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Daily News – 11.12.2012

EXME 12 / 11.12

Midday Express of 2012-12-11

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Environment: Give your opinion on how to improve EU air quality policy

The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the best way to improve air quality in Europe. For the next twelve weeks, interested parties are invited to share their views on ways to ensure full implementation of the existing framework, to improve it, and to complement it with supporting actions. The results of the consultation will feed into a comprehensive review of Europe's air policies due in 2013. The consultation is open until 4 March 2013.

Copernicus: new name for European Earth Observation Programme

Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The new name was announced today by Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani during the Competitiveness Council. In a world facing an increased risk of natural and other disasters Copernicus aims to monitor the state of the environment on land, at sea and in the atmosphere and also to improve citizens' security. At the same time, Copernicus is a driver for economic growth and employment, with the potential to create up to 85 000 new jobs over the period 2015-2030, according to a recent study (see IP/12/1304).

School partnerships improve pupils' and teachers' skills

A new study on the impact of partnerships between schools in different countries has found that pupils - particularly at secondary level - significantly improved their skills, including cultural and social skills, IT and foreign languages. The impact of the partnerships was strongest on pupils who visited partner schools. Seven out of ten schools said that the partnerships had a strong to very strong impact on pupils' cultural awareness and expression as well as social and civic competences. This was followed by computer skills (54%) and communication in foreign languages (52%). The partnerships were funded through the Comenius exchange programme, the schools' equivalent of Erasmus.

Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Romanian Power Exchange

The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings against OPCOM and Transelectrica to investigate whether the operator of the only power exchange in Romania may be abusing its dominant position. The Commission has concerns that OPCOM may be discriminating against companies on the basis of their nationality or place of establishment, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). An opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation; it only means that the Commission will proceed with an in-depth investigation.

Competition: Commission launches study on choice and innovation in food sector

The European Commission is launching a study to assess the impact of recent developments in the European retail sector on consumers. Following calls by stakeholders, the Commission will examine, in particular, whether increased concentration and the use of own brand (private label) products have hampered choice and innovation in the European food sector. The Commission invites interested expert researchers to submit proposals to its call for tenders by 14 February 2013. The final report of the study is expected by the end of 2013. The Commission will evaluate the results and may put forward proposals to improve the functioning of European food markets.

Workers' remittances in the EU27: nearly 40 billion euro transferred by migrants to their country of origin in 2011

In the EU27, money sent by migrants to their country of origin, usually referred to as workers' remittances, amounted to 39.1 billion euro in 2011, up by 2% compared with 2010. This total includes both intra-EU27 and extra-EU27 flows. Extra-EU27 flows of workers' remittances, which represented nearly three quarters of the total, grew by 3% to reach 28.5 bn, while intra-EU27 flows remained nearly stable at 10.7 bn. Among the Member States for which data are available, the outflow of workers' remittances in 2011 was highest in France (9.7 bn euro or 25% of total EU27 remittances), Italy (7.4 bn or 19%), Spain (7.3 bn or 19%), Germany (3.0 bn or 8%) and the Netherlands (1.5 bn or 4%). Among these five Member States, the share of extra-EU27 remittances in the total ranged from 64% in France to 83% in Italy. This News Release, issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, presents data collected within the framework of Balance of Payments statistics.

ICT usage in enterprises in 2012: almost half of enterprises in the EU27 made portable devices such as smartphones or laptops available to staff

In January 2012, 48% of enterprises in the EU27 reported that they provided some type of portable device to at least some of their staff for business use. This was the case for 88% of large enterprises, compared with 71% of medium and 43% of small enterprises. A closer look at the type of mobile devices enterprises provided to staff shows almost no difference on an EU27 level, with 40% of enterprises providing portable computers and 39% other mobile devices, such as smartphones or Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). Among the enterprises in the EU27 providing portable devices, 88% reported that these devices can be used by staff to access the e-mail system of the enterprise, 86% to look up information on the internet, 56% to access and modify documents and 45% to use dedicated business applications. These data come from a report published by Eurostat.

100th Marie Curie COFUND grant awarded to Croatia

Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will participate in an event in Brussels on 12 December with Željko Jovanović, Croatian Minister of Science, Education and Sports, to mark the 100th Marie Curie 'COFUND' grant, which has been awarded to a research fellowship programme managed by the Ministry in Zagreb. Under the COFUND scheme, the Commission tops up regional, national and international programmes for research training by up to 40% of the total funding. The €2.8 million grant awarded to the Croatian Ministry will support 117 fellowships over the next five years. COFUND was launched in 2007 and will be extended under Horizon 2020, the Commission's new research and innovation programme for 2014-2020. "Alongside our traditional Marie Curie grants, the COFUND action has enabled us to extend the reach of our support for research excellence and career mobility," said Commissioner Vassiliou ahead of the event. In total, more than 6 000 researchers have benefited from the COFUND scheme to date. Tomorrow's event takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (10am). Today, the Council is expected to reach a 'partial general approach' (agreement pending adoption of the European Parliament's opinion) on the renamed Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), including COFUND, which will support researchers and doctoral training including industrial doctorates, joint doctorates and other innovative research training (MEMO/12/830). On 28 November the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) voted in favour of increasing the budget share of the MSCA in Horizon 2020 from 7.4% to 8.3% and endorsed the main elements of the Commission's proposals. More information about the Marie Curie Actions; Commissioner Vassiliou's website; Twitter @VassiliouEU

Commission report on phasing-out of milk quotas

The Commission has adopted its second report on the evolution of the market situation and conditions for a smooth phasing out of the milk quota system, as requested by the Council as part of the 2008 CAP Health Check. The report, which will now be forwarded to the Council and the European Parliament, concludes that the "soft landing" is on track: in the vast majority of Member States, quotas are no longer relevant to limiting production and the quota price (paid by farmers seeking additional quota) is already zero or close to zero. EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş stated: "I welcome this report on the state of the sector, as requested by the Council in 2008, and take note of its conclusions. Of course we will continue to monitor the situation closely, as the dairy sector remains a priority for me. At the same time, I am optimistic that the milk package, which entered into force in October, will provide new elements for strengthening the producer's role in the dairy supply chain, such as addressing the issue of contracts which was not previously covered." He concluded that "We will also come forward with a further report in mid-2014 as foreseen in the milk package which will pay particular attention to the situation in disadvantaged regions and covering potential incentives for joint production agreements". The report can be downloaded from the following page of the Europa website

Enregistrement de quatre dénominations de produits agricoles

La Commission européenne a ajouté quatre dénominations de produits agricoles et alimentaires à la liste des appellations d'origine protégées (AOP) et des indications géographiques protégées (IGP). Il s'agit, pour la Grèce, de la mandarine de Chios, " Μανταρίνι Χίου (Mandarini Chiou)" (IGP) ; pour l'Italie, du sel marin " Sale Marino di Trapani " (IGP), pour l'Espagne, du fromage " Queso Camerano " (AOP) et pour le Royaume-Uni du " Scottish Wild Salmon " (IGP). Ces dénominations s'ajoutent à la liste de plus de 1000 produits déjà protégés en vertu de la législation sur la protection des indications géographiques, des appellations d'origine et des spécialités traditionnelles. Des renseignements sur les produits de qualité ainsi que la liste des dénominations protégées sont disponibles sur l'internet à l'adresse:

The Council of the European Union committed to Blue Growth

The European Commission welcomes the backing of the EU's General Affairs Council on the EU Marine and Maritime Agenda for Growth and Jobs, which aims at developing the growth potential of Europe’s blue economy. As highlighted in the Commission's Blue Growth initiative on opportunities for marine and maritime sustainable growth, today's Council Conclusions stress the potential of the Blue economy to contribute to Europe’s overall economic recovery equally from established sectors such as shipping and maritime and coastal tourism, growing areas such as offshore wind and to emerging sectors such as blue biotechnology and ocean renewables from waves and tides. The Council thereby also called to further develop and implement the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy and endorsed the "Limassol Declaration" adopted on 8 October 2012 by European Ministers for maritime policy and by the European Commission, under the chairmanship of the Cyprus Presidency. In order to facilitate and realise this growth potential, institutions and stakeholders have to work together to develop the right conditions, including the implementation of maritime spatial planning, the achievement of good environmental status of European waters, seabed mapping and ocean forecasting and the efficient surveillance of the EU maritime domain. Additionally, the development of macro-regional and sea-basin strategies such as for the Baltic, the Atlantic and the Adriatic-Ionian, can provide tailor-made responses to the specificities of each region. The Council also recognises that developing the Blue economy requires financial support, welcomes the proposal for a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and encourages the EU to support the sustainable development of marine and maritime activities in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki said: "Through Blue Growth, we are showing the wealth that exists in the coastal and marine environment. If managed sustainably, Europe’s blue economy can provide us with further growth, competitiveness and job-creating opportunities. Today’s endorsement by Council is yet another important step in creating sustainable wealth and employment for the benefit of Europe’s citizens.” More information: see IP/12/955

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over newly created joint venture Fortaco by Rautaruukki and CapMan

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over a newly created joint venture, Fortaco (Finland), by Rautaruukki Oyj and CapMan Oyj, both of Finland. Rautaruukki produces energy-efficient steel solutions. CapMan is a private equity fund manager with operations in the Nordic countries and Russia. One of its portfolio company, Komas Group Oy of Finland, assembles and supplies mechanical components. The proposed transaction would create Fortaco by combining the activities of Rautaruukki's engineering business and Komas. Fortaco would produce and sell operator cabins and steel components for the mechanical engineering industry. The Commission found that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, because it would not significantly alter the market structure and that post transaction there would be sufficient competitive pressure from a number of credible competitors. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.6737 .

Concentrations: la Commission autorise l’acquisition par Bolloré du contrôle de Havas

La Commission européenne a autorisé, en vertu du règlement de l’UE sur les concentrations, l'acquisition du contrôle de l'entreprise française Havas par le groupe français Bolloré. Bolloré est un groupe diversifié, présent dans les secteurs de l'industrie, la distribution d'énergie, le transport et la logistique, les médias et télécoms. Havas est active dans le secteur des services de conseil en communication. L'opération a été analysée sous la procédure simplifiée.


Digital Agenda: Commission suspends Czech proposal to regulate wholesale termination rates

The European Commission has expressed serious doubts about a new proposal from the Czech telecoms regulator (ČTÚ) regarding termination rates which would negatively affect consumers in the Czech Republic. The prices proposed by ČTÚ for certain termination services are twice as high as prices in other countries where proper price setting methodologies are applied. ČTÚ has imposed wholesale prices which do not take into consideration next-generation-network based efficient technologies. Termination rates are the rates telecoms networks charge each other to deliver calls between networks, and each operator has market power over access to customers on its own network. These costs are ultimately included in call prices paid by consumers and businesses.

Digital Agenda – European Commission raises serious doubts over contradictory Polish proposal on broadband market

The European Commission has expressed serious doubts over plans by the Polish telecoms regulator UKE to deregulate part of the Polish wholesale broadband access market. UKE's proposal is based on an out-dated market assessment from March 2011. Moreover, the proposal contradicts a more recent market analysis dating from March 2012 where UKE concluded that no single area was competitive enough in Poland to propose complete deregulation. The Commission has therefore suspended UKE's plans and started a two month in-depth investigation.

EU welcomes Tajikistan's planned accession to the World Trade Organisation

The European Commission fully supports today's decision by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to pave the way for the accession of Tajikistan. Once the whole accession procedure is completed, Tajikistan will become the 159th member of the global trade forum.

L’Union européenne soutient la promotion des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc

Dans le cadre de son initiative SPRING, la Commission européenne a adopté aujourd'hui un programme de 2,8 millions d’euros pour le Maroc afin de soutenir l’action de deux institutions-clés dans la protection et la promotion des droits de l’Homme au Maroc: le Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH) et la Délégation Interministérielle des Droits de l’Homme (DIDH).

Autre matériel diffusé :

Address by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council & José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission at the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo: "From war to peace: a European tale" - rediffusion

Memo "Copernicus – monitoring our earth from space, good for jobs, good for the environment"

Memo "Commissioner Šemeta welcomes Council adoption of Action plan on Intellectual Property Rights" - rediffusion