jointly organised by the European Commission and the Irish Presidency, bringing together industry partners and providers, as well as important government and regional decision-makers from across Europe.
eHealth Week represents a timely opportunity to encourage the continuous investment in health IT. It’s a phenomenon that has the potential to transform the healthcare industry as we know it – not only improving patient care but also getting a handle on rising medical costs.
Hardly an altogether new phenomenon in Europe, eHealth has been European health’s buzzword for a decade now. It’s readily relied upon as Europe’s ‘jack of all trades’ solution to systemic healthcare problems.
And, it would seem, that this isn’t entirely wrong. Look at the major problems facing global health and let your imagine run a little with the idea that eHealth tools and solutions could, at the touch of a button (literally – almost) be readily and uniformly applied across Europe.
Telemedicine. Imagine being able to book an appointment to see your doctor onscreen and avoid the inconvenience or, for many, the pain and hardship of getting to the surgery in person. Think how easy you’d sleep in the knowledge that your dialysis machine that was diligently keeping you alive throughout the night could continuously communicate the vital information to emergency hospital staff should there be a problem in your sleep. Providing clinical care at a distance could also dramatically reduce healthcare costs and increase efficiency through remote management of chronic diseases, shared health professional staffing, reduced travel times, fewer unnecessary consultations, fewer or shorter hospital stays and reduced transfer of infection.
Personalised medicine. Each of us is special and unique among the roughly 7 billion humans on this planet. We are the walking, talking instantiation of the 3 billion instances of four nucleotides that constitute our unique genome’s DNA. Even though you’re special (you are very special), today’s medical treatment is still generic. Through recent advances in health technology and further spurred on by the drive for digitally-collated patient data, the customisation of healthcare is now a reality i.e. medical decisions, practices and products can be tailored to an individual patient. Doctors can now craft a lifelong health maintenance strategy tailored to your unique genetic constitution – perhaps preventatively as opposed to reactively.
Electronic health records. Basically, just a copy of a patient’s records all in one place, EHRs focus on the total health of a patient and allow healthcare providers to share information with each other digitally. Such interoperability of health records enables more patient-centered care, improved quality, greater efficiency not to mention the convenience and cost savings.
So, it’s all very exciting and, as a so called ‘digital native’, I’m very open to all of this. But why are we not all jumping on the eHealth bandwagon? Why has the take-up of eHealth solutions up to now been characterised by lethargy if not resistance?
Well it has a lot to do with patient expectations. While we – as consumers – expect telecoms companies, for example, to be innovative, to take risks and to push the boundaries of what we’re comfortable with, it would seem that we don’t want that from our healthcare providers. We want safe, we want comfortable and we want affordable.
For many, the mere mention of the term eHealth is an opportunity to preemptively mourn the loss of face-to-face consultations and to remember ‘the good old days’ when you could develop a long-running, personal relationship with your doctor that was all in all good for your longevity. But very few would argue that the invention of the telephone has devalued face to face conversations or that the introduction of online banking has destroyed our conception of money altogether.
eHealth is clearly in need of some explaining and some real profiling because for as long as eHealth is on the backburner for patients and healthcare professionals, it will be that irritating, last on the agenda, try hard token ‘digital’ topic. But this negligence is becoming a European luxury – and an all too expensive one at that. With the potential that health IT holds, set against already struggling healthcare systems and austerity cutbacks, it seems that investment in eHealth development and take-up must be a priority in Europe.
With that in mind – and this is a plea to those on hand at this week’s many varied events – it is important that eHealth debates steer clear of the all-engulfing topic of data security, which remains the hot political topic on the health agenda of late – particularly amidst the discussions surrounding the revision of the Clinical Trials directive. Rather, the debates must maintain a focus on the raw potential of eHealth and the irreversible impact that it could have on patient safety in the next 10, 20, 50 years.
The 3 day event will fly by so we really must make the most of this forum for healthy eDiscussion and hearty eBest practice sharing. To end on a suitably digital note, keep an eye on Twitter #eHW13 to stay up to speed.
May 13, 2013
May 1st 2013 marks a watershed moment in FleishmanHillard history as we unveil the next generation of the FleishmanHillard brand.
For many, the concept of branding goes largely unnoticed. It merely exists to distinguish competing products or organisations in an ever more clustered marketplace. “There’s the logo – that’s the yoghurt I buy.” The term itself derives from the method by which farmers used to literally ‘brand’ or mark their cattle in an effort to keep track of them and distinguish them from those of another farmer.
But we’ve come to realise that a brand is more than just a mark on the rear end of a cow or a stamp on a yoghurt pot – whether we like it or not.
Branding results from a set of associations, perceptions or attachments that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation – often subliminally. Such associations may be actively promoted by an organisation or equally they may be unintended. Put at its simplest, branding is understanding these perceptions.
So when you’re crafting your own brand, with meticulous attention to detail and a consideration as to how it might be perceived across cultures and continents, this is what you have to keep in mind. While branding can’t give your company complete control over how it is perceived, the basic principle of being clear about what you are and what you stand for will always apply.
So why refresh?
That’s what today’s FleishmanHillard brand refresh is all about. The new image of our firm doesn’t really change who we are as a company day to day – it is simply an outward reflection of a transformation that has been taking place for a number of years at FleishmanHillard – a brand isn’t invented, it’s revealed.
And it’s about time too. Our brand was last refreshed more than two decades ago in 1990, when the world was a very different place: the planet was locked in a sustained state of Cold War political and military tension; only 0.25% of the global population owned a mobile phone; the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody topped the charts (back when you had to leave your house to buy a record!); and Mark Zuckerberg was learning to tie his shoe laces.
And after the last two decades the world of communications is largely unrecognisable too. The invention of the internet has given rise to an information age where the constant threat of obsolescence has become a driver for businesses and economies alike (Whatever happened to MySpace?!). An unrelenting digital revolution has redefined the very nature of communications, radically changing the way both individuals and companies interact and gather their information – I genuinely do not how people got anything done before Google was conjured up.
That’s all well and good but what’s this got to do with Brussels? Within a Public Affairs context, branding has never been more important as a means of signalling clearly that we have the strategic vision, capabilities and talent to best serve our clients. With the effects of the global financial crisis omnipresent, our brand now expresses that we’re moving closer towards our goal of becoming the world’s most complete communications company, happy to transcend the ‘safe’, stable and traditional communications boundaries.
The power of true…
You may also have noticed that our logo post-face lift is now accompanied by a revised tagline: the power of true. As far as abstract corporate mottos go, it succinctly typifies what FleishmanHillard is all about: transparency, authenticity, and ethical standards, both in terms of our legacy of service to our clients, and the way we’re structured and operate internally. And, for us here in Brussels, the power of true could not be a more fitting guiding principle – a magnet for both our employees and our clients, particularly amidst the ‘added value of public affairs’ debate and the strive for transparent and ethically sound advocacy.
So this brand refresh is more than just look and feel and letterheads (although, admittedly, we are all relishing the prospect of a fresh batch of branded pens, mugs and umbrellas). For a select group of FleishmanHillard branding experts, today marks the culmination of a lot of hard work, and for all FleishmanHillard employees throughout more than 80 offices in 29 countries, today brings to an end months of speculation and anticipation.
We’re pretty happy with it – be sure to keep a look out for it in and around Brussels and let us know what you think. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll introduce you to the more nuanced aspects of the brand’s overhaul and offer you an insight into how the changes could impact you.
May 2, 2013
After the attention that the elections of Pope Francis garnered, another wave of excitement has swept across Italy (impacting Italians living abroad like us as much as anyone!) After two months of political stalemate that followed the February general elections (see our analysis of the results), a new Government is now up and running.
Interesting to note for the Brussels bubble: Prime Minister Letta himself is a keen Europhile and some of the key Ministers are pro-European too (ex MEPs, officials of the European Commission and even ex Commissioners). This means that Italy’s new political leadership understands the European Union, its values and the mechanism and dynamics of how a member state can impact the EU decision-making process. Can we therefore expect to see a better equipped and more influential Italian delegation in Brussels? If this proves true, a possible knock-on effect will be that the wider Italian business community will understand the importance of early engagement at the EU level and contribute more consistently and comprehensively to the EU legislative process.
If you want to know more about the government… the Italians at our FH office have drafted a full note – here.
May 2, 2013
We all kick the bucket. It’s a given together with taxes, as the famous saying goes. Before we do, however, there’s that notorious list of life goals that need to be checked off. With the Barroso Commission departing in October 2014 and the European Parliament elections looming in May 2014, Europe will have to start prioritising its own bucket list: the 2013 Commission Work Programme.
It’s a legacy year and there’s clearly a lot on the EU’s plate, ranging from shadow banking to shale gas, and although the Commission and Parliament would like to see every dossier wrapped up before departing next year, choices will have to be made. Certain dossiers will be hastened whilst others may be delayed; both will leave many dissatisfied. Other items on the political agenda will be more fortunate. One dossier, which headlines the bucket list and is certain to be ticked off in 2013 as part of ‘the legacy’, is air quality.
As you know from my previous posts (here and here), Europe dedicated 2013 the ‘Year of Air’ for a reason: 17 of the 27 EU Member States currently fail to meet air pollution standards. According to the European Environment Agency, exceeding legal limits reduces life expectancy of those living in the most polluted cities by approximately two (!) years (on average in Europe, 8.6 months). The on-going, comprehensive review of air policy (the Air Quality Framework Directive and its five daughter directives) looks to address human and environmental health and safety by way of stronger air quality laws addressing emissions at the source, and the Commission has received clear support from stakeholders to do so.
On 4 March, the public consultation on the air policy review closed and results, which are still to be officially published here, were presented at the 5th Stakeholder Expert Group on 3 April. According to speakers, including Thomas Verheye, Head of Unit for Industrial Emissions, Air Quality & Noise at DG Environment, consultation responses were “quite green” and showed that a clear majority of respondents, including the public, experts and national authorities, support:
- Tighter emission controls to ensure compliance with air quality standards;
- 2020 targets under the national emission ceilings directive beyond the Gothenburg Protocol;
- Binding air quality standards for fine particulates (PM2.5) for 2020;
- Closer alignment to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance.
Of note, respondents also emphasised the need to address short-lived climate forcers, such as ozone.
As you remember, the public consultation, together with the REVIHAAP and HRAPIE reports, will feed into the review – this makes the above input very relevant and very important in shaping the Commission’s upcoming air quality proposal. The proposal is very likely, especially following the widespread support voiced in the consultation, to set much stricter standards for both anthropogenic and natural sources of air pollution. With the Commission, as highlighted by Environment Commissioner Potočnik, being absolutely “committed” to the cause, and given other recent setbacks, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be looking to strike off air quality from that bucket list with vengeance.
Expect further updates as we move closer to the publication date: September 2013.
April 19, 2013
Gone are the days where Public Affairs took place in a vacuum. Increasingly, the work of PA professionals must be conducted within the prism of an organisation’s or industry’s broader reputation. This was the message of my presentation at the 2013 European Public Affairs Action Day, now a permanent fixture of the PA calendar.
Speaking at the 21 March event organised by the Parliamentary communications and political information firm, Dods, I explored, through 10 principles and 10 ideas, the way in which PA can adapt to this new paradigm. Admittedly, it’s a tough nut to crack in Brussels as actual reputation management tends to be beyond the remit of Public Affairs. There are however a number of things PA pros in Brussels can do either to mitigate a poor reputation, or harness a good one. Take a closer look at the presentation below.
View the presentation here: EPAD – March 2013
Of particular note, allow me to introduce FH’s “Authenticity Gap” research showing the difference between expectations and experience in the 9 areas we’ve identified as the DNA of authenticity (and thereby trust).
March 26, 2013
Last weekend Italy held its general elections and unfortunately the results are very disappointing as they do not guarantee a stable majority. Uncertainty and instability are, therefore, likely to become an inevitable trend in Italian governance over the coming months, with the potential for negative impacts on Europe given Italy’s prominence at an EU level.
The Italian colleagues in our Brussels office (6 of us!) have prepared an analysis which includes a summary of the results, possible political scenarios and next steps, as well as the potential implications of these results at the EU level.
Find the analysis here.
Have a look and let us know what you think!
February 28, 2013
An interesting article popped up in The New York Times (best paper on earth) feed today. Titled “An Eeerie Silence on Cybersecurity,” this editorial takes a look at the reasons so many American companies have been quiet about cyberattacks on their systems. Fear of stakeholder reaction to disclosures? Reputational fallout? Unwanted government scrunity? Possible lawsuits?
The reality is that industrial espionage, counterfeiting, data theft and data manipulation together cost companies billions of Euros. In the UK alone, the Ministry of Defence puts the cost of cybercrime at over €13 billion per year. And in 2012, 93% of large companies and 75% of small businesses had suffered cybersecurity breaches. However very few of them communicate about it.
In the US, President Obama’s recent executive order on cybersecurity proposes a voluntary sharing of information from business.
But EU proposals released earlier this month go even further.
Alongside an over-arching Cybersecurity Strategy, the European Commission has proposed a Directive with measures to ensure a harmonized level of network and information security across the EU. What does this mean in non-EU jargon? The EU wants its Member States and businesses to be more equally prepared to prevent, detect, respond to and recover from cyber incidents. It singles out a number of sectors which need to boost their preparedness, including:
- “critical” infrastructure operators in energy (oil, gas, electricity), transport (airlines, airports, traffic management, rail, logistics), banking, and healthcare services (electronic medical devices in hospitals and electronic patient records)
- “key” internet companies such as payment services, social networks, search engines, cloud services, apps providers, e-commerce platforms, video sharing platforms and voice-over-Internet providers.
The proposed legislation will oblige companies to be audited for preparedness and to notify national authorities of cyber incidents with a “significant impact.” The Directive also suggests that market operators will be liable regardless of whether or not they carry out the maintenance of their network internally or if they outsource it.
The New York Times editorial makes an interesting point – by keeping quiet, companies are likely making it more difficult for others to protect themselves against increasingly complex attacks. Many industries are not properly prepared. However, it will be important for governments and business to work together in the months to come to reassure industry that their commercial interests are not harmed in the process.
Key internet companies in Brussels have been following EU developments in this area – which are closely linked with EU legislation on telecommunications and data protection. But other sectors, such as energy, transport, financial services and healthcare, should be taking a closer look at what this debate will mean to them. Because in all likelihood, silence will not be an option in Brussels…
For more insight on the EU’s cybersecurity proposals, take a look at this FH Spotlight.
February 27, 2013
Europe is the heart of gastronomy and fine dining no more, as we’ve been unceremoniously thrown off of our moral high-horse. It’s been an unbridled disaster, as day after day the horsemeat story seems to gain speed and just run and run.
So what is this problem that we’ve been saddled with, I hear you ask? It turns out that some people in the meat supply chain have been horsing around and decided to introduce horse meat as part of Europe’s stable diet. Unsurprisingly, this did stirrup some feelings of disgust among many, and everyone has been jockeying for a position to have their voices herd in the stampede of protests.
But why the long face? The mane issue here of course is the shock of it all, as we all feel ungraciously thrown head over heels and many have reported suffering terrible night mares. But hay, no one has been hurt, the human race remains in a stable condition. We don’t really see where the beef really is.
It remanes to be seen how much more fat there is left in the story. Some say that to continue would just be flogging a dead horse and that the best bet would be to rein in the commentary. If you’ve heard enough, don’t worry; the drama may not go on furlong after all. Just let the horse meat story run its course.
EU agriculture ministers are set to discuss the epic foal that is the horsemeat scandal. It’s horses for courses as Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has been selected to chair the Brussels talks. Understandably, he is chomping at the bit to get discussions off to a flyer. There will be a number of competing interests in the arena with reportedly up to 16 countries being affected but many hands make light work. With Euroscepticism rife, let’s hope we don’t fall at the first fence but make it to the finish line.
For many this is the last straw. How can we restore consumer confidence in meat products? That is the equestrian on everybody’s lips. Have your hay below.
Róisín Carlhorse and Jockey Tabner
February 13, 2013