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Daily News – 05.08.2010

EXME 10 / 05.08

Midday Express of 2010-08-05

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication

Statement by the EC, ECB, and IMF on the First Review Mission to Greece

Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Athens during Ju7ly 26-August 5 for the first quarterly review of the Greek government’s economic program, which is being supported by a EUR 80 billion loan from Euro area countries and a EUR 30 billion Stand-By Arrangement with the Fund. The strategy and key policies remain as described in the May 2010 Letter of Intent and Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies.

A first in EU history: enhanced cooperation to help international couples is in force

For the first time in EU history, Member States are using the enhanced cooperation procedure to push forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce. The decision to establish enhanced cooperation, which the European Commission proposed five months ago, was published in the EU's Official Journal on 22 July. Enhanced cooperation allows a group of at least nine nations to implement measures if all 27 Member States fail to reach agreement. In this case it will allow 14 EU countries to move forward with a Regulation that will give couples legal certainty and prevent "rush to court" in divorces, avoiding emotionally and financially costly proceedings. The Regulation must now be approved by the participating 14 countries during an upcoming Council meeting before it can enter into force. The procedure applies to the 14 EU countries for now, but others can join at any time.

State aid: Commission authorises support package for Lithuanian financial institutions

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a Lithuanian package intended to stabilise the markets as a response to the global financial crisis. The package will provide eligible credit institutions with new capital, guarantees on newly issued short and medium term debt, and relieve them of troubled assets under strict conditions. The Commission found the measures to be in line with its guidance Communications on state aid to overcome the financial crisis (see IP/08/1495, IP/08/1901 and IP/09/322). In particular, the package ensures non discriminatory access, is limited in time and scope, provides for a market-oriented remuneration and foresees adequate safeguards to minimise potential distortions of competition. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is an adequate means to remedy a serious disturbance in the Lithuanian economy and is as such compatible with Article 107.3.b of the EU Treaty.

Commission launches consultation on improving concession contracts

The European Commission has launched a consultation today on the EU rules for concession contracts. Concessions are arrangements between public authorities and private operators, with the purpose of providing and exploiting an infrastructure, such as an airport, or a service, such as water distribution to the public. Concession contracts are significant as they are increasingly being used by public authorities at all levels. The objective of this consultation is to collect further views and expertise on how the current EU rules on concessions work in practice and how they might need to be improved to further enhance transparency, to ensure equal opportunities for potential bidders in the award procedures as well as the necessary legal certainty, but without making the framework too complex or burdensome. The consultation is aimed at gathering input from contracting authorities, social partners and the business community. The results of the consultation will feed into an impact assessment the Commission is currently preparing for the end of 2010, which will accompany new initiatives in this field. The consultation is open until 30 September and is available at:


Mergers: Commission approves proposed acquisition of Sperian by Honeywell

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Sperian, a French producer of personal protective equipment, by the US company Honeywell. After examining the operation, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Hypo Group Alpe Adria by the Republic of Austria

The European Commission has approved under the Merger Regulation the acquisition of the Austrian financial group Hypo Group Alpe Adria ("HGAA") by the Austrian Ministry of Finance. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it. This is the second time that the Commission has examined the nationalisation of a bank following the financial crisis under the Merger Regulation. The first case concerned the acquisition of the German financial institution Hypo Real Estate AG by Germany's state-owned Financial Market Stabilisation Fund (see IP/09/791).