EXME 13 / 08.05
08 / 05 / 13
President Barroso has today made a push to make significant progress on energy and tax fraud and evasion at the European Council on 22 May. Writing to other European leaders, President Barroso highlights the considerable difference in energy prices across the EU because of the fragmented EU energy market and the failure to tap the benefits of energy efficiency. He says that the EU has part of the solution to high energy prices in its hands – if we complete our internal energy market and implement existing legislation. On tax fraud and evasion, President Barroso calls for member states to decide on the savings tax directive and the implementation of the Commission's action plan on strengthening the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion and the two recommendations on tax havens and aggressive tax planning. President Barroso announces that the European Commission will present a legislative proposal to extend the scope of automatic exchange under the Administrative cooperation Directive. Under embargo until 12:15 CET!
In today's world, European citizens cannot fully participate in society without a basic bank account. Bank accounts have become an essential part of our everyday life, allowing us to make and receive payments, shop online, and pay utility bills (telephone, gas, electricity). Whilst single market legislation has ensured that banks can operate throughout the European Union and offer their services cross-border, this mobility is not mirrored for citizens who are often unable to open an account in another Member State or to easily switch from one bank to another. Furthermore, consumers often pay above the odds for the services they receive from their bank and struggle to have clarity on the various fees charged. It is in this context that the European Commission will publish today its proposal for a Directive on the transparency and comparability of payment account fees, payment account switching and access to a basic payment account (find frequently asked questions in MEMO/13/413). Under embargo until 12:30 CET!
The European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is increasingly becoming a point of reference not only for the EU institutions when drawing up legislation but also for the European and national courts, making fundamental rights a reality for citizens in Europe. The findings of today's third annual report on the application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, illustrates with a wide range of fundamental rights related cases that the EU is continuing to build a more coherent system for protecting people’s fundamental rights, giving a comprehensive overview of how fundamental rights have been implemented in the EU over the past year. This report is accompanied by a new progress report on equality between women and men during 2012. For more information: MEMO/13/411
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of May will take place in Brussels on 13th and 14th May 2013, under the presidency of Mr Simon Coveney, Irish Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş and Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki. A press conference will be held for each session at the end of the discussions – at lunch on Monday (Agriculture) and at the end of Tuesday's discussions (Fisheries). The public debates and the press conferences can be followed by video streaming: http://video.consilium.europa.eu .
Commissioner Piebalgs to discuss EU's development cooperation with Baltic Parliamentary representatives
On 10th of May Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development will meet with members of the European Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Latvia, where he will address issues such as European economy, developments in the Eurozone, EU's Development cooperation, among other. On the same day, the Commissioner will also participate in the International Conference Development Cooperation: The Baltic Response organized by the Baltic Assembly and make a speech in the session dedicated to challenges and opportunities of the EU's development cooperation. The Conference will address the contribution of the Baltic States to the EU’s development cooperation.
Animal Health: Commission to lift remaining classical swine fever restrictions for Hungary
Yesterday, at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, Member State experts unanimously supported a Commission proposal to remove the remaining health restrictions for classical swine fever in wild boar in Hungary (county of Pest). Over the last six years, an EU co-financed eradication programme was implemented in Hungary amounting to a total of over €1.5 million in EU financial support. Hungary reported the results of the surveillance carried out in 2012 and early 2013, which showed that the disease has been eradicated. Classical swine fever is a highly infectious viral disease of swine which can spread through the trade in live pigs, fresh pig meat and certain pig meat-based products. When the disease occurs, a broad set of eradication measures and trade restrictions must be applied in conformity with EU rules to ensure that the disease is rapidly eradicated and to avoid its further spread. The disease has now been successfully eradicated from central Europe, one of the historical foci of the infection. Last year, with the lifting of the remaining restrictions in Germany, the disease was considered as being successfully eradicated in Western Europe. Restrictions due to classical swine fever are now only in place in Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia. The improved situation over the last decade has been a key factor for the major increase in recent years of pork and pork products exports from many EU Member States to all over the world.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) faces a funding shortfall for the third year in a row and has launched an urgent appeal to invest more in human rights. In response to this appeal, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) will provide in 2013 an exceptional contribution of €10 million covering more than three/fourth of this financial gap. "We have decided to make this contribution as this UN Office represents the world's commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. Human rights, fundamental freedoms, peace and good governance are common values and a silver thread that runs through the EU's foreign and development policy. We have both the moral obligation and the political will to protect them," said VP/HR Ashton and Commissioner Piebalgs.
The European Commission has today proposed a Council decision authorising EU Member States to sign the treaty on the international trade in conventional weapons, the so-called Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT aims to make the legal trade in conventional arms more responsible, by setting high common international standards on imports, exports and transfers. It provides for the assessment of arms transfers and measures to prevent the diversion of conventional arms from the importing and exporting States. In addition, it enhances transparency in arms trading by requiring record keeping and reporting to the Secretariat and other State Parties. The provisions of the ATT cover conventional arms of the following categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons. The Treaty also covers the related ammunition/ munitions and parts and components.
More than 1600 exchanges have so far been organised under the Erasmus for Young entrepreneurs programme and some 3200 businesses have been created or expanded (including numerous joint ventures and new cross border relations, see MEMO/13/412). Since 2009, funded by the European Commission, Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs enables new entrepreneurs – be they "would-be" entrepreneurs armed with a coherent business plan or entrepreneurs who started their own business in the last three years – to gain valuable skills and experience in a business in another country participating in the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP). European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani will congratulate tomorrow in Milan new entrepreneurs who recently set up their own company. They have opened various types of company, including an enterprise company producing educational game software and promoting tourism using mobile technologies, a strategic consulting firm for technology focused companies, and a jewellery technology network.
2013 GreenBuilding Awards: winners halve energy consumption
Energy-saving efforts in ten new and refurbished buildings in 6 European countries (Austria, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Poland, Denmark) have today been recognised with the European Commission's GreenBuilding Awards. Buildings are responsible for about 40% of total energy consumption in the EU. The average energy savings of 51% achieved by the winners shows that real savings can be made in buildings, towards meeting the EU's targets for energy reduction. The highest energy savings (75%) came from a refurbished Austrian office building (Amtshaus Schlagergass), which installed a newly insulated roof, heat absorption glazed windows and dynamic shading devices. The majority of the energy savings were obtained through the introduction of renewable energy sources and energy efficient measures (including heat pumps, condensing boilers, triple glazing, LED lighting, occupancy control and a high level of insulation). Many buildings achieved large energy savings by using highly-efficient heat recovery in air conditioning or ventilation systems. The award ceremony takes place today (8th May) during the NextBuilding conference in Milan. The full list of winners and background information on the GreenBuilding programme can be found here: http://www.jrc.ec.europa.eu/press-release/greenbuilding
Commission approves requests to protect seven food names
The European Commission has approved seven new requests for registration of denominations as Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs). These are: for the United Kingdom, " Stornoway Black Pudding " (PGI) - a black pudding made primarilyfrom beef suet and oatmeal on the Scottish Isle of Lewis; and the " Lakeland Herdwick " (PDO) - meat of lamb and sheep of the Herdwick breed born, raised and slaughtered in the county of Cumbria; for Italy, the " Panforte di Siena " (PGI), a typical pastry made in the province of Siena and the " Salmerino del Trentino " (PGI) - a salmonid fish, bred in the Province of Trento and the municipality of Bagolino; for Greece, " Ξηρά Σύκα Ταξιάρχη (Xira Syka Taxiarchi)" (PDO)- figs of the Smyrna variety, produced in Northern Evia and dried naturally in the sun; for France, " Ail fumé d'Arleux " (PGI) - a pink spring garlic, smoked in a traditional way and presented in braids; and, for Germany, " Eichsfelder Feldgieker / Eichsfelder Feldkieker "(PGI) - a sausage produced by traditional processing of warm meat in the Eischsfeld region. The decision should be published in the next few days in the Official Journal of the European Union. The denomination will then be added to the list of more than 1,100 products already protected by the legislation on protection of geographical indications, denominations of origin and traditional specialties. More information on quality products as well as the list of protected denominations are available at the following address: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/schemes/index_en.htm
State aid: Commission's competition service consults on review of General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER)
As part of its state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative, the European Commission's competition service consults the public on a first proposal for the review of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The proposal follows a public consultation held in 2012 and is aimed at collecting views from Member States and stakeholders so as to prepare for the adoption of a Commission proposal for a revised Regulation later this year. The GBER sets out the conditions under which state aid can be exempted from prior notification to the Commission. The GBER aims at promoting Member States' support measures for EU 2020 objectives, which do not distort competition and trade in the internal market. Today's draft proposes a number of changes to the current GBER in line with the SAM objectives of promoting "good" aid and more effective and efficient public support. The main changes concern:
wider possibilities to promote investments in R&D&I, green investments, risk capital and finance for SMEs, including aid to alternative trading platforms;
increased notification thresholds for R&D measures and risk finance, new exemption for R&D infrastructure;
simplified provisions for innovation and start-up aid to SMEs;
new provisions for renewable energy, district heating, remediation of polluted sites - based on a simplified cost calculation method;
new provisions for regional development in order to promote cross-border co-operation projects and to address handicaps of outermost regions, while better targeting aid to large companies in assisted regions towards EU 2020 objectives;
wider possibilities to support the employment of young people and simplified provisions for training aid;
strengthened transparency provisions and evaluation of large schemes to promote efficient and effective public spending and minimise distortions in the internal market.
The consultation closes on 28th June 2013. Contributions received will be published on the Commission's competition website unless clearly marked as confidential. The draft is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2013_gber/index_en.html
Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of DFCV by Volvo and Dongfeng
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control over Dongfeng Commercial Vehicles Company Limited (DFCV of China by AB Volvo of Sweden and Dongfeng Motor Group Company Limited of China. DFCV was previously solely controlled by Dongfeng. Volvo is active worldwide in the production of commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses and coaches, and related automotive components. Dongfeng is active mainly in China in the manufacture and sale of commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles and automotive components. DFCV will be active in the production of commercial vehicles and related automotive components in China and other Asian and Middle East countries. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.6860 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of CSM’s bakery supplies business by private equity firm Rhône Capital
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of CSM’s bakery supplies business by private equity firm Rhône Capital LLC. Rhône Capital engages in private equity investing and has controlling interests in a number of companies active in different industries, including in the management of shipping vessels, the operation of electronic stores, the production of carbon black and in minerals mining. CSM, originally Centrale Suiker Maatschappij, is a Dutch company active in the production of bakery supplies, lactic acid based products and food ingredients. CSM’s bakery supplies business develops, manufactures and supplies bakery ingredients globally. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.6918 .
What Commissioners said:
"We have heard many ambitious words on fighting tax evasion in recent weeks. EU Finance Ministers will soon have the chance to turn these words into action – and there is no excuse not to do so. Next week's ECOFIN, and the Summit that follows, offer our Member States a unique opportunity. They will have the chance to take decisions which will help recover vast sums to national treasuries and rebalance the tax burden for citizens. Decisions which will be remembered as a major turning point in how we deal – as a Union – with tax evasion and those that encourage it. It is only by acting together as a Union that we will be a model of good governance at home and a powerful driver for these same standards to be applied internationally. As a Union, let's not miss this opportunity."
Vice President Rehn this morning addressed the ECON Committee of the European Parliament on the financial assistance programme for Cyprus. He addressed three key questions: Why did Cyprus find itself in such a grave economic and financial situation that it had to request a support programme? Why did it take nine months from the request to an agreement on the programme for Cyprus? And what are the key elements of the programme to support Cyprus? He outlined the main lessons from the process leading to the programme agreement. In conclusion, he said the reunification of Cyprus would give a major boost to the economic and social development, and “it is indeed high time to revitalise the process leading towards reunification.”