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Daily News – 15.12.2010

Midday Express of 2010-12-15

European Commission - 15/12/2010

EXME 10 / 15.12

Midday Express of 2010-12-15

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication

Digital Agenda: eGovernment Action Plan to smooth access to public services across the EU

The European Commission has outlined an ambitious programme to work with Member States' public authorities to expand and improve the services which they offer via the Internet. The new eGovernment Action Plan foresees forty specific measures over the next five years to enable citizens and businesses to use online facilities to, for example, register a business, apply for and access social security and health benefits, enrol in a university or bid to provide goods and services for public administrations. Promoting eGovernment can help boost Europe's competitiveness and allow public authorities to offer improved services more cost-effectively at a time of budget constraints. This is why it is a fundamental part of the Digital Agenda for Europe , which aims to increase the use of eGovernment services by citizens to 50%, and by businesses to 80% by 2015 (see IP/10/581 , MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). The new Action Plan builds on experience gained with the 2006 European eGovernment Action Plan (see IP/06/523).

The European Commission provides an additional €9.8 million and further technical support to Greece on asylum and border issues

The European Union is strengthening its support to Greece in the area of migration and asylum with an additional package of €9.8 million for emergency needs and with teams of experts deployed in Greece to assist Athens in supporting the reform of the national asylum system.

La Commission salue l'adoption du règlement relatif à l'initiative citoyenne européenne – EMBARGO 14h30

La Commission européenne se félicite vivement de l'adoption, aujourd'hui, du règlement relatif à l'initiative citoyenne européenne (ICE) grâce à laquelle les citoyens pourront, pour la première fois, proposer directement de nouvelles mesures législatives de l'Union. Cette innovation du traité de Lisbonne permettra à tout groupe constitué d'au moins un million de citoyens issus d'au moins un quart des États membres de l'Union d'inviter la Commission européenne à formuler des propositions législatives dans des domaines relevant de ses attributions. Les organisateurs d'une ICE, à savoir un comité de citoyens composé d'au moins sept personnes ayant leur résidence respective dans au moins sept États membres différents, disposeront d'un an pour collecter des signatures; la Commission aura ensuite trois mois pour examiner l'initiative et décider des suites à lui donner. À la demande du Conseil, le règlement relatif à l'initiative citoyenne européenne entrera en application un an après sa publication au Journal officiel, c'est-à-dire que les premières initiatives pourront être examinées à partir de 2012.

Environment: Commission launches consultations on LIFE+ and Natura 2000

The European Commission has launched two online consultations in the field of environment. The first consultation is on the next financial instrument for the environment, which will succeed the LIFE+ instrument after its expiry at the end of 2013. The second is on the financing of Natura 2000, the EU's network of protected areas. Both consultations run until mid-February 2011.

Commissioner Piebalgs and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Slade launch a Joint Initiative on Climate Change – EMBARGO 14h00

Following the Cancún Climate Change Conference, Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development and Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, launched today a 'Joint Pacific-EU Initiative on Climate Change'. The objective is to mobilise EU Member States and international partners to join efforts to reinforce Pacific Countries' capacity to address the impacts climate change more efficiently. These countries are possibly the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The initiative aims to ensure that a fair share of international climate change funding goes to Pacific countries. The Commission is leading the EU's efforts to support the Pacific Islands to tackle climate change effects, with a overall dedicated envelope of €90 million over 2008-2013.

Pay-TV services: Commission proposes to ratify the Council of Europe "Conditional Access" Convention to strengthen protection against piracy

In its efforts to further step up the EU's fight against piracy, the European Commission has proposed today to the Member States of the European Union to sign and ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on conditional access systems. This Convention ensures legal protection against piracy of technical protection on so-called "conditional access" services such as pay-TV. Enhancing protection would pave the way for business to further roll out video-on-demand services in Europe, for example for mobile (smart)phones or other Internet-connected devices. An EU Directive from 1998 on conditional access services already ensures protection for such services in the EU. However, as piracy does not stop at the EU borders, the Commission now calls for the ratification of this Convention that would extend the similar provisions of the EU Directive to the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe. The Commission hopes that with the EU taking the lead in ratifying the agreement, non-members of the EU would be encouraged to step up their ratification process as well, thus extending the legal protection of pay TV to cover virtually the entire European continent. More information: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/media/elecpay/index_en.htm

L'Union européenne appuie la sécurité alimentaire dans les trois régions du Nord-Mali

La Commission européenne a adopté aujourd'hui un financement additionnel de 5 millions d'euros au titre du Programme d'Appui à la Sécurité Alimentaire au Mali, en faveur de trois régions du Nord du pays, doublant ainsi sa contribution initiale (5 millions d'euros, portant à un total de 10 million d'euros). La situation d’insécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle aggravée par un contexte d’insécurité au Nord-Mali justifie cette mesure additionnelle qui est financée par l'enveloppe B (finançant les besoins imprévus) du 10ème Fond européen de développement (FED). Le financement additionnel a pour objectif principal la prise en charge des enfants malnutris (activité à ce jour non couverte par le programme) y compris la mise en place de mesures d'accompagnement telles que la promotion de l'allaitement maternel exclusif, et la prise en compte des questions d'eau et assainissement. Le programme est mis en œuvre par l'UNICEF, organisation chef de file des partenaires techniques et financiers dans le domaine de la nutrition au Mali. Pour le texte complet du communiqué de presse: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases

Soutien additionnel de l'Union européenne au processus électoral au Niger

La Commission européenne a alloué aujourd'hui un montant supplémentaire de 13 millions d'euros en appui au processus électoral au Niger. Cette décision porte à 20 millions d'euros la contribution totale de la Commission européenne au Programme d'Appui au Processus Electoral au Niger (PAPEN), fonds commun de bailleurs géré par le Programme des Nations unies pour le Développement (PNUD). Par ce financement, l'Union européenne accompagne le processus de transition politique en cours au Niger qui doit se terminer par l'investiture d'un nouveau Président et la mise en place d'un gouvernement démocratiquement élu en avril 2011. Avec les importantes contributions bilatérales de plusieurs Etats Membres - la France, la Belgique, le Luxembourg, le Danemark et l'Espagne contribuant pour un montant total de plus de 5 millions d'euros - l'Union européenne est de loin le plus important contributeur au processus de transition politique. Il témoigne du soutien de l'UE aux efforts des autorités de transition pour un retour rapide à la démocratie par l'organisation d'élections libres et transparentes. Le programme inclut une composante "élections", pour appuyer le processus électoral dans le respect des procédures prévues, la transparence et le libre exercice du vote et une composante "radios communautaires", pour informer et sensibiliser l'ensemble de la population nigérienne, en particulier dans les zones rurales, sur les questions électorales et de promotion des droits civils et politiques, en français et dans les langues locales les plus diffusées. Pour le texte complet du communiqué de presse: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases

My vision for eGovernment and how to make it real

eGovernment can “transform and improve public services while materially reducing government debt burdens.” This was the message from European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes today when launching the eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 at the "Lift-Off towards Open Government" conference in Brussels. “Governments that want to serve their people best, need to serve them efficiently. We must get the most out of every euro we invest. Smarter spending does not have to mean getting less.” In fact, it means tapping into the millions of citizens who “want a new and more interactive relationship with their government(s)” and ensuring “effective and efficient public administration is the first pillar of the broader competitiveness Europe needs.” Kroes said that eGovernment improving public services in Europe should be amongst the lowest-hanging fruit of the Digital Agenda, noting that eGovernment is the “main game in public service delivery in coming years” and allows governments to bring the benefits of ICT to every citizen and business. “If public administrations fail to keep up with the times, they risk irrelevance or even worse. They risk becoming an obstacle for competitiveness and civic engagement.” SPEECH/10/752

Commission clears acquisition by Saferoad of sole control of ViaCon

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Saferoad, a company controlled by Nordic Capital, of sole control of ViaCon, of Sweden. Saferoad is a manufacturer and distributor of products and solutions for traffic safety. ViaCon is a manufacturer and distributor of products used in road and railway construction works. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

GDP per inhabitant in the Member States ranged from 44% to 271% of the EU27 average in 2009

In 2009, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per inhabitant in Luxembourg, expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS), was more than two and a half times the EU27 average, while the Netherlands recorded a level more than 30% above the average. Ireland, Austria and Denmark were between 20% and 30% above the EU27 average, while Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Finland and the United Kingdom were between 10% and 20% above average. France, Italy and Spain registered GDP per inhabitant between 0% and 10% above the EU27 average, while Cyprus and Greece were between 0% and 10% below the average. Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Malta and Slovakia were between 10% and 30% lower than the EU27 average. Hungary, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia were between 30% and 50% lower, while Romania and Bulgaria were between 50% and 60% below the EU27 average. These data for 2009, 2008 and 2007, published by Eurostat, are based on revised purchasing power parities, and the latest GDP and population figures. They cover the 27 EU Member States, three EFTA Member States, three EU Candidate Countries and four Western Balkan countries.

Euro area and EU27 employment stable

The number of persons employed in both the euro area (EA16) and the EU27 was stable in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the previous quarter, according to national accounts estimates published by Eurostat. In the second quarter of 2010, employment grew by 0.1% in both zones. These figures are seasonally adjusted. Falls in employment were recorded in construction (-1.1% in the euro area and -1.0% in the EU27) and manufacturing (-0.3% and -0.2% respectively). Agriculture fell by 0.2% in the euro area, but grew by 0.4% in the EU27. Financial services & business activities increased by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.2% in the EU27. Other services (which mainly include public administration, health and education) rose by 0.2% and 0.1% respectively. Trade, transport & communication services grew by 0.1% in the euro area and remained stable in the EU27.

Rediffusion

La Commission européenne entend réduire les formalités administratives dans les affaires mettant en cause entreprises et consommateurs

Une entreprise ayant son siège en France est liée par un contrat de construction à un entrepreneur polonais pour construire une usine près de Paris. Les deux parties conviennent qu'une juridiction de Varsovie connaîtra de tout litige relatif au contrat. L'entreprise polonaise assigne en justice l'entreprise française pour retard de paiement. La juridiction de Varsovie décide que l'entreprise française doit payer le montant restant dû. L'entreprise polonaise entend ensuite que la décision de justice soit exécutée sur l'actif de l'entreprise française situé en France. À l'heure actuelle, il faut d'abord que l'entreprise polonaise se soumette, devant une juridiction française, à une longue procédure appelée «exequatur» qui peut lui coûter jusqu'à 3000 euros. Cette procédure d'«exequatur» accomplie plus de 10 000 fois par an dans l'UE, est dépassée en raison du développement du marché unique européen et du niveau de confiance entre les systèmes juridiques des États membres en matière civile et commerciale. Aussi la Commission a-t-elle proposé aujourd'hui de supprimer la procédure d'«exequatur», ce qui pourrait permettre d’économiser jusqu'à 48 millions d'euros par an et de faciliter le commerce transfrontalier notamment pour les PME. Cette économie est un des aspects de la proposition de la Commission visant à réformer en profondeur le règlement de 2001, dit règlement «Bruxelles I», un ensemble de règles déterminant l'attribution de compétence dans les affaires transfrontières et fixant la façon dont les décisions de justice rendues dans un État membre sont reconnues et exécutées dans un autre État membre. Cette réforme entend consolider le marché unique et réduire les formalités administratives. Elle vise aussi à mieux protéger les consommateurs européens qui traitent avec des entreprises de pays tiers, à renforcer la sécurité juridique dans le choix de la loi applicable entre entreprises et à améliorer la compétitivité du secteur de l'arbitrage européen.

Less bureaucracy for citizens: European Commission wants public documents – birth certificates, property deeds – to be more easily recognised abroad

Europeans who live outside their home countries are often confronted with bureaucratic hurdles: waiting for an official stamp on a court ruling or a property deed, paying for a translation for a birth, marriage or death certificate, or struggling with public authorities to get a surname recognised. As more Europeans are on the move – around 12 million EU citizens today live in a Member State other than their own – people often complain about getting public records officially recognised. In some Member States, citizens have to pay a fee so that their documents, which are already officially issued by one Member State, are recognised as authentic. Another problem is that some Member States can require administrative documents that do not always exist in the citizen's home country. These are all obstacles that hinder the right of free movement, guaranteed by the EU Treaties, in everyday life. The European Commission, which is committed to removing these obstacles, published a policy paper today with several options on easing the free circulation of documents that are relevant for citizens. The public can now comment on how the situation could be improved to ensure that these documents are recognised no matter where citizens are or move in the EU. The public has until 30 April to respond. The Commission will take these responses into account when it proposes legislation in 2013.

Patents: Commission opens the way for some Member States to move forward on a unitary patent

Today the European Commission presented a proposal opening the way for "enhanced cooperation" to create unitary patent protection in the EU. Such unitary patent protection would allow those Member States that so desired to agree to establish a patent, valid in all participating countries, that could be obtained with a single application. Obtaining a patent in Europe currently costs ten times more than one in the US because of national validation and translation costs. This situation discourages research, development and innovation, and undermines Europe's competitiveness. Commission proposals for a single EU patent have been under discussion for over a decade. But there has been stalemate in the Council over language rules. The Commission tried to unblock this with its June 2010 proposal on the EU Patent’s language requirements (see IP/10/870). But as the EU's Council of Ministers has not been able to agree unanimously on the EU patents' language requirements, the Commission has now tabled a proposal opening the way for "enhanced cooperation" to be authorised in this area, in accordance with the EU Treaties.

Aides d'État: la Commission ouvre une enquête approfondie concernant des aides d'État accordées par la Grèce dans le secteur des céréales

La Commission européenne a ouvert une procédure formelle d'examen en application des règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'État concernant des aides accordées par la Grèce dans le secteur des céréales. L'aide a consisté en i) un prêt de 150 millions € assorti de la garantie de l'État, accordé à des associations de coopératives agricoles, et en ii) une bonification de l'intérêt lié à ce prêt. La Commission nourrit des doutes sur la compatibilité de ce régime avec la législation de l'UE. L'ouverture d'une enquête formelle autorise la Commission à examiner cette mesure de façon plus approfondie et donne aux tierces parties intéressées la possibilité de présenter leurs observations. Elle ne préjuge pas du résultat de l'enquête.

Concurrence: la Commission adopte des règles de concurrence modifiées applicables aux accords de coopération horizontale

La Commission européenne a révisé ses règles pour l'appréciation des accords de coopération entre entreprises concurrentes, dits «accords de coopération horizontale». Étant donné qu’il est souvent vital pour les entreprises de réaliser des synergies, ces accords existent en grand nombre dans de nombreux secteurs. Les nouveaux textes de la Commission actualisent et clarifient les modalités d’application des règles de concurrence en la matière, afin que les entreprises puissent mieux apprécier la conformité de leurs accords de coopération à la réglementation européenne. Les modifications concernent principalement la normalisation, l’échange d’informations, ainsi que la recherche et le développement (R&D).

State aid: Commission clears €15.5 million aid for Sovello's third solar modules plant in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany

The European Commission has authorised €15.5 million of regional investment aid for the German company Sovello AG for the production of solar modules in Bitterfeld-Wolfen (Sachsen-Anhalt), Germany. The project involves an investment of €147 million and is expected to create at least 320 new jobs in the region. Germany limited the aid amount to the maximum allowable under EU state aid rules, taking account of aid granted to a previous investment project by Sovello. The Commission found the measure to be compatible with the requirements of the Regional Aid Guidelines 2007-2013 (see IP/05/1653), and in particular with their rules on large investment projects. The Commission concluded that, on balance, the positive effects of the investment on regional development outweigh potential distortions of competition induced by the aid.

State aid: Commission approves aid to promote heritage conservation in two Polish salt mines

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a €240 million aid for protection and security works in the heritage salt mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia, near Cracow, in Poland. The Commission found the aid to be in line with EU state aid rules, because it contributes to preserve national cultural heritage without adversely affecting trade between Member States.

State aid: Commission authorises Sweden to grant SEK222 million (€24 million) for biofuel research project «GoBiGas»

The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules a support of SEK222 million (approximately € 24 million) that Sweden intends to grant to the Gothenburg Biofuels Gasification (GoBiGas) research and development (R&D) project. Göteborg Energi AB, a Swedish energy company, will manage the project, which will be carried out by its subsidiary, GoBiGas AB. The objective of the project is to develop a pre-commercial demonstration plant for the gasification of forest residue. The Commission has concluded that the project is compatible with the EU Framework for State aid for research, development and innovation (R&D&I) (see IP/06/1600). In particular, the aid aims at tackling a market failure and generates positive effects for the EU, notably increased research activities, environmental protection and security of energy supply.

Aides d'État: la Commission autorise un régime d'aides de 80 millions € en faveur de l'industrie cinématographique roumaine

La Commission européenne a autorisé, en vertu des règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'État, un régime d'aides de 80,68 millions € (347 millions de RON) en faveur du secteur cinématographique roumain afin de soutenir le développement de l'industrie, de la culture et de l'éducation cinématographiques. La Commission est parvenue à la conclusion que la mesure était conforme à sa communication sur le cinéma (IP/09/138), car elle promeut un objectif culturel sans fausser indûment la concurrence.

State aid: Commission approves aid for waste CO2 pipeline in The Netherlands

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a €5 million investment aid for a pipeline infrastructure to transport waste CO2 from a bioethanol plant in Rotterdam to greenhouses in the “Zuidplaspolder”. The waste CO2 will be used to enhance crop growth, thereby reducing the current use of CO2 in flue gases obtained through the burning of natural gas in boilers and cogeneration installations. The Commission found the measure to be in line with EU state aid rules, because it furthers an objective of common interest without adversely affecting trade between Member States.

State Aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Danish taxation of gambling services

The European Commission has opened, under EU state aid rules, a formal investigation to examine whether lower taxes for online casinos in comparison to traditional casinos in Denmark could procure an anticompetitive advantage for such online casinos. The opening of an in-depth investigation provides interested third parties with the possibility to submit their comments on the possible implications of the planned measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Commission appoints Mr Giovanni Kessler as Director-General of OLAF

The Commission has today appointed Mr Giovanni Kessler as Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). As Director-General of OLAF, Mr Kessler will be head of a Directorate-General comprising four Directorates and some 500 staff, and will manage a budget of around €50 million. He will be responsible for the three tasks of OLAF. The first of these is to conduct administrative investigations, and Mr Kessler will be responsible, in full independence, for the investigative activity of the Office. This is monitored by the OLAF Supervisory Committee. Secondly, he will manage OLAF’s role in assisting Member States by organising close and regular cooperation between their competent authorities, in order to coordinate activities aimed at protecting the EU budget against fraud. Thirdly, Mr Kessler will be responsible for contributing to the design of the Commission’s anti-fraud strategy. The non-investigative tasks of OLAF are supervised by the Commission, especially by the Commissioner responsible for anti-fraud.

Commission makes further appointments at senior management level

The Commission has taken today, upon a proposal from President Barroso and Vice-President Šefčovič, important decisions relating to its Senior Management Staff. Following its decision earlier this year to reserve a number of Senior Management posts for nationals of Member States which recently joined the Union, the Commission is appointing a Maltese national as Deputy Director-General in DG SANCO, three Romanian nationals on Director posts or equivalent in DG AGRI, ENER and RTD, two Lithuanians on Director posts or equivalent in DG AIDCO and in DG COMP, and one Principal Adviser of Polish nationality in DG SCIC. These appointments follow the recent nomination of a Slovak national in the Publication Office in Luxembourg. The Commission has also taken a number of other staffing decisions; the appointment of the three Deputy Secretaries-General; two Deputy Directors-General in DG AGRI; one Deputy Director-General in DG EAC; one Deputy Director-General in DG SANCO; the Director responsible for Civil Justice in DG JUST; three Principal Advisers in DG CLIMA, COMP and HOME; the transfers of four Directors to a function of Director in DG EMPL, ENTR and the Secretariat General as well as to the function of Head of Service in the newly created Foreign Policy Instruments Service. This is the third wave of appointments since this Commission came into office. With this package, the Commission reaffirms the principle that appointments are made on the basis of merit as a first criterion.

The Commission appoints an EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator

The European Commission has today decided to appoint Ms Myria Vassiliadou to the position of European Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. At the same time, the European Parliament has voted in favour of the Directive against trafficking in human beings that the Commission proposed in March.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Memo European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) – EMBARGO 14h30 CET

Memo Antitrust: Commission welcomes General Court ruling on E.ON breach of seals case

Memo Q&A on the EU - Pacific Island Countries relations and EU actions to address climate change in the region – EMBARGO 14h00 CET

Memo Digital Agenda: pilot projects show the way in easy access to online public services across the EU

Memo Digital Agenda: eGovernment Action Plan - what would it do for me?

Speech by Vice-President Kroes 'My vision for eGovernment, and how to make it real', Brussels

Speech by Commissioner Damanaki 'Fishing opportunities 2011', AGRI Fisheries Counci

Speech by President Barroso 'The European Council: sending a signal of unity, solidarity and support for the European project', EP Plenary, Strasbourg

Memo Civil Justice: The Reform of the "Brussels I" Regulation and the European Commission's Green Paper on the Free Circulation of Public Documents: Frequently Asked Questions - rediffusion

Memo Concurrence: la Commission adopte des règles de concurrence modifiées concernant les accords de coopération horizontale – rediffusion

Memo EU High Representative Catherine Ashton appoints two Managing Directors for the External Action Service – rediffusion

Memo Commission appoints Kai Uwe Kühn as new chief competition economist - rediffusion

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