EXME 12 / 06.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-06
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The Commission today presented an Action Plan for a more effective EU response to tax evasion and avoidance. It sets out a comprehensive set of measures, for now and for the future, to help Member States protect their tax bases and recapture billions of euros legitimately due. As an instant first delivery, the Commission also adopted two Recommendations today, to encourage Member States to take immediate and coordinated action on specific pressing problems.
In the face of the continuing economic and financial crisis, major EU-based firms continue to rely on R&D for their competitive edge. They increased R&D investment by 8.9% in 2011, up from 6.1% in 2010. The increase nearly matches US firms (9%), beats the global average (7.6%) and is far ahead of Japanese companies (1.7%). R&D-intensive sectors tended to show above average employment growth. These are key findings of the European Commission's 2012 "EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard" of the top 1500 global R&D investors. The global top 50 includes 15 EU companies, 18 US firms and 12 from Japan. Japanese car manufacturer Toyota tops the ranking, with Volkswagen the top EU company in third place (€7.2 billion invested). Recently released Eurostat data shows that combined EU public and private research spending increased to 2.03% of GDP in 2011, from 2.01% in 2010. This was mainly due to increased private sector spending.
Just in time for the holidays and gifts shopping season, the European Commission today publishes the results of an EU wide screening of websites selling games, books, videos and music which can be downloaded to a computer or mobile device. The check shows that over 75% of these websites do not appear to comply with consumer protection rules. This is all the more worrying when vulnerable consumers, i.e. children, are targeted. Users have to click their way through a maze of contract terms, to find out how much they will eventually have to pay and children are frequently lured into purchasing items related to supposedly free games. In case of a problem, reaching the after-sales service is often difficult as contact information is missing in more than one third of the websites. National enforcement authorities will now contact the companies concerned to enable them to clarify their position or correct their website.
Businesses and consumers will be able to resolve cross-border legal disputes more easily, thanks to a reform adopted by European justice ministers today. Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, welcomed the adoption by the Council of the reformed rules to determine which national court has jurisdiction in cross-border cases and how court judgments issued in one EU country are recognised and enforced in another. The reform was proposed by the European Commission in 2010 (see IP/10/1705 and MEMO/10/677).
The Commission has today adopted new guidelines on whistleblowing to encourage staff to come forward and report any information pointing to corruption, fraud and other serious irregularities that they discover in the line of duty. The EU already has some of the strictest whistleblowing rules in the world. These rules were adopted in 2004 and set out in the staff regulations, which have legislative force. The new guidelines elaborate on these rules, and bring together case law and practical experience. The guidelines also serve as a reminder to staff that while whistleblowing is a right in many legal systems, for EU staff it is an obligation.
The European Commission welcomed yesterday's decision to give Moldova almost four extra years to unbundle its gas pipeline network. The Ministerial Council of the Energy Community has extended Moldova’s deadline for the implementation of ownership unbundling rules in the gas sector until 1st January 2020. This decision reflects the particular situation of Moldova’s energy sector, which is 100% dependent on a single gas supplier.
GDP fell by 0.1% in the euro area (EA17) and increased by 0.1% in the EU27 during the third quarter of 2012, compared with the previous quarter, according to second estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the second quarter of 2012, growth rates were -0.2% in both zones. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP fell by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.4% in the EU27 in the third quarter of 2012, after -0.5% and -0.3% respectively in the previous quarter.
Car sector crisis: Tajani to discuss short-term actions with industry stakeholders
Three important meetings on the current situation in the car industry will be held today in Brussels with both employer and employee stakeholders, represented by ACEA, CLEPA and industriALL. European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship will meet with eight CEOs representing vehicle manufacturers, the CEO of a car suppliers’ association and the deputy Secretary General of a trade-union body. The purpose of these meetings is to identify what can be done for the automotive industry and its workers in order to minimise the social impact of current restructuring. A parallel aim is to ensure that current restructuring decisions will enable us to safeguard a healthy and competitive industrial base in Europe, through investment in innovation and if necessary, the judicious use of state-aid. All stakeholders are actively involved in CARS 21 process and strongly support the CARS 2020 Action Plan that was adopted on 8 November. In the light of recent restructuring decisions, Vice-President Tajani took the initiative to organise discussions to help formulate a short-term response to the current crisis situation faced by the European automotive industry. The results of discussions will feed into the preparation of the Competitiveness Council on 10 December. More information: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/automotive/competitiveness-cars21/index_en.htm
Commission clears acquisition of Metaldyne Group by private investment firm American Securities
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition of the US group Metaldyne by the US private investment fund American Securities LLC. The Metaldyne Group is a manufacturer and distributor of metal components for light-duty motor vehicles to automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers and Tier 1 automotive suppliers. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of Gardman by three private investment institutions
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Barclays Bank PLC, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and TPG (all three internationally active financial and private investment institutions) of Gardman Holding Limited of the UK. Gardman is active in the sourcing, manufacturing and the distribution of gardening, wild bird and pet care products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of KMD Equity Holding by Advent International Corporation
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of the Danish company KMD Equity Holding by certain funds managed and/or advised by U.S.-based Advent International Corporation. KMD Equity Holding is a provider of IT-related services and products, including the licensing of IT package solutions (Application Service Provider solutions) and IT outsourcing solutions, principally focused on the public sector. Advent International Corporation is a private equity investment firm. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
International collaboration is key to protecting our environment, our resources and improving our resilience in the face of increasing weather and climate change driven hazards. The European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and South Africa's National Space Agency (SANSA) have today signed a collaboration agreement aiming to better exploit remote sensing technologies for monitoring atmospheric, terrestrial and marine environments, following the recent visit of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for research, innovation and science to South Africa. The signature took place in the context of a high level meeting on scientific collaboration to improve disaster anticipation and resilience organised at the initiative of the Commissioner and attended by senior officials of the European Commission, the Carnegie group countries (G8+5), the World Bank and United Nations. The scope of the JRC-SANSA agreement is to work together on a better understanding of dynamics and evolution of our natural environment through optimal exploitation of Earth observation data and to develop technologies and services which support not only national policies (e.g. agriculture monitoring) but also international issues and policies for disaster risk reduction, early warning and emergency management. The JRC has a recognised experience and unique tools and installations which contribute to disaster resilience and in particular prevention, anticipation, and response which are outlined in MEMO/12/954 .
Appointment of Principal Adviser "Chief Economic Analyst, DG ECFIN
The Commission has decided to appoint Mr Philipp Rother to the post of Principal Adviser "Chief Economic Analyst" in DG ECFIN. Mr Rother will be attached to Vice-President Olli Rehn responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the euro. Mr Rother of German nationality is currently Head of the Fiscal Policies Division at the European Central Bank where he is responsible for developing the ECB policy line on fiscal policies in the EU and in particular the euro area. He was Head of the Fiscal Surveillance Section in the ECB for five years and had started his career as country analyst in the IMF. Mr Rother is married with five children and has a Ph.D from the University of Mannheim on European Monetary Unification. He has lectured at the University of Frankfurt and has published extensively on fiscal and monetary affairs. The decision will take effect on 16 January 2013.
Over EUR 300 million will be made available to innovative and high-potential small and medium size companies (SMEs) in the Western Balkans, and to create a regional venture capital market that will facilitate their emergence and growth.
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