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Daily News – 11.06.2014

Daily News of 2014-06-11

European Commission - 11/06/2014

EXME 14 / 11.06

DAILY NEWS

11 / 06 / 14

State aid: Commission investigates transfer pricing arrangements on corporate taxation of Apple (Ireland) Starbucks (Netherlands) and Fiat Finance and Trade (Luxembourg)

The European Commission has opened three in-depth investigations to examine whether decisions by tax authorities in Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade, respectively, comply with the EU rules on state aid. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties, as well as the three Member States concerned, an opportunity to submit comments. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

2015 EU draft budget to help Europe's economic growth despite financial constraints

The Commission’s proposal for the 2015 EU budget includes a strong focus on projects that make Europe economically stronger. It also focuses on issues that make a tangible difference to Europeans’ daily life such as energy, research and youth employment. All this with lower expenditure ceilings than in the previous financial period and with renewed discipline on administration costs.

Trilateral meeting between the EU, Russia and Ukraine on energy security

Talks between European Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak and Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan on energy security have resumed this morning (Wednesday, 11 June). After bilateral meetings the trilateral talks have started at 9.30 a.m. CET in the Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels.

Details on press arrangements after the meeting will be announced in due time.

Other news

Olaf reform process: Commission proposes final step

Today the Commission has proposed measures to further safeguard procedural guarantees in OLAF investigations, in order to complete the already comprehensive reform of the EU's anti-fraud office. The proposal foresees the creation of a new Controller of Procedural Guarantees, who would have two main functions. First, he would be responsible for reviewing and providing recommendations on complaints that might be lodged by anyone implicated in an OLAF investigation. Second, OLAF will have to get authorisation from the Controller before inspecting the offices of members of EU institutions, or taking any documents or data from these offices. Today's proposal is another step to ensure that OLAF can continue to work efficiently and independently in protecting EU financial interests, while also guaranteeing the effective protection of fundamental rights (see MEMO/14/409).

Commissioner Oettinger welcomes agreement on the revised Nuclear Safety Directive

European Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger said: "Nuclear safety is paramount to all European citizens. We need to put all our efforts into making sure that the highest safety standards are followed in every single nuclear power plant across the EU. The new Nuclear Safety Directive, once formally adopted, will help ensure continuous improvement of the safety of our nuclear installations." Today, the Permanent Representatives Committee of the Council of the European Union (COREPER) acknowledged the agreement reached by Member States on the Commission's proposal to amend the 2009 Nuclear Safety Directive. This agreement follows the supportive opinion adopted by the European Parliament in April. The Council still needs to formally adopt the new Directive. The new Directive builds on the lessons learned from Fukushima and the nuclear stress tests and is based on the latest international standards. It strengthens the independence and the powers of national regulators. For the first time it sets out a clear nuclear safety objective to further reduce safety risks. It will introduce a system of European peer reviews to be carried out at least every six years. The revised Directive also enhances transparency, in particular through better public information on the safety of nuclear installations. Find more information about the revised Nuclear Safety Directive on the Commission’s website .

Commissioner Damanaki announces end of the “herring dispute” between European Union and Faroe Islands

The European Commission and the Faroe Islands have reached a political understanding to end their dispute on the management of Atlanto-Scandian herring in the North-East Atlantic. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, announced this morning that according to the agreement she reached with the Minister of Fisheries of the Faroe Islands, Jacob Vestergaard, the Faroe Islands will put an end to their unsustainable fishery of Atlanto-Scandian herring. In return, the European Commission will take action to stop the trade restrictions that the EU imposed on the Faroe Islands in August 2013 in reaction to the unsustainable management of the stocks. The Faroe Islands also agreed to close the proceedings launched against the EU at the World Trade Organization and in the context of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in response to the EU measures. Commissioner Damanaki stated that she is satisfied that after long negotiations, “Faroese fishermen will soon be able to come back to EU waters and European fishermen can continue their traditional fisheries in Faroese waters.” See also: STATEMENT/14/189

EU citizens satisfied with urban public transport

The results of a Eurobarometer survey on urban public transport published by the European Commission today show that 69% of EU citizens are satisfied with public transportation. The survey also shows that Europeans have good access to urban public transportation, with 77% of them being less than 10 minutes away from the nearest station or stop. However, too few Europeans use urban public transport on a regular basis.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of a non-life insurance going concern of UnipolSai by Allianz

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of a non-life insurance business of UnipolSai Assicurazioni S.p.A. (“UnipolSai”) by Allianz S.p.A., a company indirectly controlled by Allianz SE. The target consists of certain assets and liabilities of the former Milano Assicurazioni S.p.A., including its business division Sasa, and provides non-life insurance products in Italy. UnipolSai acquired control over the target through the acquisition of the Premafin/Fondiaria-SAI Group, of which Milano Assicurazioni was then a part, by UnipolSai’s controlling shareholder, Unipol Gruppo Finanziario S.p.A. This transaction was cleared by the Italian competition authority in June 2012. Allianz is an international financial service company active, among other sectors, in life and non-life insurance, as well as asset management. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because the overlaps between the parties' activities are only limited and other insurance companies which can exert an effective competitive constraint on Allianz remain in the market. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7233 .  

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Ibericar K and the BMW's car dealership business in Barcelona by PAG and Ibericar

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Ibericar Keldenich S.L. and the BMW's car dealership business in Barcelona both of Spain, by Penske Automotive Group Inc (PAG) of the United Stated of America and Ibericar, Sociedad Ibérica de Automóvil S.A. (Ibericar) of Spain. Ibericar K and the BMW's car dealership business are active in car retailing and related activities in Spain. PAG is active in automobile dealership business in North America the UK, Germany and Italy but has no activities in Spain. Ibericar mainly carries out car retailing and related activities in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because of the moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction. The transaction 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.7214 .  

Vassiliou unveils plans for First European Week of Sport

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for sport, announced plans today for the first European Week of Sport, which will take place in September 2015. The aim of the event is to promote exercise and sport at all levels. The latest Eurobarometer survey on sport and physical activity showed that almost 60% of European Union citizens never or seldom exercise or play sport. The European Commission is expected to provide funding for European Week of Sport from Erasmus+, the new European programme for education, training, youth and sport. The Commission will coordinate events and activities throughout Europe during the Week. Organisations signing up to its objectives will receive guidance from the Commission and a European Week of Sport label. See also SPEECH/14/450 .

Mission for Growth: enhancing economic ties between Panama and the EU

As part of the EU’s effort to strengthen economic relations with Central and Latin American countries, European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani will lead a Mission for Growth to Panama on 12 June 2014. He will be accompanied by a large business delegation composed of 32 companies, 5 European business associations representing 11 EU Member States. During his visit to Panama, Vice President Tajani will hold discussions with the Minister of the Presidency of the Republic of Panama, Roberto Henriquez, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francisco Alvarez De Soto, and Panama Canal's administrator, Jorge L. Quijano (tbc). A B2B match-making event will allow European and Panamanian entrepreneurs to find cooperation partners and should help EU companies to operate in targeted industry sectors, such as infrastructure, construction, technology and harmonisation of standards.

EU raises €500 million for Macro-Financial Assistance to Ukraine

The European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, today raised €500 million on the capital markets to fund the first loan tranche for Ukraine under the new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA II) programme. The funding was raised via a tap of the April-issued EU 10-year €2.6 billion bond, increasing it to €3.2 billion, following an initial tap of €100 million on 14 May. The proceeds of today´s operation will be disbursed to Ukraine on 17 June, the settlement date of the operation. The new tranche has an issue price of 102.976, and yields 1.545 per cent, which is equivalent to MS +3bps and about 21 bps over the DBR 1.75% Feb-24 bond. Books were opened at 8.45am CET and closed before 10am, containing orders of more than €1.25 bn. Pricing at MS+3bp was at the tight end of what was expected. MFA II is supporting Ukraine with loans of up to €1 billion and is implemented in parallel with the already approved programme of €610 million (MFA I), totalling a combined amount of up to €1.61 billion. A first disbursement of €100 million under MFA I was made to Ukraine on 20 May. See IP/14/570.

Commissioner Vassiliou to address world conference on women and sport.

On 12-13 June Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou will take part in the World Conference on Women and Sport in Helsinki, organised by the International Working Group on Women and Sport with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee. Although more girls and women are participating in sport, much still needs to be done to create a level playing field when it comes to gender equality. Women are under-represented in coaching and in leadership positions in sport governing bodies, while some face sexual harassment or violence in sport environments. Commissioner Vassiliou will underline the Commission's commitment to promoting gender equality in sport. She will also propose stronger cooperation between the Olympic bodies and the EU, including possible joint actions.

To find out more, please visit Androulla Vassiliou's website or the European Commission's website on sports.

Five new senior management appointments

The Commission has decided to appoint Mr Simon MORDUE as Director 'Enlargement Policy and Strategy' in the Enlargement Directorate-General. Mr Mordue, who is British, is currently the Head of Cabinet of Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle. The decision takes effect on 1 September 2014. Also appointed to the post of Director is Vice-President Antonio Tajani's Italian Deputy Head of Cabinet, Valentina SUPERTI, who will be responsible for 'Single market for goods' issues in the Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General. This decision will take effect on 1 July 2014. A third Director appointment concerns 'Horizontal Affairs and Audit in EU Agencies' in the Internal Audit Service Directorate-General. From 16 July 2014, this role will be filled by Mr Reinder VAN DER ZEE. Mr Van Der Zee, who is Dutch, is currently a Head of Unit in the Budget Directorate-General, responsible for the budgetary discharge procedure, relations with the institutions concerned, and parliamentary questions. Ms Clara MARTINEZ ALBEROLA has been appointed Principal Adviser in the Justice Directorate-General, responsible for 'Strategies for the development of justice policies'. Ms Martinez Alberola, who is Spanish, has served for nine years as a member of President Barroso's Cabinet. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later. Finally, Mr Martin SELMAYR will take up the role of EU Director in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. This follows his appointment as a Principal Adviser in the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate-General, a decision that takes effect on 1 July 2014. Mr Selmayr, a German national, is Head of Cabinet of Vice-President Viviane Reding. In recent weeks he took unpaid leave to work as 'Juncker for President' campaign director.

Labour protection: Commissioner Andor welcomes adoption of new international standards to protect victims of forced labour and seafarers

László Andor welcomed the adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of two new international instruments to combat forced labour, and the approval of important amendments to the ILO's Maritime Labour Convention . "The updating of the Forced Labour Convention is a big step towards the definitive suppression of this terrible human rights violation. With these new instruments, we will be better equipped to combat today's forms of forced labour. Furthermore, the new amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention will raise global standards and ensure relief and support to seafarers and their families in case of abandonment, or if death or long-term disability occurs as the result of occupational injury, illness or hazard. I encourage all EU Member States to ratify and apply these instruments as soon as possible”, Andor said.

State aid: Commission approves Italian operating aid to Stretto airport

The European Commission has found that Italian public capital injections into Stretto airport in Calabria, Italy, are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission has concluded that the measures have furthered the connectivity of Calabria, in line with EU transport objectives, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. In 2010, the Commission had opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether capital injections carried out by the public shareholders of SO.G.A.S., the manager of the Italian Stretto airport, in 2005, 2006 and 2007 were in line with the state aid rules. The Commission's investigation has shown that the financing provided to SO.G.A.S. contributed to the development of safe and viable air transport infrastructure in Calabria, a region where remote accessibility and the underdeveloped freight mobility raise critical issues. This has clearly helped improving the accessibility and connectivity of Calabria and furthered the development of the region. The Commission found that the aid did not exceed the amount required to cover the airport's losses. Moreover, Stretto is over 100 km from the next regional airport. This limits the potential distortion of competition triggered by the aid.The Commission has assessed the aid under the new Aviation Guidelines, which allow, under certain conditions, operating aid to airports for a transitional period of ten years (see IP/14/72).

State aid: Commission approves regional aid map 2014-2020 for Luxembourg

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Luxembourg's map for granting regional investment aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market. Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: Luxembourg´s new regional aid map allows for targeted public support to businesses in those Luxembourgish regions where aid is most needed.” Luxembourg's regional aid map defines the two municipalities Differdange and Dudelange as eligible for regional aid under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This provision allows the granting of aid in areas which are disadvantaged relative to the national average. The map will be in force between 1 July 2014 and 31 December 2020.

State aid: Commission approves Croatia's regional aid map 2014-2020

The European Commission has approved Croatia's map for granting state aid between 2014 and 2020 within the framework of the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market. Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “The new regional aid map will allow the Croatian authorities to grant state aid for regional development throughout the entire country in order to promote growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market. The map will also facilitate the implementation of regional development programmes co-financed by the European Structural Funds.”

State aid: Commission approves Czech scheme supporting renewable energy

The European Commission has found that a Czech scheme supporting the production of electricity from renewable energy sources is in line with the EU state aid rules. The Commission concluded in particular that the scheme will further EU energy objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "The implementation of the scheme helps the Czech Republic to meet its renewable energy targets and achieve its Europe 2020 goals in line with EU state aid rules."

State aid: Commission approves regional aid map 2014-2020 for Portugal

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Portugal's map for granting state aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market. Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: Portugal's new regional aid map supports our cohesion policy and will enable Portuguese authorities to use well-designed aid measures to promote investment and further economic growth in less developed areas. Portugal will now be able to implement its regional development strategy for 2014-2020.''

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