Tim Draper: My Heroes were Gorbachev, Washington and Deng. Now the Estonian President and Prime Minister are on the List too!

One of the world’s most successful venture capitalists, Tim Draper, says that Estonian top statesmen are changing the way governments operate. In the next 15 years we will see awesome changes in governance, he believes. And because of their visionary work, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas join his list of world-changing heroes. Draper spoke about his thoughts right after his speech at the Latitude59 startup conference in Tallinn at the beginning of June.

You mentioned during your speech that next to your three heroes Mikhail Gorbachev, George Washington and Deng Xiaoping you now have two new ones – the President and the Prime Minister of Estonia. That’s a huge compliment. Why them?

Because these other leaders all surrendered their own power for the sake of their people. Deng Xiaoping said ‘Hey, we need a free market here and some of you will get rich first’. That was his thinking. George Washington said: ‘I’m not going to be the king of America and I’m giving it up after eight years’. Gorbachev said, ‘this capitalism works better than communism. Take the wall down!’. They all effectively gave up their power seat in order to build a great country. What I’m seeing here in Estonia is these guys using technology to transform their government in a new way. It’s a new kind of governance. It has the chance to lead us into a new form of government that’s beyond what any of us has ever imagined. They’re pushing forward on it as opposed to most government officials who are afraid of the change.

How do you imagine this new kind of governance?

I think it needs to be as efficient and effective and provide as good services as the private sector does in building anything from this table cloth (he points to the table cloth in front of us during our interview) to that building. I believe the governments are now in competition with one another … but for us. We are now their customers; people, entrepreneurs, money, businesses – all of it. Once they realise they’re in competition, they will all get even more efficient, effective, with lower costs and higher value than what they have today. And your guys in Estonia know that and they know how to use it.

That leads me to ask if there is still a need for physical countries with borders at all? I mean, we already have bitcoin as an independent virtual currency, and different services that don’t comply with traditional governmental regulations.

I wonder! I am not convinced that all of these land-based wars make any sense at all. But there is something to real estate – it is of value. It is one of the many pieces that the government needs to provide. I think it’s here for a while but at some point we as individuals are going to guide these competitive governances toward being more virtual and even being an itemized list. I might take my social security program in Chile, education in Estonia and religious freedom in the US. I think free speech is letting the cat out of bag. We’re all gonna say what we want to say now! (Laughs).

Is it possible that there are going to be entirely new virtual countries that don’t exist now?

Yeah, there already are in fact. There is something called DAO, which is a new virtual country on the blockchain. They use ethereum (a decentralized platform for applications to run as designed without outside interference – ed.) for it and they’re creating their own set of rules and regulations. They are in fact much more efficient than most governments are.

How well aware are you of our e-governance systems such as the e-Residency program?

Well, I’m a member of it. I was the third ever e-resident!

Have you used your e-Residency card?

I haven’t done anything with it yet. I need to set up a bank account and then probably figure out how to fund an Estonian company with it and then maybe buy some real estate.

Do you think it’s going to be a success?

It is pretty exciting. It’s potentially getting to be a significant percentage of Estonia. Down the road people might say this is where I want my taxes to go, my world to be. I want to be a person of the world, not a person of an artificially delineated country. So I think we’re in for some major changes over the next 15 years. We’re going to see amazing things happen in governance.


Let’s talk a little about Draper University, which you established a few years ago. It doesn’t have any accreditation. It’s curriculum takes just 7 weeks to get through and one part of it is even a survival camp with the US Navy SEALs. You do everything 180 degrees opposite of what an accreditation would require. Is Draper University a business for you or a way of giving back to the community?

I’m still figuring that out! So far it has been a way of giving back to the community. I don’t actually believe any business should stay in business if it’s not sustainable. So I need to make sure that it is sustainable, grows and turns a profit. We’ve got to make sure it works that way. We’ve experimented with a lot of different models. Tuition, some sort of work for payment of tuition, a percentage of students’ income for a period of time, for instance two per cent for 10 years. We’ve also funded some of the companies that our students have started and we’ve explored the idea that we would take equity for the tuition. Maybe in 10 years this will kick in and be profitable.

How did you come up with the idea of the curriculum behind it. It sounds so… crazy?

It is a little crazy! I came up with it, because I thought about what it took to be an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is up against all of the existing businesses that are doing whatever that entrepreneur is doing. You’re taking a new technology into a den of lions who don’t want you to succeed. This has happened over and over again. It happened in the car business with Tesla, it happened in telecoms with Skype. We were seeing it with Theranos, a solution which takes two drops of blood from your finger for really difficult diagnostics. When you break into an industry which is so controlled by an oligopoly of providers who are generally providing bad service at a high cost, you’re gonna threaten their existence. They’re not gonna be happy with you being there obviously, and you need to know how to stand up against that. It’s very difficult. So we give those entrepreneurs some help and support.

Did you go through the curriculum yourself with all the survival challenges and test with the Navy SEALs?

I would never force my students to do something that I wouldn’t do.

One part of the curriculum is called urban survival and includes getting a job offer on paper in 24 hours. How many job offers would you get in 24 hours?

Oh I haven’t done that! Good point – I have to do that myself now! I thought that it would be a piece of cake for me and so unfair, because I could probably get a job with one e-mail.

In a way you are teaching people how to make mistakes. Right?

Yes, and do things that are not socially acceptable. It’s tough to break in and say I’m gonna transform a government or finance industry or medicine. People will attack you. They will sue you, they’ll call on government lobbies, line up with competitors. They’ll do anything to get you out of the way.

So what’s your favourite mistake?

It’s a good question. I’m trying to figure out which company I backed by mistake. I’m sure there are a few… (Laughs). Well, you know, I like the ‘mistake’ of deciding that VC could be done outside of Silicon Valley. Most of my compatriots would say that VC should stay in a 20-mile radius of wherever you are. But I’ve now got a network of venture capitalists around the world.

VCs from Silicon Valley don’t pay much attention outside of US usually.

I know and I think it’s at their own peril. They’re missing something.

How much do you look at what’s happening in Europe, Scandinavia, Baltics?

I look a lot. I’ve backed a few European startups, but disproportionally I’ve backed lots of Asian startups. My fund is 70 per cent US, 30 per cent outside. I believe that this latter category is gonna be 20 per cent Asia, six per cent Europe and four per cent other regions.

Why’s that?

There is a lot of innovation and activity going on in Asia. The excitement there is extraordinary, the work ethic is extraordinary. They are working incredibly hard. I’m hoping that the governments in Asia see the light and use a light touch in order to allow people to be free. If they don’t, it will clamp down pretty quickly. In Europe I’m seeing sort of an awakening. It’s like a mole coming out of the ground and all of the sudden they’re saying that, hey we can start a business!

What are the three words that Europeans should forget?

Impossible, realistic – people say ‘let’s be realistic’ and that basically puts a damper on any brainstorming – and humble. They need to be bold.

Are these three words typical for Europeans?

Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed and they all use these three words a lot. In the US you almost never hear these words and certainly never in China. How would China require the word ‘realistic’ as part of their lexicon when over the last 10 years they’ve transformed into this amazing country, from a completely impoverished one.

It might be similar to Estonia in the 1990s when we got free again.

Yeah, it might be a similar case for Estonia but not all of Europe.

You raised a new US$ 190 million fund recently that pays much attention to fintech, medicine and government startups. Why these industries?

We are looking for investments into industries that have lagged behind in being transformed by technology.

But why have they lagged? Because of opposition from the old industries?

Usually it’s a question of government controls. Heavily-regulated industries have lagged in technology, because technology comes along and it doesn’t comply with all sorts of regulations.

What makes you think it’s going to get moving now?

One industry after another is being transformed. Once there was just the post office and then hotmail came along. There were the regular telecoms companies then, Skype came along. There was the traditional music industry; guess what, Kazaa and Napster came along. Car companies in their turn saw Tesla appearing. These industries have thus all been transformed. Now there are others that haven’t – yet. These include fintech, government, education, medicine, healthcare and logistics.

You’re also a huge bitcoin enthusiast. What kind of effect do you think it will have in financial industries?

Bitcoin is going to transform finance industry including my industry – venture capital.

When is it going to make a universal breakthrough?

It’s already being used as a currency throughout Africa, and as means for remittance throughout the world. Whenever you can’t get your money out of the country, bitcoin is a great way to do so. China is using it. When you have to make a payment to lots of people on regular basis, you push a button and everybody has a bitcoin wallet and voila, they just get the money.

Actually a special course was just started in 10 Estonian high schools; Balaji Srinivasan is teaching Estonian pupils bitcoin app programming. If the pilot succeeds it might be universal in all of Estonian high schools very soon.

Oh my god! This country is so far ahead! That’s amazing!!
Tim Draper

• Born11 June, 1958 in San Francisco
• Tim Draper is an American venture capital investor, and 1985 founder of the firm that would become Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ). The cofounder of DFJ Steve Jurvetson has Estonian roots.
• Draper is also the founder of Draper Associates and Draper University.
• DFJ and Draper’s personal funds have invested in dozens of startups that have gone on to become ‘unicorns’ – ie. worth at least US$1 billion. Among other startups, Draper was an early investor in such notables as Skype, Hotmail, Tesla, controversial medical company Theranos, Twitter, Tumblr and Baidu.
• In 2013 Draper established the Draper University of Heroes.
• Tim Draper’s net worth is estimated to be around US$1 billion.

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Louis Zezeran: Stand-up Comedy Importer Supreme

Even if you’ve only just arrived here in Estonia, you’re more than likely to have already come across a poster, seen an image at Tallinn Airport, or just noticed through your peripheral vision one of the many other creative representations of Louis Zezeran – founder, integral force, and one of the best-known personalities behind Comedy Estonia.

As part of a developing company that has grown in leaps and bounds in the past few years, Louis is a busy man – but in getting the opportunity to chat with him, he proves to be a warm, intelligent and endearing person, who is as funny and full of wit in person as he is on stage. So it’s no wonder that he’s gotten several gigs around Estonia (and elsewhere), including most notably (besides Comedy Estonia) as the ‘Work in Estonia Guy’, perhaps his best-known guise to the wider world. This is in addition to his recent role during this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, as the face and voice of the media coverage for Azerbaijan’s Samra!

Sitting down with Louis to find out how Comedy Estonia became the biggest player on the Estonian comedy scene, he is enthusiastic as he laughs throughout his story. Though he hails from outside Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia, he’s been an active part of the Swedish, Finnish and Estonian comedy scenes for longer than many may have guessed.

Originally arriving in Estonia as a backpacker over a decade ago, Louis spent many years living between here and various other Nordic countries while working in the IT field. Estonia had already made its way into his heart though, ‘because it was one of the first places we came to, we spent more time here, so we spent some weeks in Tallinn, and some days in Pärnu and I think I just kind of liked it from the beginning. I like living here,’ he says.


This IT background of his raises an important question though – how does someone make what appears to be a huge leap, from techie to front stage?

Delving a little deeper, Louis admits that at least a little credit should go to his first IT bosses back in Australia: ‘I got a first class honours degree in computer science from the University of Newcastle and I then worked for a few years as an IT consultant in Sydney. During that time I was mainly involved in IT training, as I guess my boss quickly worked out I was better at talking than sitting down doing projects!’

It wasn’t as simple as just that though. After working in ‘his’ field for a few years, some friends invited him to their student theatre production. ‘I had literally never been to the theatre before in my life. So I went and I enjoyed the show and it was their final night and I had nothing to do so I stayed around, helped them pack up and partied with them. I enjoyed being around these people, they were unlike anyone I’d met before, fun, emotional, outgoing, artistic. I started to work on a show myself … I figured if I could run an IT project I could run a theatre one,’ Louis explains.

After about three months of that, Louis had quit his full time job and was just producing theatre and doing IT jobs on the side, and it is clear through the passionate and emphatic way he talks about this experience that he owes a lot of credit to this phase in his life.

‘I enjoyed the influence those people gave me and I gave some stability to them in return. I became the lead of publicity for the group [and] many of the ideas I got then we went on to use in the early days of Comedy Estonia,’ he explains.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Louis was pretty easily sold when he found an innovative way to combine his entrepreneurial edge, his comedic and theatre background, and his love for Estonia.

‘I started to run a comedy club in Stockholm, Sweden and that went well for a couple of months and because I already had an association with Estonia, a [American] chap called Eric Seufert reached out to me. We started to talk, and then went “why don’t we do a comedy show, let’s do a comedy show in Estonia!” and it grew from that inspiration. We didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know how it would come out.’

The very first set of shows the pair put on were open-mic nights (where newcomers can try out stand-up alongside more experienced acts) in Tartu’s Eduard Vilde Inn & Cafe.

After lining up Joe Eagan, a Canadian headliner Louis had known from his days in Sweden, and committing to three shows, Louis chuckles as he recalls that they guessed that maybe 40 people would attend. So it was quite a surprise when, as it turned out, over 150 people showed up for the opening, with dozens more streaming in as the night went on.

Their Tartu story still rings true today, more than six years later, which is without doubt a good sign for any type of organization. When I personally went to check out one of their open-mic nights at Protest Bar in Tallinn there must have been well over 100 people there by the time I arrived.

Comedy Estonia has showcased international acts from day one, and they have been putting some extra power behind this recently, with a very well-received [Sgt. Larvelle Jones from the Police Academy movies] Michael Winslow show in March, a six-city-tour of the Baltics with British superstar Jimmy Carr that started on 15 May, and have just announced a show featuring the musical comedy genius of Bill Bailey, taking place on 2 October this year.

One of the best aspects of Comedy Estonia though, and perhaps the main reason they are still bringing in such huge audience numbers, is that they are true to their brand name. Comedy Estonia is primarily for Estonian audiences, rather than ‘expats’, and Louis tells me that: ‘I have always been quite proud that our shows have not fallen into the trap of being simply expat hangouts. Yes there are inevitably quite a few non-Estonians in the audience, but still the vast majority are Estonians at these shows.’

Louis-Zezeran2 Silver Raidla 2015

It seems a little daunting to me in how an outsider – both from the country and its language, could enjoy the success Comedy Estonia has had, so Louis elaborates for me a little more.

‘From the beginning, I have had very good employees who know the Estonian culture and tell me what I need to know, and so we do the right things based on the Estonian approach. While Comedy Estonia is run by an expat, or a foreigner if you like, I believe that our marketing and what we’ve done has been directed by Estonians, and towards Estonian sensibilities … I rely greatly on my employees, and I think that any foreign businessman has to do that, ie. to rely on good, trusted local people to tell them what they don’t know themselves.’

But what of the humour content itself, how does that go over in Estonia? Stand-up has but one golden rule: the coarser the joke, the better should it be. Estonians tend to like black humour and sarcasm in particular. Louis knows that if an Estonian audience doesn’t like the joke they won’t heckle. They just remain stoically quiet. And this icy silence is perhaps way worse than being heckled. But then again, if they laugh, it comes from the heart.
Louis also appreciatively points out how open Estonians are to other languages, and in fact the problem was never that he was English-speaking, as the majority of the regular comedians are Estonians, but that it was Estonians’ own self-scepticism which was coming to the fore: ‘I feel like I spent the first three years of comedy Estonia having everyone go: “You can’t do stand up in Estonian, it won’t work” and I’m like “why? It works in Finnish, it isn’t a grammatical issue, there is no technical issue … can you have a conversation in the language? – Yes? Then you can do stand up in that language!”’

It surely looks as though Estonia is starting to come round to Louis’ point of view as well. The recent ETV televised showing of their m‘Tõuske püsti!’ (Eng: ‘Stand up!’) comedy special just this last New Year was so well received that they were able to use it as a launch pad for an impressive 13-show, solo tour for up-and-coming young Estonian comedian Sander Õigus.

According to Louis, all of this ties into his future plans for the company. When I ask him for more details, he tells me his goal is to keep developing local Estonian comedians: ‘I really believe in these guys, I think we’ve got a really great crew. And I really think they are going to be the next generation of entertainers in the public spotlight.’

He also fully believes in the businesses’ cultural mandate: a commitment to nurturing the stand-up comedy scene and making genuine, sustainable, long-term growth. ‘To me, we are growing slowly and steadily because we want to still be around in 10 or 15 years. We’re not trying to be some flash in the pan, something that comes and goes and gets forgotten about. So we think very long term,’ he explains.

It’s not all ‘talk’ either, they’ve already diversified quite a bit. In addition to this, Louis is also active in bringing stand-up to the other two Baltic states with Comedy Latvia and a partnership with Humoro Klubas in Lithuania, as well as another concern in Finland, and a number of other outlets as well. They even produce their own speciality beer for the shows, called Heckle! and brewed by Estonian craft beer company Lehe, and the team produce a number of fantastic podcasts and a great online radio show with Tartu Radio too. All of which is done in an effort to increase the personal development of each and every comedian, as well as Louis himself.

As Louis says, Comedy Estonia aims to ‘Chase respect, not popularity’ – in his opinion the former will lead to the latter, but not necessarily the other way around.

I, for one, can truly say that I think Comedy Estonia, and Louis, have thoroughly earned both monikers. To highlight this fact they also selflessly focus on keeping ticket prices as low as possible – in fact this is one of Comedy Estonia’s mandates, also helped by the fact much of the audience consists of young professionals and students. In short, they want people to immediately be able to say: ‘Yes! I’m going to go to a show!’ rather than having to pick and choose based on price.

So I urge everyone to take the opportunity to check them out. You can follow the schedule of shows on their website at www.comedyestonia.com or their Facebook page, where they frequently post information on upcoming or regular shows.

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Commission calls for renewed commitment to Roma integration

Today, the Commission adopted its annual report on Roma integration.

This year’s assessment provides, for the first time, an overview of the measures put in place by Member States following the 2013 Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures, which required them to develop National Roma Integration strategies to promote access of Roma to education, employment, healthcare and housing.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, said: “Roma are part of our societies, and they are part of Europe. This report comes as a timely reminder for Member States to show more political determination and implement their commitments to integrate Europe’s Roma communities. Member States should use to the full the relevant policy, legal and financial tools to ensure equal opportunities and Roma inclusion.”

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “There is still more to be done for Roma inclusion in all areas, from education to housing or employment. In the past year, there have been some positive developments, especially in the area of education. At the same time, educational segregation of Roma children persists in some Member States and the Commission had to take action to make sure anti-discrimination legislation is enforced.

The Commission has stepped up its efforts to ensure correct implementation of anti-discrimination legislation towards Roma, including at local level, by launching infringement procedures when legislation, such as the Racial Equality Directive is not properly enforced, notably in education. The Commission is supporting the implementation of the Member States’ National Roma integration strategies by providing funding under the European Structural and Investment Fund(ESIF) for 2014-2020.

The report shows that Member States have achieved progress in a number of areas, but more efforts are still needed:

  • Member States invested in education as a means of integration: the majority of Member States reported measures relevant to early childhood education and care, early school leaving, inclusive education and individualised support. But not enough measures were taken against the exclusion from the workplace and forced evictions of Roma have continued in 2015 without any offer of alternative housing.
  • Better use of EU funds for the integration of marginalised communities:The European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds support social inclusion measures for marginalised communities, the regeneration of deprived urban areas and investments in human capital.Several Member States introduced a specific investment priority for the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma, under the European Structural and Investment Fund(ESIF) It allows for explicit targeting and better monitoring of results. National contact points have also facilitated the distribution of the funding.
  • Closer cooperation with civil society and local authorities:Several Member States have established coordination structures for Roma integration, involving diverse stakeholders. National strategies are increasingly translated into local action plans, and the National Roma Contact Points are more closely involved in making the best use of EU funds. The Commission will support Member States in developing national platforms for Roma inclusion to ensure a more effective cooperation on the ground.

The Commission calls on Member States to step up efforts to enforce anti-discrimination legislation and eliminate segregation in education and housing to prevent forced evictions. The Commission urges Member States to demonstrate greater political will and a long-term vision to combat discrimination of Roma people. 


Horizontal measures to fight discrimination

Measures recommended by the Council Member States that have reported a measure
Ensure effective practical enforcement of the Racial Equality Directive BE, BG, CZ, DE, FI, HR, IT, LT, SI, SK, UK
Implement desegregation measures regionally and locally ES, HR, SK
Ensure that forced evictions are in full compliance with EU law and international human rights obligations -
Raise awareness about the benefits of Roma integration AT, ES, LV
Raise public awareness of the diverse nature of societies, sensitise public opinion to Roma inclusion AT, DE, ES, LV, PT, SI, SK,
Combat anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speech AT, DE, ES, HR, SE, SK
Combat multiple discrimination of Roma children and women AT, CZ, DE, ES, HR, HU, PT, SE, SI, SK
Fight (domestic) violence against women and girls AT, DE, EL, ES, FI, HR, HU, UK
Fight trafficking in human beings AT, BG, HR, HU, IT
Fight underage and forced marriages, and begging involving children SI
Support the active citizenship of Roma by promoting their social, economic, political and cultural participation AT, BE, BG, CZ, DE, ES, FI, HR, HU, LT, LV, PT, SE, SI SK, UK
Promote the training and employment of qualified mediators BE, BG, CZ, ES, HR, PT, SI
Raise rights awareness among Roma AT, DE, ES, HR
Other BE, BG, FR, HU, HR, IT, LV PT, UK

Education access

Measures recommended by the Council Member States that have reported a measure
Eliminate segregation BE, BG, ES, IE, IT, RO, SI, SK
End misplacement in special needs schools BG, CZ, SK
Fight early school leaving AT, BE, BG, CY, DE, ES, FI, FR, HR, HU, IT, RO, SE, SK, UK
Promote access to and quality of early childhood education and care AT, BG, CZ, ES, FI, HR, HU, IT, PL, RO, SK
Provide individualised support AT, CZ, DE, ES, HR, IT, LT, LV, PL, RO, SK, UK
Promote inclusive teaching and learning methods AT, BG, CY, CZ, DE, ES, HR, HU, LV, PT, RO, SI,SK, UK
Encourage parental involvement and teacher training AT, BE, BG, CY, DE, ES, FI, IT, LV, SI, SK
Promote participation and completion of secondary and higher education AT, BG, CZ, DE, ES, FI, HR, HU, PL, UK
Widen access to second-chance education and adult learning UK, BG, CY, DE, ES, SI
Other BE, CZ, ES, FI, DE, HR, HU, IT, LT, LV, RO, SI, SK, UK

Employment access

Measures recommended by the Council Member States that have reported a measure
Support first work experience, vocational training, on-the-job training and lifelong learning AT, BE, BG, DE, EL, ES, FI, HR, HU, IT, LT, LV, PL, PT,SI, SK, UK
Support self-employment and entrepreneurship AT, BE, BG, ES, HR, HU, LT, SI, SK
Provide equal access to mainstream public employment services with individualised support AT, BE, BG, DE, ES, FR, HR, HU, IT, LV, PT, SE, SI, SK
Eliminate barriers, including discrimination, to (re)entering the labour market AT, FI, DE, ES, HR, HU, LT, SK, UK
Other BE, CZ, EL, HU, LT, PT, RO, SK

Healthcare access

Measures recommended by the Council Member States that have reported a measure
Remove barriers to access the healthcare system AT, BE, BG, CZ, DE, ES, FI, FR, HU, LT, PL,RO, SE, SI, SK, UK
Improve access to medical check-ups, pre- and postnatal care, family planning, etc. AT, BG, DE, ES, IT, PL, SI, SK
Promote access to free vaccination programmes targeting children, and the most disadvantaged groups and areas AT, BE, BG, DE, ES, HU, PL, RO, SI, SK
Promote health awareness AT, BG, CZ, DE, ES, FI, HR, HU, IT, PL, SI, SK
Other BE, BG, EL, ES, FI, HR, IT, LT, PL, SK

Housing access

Measures recommended by the Council Member States that have reported a measure
Eliminate any spatial segregation and promote desegregation CZ, HU, ES, IT, RO
Promote non-discriminatory access to social housing AT, BE, BG, CZ, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, SK, UK
Provide halting sites for non-sedentary Roma AT, BE, FR, UK
Ensure access to public utilities ES, HR, RO, SI
Other AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, HR, HU, IT, LT, PL, PT, RO, SK

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Speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker to the plenary session of the European Parliament on the result of the referendum in the United Kingdom

Mr President, Madam Chair of the Council, Honourable Members,

Mr President, the Parliament is about to discuss the future of Europe and the place of the United Kingdom within Europe and the European Union. I had a lot of meetings this morning, but I decided to come to the European Parliament because I believe that today, right now, my place is here, at the heart of democracy.

Our British friends have spoken, by universal suffrage. The expression of the will of the British majority has to be respected by all. Democracy is democracy and we must respect British democracy and the view that has been expressed.

The choice of the British people must be respected. Expression there was, and consequences there are. So I am asking for clarification, not immediately, because the British system is more complicated than one might think, but as soon as is possible. There was a vote, now there is hesitation. Lord Hill, my friend, my brother, has drawn his conclusions. He is a true democrat.

I would like others to draw the conclusions of the expression of the British popular will. I have read and heard that the President of the Parliament and the Presidents of the parliamentary groups, with a few exceptions, have responded with emotion to the result of the British referendum. Indeed, Europe is more than just a matter of the head. Yes, we must remain rational, but when we are sad, we should be allowed to say as much. I am saddened by this British vote and I make no secret of it. This isn’t sentimentality, it is my profound conviction. I would have liked the United Kingdom to stay forever by our side, with us. It has decided otherwise. We must accept the consequences.

The Prime Minister, whom I will be seeing later this morning, remains a friend, because the British remain our friends despite the vote. I will be asking the UK Government to clarify the situation as rapidly as is possible for them to do — not today, not tomorrow at 9 a.m., but soon. We cannot remain in a prolonged state of uncertainty.

Unlike others, I am not a slave to the financial markets, but I observe them. And they show an indication of a general sentiment that is global. As I just said, I would like the United Kingdom to clarify its position. And I would not like the idea to gain ground that there could be secret negotiations, in darkened rooms behind drawn curtains, between representatives from the United Kingdom, national governments, Commissioners, and Directors-General. I have forbidden Commissioners from holding discussions with representatives from the British Government — by Presidential order, which is not my style. I have told all the Directors-General that there cannot be any prior discussions with British representatives. No notification, no negotiation.

Through the expression of British universal suffrage, we have lost one of our many wings. There are the wings of the founding Member States, who do not enjoy any more rights than the others simply because they launched the project, for they do not carry it alone. The others, the ‘new Member States’, are fully-fledged Member States, and I applaud once again this unification, the reconciliation between European geography and history.

The British vote has clipped some of our many wings. But our flight goes on. We will not halt our journey into the future. New horizons await. And we are flying towards horizons that are those of Europe and of the entire planet.

Make no mistake, those who are watching us from afar are concerned. I have met and listened to several leaders. They are very worried because they are wondering about the course the European Union will take. So we must reassure Europeans and those who are watching us from further away.

We will carry on. Not into an unknown adventure, but towards an objective pre-determined by the Treaties and by the will of many Europeans. Our project goes on, and although the British vote may have slowed us down a little, we must continue our course towards the objectives we share with renewed ambition.

Just imagine if the Commission had not put its ten priorities to Parliament, and if Parliament had not endorsed them by a majority. What reply would we give our British friends? It would be the Commission’s programme. Does the British vote mean that we are going to cease our efforts — generally recognised but not always appreciated — to put an end to excessive regulation in Europe? No. We are going to continue to fight against what the British and others call ‘red tape’. We need less bureaucracy in Europe, we are in the process of bringing that about and will continue to do so.

As a Commission, we have said that social Europe will be restored to its rightful pre-eminent position in Europe. We have launched a wide-ranging consultation on the social rights pillar — do you really want us to abandon this project following the British vote? No. Europe must become more socially-minded, and it will.

As a Commission, we have put an end to blind unilateralism that demanded that austerity alone would be our response to economic, financial and social crisis. We have introduced a more flexible interpretation of the Stability Pact, more flexible in the best sense of the word. Do you really want the British vote to take us back to the world as it was before this Commission took office? No. the Stability Pact must be applied with wisdom and with compassion. We will do that.

We have launched a plan for the Energy Union. Do you really want — because everyone says ‘things must change’ without ever saying precisely what must change — do you really want us to put an end to this continental effort to sever our dependence on Russia and to safeguard energy supplies in Europe? No. We will carry on down this path.

Our aim was to modernise Europe. We have said so on numerous occasions. That is why we have launched an ambitious project on the EU’s digital future. Must we change everything? Must we change all that? No. Take it from me, on this, the Commission will continue on the course we set, with the agreement of Parliament, at the start of our mandate.

And yet — even if everything must change — the Commission feels strengthened in its resolve, largely thanks to the support of this Parliament, to continue the course on which we embarked in November 2014.

Things must change — yes, but we must not change the essentials. And the essentials are that Europe must continue to be project for peace, a project for the future. That is my promise to this Assembly. I am neither tired nor ill, as some German papers claim — apparently today’s doctors work in journalism. I am who I am, and until my last breath I shall fight for a united Europe for, a better Europe.

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The situation is serious. I like to listen to those who say we need to react carefully and thoughtfully. I am — and this will surprise some people — a very careful and thoughtful man. But I do not like uncertainty. I would like our British friends to tell us now what is going on and to tell us as soon as possible.

On Friday morning I met President Schulz, President Tusk and Prime Minister Rutte and we agreed to ask our British friends to clarify the situation as quickly as possible.

I am somewhat surprised. I — the man regularly described in the United Kingdom as undemocratic, an anonymous bureaucrat, a technocrat, a machine that acts, a robot — am prepared to accept the vote of the British people, but people in Britain are having great difficulty doing the same. I find that a very surprising turn of events. I respect the view expressed by the British people. I would also like people in Great Britain to respect the view of the British people and to react accordingly, instead of now indulging in shadow boxing and playing cat and mouse, which is what is happening now. This is not interpreting the will of the electorate, the interpretation of the will of the electorate is perfectly clear: the British would like to leave the European Union, and people should act on that basis.

And I am totally opposed — let me make this quite clear – it cannot be right for the current British Government or the future British Government to seek to begin informal secret negotiations in darkened rooms. That is not going to happen. I have done something I rarely do and instructed all Commissioners and Directors-General that no secret negotiations must take place. That cannot be happen.

But of course we must realise, as a matter of common sense, that we have to establish and develop a new relationship with Great Britain. What this new relationship will look like will depend not only on the as yet unknown negotiating stance of the British negotiators; it also depends on us. It is we who set the agenda, not those who want to leave the European Union.

The European dream still exists. And we will have to work with determination and persistence, with renewed energy and with a revival of continental ambition. Now is not the time for navel-gazing — neither for us, nor for the United Kingdom. But what we need is a view of the whole continental picture — that is what the Commission always bears in mind. And we should think back, although this sounds old-fashioned — but after all I’m often called an old-fashioned veteran — what was behind the birth of the European dream? Peace. That is not dead and forgotten. Europe remains a project for peace. And I would like to say to the young people, in Britain too, where the majority of them voted to remain in the European Union: now is not the time for the continent to fragment again. At the start of the 20th century, 20% of the world’s population were European; by the end of the century Europeans will make up only 4% of a total population of 10 billion. We are not the dominant world power. Europe’s share of global value creation will decline dramatically and we are the smallest continent — we need to remember these three things.

Europe cannot be explained just by looking backwards. That was true for my father’s generation but it is no longer true for young people growing up who tomorrow will animate our societies and rule our countries. Europe’s future belongs to its youth.

Thank you.

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The cost of traffic congestion for the country will hit €1.28 billion per year in 2050 if no changes to transport policies are made, according to an estimate published in Transport Malta’s 2050 strategy document.

This figure would mean a loss of 8.2 per cent of Malta’s GDP, Transport Malta said.

The document identified road transport as the main source of polluting particulate matter and noise, as well as significant levels of other pollutants like nitrogen oxides, due to Malta’s heavy car dependency and its comparatively old car fleet.

Transport Malta’s strategy identified shortcomings in proper planning and the lack of a holistic traffic plan coupled with the lack of an integrated transport network.

The strategy document also explored the effects of climate change on Malta by 2050, saying that transport planning should take into account the effects that climate change will have on the transport infrastructure. The sea level, which is expected to have risen by 14cm by 2050, will cause “some problems” in roads located on the coast or flood areas, or where road drainage is not properly designed and maintained, Transport Malta said.

Besides the strategy plan, Transport Malta also launched a transport master plan leading up to 2025, identifying the need for traffic master plans in Paceville and St Julian’s, the Mrieħel area and Sliema, calling for the development of a national cycling strategy as well as a plan to introduce more financial incentives to reduce the average age of cars.

It also proposed the introduction of low emission zones for areas in which air pollution from vehicles is at dangerous levels for public health.

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Lithuania is interested to maintain closest possible EU-UK relations

“Lithuania is interested to maintain the closest possible relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, particularly in the areas of foreign policy, security and internal market”, said Prime Minister AlgirdasButkevičius on the British referendum outcomes, respecting the will expressed by the UK citizens not to relate their country’s future with the European Union membership.

Hoping that the UK will remain a close partner of the EU in all key areas, the Prime Minister underlines Lithuania’s support for the European Union, its ideas and values.

“We take care of all our fellow countrymen who live abroad, therefore we will do our best to defend the interests of the Lithuanian citizens in future negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom”, said the Prime Minister.

According to the Head of Government, it is too early to speak about the potential specific impact of the UK decision on business, as there is still a long way to go as regards the EU-UK cooperation nuances. The Government will seek to involve businesses in the efforts to defend our country’s economic interests in future meetings and consultations.

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Close EU-British cooperation to be formed

Close EU-British cooperation must be formed even after the departure of Britain from the EU, and bilateral relations, too, must be further developed, SzabolcsTakács, the State Secretary responsible for EU affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office said in Luxembourg, upon speaking to Hungarian journalists by telephone after the meeting of the ministers of EU Member States responsible for European affairs.

MrTakács underlined: we must draw the conclusions as to why such a large proportion of Britain’s population took the view that they would be better off outside the EU. We must start a profound, joint assessment in order to understand what the main problem of the British people was, he said.

He informed the press that the British minister responsible for EU affairs attending the meeting described immigration as the number one problem. In this context, British electors were of the opinion that they did not receive reassuring and convincing answers which also took their views into consideration.

Discussing and working out the details of „where to go from here” will be the duty of the summit of heads of state and government scheduled to take place in Brussels next week, he said. In reference to the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, he added: it will be reasonable to negotiate the terms of Britain’s exit once there is a British government with a strong, legitimate authorisation in place to negotiate with its partners from the European Union.

MrTakács further reported that the countries of origin and transit countries affected by migration should be treated as a particular priority, as underlined by the Hungarian party at the migration debate of the Friday meeting. We must come to an agreement with them in order to set up asylum-seeker registration centres, so-called hot spots operated by the EU, in their territories, so that a decision can be made already there as to who is eligible to enter the territory of the European Union.

The European Union is able to cooperate with them in the fields of trade, investment, visa and development policy if they, too, help with resolving the migration crisis, the State Secretary stressed.

MrTakács highlighted: we should not concentrate on how to handle, but rather on how to stop migration.

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Danish economycontinues progress despite modest growth

The Danish economy continues its progress, and unemployment is now on a 40-year low except from the years 2007 and 2008 when the labour market was overheated. Since the turnaround in the fall of 2012, employment in the private sector has increased by 82,000 persons. This is documented in the Economic Survey released by the finance minister Claus HjortFrederiksen today.

The improvement in the labour market leads to increased optimism among consumers and businesses.

Hence, it is time to gradually roll back the fiscal stimulus that has boosted the economy during the downturn and has led to a currently high level of public spending in historical terms.

At the same time the growth challenge must be addressed as low productivity growth hampers the economy’s ability to grow at the same pace as employment.

We are still heading in the right direction. Thus it is also important that we as a responsible government start rolling back fiscal stimulus. The falling oil price and the many refugees, who have come to Denmark, have put pressure on public finances, and hence it is important that we use the recovery to maintain sound public finances says finance minister Claus HjortFrederiksen and continues:

At the same time, the Government is determined on creating better conditions for increased productivity in the private sector in order to strengthen the Danish growth potential. This is at the top of the agenda for the Government this fall, alongside the second phase of the job reform, which will ensure better incentives to work.

Facts: Highlights from the Economic Survey, December 2016

  • The Danish economy is in a moderate upturn. Measured by GDP growth, the pace is not high but clear progress is observed in the labour market. The conditions for further progress in demand and production in the coming years are in place. GDP growth is estimated to be 1.1 per cent in 2016 and 1.7 per cent in 2017.
  • The growth projection has been revised down compared to the Economic Survey from December. This is primarily due to a lower starting point for GDP growth this year as a result of a weak second half of 2015 and slightly less optimistic expectations for growth in the global economy.
  • There has been progress in the labour market since end-2012. This is expected to continue over the forecast horizon, implying 52,000 more persons will be in a job in 2017 compared to 2015. There is room for an increase in employment in the coming years, without causing serious bottlenecks or general labour shortages. This is due to the prospects for a substantial increase in structural employment, which should be seen especially in the light of recent years’ reform efforts.
  • The basis for continued progress is good. Growth in private consumption reflects among other things increasing real wages and progress in the labour market. Along with increasing housing prices this contributes to creating room for rising consumption and housing investments. Private investments are supported by low interest rates and higher demand, but uncertainty about future growth prospects may lead companies to postpone some investments a while longer.
  • Exports fell last year, but they are expected to grow again during the forecast period, supported in particular by progress among Denmark’s largest trading partners, including Germany and other euro-area countries.
  • The progress in the Danish economy entails a narrowing of the output gap over the forecast horizon implying a projected gap of -0.7 per cent of GDP in 2017 compared to -1.4 per cent of GDP in 2015. The employment gap is also expected to be reduced. This reflects that there will gradually be fewer spare resources available on the Danish labour market
  • The narrowing of the output gap implies that accommodative fiscal policy must be gradually rolled back and normalised. Since the monetary policy stance is expected to remain very expansionary throughout the forecast period this increases in itself the need for tightening fiscal policy. The structural deficit is projected to be reduced from 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2015 to 0.4 per cent of GDP in 2016 and 2017. This includes the technical reduction of public consumption from the December forecast of DKK 2 bn. in 2017.
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EU Commission approves acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts by Marriott

The European Commission has cleared the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts by Marriott International, both of the US. The Commission found that the takeover would not adversely affect competition in Europe.

Commissioner for Competition, Margaret Vestager, said “This is an important merger for the hotel industry and its customers. Our investigation confirmed that the hotel sector will remain competitive for customers in Europe following the merger, so I am pleased that the Commission was able to clear the transaction quickly”.

Both companies are mainly active as managers and franchisors of hotels worldwide. At global level, more than 4 500 hotels in 85 countries operate under a Marriott brand and about 1 300 hotels in nearly 100 countries under a Starwood one.

The Commission assessed the impact of the proposed acquisition on competition in Europe in the market for hotel accommodation services and in the markets for hotel management and hotel franchising services.

For hotel accommodation services, the Commission investigation focused on the markets for 4 and 5-star hotels, in which both companies have a significant presence. In particular, the Commission investigated the impact of the proposed acquisition in five cities, namely Barcelona, Milan, Venice, Vienna and Warsaw, where the combined market presence of Marriott and Starwood was strongest. In each of these cities, the merged entity will continue to face effective competition from chain hotels and independent hotels.

For hotel management and hotel franchising services, the Commission investigated the impact of the proposed acquisition at the level of the European Economic Area. The Commission found that the merged entity would face effective competition in Europe from a number of competitors on all those markets, including Accor, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG.

The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns.

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 23 May 2016.

Merger control rules and procedures

The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.

The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has a total of 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).

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GE Healthcare has announced a USD 100 million investment in its bioprocessing manufacturing facility in Uppsala, Sweden.

This new investment will double the plant’s current production capacity for chromatography resins, which are used in the manufacture of cancer-fighting monoclonal antibodies and other biological drugs, by the end of 2018.

The technologies manufactured at GE’s Uppsala plant, which has one of the world’s largest installed capacity for the production of chromatography resins, can increase drug purity and improve process economy – helping pharmaceutical companies to succeed within an increasingly complex manufacturing landscape.

At present, the facility produces 250 different types of chromatography resin used in the purification of more than 90 percent of FDA-approved biopharmaceuticals and employs around 1200 highly-skilled people in manufacturing, research and development, and other support functions. In total, GE Healthcare employs 1600 employees in Sweden at the company’s sites in Uppsala and Umeå.

- The GE plant in Uppsala is a critical asset for the company and plays a key role in biopharmaceutical manufacturing worldwide, says Jan Erneberg, Operations General Manager, GE Healthcare.

- This expansion is a reflection of what and how we have delivered in the past in support of our customers, as well as an opportunity for us to grow with an evolving and innovative industry, for many years to come.

This significant investment will position GE Healthcare globally for growth in developing technologies for precision medicine and the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals.

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