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Daily News – 02.05.2013

EXME 13 / 02.05


02 / 05 / 13

Commission meets EU social partners

Today, the Commission meets with EU-level social partners, representing trade unions, employers and business organisations, to discuss the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The visit marks the first time the Commission as a whole meets with social partners and will allow for a joint reflection on ideas to further fiscal, financial, economic and political integration in the EMU, which has an important social impact. The Commission outlined its vision for the future last November in the Blueprint for a deep and genuine EMU and developed its ideas in two Communications published in March. The meeting comes ahead of the June European Council, when the Presidents of the Commission and Council will present a time-bound roadmap on the future of the EMU. There will be a press point after the meeting with President Barroso and the social partners.

President Barroso receives the new Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta

Today President Barroso received the new Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, in Brussels on his first visit abroad. At a joint press point after the meeting President Barroso said: "We are both firmly convinced that you can only build lasting growth and competitiveness on the back of healthy public finances. Every euro spent on debt is a euro not invested in jobs, not invested in youth, not invested in entrepreneurs or education or research." See also SPEECH/13/378 ; MEMO/13/392).

Improving access to finance for SMEs: key to economic recovery

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will drive the recovery in Europe, but they need improved and easy access to finance. Over the last few years the European Commission has been constantly working to improve their situation. This commitment is reiterated in a joint European Commission/European Investment Bank (EIB) Group report published today. At a time when the situation remains difficult, the EIB Group's support for SMEs reached €13 billion in 2012. In addition, with a budget of €1.1 billion, Commission-funded guarantees helped to mobilise loans worth more than €13 billion, boosting nearly 220 000 small businesses across Europe. Today´s report covers the results of the current funding schemes as well as the new generation of financial instruments for SMEs. Financial resources for SMEs will be significantly enhanced through the €10 billion increase in the EIB’s capital. You can consult MEMO/13/393 to have more information.

Other news

G8 Summit in Lough Erne: media accreditation is open until 6 May

This year's G8 Summit will take place on 17-18 June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will represent the European Union. The UK, as host of the G8 2013 summit, has started the accreditation procedure for media. Journalists can apply for media accreditation until Monday 6 May, 23.59 (Brussels time). For more information, please consult MEMO/13/397 .

Commission publishes Communication on energy technologies and innovation

Today the Commission published a Communication setting out a strategy to enable the EU to have a world-class technology and innovation sector fit for coping with the challenges up to 2020 and beyond. The document stresses the need for accelerating innovation in cutting edge low-carbon technologies and innovative solutions, for reducing costs rapidly and speeding up the introduction of new technologies to the market.

The EU's contribution is to focus on large-scale efforts which go beyond what Member States can achieve alone or bilaterally, promoting innovation through regulation and financing. This should be done exploiting synergies between economic sectors (e.g. energy, ICT, transport, agriculture). The key efforts need to be reflected equally in private sector and Member State investments and the implementation needs to be increasingly based on partnerships allowing the necessary scale and scope.

Among the measures proposed: the development of an Integrated Roadmap addressing the energy system as a whole and measures along the entire innovation chain by the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan stakeholders and the design of Action Plans with Member States.  Energy efficiency is increasing its visibility through creation of a coordination structure for energy efficiency under the Steering Group of the SET Plan, and the promotion of investments in research and innovation.  The Communication is available at:

Commission to recover €230 million of CAP expenditure from the Member States

A total of €230 million of EU agricultural policy funds, unduly spent by Member States, is being claimed back by the European Commission today under the so-called clearance of accounts procedure. However, because some of these amounts have already been recovered from the Member States the financial impact of today's decision will be some €227 million. This money returns to the EU budget because of non-compliance with EU rules or inadequate control procedures on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds.

6 State aids:
1. Commission endorses public service compensation for Belgian post

The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules Belgian plans to compensate the Belgian postal incumbent bpost for discharging a series of public service obligations between 2013 and 2015. The Commission found the measures to be in line with EU state aid rules on services of general economic interest (SGEI), in particular because the aid does not exceed the net cost for providing the public service mission entrusted to bpost.

2. Commission reopens inquiry into the tax aid awarded to EDF following Court judgment

The European Commission has reopened an inquiry into certain tax measures for Electricité de France (EDF) related to the electricity grid. This follows a judgment handed down by the Court of Justice of the European Union (Case C-124/10 P) in June 2012 upholding the annulment of the Commission’s initial decision (see IP/03/1737). The Court confirmed that the Commission should have checked whether a prudent private investor would have acted in the same way as the French authorities. As a result, the Commission has reopened the inquiry and extended its scope in order to cover this aspect. Opening an inquiry does not in any way prejudge the final outcome, it simply gives interested parties the opportunity to submit their observations.

3. Commission opens an in-depth investigation into the restructuring of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group

The European Commission has opened an in‑depth investigation to determine whether the PSA group’s restructuring plan is compatible with the European Union’s state aid rules. The opening of an investigation in no way prejudges its final outcome. It allows interested third parties to submit their comments and increases legal certainty for the aid beneficiary when the Commission adopts its decision.

4. Commission orders France to recover incompatible aid received by SNCM

Following an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that public service compensation which Société nationale Corse-Méditerranée (SNCM) and Compagnie Maritime de Navigation (CMN) have been receiving since 1 July 2007 for “basic” shipping services between Corsica and Marseille to ensure territorial continuity is in line with EU rules on state aid applicable to public services. However, the aid received by SNCM for an “additional service” to cover peak periods during the holiday season does not compensate a real public service need (see MEMO/13/396). These grants have given an unjustified advantage to SNCM, which should therefore hand back the money to the taxpayers. Please consult MEMO/13/396 if you want to have more information.

5. Commission authorises public co-financing of Uppsala arena in Sweden

The European Commission has concluded that the proposed public co-financing of a new multi-purpose arena in Uppsala, Sweden was in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission found that the public funding was both proportional to the objective pursued and limited to the minimum necessary to attain that objective.

6. Commission invites the Netherlands to end selective tax exemption for public companies

The European Commission has formally proposed to the Netherlands to abolish the exemption from corporate tax granted to Dutch public undertakings. The Commission considers that public companies that carry out economic activities in competition with private companies should likewise be subject to corporate tax – just as private companies are. Exempting certain companies merely because they are publicly owned gives them a competitive advantage which cannot be justified under EU state aid rules.

Mergers: Commission clears proposed acquisition of Veolia Transport Central Europe GmbH by Deutsche Bahn Mobility Logistics AG

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Veolia Transport Central Europe GmbH (Veolia TCE) by Deutsche Bahn Mobility Logistics AG (DB), both German companies active in the provision of bus and rail services, among others in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The Commission concluded that the operation would not raise competition concerns, because the merged entity will face a number of credible competitors on all affected markets. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.6818 .