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Daily News – 07.03.2012

Midday Express of 2012-03-07

European Commission - 07/03/2012

EXME 12 / 07.03

Midday Express of 2012-03-07

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Aides d’État : la Commission autorise la France et l'Italie à octroyer des aides à Eurocopter et Agusta Westland pour le développement d'hélicoptères civils de nouvelle génération

La Commission européenne a autorisé la France et l'Italie à accorder des aides à la recherche et au développement (R&D) à des producteurs d'hélicoptères européens (respectivement Eurocopter pour la France et Agusta Westland pour l'Italie) pour le développement de nouveaux appareils de moyen tonnage innovants. La Commission a conclu que ces mesures étaient compatibles avec les règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'Etat, notamment parce que les financements publics proposés sont justifiés, proportionnés et sans risque pour la concurrence.

Hungary: Commission continues accelerated infringement procedure on independence of the data protection supervisor and measures affecting the judiciary and asks additional information on central bank's independence

The European Commission has today decided on further steps following Hungary’s reply to three letters of formal notice of 17 January (see IP/12/24) and their legal analysis. The promise to change Hungary's legislation affecting the independence of the central bank addresses some of the key concerns of the Commission. Now Hungary needs to flesh out these commitments and provide evidence through new legislation. Hungary also needs to provide additional commitments and further clarifications. Depending on this additional evidence and information, the Commission will decide the next steps. At the same time, the Commission still has concerns about measures affecting the judiciary and the independence of the country’s data protection supervisor. The Commission has thus decided today to send Hungary two reasoned opinions – the second stage under EU infringement proceedings after which the matter may be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union – and two administrative letters. The reasoned opinions concern the independence of the data protection authority and measures regarding the retirement age of judges – which would lead to the anticipated retirement of 274 judges and public prosecutors. The two administrative letters are seeking further clarifications regarding the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the central bank (for details see MEMO/12/165).

Commission acts to increase the safety and efficiency of securities settlement in Europe

As part of its ongoing efforts to create a sounder financial system, the European Commission has proposed today to set up a European common regulatory framework for the institutions responsible for securities settlement, called Central Securities Depositories (CSDs). The proposal will bring more safety and efficiency to securities settlement in Europe. It also seeks to shorten the time it takes for securities settlement and to minimise settlement fails.

Environment: Better implementation will lower costs and improve the environment

Failing to implement environment legislation is thought to cost the EU economy around €50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment. In an effort to reduce that figure and deliver better environmental outcomes for people and businesses, the Commission today issued a communication on better implementation of EU environment law.

8 March 2012: International Women’s Day - Around 40% more women than men among the EU population aged 65 and over

How many more women than men are there among the total population and among the elderly? Is the share of women at risk of poverty or social exclusion higher than for men? How do employment rates for women and men differ by education level? Do women buy different goods and services over the internet than men? Answers to these questions can be found in a News Release, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on 8 March 2012.

State aid: Commission approves extension of Hungarian liquidity scheme for credit institutions

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, an extension until 30 June 2012 of a Hungarian liquidity scheme for credit institutions. The Commission found the extension of the scheme, initially approved on 14 January 2010 (see IP/10/19), to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/08/1901). In particular, the prolonged measures are proportionate, well targeted and limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that they represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Hungarian economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The Commission today adopted a recommendation for a Council recommendation asking Hungary to take steps to correct its excessive deficit in a sustainable and credible manner by 2012.

This recommendation under Article 126(7) is scheduled for discussion at the 13 March Ecofin Council. Based on this recommendation, Hungary would be asked for an additional fiscal effort to attain the government's own deficit target of 2.5% of GDP in 2012 and to ensure that the deficit in 2013 remains well below the 3% threshold also after the phasing out of one-off measures.

Conference on "Enhancing innovation and the delivery of research in EU agriculture"

More than 300 stakeholders, researchers, academics and officials are meeting in Brussels today for a Conference on "Enhancing innovation and the delivery of research in EU agriculture". This conference will mark an important step in the discussions on the ways to enhance innovation and the translation of research results in the farming sector, as outlined in the Commission's CAP reform legislative proposals on 12 October 2011. In his opening speech to the Conference EU Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloș stated: "Fostering research, knowledge transfer and innovation in the agricultural sector is vital for improving productivity, sustainability and competitiveness. Today I would like to issue a general call for action on the question of agricultural research and innovation - a subject which has for too long been left to the relative obscurity of scientific laboratories and academic publications. It is an area in which the European Commission has tabled very ambitious proposals. We are going to double the funding available and to put in place a complete toolbox. Apart from the budget, we need to ensure that all stakeholders are working together in an integrated way and that good ideas do not remain confined to scholarly publications but are, instead, made available to all players." The objective of the conference is to discuss the main building blocks of EU support to research and innovation for the agricultural sector after 2013. In particular, the role played by networks, advisory services, education and other actors in the translation of research results and in fostering innovative approaches will be discussed (following on from last week's publication of the Commission Communication on the European Innovation Partnerships). The conference is being webstreamed live (in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Danish) at http://webcast.ec.europa.eu/eutv/portal/index.html

For more details, presentations and speeches, see :

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/events/research-conference-2012_en.htm

Tobacco products: Commission adopts a new set of written health warnings

Today, the European Commission adopted 14 new health warnings to appear on tobacco packs. Written health warnings on tobacco products sold in the EU have been compulsory since 2003. The legislation in force also foresees periodic updating of the health warnings. The 14 new health warnings adopted today were chosen from amongst 24 possible messages and following tests among focus groups made up of citizens from all 27 Member States through a Eurobarometer study. Thereafter the warnings were discussed and agreed with the 27 Member States. Whereas most adult smokers in the EU are probably aware that smoking is harmful for their health, they tend to underestimate or ignore the manifold dangers that smoking poses. Available evidence suggests that textual warnings have an impact on smokers' attitudes and behaviours. In order to remain effective however, such warnings need to be updated regularly. In parallel, evidence of lesser known negative consequences of tobacco use is accumulating. For example, new scientific evidence shows that tobacco use plays a causal role in mouth and throat cancer, visual impairments as well as dental and gum disease. Parental smoking also acts as an incentive for children's smoking. The text warnings have thus been updated in this sense. This is illustrated by the following new warning texts: "Smoking causes mouth and throat cancer"; "Smoking increases the risk of blindness"; "Smoking damages your teeth and gums"; "Smokers' children are more likely to start smoking". Member States have two years to introduce the new written health warnings. The Tobacco Products Directive also makes it possible for Member States to combine text warnings with graphic images which are even more effective since they convey warnings in a more vivid way. Pictorial health warnings are currently in place in nine Member States: Belgium, Romania, United Kingdom, Latvia, France, Malta, Spain, Hungary and Denmark. Other Member States have passed or are planning to pass similar legislation. For more information:

Commission Directive: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/key_documents/index_en.htm ;

Eurobarometer: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/eurobarometers/index_en.htm ; Information on EU Tobacco Control: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/policy/index_en.htm

Distribution of 90 million EURO of EU funds for the 2012/2013 School Fruit Scheme

The allocation of EU aid under the School Fruit Scheme for the 2012/2013 school year has been backed by Member States in the Management Committee yesterday and will be formally adopted by the Commission in the coming weeks. The EU funding of € 90 million will be allocated to the 24 participating Member States as proposed by the Commission, based on the population of 6-10 year old children and the needs expressed by each participating Member State. The main beneficiaries of the Scheme in 2012/2013 will be Italy, who is set to receive over € 20.5 million, followed by Germany (€ 11.6 million), Romania (€ 9.8 million), Poland (€ 9.2 million), France (€ 5.6 million) and Spain (€ 4.8 million). Sweden, Finland and UK have again opted not to participate. The EU funds need to be co-financed at rates between 50% and 75%, i.e. they must be matched by national and/or private contributions. Launched in 2009, school year 2012/2013 will be the 4th year of the School Fruit Scheme whose main objective is to increase the low consumption of fruit and vegetables among schoolchildren by durably increasing the share of those products in their diets when their eating habits are being formed. Figures for 2010/2011 show that more than 8 million children benefitted from the Scheme by receiving portions of fruit and vegetables in schools. In its CAP 2020 reform proposals, the Commission is proposing to further strengthen the Scheme and allow even more children to benefit, by proposing to raise the overall EU budget available for the Scheme to € 150 million, to increase the rates of co-financing and to extend the list of eligible measures.

Table (Definitive allocation of aid per Member State) available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/newsroom/73_en.pdf

For more information and documents regarding the School Fruit Scheme, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fruit-and-vegetables/school-fruit-scheme/index_en.htm

Towards the EU energy mix: state of the art of the strategic energy technologies

A new edition of the Strategic Energy Technologies review has been published. This "2011 Technology Map", produced by the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), provides a European and worldwide analysis of 15 low-carbon energy technologies, energy efficiency in industry, energy performance of buildings and electricity storage in the power sector. Compared with the 2009 Technology Map, the steep increase of wind and solar (photovoltaics) generation capacity in the EU and worldwide is to be highlighted. On a global scale, hydropower continues to be the technology most widely used, providing 88% of electricity generated from renewable sources. More information can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/downloads/jrc_20120307_newsrelease_2011_Tech_Map_en.pdf

The EU increases its support to peace and security in Somalia

The European Commission has decided to increase its contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The new funding adds to the continued support the EU has given to AMISOM since 2007 and will cover costs such as allowances, medical care, housing, fuel and communication equipment. The decision comes shortly after a major conference in London at which international partners discussed the future of Somalia and where the EU reaffirmed that stabilising and developing the country, together with the African Union and international partners, is an EU priority.

AMISOM is an African Union-led mission, mandated by the United Nations Security Council. The new EU support covers the period February to July 2012 and amounts to €67 million which brings the EU contribution to a total of €325 million. The mission has been active in Somalia since 2007, supporting dialogue and reconciliation and providing protection to key infrastructures (e.g. government buildings and the Mogadishu International Airport) to enable the Transitional Federal Institutions to carry out their functions. The mission is also assisting in the implementation of the national Security and Stabilisation plan, providing support to disarmament and stabilisation efforts, as well as facilitating humanitarian operations, including repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons. More information: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/articles/pdf/pr20120306_newfunding_amisom.pdf

Autre matériel diffusé :

SPEECH Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia

MEMO on Jobs and stability: EU-Tunisia industry cooperation forges ahead

MEMO on "Commission proposal on improving securities settlement in the EU and on Central Securities Depositaries"

MEMO on "Commission adopts Recommendation asking Hungary to take steps to correct deficit"

MEMO: "Communication on Implementing EU environment legislation – Questions & Answers"

MEMO: "What has the EU done after the Fukushima accident?" – rediffusion

MEMO: "Hungary – infringements: Commission takes further legal steps on measures affecting the judiciary and the independence of the data protection authority, notes some progress on central bank independence, but further evidence and clarification needed"

SPEECH by Nelly Kroes on "Build-Connect-Grow: the Future for eGovernment", eGovernment Conference at CeBIT, Hannover, 6 March 2012 (rediffusion)

SPEECH by Commissioner Vassiliou at Commission Seminar on protecting the sacred places of the Mediterranean (rediffusion)

SPEECH by Nelly Kroes on "eGovernment: towards the future", Hannover, 6 March 2012 (rediffusion)

SPEECH by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (rediffusion)

SPEECH du Commissiare Cioloș "Mobilisons-nous pour la recherche et l'innovation agricole"

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