EXME 12 / 07.09
Midday Express of 2012-09-07
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Where do we stand and how will the European Union emerge from the economic crisis? These are just two of a number of questions the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, will address when he gives the 2012 State of the Union Address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 12th September at 09.00 CET.
The European Commission is preparing to release an additional €50 million humanitarian funding to help Syrian civilians caught up in their country's crisis. This will bring the Commission's total contribution to €119 million.
A total of €215 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 and the Commission is reimbursing Spain following a Court ruling on a previous disallowance decision, the net financial impact of today's decision will be some €94 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.
The European Commission has warned that Member States will need to do more to ensure that the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) deployment is on track. The EU decided in 2004 to implement EETS in order to reduce the hassle for truckers and, later, for all road users by facilitating toll payments across the European Union by means of a single on-board unit and a single service contract. This will result in fewer cash transactions at toll stations and the elimination of cumbersome procedures for cross-border users, thereby improving traffic flow and reducing congestion. European interoperability will reduce the cost of future tolling equipment.
The EU27 external current account recorded a surplus of 4.6 billion euro in the second quarter of 2012, compared with a deficit of 37.1 bn in the second quarter of 2011. In the second quarter of 2012, compared with the second quarter of 2011, the deficit of the goods account decreased (-12.2 bn euro compared with -41.0 bn) as well as the deficit of the income account (-1.8 bn euro compared with -12.5 bn), while the surplus of the services account increased (+32.5 bn compared with +28.2 bn). The deficit of the current transfers account rose (-13.8 bn compared with -11.8 bn).
Commission clears acquisition of Brightstar Europe by Tech Data
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of German-based company Bightstar Europe by Tech Data of the US. Brightstar Europe is a distributor of mobile telephone equipment, tariffs/contracts and accessories, and Tech Data is a distributor of information and communication technology products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Environment, Climate and Energy: Three new studies on unconventional fossil fuels
The European Commission is today publishing three new studies on unconventional fossil fuels, in particular shale gas. Potential shale gas extraction has become a topical issue in Europe, attracting the interest of several market players and giving rise to a number of public concerns. The studies look at the potential effects of these fuels on energy markets, the potential climate impact of shale gas production, and the potential risks shale gas developments and associated hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") may present to human health and the environment. The study on energy market impacts shows that unconventional gas developments in the US have led to greater Liquefied Natural Gas supplies becoming available at global level, indirectly influencing EU gas prices. Drawing on the US experience and reviewing potential EU resources, it suggests that under a best case scenario, future shale gas production in Europe could help the EU maintain energy import dependency at around 60 %. But it also reveals sometimes considerable uncertainty about recoverable volumes, technological developments, public acceptance and access to land and markets. The study on climate impacts shows that shale gas produced in the EU causes more GHG emissions than conventional natural gas produced in the EU, but – if well managed – less than imported gas from outside the EU, be it via pipeline or by LNG due to the impacts on emissions from long-distance gas transport. The study on environmental impacts shows that extracting shale gas generally imposes a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development. Risks of surface and ground water contamination, water resource depletion, air and noise emissions, land take, disturbance to biodiversity and impacts related to traffic are deemed to be high in the case of cumulative projects. A considerable number of questions relating to legislation and regulation have been identified, implying the need for an appropriate framework to enable a sustainable shale gas extraction in Europe. The Commission remains neutral as regards Member States decisions' concerning their energy mix. It will oversee compliance with EU legal requirements, and ensure that an appropriate framework to enable sustainable shale gas extraction is in place. EU policy objectives towards a decarbonised and resource-efficient economy remain a key priority, together with EU commitments towards improving energy efficiency and further developing renewable energy sources. The studies published today will inform ongoing work examining the need for a risk management framework for shale gas developments in Europe and, if necessary, the form it might take. Discussions will also be held with the Member States and a stakeholders' (internet) consultation will be launched. The three studies can be accessed via http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/studies_en.htm
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