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Daily News – 06.04.2011

Midday Express of 2011-04-06

Commission Européenne - 06/04/2011

EXME 11 / 06.04

Midday Express of 2011-04-06

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

Digital Agenda: new guidelines to address privacy concerns over use of smart tags

Today the European Commission has signed a voluntary agreement with industry, civil society, ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) and privacy and data protection watchdogs in Europe to establish guidelines for all companies in Europe to address the data protection implications of smart tags (Radio Frequency Identification Devices – RFID) prior to placing them on the market. The use of such smart tags is expanding enormously (around 1 billion in Europe in 2011) but there are widespread concerns about their privacy implications. RFIDs can be found in many objects from bus passes to smart cards that pay motorway tolls. Microelectronic devices can process data automatically from RFID tags when brought close to 'readers' that activate them, pick up their radio signal and exchange data with them. Today's agreement forms part of the implementation of a Commission Recommendation adopted in 2009 (see IP/09/740) that inter alia indicates that when consumers buy products with smart tags, they should be deactivated automatically, immediately and free-of-charge unless the consumer agrees explicitly that they are not.

Smart tags - working together to protect privacy

Today Europe has becomes the world in leader in protecting the privacy of users of smart tag (RFID) technology, commonly found in transport cards, mobile phones, fridges and hospitals. European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes has signed a voluntary agreement with industry, civil society, ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) and privacy and data protection watchdogs to establish guidelines for all companies in Europe to address the data protection implications of smart tags (Radio Frequency Identification Devices – RFID) prior to placing them on the market. "Today we put consumers' privacy at the centre of RFID smart tag technology," Neelie Kroes told a Brussels audience. The agreement establishes for the first time in Europe a clear methodology to assess and mitigate the privacy risks of smart tags that can be applied by all industry sectors that use smart tags (for example, transport, logistics, the retail trade, ticketing, security and health care) to ensure their compliance with EU data protection rules. "What we celebrate today is not only the successful completion of a challenging task, 'how to protect the privacy of European citizens when using RFID', it is potentially also the start of a new policy approach, in fact a new commitment to involving all stakeholders in the process of solving privacy problems", Kroes concluded. SPEECH/11/236

Commissioner Piebalgs calls for EU to maintain its leadership on official development aid as new figures reveal it spent a record €53.8 billion in 2010

Today Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs presented the 2010 preliminary figures on official development aid spent by the EU and its 27 Member States. Aid rose by about €4.5 billion from 2009, reaching a total of €53.8 billion, which confirms the EU's position as the largest and most generous donor of official development assistance, providing more than half of global official aid. Although the EU missed its target for 2010, it still made positive progress despite the economic downturn. Three of the five largest donors worldwide are EU members and four of them have already reached the 0.7% target. Overall, EU aid represents 0.43% of EU Gross National Income. A substantial collective effort is still needed in order to achieve the goal of 0.7% by 2015, to which Member States have been committed.

Taxation: EU/US Dialogue on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

In a letter sent to the US tax authorities this morning, the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission invited the US authorities to engage in a dialogue on how to best achieve the objectives of the US Foreign Account Tax compliance Act (FATCA). FATCA is a US legislation intended to ensure that US tax authorities obtain information on investments by US residents in foreign financial institutions, including European financial institutions. In this regard it pursues goals similar to those of the EU Savings Tax Directive which provides for an exchange of information between tax authorities of EU Member States. However, FACTA could impose a significant compliance burden on EU financial institutions (including banks, investment funds and insurance companies). In light of the information exchange tools that already exist between tax administrations, and given the ongoing discussions on extending the scope of the Savings Tax Directive, which is a priority for the Hungarian Presidency and the Commission, the Hungarian Presidency and the Commission invited the US authorities to consider exploiting possible synergies to achieve their common goals in a cost-effective and business-friendly way.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn to visit Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia) on 7 April

Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will visit North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) on Thursday 7 April and will give the keynote speech at the award ceremony organised by the NRW Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research in Düsseldorf, for regional participants in projects funded under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). In her speech, the Commissioner is expected to say that: "North-Rhine Westphalia has already demonstrated how to successfully harness R&D for regional economic and social development, transforming the Ruhr area from a region of traditional heavy industry to an attractive high technology hotspot….. the prize being awarded by NRW for FP7 projects is a wonderful innovation that I hope will be copied in other regions and Member States to boost participation in European collaborative research." Nearly 1 500 current FP7 participants are based in NRW, and are receiving over € 500 million in funding, thus accounting for 17% of the funding going to Germany and around 3% of the total funding so far under FP7 as a whole. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will be accompanied for most of the day's programme by the regional Minister for Innovation, Science and Research Svenja Schulze and Deputy Minister Helmut Dockter. The trip will begin with a visit to the state-funded Jülich Research Centre's bio-economy and supercomputer sites. This will be followed with a tour of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). One of the highlights there will be a visit to the DLR's "Falcon" aircraft used for airborne environmental research, including projects financed through EU Framework Programmes. The 'Falcon' was instrumental in monitoring the volcanic ash cloud which hampered air travel in Europe in spring 2010. The Commissioner will also visit the European Transonic Windtunnel (ETW) – a combined German/French/UK/Dutch development which is used to test new aircraft models under "real" flight conditions. FP7 has invested €7.5 million in increasing the capacity of Europe's wind tunnels, including ETW, and in helping them to work together. In the afternoon, she will move to Bayer AG's headquarters in Leverkusen, where she will meet the Chief Executive officer Dr Marijn Dekkers and senior board members, who will present recent Bayer innovations. This will be followed by a meetings in Düsseldorf with Minister Schulze and senior representatives of the Jülich-Aachen Research Alliance, which brings together Aachen University and the Jülich research centre (see above) to undertake cutting-edge work in areas including brain research, sustainable energy, nano-electronics and "supercomputers". The day will finish with the NRW/FP7 award ceremony in Düsseldorf.

Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs at the EU – Central Asia Ministerial Meeting

Tomorrow, 7 April, Commissioner Piebalgs will participate in the annual EU-Central Asian Ministerial meeting (Tashkent, Uzbekistan). During the talks the parties will discuss the state of relations between the EU and the countries of Central Asia within the framework of the EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia, launched in 2007. The discussion will touch upon the range of issues such as regional and economic cooperation, development policies and common security challenges. The EU will be represented by Hungarian Minister if Foreign Affairs Mr Janos Martonyi (on behalf of the EU High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton), Commissioner Piebalgs and EU Special Representative for Central Asia Mr Pierre Morel. The EU delegation will also hold bilateral meetings with the representatives of all five Central Asian delegations.

Award ceremony for winners of Young Translators’ Contest

The 27 winners of the European Commission’s annual ‘Juvenes Translatores’ Young Translators' Contest will be presented with their trophies and diplomas at an award ceremony in Brussels on Thursday 7 April. Around 3 000 17-year-old secondary school pupils – from Kells in Ireland to Marathon in Greece – sat the contest last November. Each pupil had two hours to translate a text from a language of their choice into one of the EU’s 22 other official languages. The results were marked by translators in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT). One winner was selected for each Member State. The awards will be presented by Rytis Martikonis, acting Director-General of DGT, at the Charlemagne Building at 11:30. At 14:15 the winners will be in front of the Berlaymont building for photos. For details of the list of winners and their schools, see IP/11/128 . The ceremony can be followed live at http://ec.europa.eu/translatores .

Children in EU to benefit from speedier maintenance payments from abroad

The pain of a divorce or separation is all too often made worse by financial and emotional pressure when one parent lives abroad and refuses to provide financial help. With an estimated 16 million international couples in the EU and 30 million EU citizens living in non-EU countries, the issue of retrieving child maintenance from abroad will grow. For example, a couple living in France get divorced and the father moves to the United States. But will the child still receive the maintenance payments a French court ordered him to pay? Under a new Convention signed by the EU today, the American authorities would cooperate with those in Europe to make sure the father fulfils his obligations and the child still gets support. The Hague Maintenance Convention sets up a worldwide system for recovering child support and other family maintenance payments. It creates a common legal framework between the EU and non-EU countries, so that authorities cooperate in enforcing maintenance claims and debtors can no longer escape by leaving the EU. It also provides for free legal assistance in international child support cases. The Convention complements the EU's own rules on recognising and enforcing maintenance decisions, which will apply from 18 June 2011.

Infrigements

Data retention: Commission refers Sweden back to Court for failing to transpose EU legislation

Despite a first ruling by the European Court of Justice in early 2010, Sweden has not transposed the Data Retention Directive into national law. The directive makes it mandatory for telephone companies and Internet service providers to store telecommunications traffic and location data for law enforcement purposes. Three years and a half after the deadline for all Member States to transpose, Sweden's failure to do so is likely to have a negative effect on the internal market for electronic communications and on the ability of police and justice authorities to detect, investigate and prosecute serious crime. The Commission has decided to ask the Court to impose on Sweden a daily penalty payment of €40.947 for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends and to impose a lump sum €9.597 per day for the period between the 2010 Court judgement and the second Court ruling.

Employment Equality: European Commission refers Italy to the EU's Court of Justice

The Commission has referred Italy to the EU's Court of Justice concerning the transposition of Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. Directive 2000/78/EC establishes a general framework for equal treatment in employment, occupation and vocational training (Employment Equality Directive). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment in employment and training on the grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation. It includes specific requirements for reasonable accommodation for disabled people.

Data Protection: European Commission requests Germany to ensure independence of data supervisory authority

The European Commission has acted today to ensure that the EU rules on the protection of personal data are respected in Germany. The Commission has formally requested Germany to comply with a judgment on 9 March 2010 by the EU's Court of Justice. The Court had ruled that Germany had failed to correctly transpose the requirement that data protection supervisory authorities had to act in “complete independence”. In its letter of formal notice, the Commission has now asked Germany to comply with the Court judgement and complete the implementation of the Directive. The Commission may ask the Court to impose a lump sum or penalty payment if Germany fails to comply within two months.

Free movement of workers: Commission requests Belgium to pay pensions directly to bank accounts where beneficiaries reside

The European Commission has requested Belgium to end complex procedures for paying pensions to beneficiaries residing in another Member State. By refusing to pay pensions directly to a bank account and using cross border payments, Belgian pensions beneficiaries in 19 Member States suffer delayed access to their pension, as well as disproportionate costs and other inconveniences. This contravenes the EU right to move freely to and receive their pension in another Member State. The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Belgium has two months to inform Commission of measures it has taken to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice.

Free movement: Commission requests Germany to pay beneficiaries full pension granted under bilateral agreements

The European Commission has requested Germany to pay pension beneficiaries the full amount of pensions granted under a bilateral agreement when a citizen moves to another EU Member State. The Commission considers that by reducing the amount of pension paid to the pensioner because they move residence to another Member State, Germany is creating an obstacle to free movement. The freedom to move and work in another Member State is an EU fundamental right, as is the right to export a pension. The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Germany has two months to inform Commission of measures it has taken to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Germany to the EU's Court of Justice.

Taxation: Commission refers The Netherlands to Court over tax discrimination against foreign charities

The European Commission has decided to refer The Netherlands to the EU's Court of Justice because its tax treatment of gifts to charities is discriminatory and in breach of EU rules on the free movement of capital. Dutch tax relief for gifts to charities applies only to donations made to charities established or registered in The Netherlands and not donations to foreign charities.

Taxation: Commission refers Belgium to Court over discriminatory taxation of foreign investment companies

The European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice because of its discriminatory taxation of foreign investment companies. Such discrimination is in breach of EU Single Market rules on the free movement of capital and freedom of establishment. Indeed, Belgian investment companies do not pay tax on their Belgian interest and dividend income, while their foreign equivalents are taxed.

Taxation: Commission refers Belgium to Court over tax discrimination against Icelandic and Norwegian investment funds

The European Commission has decided to refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice for discriminatory taxation of certain Icelandic and Norwegian collective investment funds in breach of EU rules on free movement of capital and freedom to provide services. In particular, Belgium does not grant an exemption from capital gains tax for sales of shares from certain collective investment funds established in Iceland and Norway whereas it does grant such exemptions in the case of shares from equivalent collective investment funds established elsewhere in the EU.

Taxation: Commission requests Germany to extend VAT exemptions for sharing costs of services

The European Commission has formally requested Germany to amend its value added tax (VAT) legislation so as to extend the scope of the exemption from VAT for services supplied to their members by independent groups of persons with no right to deduct VAT. German legislation restricts this possibility to services in the medical and health care sector, whereas EU law requires such VAT exemptions to be available in all sectors. The Commission's request takes the form of a "Reasoned Opinion" (second step of EU infringement proceedings). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Germany to the EU's Court of Justice.

Taxation: Commission formally requests Belgium to change its law on taxation of capital gains

The European Commission has formally requested Belgium to amend its rules concerning the taxation of capital gains because they discriminate against assets outside Belgium and so breach basic EU Single Market rules (freedom of establishment, freedom to provide services and free movement of capital). The Commission's request takes the form of a "Reasoned Opinion" (second step of EU infringement proceedings). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the EU's Court of Justice.

Taxation: Commission requests Belgium to amend property tax legislation

The European Commission has formally requested Belgium to amend its tax legislation which provides for tax exemption of certain types of real estate located in Belgium so as to ensure its compliance with EU rules on the free movement of capital. The Commission considers that the current rules are discriminatory and are liable to discourage Belgian residents from investing in other EU Member States. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion (second step of EU infringement proceedings). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Taxation: Commission requests Belgium to amend two discriminatory inheritance tax provisions

The European Commission has formally requested Belgium to amend two aspects of its inheritance tax legislation which are discriminatory for non-resident heirs or recipients of gifts and for foreign organisations. The Commission considers that both provisions are in breach of EU rules on the free movement of capital. The Commission's requests take the form of "reasoned opinions" (second step of EU infringement proceedings). In the absence of satisfactory responses within two months, the Commission may refer Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Taxation: Commission requests Cyprus to modify discriminatory excise duty rules for imported second-hand motorcycles

The European Commission has formally requested Cyprus to amend its legislation on depreciation scales for the calculation of excise duties on second-hand motorcycles because the current rules discriminate against imported motorcycles. The Commission considers that the current legislation is in breach of EU rules on tax discrimination against products imported from other Member States. The request takes the form of a ‘reasoned opinion’ (second step of the infringement procedure provided for in article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may decide to refer Cyprus to the EU's Court of Justice.

Professional qualifications: Commission asks Sweden to change its laws on the recognition of general practitioners' qualifications

The European Commission has today asked Sweden to comply with EU rules on the automatic recognition of general practitioners. The Commission considers that Sweden has breached these rules by maintaining two different qualifications for general practitioners: 'specialist in general medicine' (higher level) and 'Europa doctor' (lower level) and by not applying automatic recognition to all general practitioners of other EU Member States. This puts general practitioners from other Member States who want to work in Sweden at a disadvantage, as they are automatically recognised, at the lower level, as 'Europa doctor' only. The Commission has sent Sweden a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure. If the Swedish authorities fail to take satisfactory measures to remedy the infringement of EU law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Auditing: Commission requests Cyprus to establish an effective public oversight system

The European Commission has today asked Cyprus to respect EU rules on auditing. Under these rules, Member States should have set up a public oversight system for statutory auditors and audit firms under national law. As Cyprus has failed to do so, the Commission has sent Cyprus a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure. If the Cypriot authorities fail to take satisfactory measures to remedy the infringement of EU law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Free movement of capital: Commission acts to ensure unrestricted access to buy a second home in Cyprus

The European Commission has today asked Cyprus to respect EU rules that give nationals from the EU, as well as from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, the right to buy a second home in Cyprus without restrictions. Since the accession of Cyprus to the EU in 2004, transitional measures were in force that could restrict such acquisitions but these measures expired in 2009. As Cyprus has not yet repealed these restrictions, the Commission is sending Cyprus a reasoned opinion, the second step in the infringement procedure. If the Cypriot authorities fail to take satisfactory measures to remedy the infringement of EU law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Public procurement: Spain amends its legislation on public sector contracts following infringement procedure

The European Commission has closed infringement proceedings against Spain over a series of provisions in Spanish public procurement law on modification of public contracts after award as the law in question (Spanish Law 30/2007 on public sector contracts known as the LCSP) has been substantially amended by a new Law 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy (LES). The new regime on modification of contracts after award established by the LES is now being examined by the Commission to ensure its compatibility with EU public procurement directives and with the case law on modification of public contracts and additional works

Digital Agenda: Better protection of Italian consumers against unwanted telemarketing calls; European Commission closes legal action

Italian telephone subscribers are now better protected from receiving annoying unsolicited telemarketing phone calls thanks to European Commission action to ensure the proper the application of EU rules. Italy has now complied with its obligations under the EU Directive on privacy and electronic communications by implementing a new opt-out system which ensures that Italian citizens whose numbers are listed in public telephone directories do not receive unsolicited phone calls for marketing purposes. The change results from the opening of an infringement procedure against Italy by the Commission, which has now been closed.

Digital Agenda: Latvia ensures independence of national telecoms regulator; Commission closes infringement case

Consumers and businesses in Latvia now enjoy better safeguards against unfair competition on telecoms markets following steps taken by Latvia to comply with EU rules on the independence of the national telecoms regulators, in response to an infringement case opened by the European Commission. In particular, Latvia has now ensured a clear separation between the bodies which make telecoms rules and those which provide telecoms services by transferring telecoms regulatory functions regarding radio frequencies and numbering from the Ministry of Transport to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.. This separation, also known as structural separation, is essential to preserve the impartiality of national telecoms regulators, guaranteeing fair regulation for consumers and businesses and maintaining competition. The Commission has therefore closed its infringement case against Latvia, which it opened in 2008.

Energy: Commission urges Italy, Poland and Romania to change their end-user price regulation schemes to ensure consumers freedom of choice

The European Commission today formally requested Italy, Poland and Romania to bring their national legislation on regulated end-user energy prices in line with EU rules. EU legislation on internal energy market foresees that the prices are set primarily by supply and demand. End-user prices set by state intervention put obstacles to new market entrants and therefore deprive consumers of their right to choose the best service at the market. The Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to the three Member States. In case the Member States do not comply with their legal obligations within two months, the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice.

Climate Action: Commission draws the attention of four Member States on the need to finalise the adoption of measures to fully implement EU legislation on aviation emissions

The European Commission is urging again Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, and Poland to finalise the adoption of the legislative and administrative measures for inclusion of the aviation sector in the EU's emissions trading system. To date these four member states have not fully completed the transposition of the EU ETS aviation legislation into national legislation.

Environment: Commission takes Austria to Court over missing industrial permits

The Commission is referring Austria to the EU Court of Justice over outdated permits for their industrial installations. Under European legislation, these should have been issued by 30 October 2007. The Commission is therefore referring the case to the Court. Austria has two months to comply.

Environment – Commission takes Belgium to Court and warns Romania over failure to comply with EU air quality rules

The European Commission is taking Belgium to court for failing to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. Belgium has so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of these particles in 8 zones across the country. The Commission has therefore decided to take Belgium to the EU Court of Justice. As Romania is also failing to comply with the air quality limit values for PM10, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion under ongoing infringement proceedings. Romania has two months to comply. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Belgium to comply with EU law on urban waste water

The European Commission is urging Belgium to ensure that waste water from small agglomerations is properly treated. The lack of sufficient collection and treatment systems that should be in place since 2005, poses risks to human health and to the marine environment. Slow progress by Belgium has led the Commission to send a reasoned opinion under ongoing infringement proceedings. If Belgium fails to comply within two months, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission asks France and Ireland to protect their seas

The Commission is asking France and Ireland to comply with EU legislation requiring Member States to draw up marine strategies to protect their seas. Both these Member States have failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which should have been in place by 15 July 2010. The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. If France and Ireland fail to comply with their legal obligation, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice and may ask the Court to impose financial sanctions at this stage.

Environment: Commission urges Hungary to comply with European nature protection legislation

The European Commission has asked Hungary to address the inadequate protection of nature in an area that is home to globally threatened bird species. The Commission has concerns about an aerial power line erected in autumn 2007 liable to have a significant negative impact on protected species. No impact assessment was undertaken for the project, contravening EU legislation. The Commission is therefore sending Hungary a reasoned opinion. If Hungary fails to comply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission takes four Member States to Court for failing to submit river basin plans

The European Commission is taking Belgium, Denmark, Greece and Portugal to Court over their failure to comply with EU water legislation and submit plans for managing their river basins. These plans are essential for achieving the EU's objective of 'good status' for European waters by 2015 and should have been adopted by 22 December 2009 at the latest. Delayed plans could mean a failure to deliver the water quality required. The Commission is referring the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Spain to comply with Court ruling on industrial permits

The Commission is urging Spain to comply with an EU Court of Justice ruling concerning permits for industrial installations. Despite being condemned by the Court in November 2010, more than 100 plants continue to operate without updated permits that comply with EU rules designed to prevent industrial pollution. The Commission is sending Spain a letter of formal notice requesting the full implementation of the judgement. In the absence of a satisfactory response, Spain could face a second Court referral and financial penalties.

Environment: Commission takes UK to court over excessive cost of challenging decisions

The European Commission is taking the UK to the EU Court of Justice over the high cost of challenges of decisions on the environment. Under EU law, the possibility of challenging decisions affecting the environment should be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive. The Commission is concerned that the potentially high cost of losing legal actions is preventing NGOs and individuals in the UK from bringing cases in the first place. The Commission is therefore referring the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Road transport: Commission requests eight Member States to comply with new EU measures on fitness to drive

The European Commission has today asked the Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Poland and Slovenia to adopt national legislation updating requirements for physical and mental fitness to drive in accordance with their obligations under European Union law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If these Member States fail to inform the Commission within two months of what measures they have taken to ensure full compliance with the law, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Air transport: Commission launches infringement procedures against two Member States over agreements with Russia on equal treatment of EU airlines and Siberian overflights

The European Commission has today launched infringement procedures against Bulgaria and the Czech Republic over their bilateral air service agreements with Russia, sending each of these Member States a formal request for information known as a 'letter of formal notice'. The Commission is concerned that the agreements may hinder equal treatment of EU airlines and competition between European airlines and provide the basis for Siberian overflight charges that may be illegal under EU anti-trust rules. Similar letters of formal notice have already been sent to 23 other Member States in recent months, and the Commission is now assessing the compliance with EU law of the remaining two Member States' bilateral aviation agreements with Russia. The fact that European Union airlines have to pay to fly over Siberia on their way to Asian destinations can not only make the flights more expensive, but can also lead to unfair competition between EU and non-EU airlines.

Redifussion

Corporate governance framework for European companies: what needs to be improved?

One of the lessons of the financial crisis is that corporate governance, until now usually based on self-regulation, was not as effective as it could have been. It is important that companies are better run. If companies are better run, not only is a future crisis less likely but they should also be more competitive. The European Commission has launched today a public consultation that addresses the ways in which corporate governance of European companies can be improved. Corporate governance is traditionally defined as the system by which companies are managed and controlled. The consultation covers a number of issues such as how to improve the diversity and functioning of the boards of directors and the monitoring and enforcement of existing national corporate governance codes, and how to enhance the engagement of shareholders. The deadline for submitting contributions in response to the consultation is 22 July 2011.

Staatliche Beihilfen: Kommission genehmigt 49,06 Mio. EUR Beihilfe für 3Sun-Solarmodulfabrik in Catania, Italien

Die Europäische Kommission hat eine regionale Investitionsbeihilfe von 49,06 Mio. EUR zugunsten von 3Sun Srl, einem Gemeinschaftsunternehmen von STMicroelectronics NV, Sharp Corporation und Enel Green Power SpA, nach den EU-Beihilfevorschriften genehmigt. Mit der Beihilfe soll in der sizilianischen Provinz Catania die Fertigung von Solarmodulen für die Stromerzeugung gefördert werden. Das Vorhaben erfordert Investitionen in Höhe von 358,68 Mio. EUR. Die Kommission kam zu dem Ergebnis, dass die Maßnahme die EU-Beihilfevorschriften sowie die Kriterien der Leitlinien für staatliche Beihilfen mit regionaler Zielsetzung 2007-2013 erfüllt, da die positiven Auswirkungen der Investition zur Förderung der Regionalentwicklung insgesamt gesehen die potenziellen beihilfebedingten Wettbewerbsverzerrungen überwiegen.

State Aid: Commission approves restructuring of ABN AMRO Group, subject to conditions

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a support package and restructuring plan for the ABN AMRO Group, subject to certain conditions designed to consolidate the viability of the group. It will ensure an appropriate own contribution to the cost of restructuring and prevent that the public funds are used to finance an aggressive business strategy to the detriment of competitors, who have to operate without state aid. After an in-depth investigation (see IP/09/565) and a temporary approval of additional recapitalisation measures (see IP/10/138) the Commission concluded that, subject to these conditions, the total aid package is in line with EU rules that allow aid to remedy a serious disturbance in a member state's economy (Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The restructuring package has been implemented since October 2008, when the Dutch State purchased Fortis Bank Nederland and the Dutch activities of the then existing ABN AMRO Bank, which then merged to form ABN AMRO Group.

Commission appoints a new Deputy Director General and a new Director

The Commission has appointed Mr Maarten Verwey as Deputy Director-General of the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate-General. Mr Verwey, who is Dutch, is currently Director of Foreign Financial Relations at the Ministry of Finance of the Netherlands. He was selected following a rigorous selection procedure that considered both internal and external candidates. He will take up his new duties on 1 September 2011.

Also appointed is Mr Paul Timmers, currently the Head of the 'ICT for Inclusion' Unit in the Information Society and Media Directorate-General. Mr Timmers, who is also Dutch, will become the Director responsible for 'ICT addressing societal challenges' in the Information Society and Media Directorate-General. The decision takes effect on 16 April 2011.

European Commission calls on Member States to set national strategies for Roma integration

Europe's 10-12 million Roma continue to face discrimination, exclusion and the denial of their rights, while governments lose out on increased revenue and productivity because potential talent could go wasted. Better economic and social integration is an imperative – but to be effective, concerted action is needed at all levels to address the multiple causes of exclusion. The European Commission is therefore today putting forward a European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. This EU Framework will help guide national Roma policies and mobilise funds available at EU level to support inclusion efforts. The Framework focuses on four pillars: access to education, jobs, healthcare and housing. Member States should set individual national Roma integration goals in proportion to the population on their territory and depending on their starting point.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Frequently Asked Questions: Consultation on the EU corporate governance framework-rediffusion

EU framework for national Roma strategies: Frequently asked questions-rediffusion

Memo "Publication of preliminary data on Official Development Assistance 2010"

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Bill Gates-rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner Kroes " Smart tags - working together to protect privacy"

Memo "EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented"

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