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Daily News – 17.12.2008

EXME08 / 17.12


News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

17/ 12 / 08

The winners of the 2009 European Union 'Border Breakers Awards' (EBBAs) have been chosen. Their awards will be presented in a show to be presented by British TV personality Jools Holland in Groningen on 15 January 2009. The show will be attended by Jan Figel', the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth and will be covered on television.

La Commissaire européenne à la politique régionale, Danuta Hübner, et le Secrétaire d'Etat français chargé de l'Outre-Mer, Yves Jégo, ont signé hier un accord de mise en œuvre, confirmant l'octroi de près de 13 millions d'euros à la Martinique et à la Guadeloupe, suite aux dégâts causés par l'ouragan Dean en août 2007. Cette aide pour les deux îles des Antilles françaises est mobilisée à travers le Fonds de solidarité de l'Union européenne (FSUE).

The European Commission has adopted, under EC Treaty state aid rules, a temporary framework providing Member States with additional possibilities to tackle the effects of the credit squeeze on the real economy. The Framework forms part of the measures announced by the Commission in its 26th November European Economic Recovery Plan (see IP/08/1771) and was approved in record time following consultation with Member States. Due to the drying up of the lending market, even healthy companies may not be able to get the finance they need. This may seriously endanger their business. The new framework therefore introduces a number of temporary measures to allow Member States to address the exceptional difficulties of companies to obtain finance. In particular, Member States will be able to grant without notification of individual cases subsidised loans, loan guarantees at a reduced premium, risk capital for SMEs and direct aids of up to €500,000. All measures are limited until the end of 2010 and subject to conditions. Based on Member States' reports, the Commission will evaluate whether the measures should be maintained beyond 2010, depending on whether the crisis continues.

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed merger between Campina and Friesland Foods, both Dutch companies active in a range of dairy product markets, subject to conditions. The Commission's in-depth investigation, opened in July 2008 (see IP/08/1182) indicated that the concentration, as originally notified, would have raised competition concerns in the markets for the procurement of raw milk, fresh dairy products and cheese in The Netherlands and for long-life dairy drinks in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. To remedy the Commission's concerns, the merging parties offered to divest Friesland Foods' fresh dairy product business and a part of Campina's cheese business and two Campina brands for long life dairy drinks. They also offered remedies to ensure access to raw milk in The Netherlands. In light of these commitments, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.

La Commission européenne a autorisé, en application du règlement CE sur les concentrations, le projet de rachat de Martinair par KLM, deux compagnies aériennes néerlandaises actives dans le transport de passagers et de fret. En septembre 2008 (voir IP/08/1300), la Commission a ouvert une enquête approfondie car elle nourrissait des craintes quant à l'incidence potentielle de l'opération envisagée sur le transport de passagers, notamment entre Amsterdam, d'une part, et Curaçao et Aruba (Antilles néerlandaises), d'autre part. Cet examen, consistant notamment en une enquête menée auprès des usagers de l'aéroport d'Amsterdam, a révélé que l'opération aurait un impact limité sur le marché. La Commission en a donc conclu que l’opération envisagée n’entraverait pas de manière significative une concurrence effective dans l’Espace économique européen (EEE) ou une partie substantielle de celui-ci.

The European 'School Fruit Scheme' was at the centre of a major conference organised by the European Commission this Monday and Tuesday in Brussels which resulted in concrete recommendations on how to get fruit and vegetables to European children from the start of the 2009/2010 school year.

The European Commission has opened infringement proceedings against Slovakia by sending a letter of formal notice concerning its failure to implement a legally-binding Commission decision of 7 October 2008 requiring Slovakia to re-open its hybrid mail market to competition. The letter of formal notice is the first step in infringement proceedings under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. The 7 October decision found that Slovakia had illegally extended the monopoly of the incumbent operator, Slovenská Pošta, to the delivery of hybrid mail services, while this activity had until then been open to competition (see IP/08/1467). The decision required Slovakia to end this infringement. To date Slovakia has not informed the Commission of any action taken in this regard. Slovakia now has two months to reply to the Commission.

With today's vote in the European Parliament on the climate and energy package, the EU has finalised a deal that will help Europe transform into a low-carbon economy and increase energy security. Fully in line with the Commission's proposals in January 2008, agreement has been reached on legally binding targets, by 2020, to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, to establish a 20% share for renewable energy, and to improve energy efficiency by 20%. Deals were hammered out on revisions to the emissions trading system, the distribution of the reduction effort outside of the emissions trading system, a legal framework for environmentally safe carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as on the related proposals on CO2 emissions from cars and on fuel quality. As the first region in the world to commit to such far-reaching and legally binding emission reductions, Europe is leading the fight against climate change. Today's vote is an important contribution towards an ambitious international climate agreement to be reached in Copenhagen by the end of 2009.

Tomorrow, European Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva will sign an agreement with representatives of toy retailers and importers in a toy store near Brussels, as part of the Commission's drive to improve toy safety by engaging all actors throughout the toy industry. The signing ceremony will take place with Commissioner Kuneva and representatives of European Toy Retailers and Importers at 11:30 on 18 December, in the Dreamland toy shop, Rue Hendrik I Lei 16, Vilvoorde 1800. The industry signatories (see list below) will agree to a number of activities to further improve toy safety, including providing education and training on safety standards, with a particular focus on the "lower end of the market" where the vast majority of non-compliant toys are found; work to ensure compliance with all relevant EU and national legislation will be intensified at retail and import level. Clear safety guidelines will be developed for use throughout the industry, to outline the systems and procedures that can be put in place to ensure that products meet the required standards. The signatories are also committing to further co-operation with the European Commission as part of a multi-stakeholder industry forum to take forwards the recommendations set out in the Commission's fact finding mission "Evaluating Business Safety Measures in the Toy Supply Chain". Earlier this year, the Commission signed a similar agreement with Toy Industries of Europe.

Single Market policy has played a vital role over the course of the last year in the European Commission's response to the financial crisis and the deepening recession, according to a Commission report published today.

The European Commission has decided to bring proceedings before the European Court of Justice against the sectoral driving ban on the Inntal motorway in Tyrol. In an intensive series of exchanges with Austria, the Commission tried to achieve a balance between the requirements of the free movement of goods and the protection of the environment and health of the citizens of Tyrol. In a few crucial points, clear improvements were also achieved. However, the talks finally foundered on the issue of the sectoral driving ban.

Danuta Hübner, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, is in Łódź tomorrow to see how investment from the European Cohesion Policy is helping in the city's transformation into a major cultural centre and draw for tourists and businesses.

The Commission has adopted today the ecodesign regulation to reduce standby energy consumption of all household and office products. The regulation lays down energy efficiency requirements which will cut the standby electricity consumption by almost 75% by 2020.

Euro area annual inflation was 2.1% in November 2008, down from 3.2% in October. A year earlier the rate was 3.1%. Monthly inflation was -0.5% in November 2008. EU annual inflation was 2.8% in November 2008, down from 3.7% in October. A year earlier the rate was 3.1%. Monthly inflation was -0.4% in November 2008. These figures come from Eurostat.

In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production increased by 0.1% in the euro area (EA15) and by 0.7% in the EU272 in October 2008 compared with the previous month. In September, production fell by 0.9% and 1.6% respectively. Compared with October 2007, output in October 2008 dropped by 4.0% in the euro area and by 3.5% in the EU27. These first estimates are released by Eurostat.

  • Commission clears acquisition of Norddeutsche Affinerie by Salzgitter

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Norddeutsche Affinerie AG of Germany by Salzgitter AG, also of Germany. Salzgitter is the controlling company of a steel and technology corporate group, which is active in the production and marketing of different steel products, including flat bar steel and pipes. Norddeutsche Affinerie is the controlling company of a corporate group active in the copper industry, which produces and markets copper cathodes, copper wire rod and copper formats as well as semi finished copper. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission clears joint venture between LCR, Exel and Argent

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of a newly created undertaking by KXC (LCR) GP Investment Limited (LCR), KXC (EXEL) GP Investment Limited (Exel) and Argent King's Cross Nominee Limited (Argent), all of the UK. LCR provides international railway services. Exel is active in logistics, warehousing, distribution and transportation management. Argent is active in fund management and related activities, including real estate investment and development and lettings. The joint venture will develop and manage land adjacent to King's Cross and St Pancras railway stations in London, known as King's Cross Central. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission maps global "accessibility"

Today sees the publication of a new global map by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, showing urbanisation from the new perspective of accessibility or how long it would take to get to a city of over 50,000 people. Travel Time to 8,500 Major Cities is published in the World Bank’s World Development Report 2009, and gives us new insights into urbanisation, connectivity and development. For example, more than half of the world's population lives less than 1 hour from a major city, but this breaks down into 85% of the developed world and only 35% of the developing world. We are also losing true areas of 'wilderness' as only 10% of the world's land area is now classified as 'remote' or more than 48 hours from a large city. In the absence an agreed definition of 'urbanisation', the European Commission and the World Bank propose a new definition based on this unique mapping of accessibility via travel time. Copies of the map and more details including how it was created are available on the JRC website:


La Commission européenne a adopté aujourd'hui un rapport mettant en évidence la contribution de la politique de cohésion à la réalisation du Plan européen pour la relance économique et son soutien à l'économie réelle. Ce rapport présente des mesures destinées à accélérer les investissements «pertinents» aux niveaux national et régional, en simplifiant l'accès aux subventions, en facilitant l'aide aux personnes touchées par la crise et en augmentant la disponibilité de moyens de financement pour les petites et moyennes entreprises (PME).

La Commission européenne a présenté ce jour des propositions sur une meilleure adéquation entre l'offre et la demande d'emplois et des modalités permettant d'analyser et de prévoir plus efficacement les compétences qui seront nécessaires sur le marché du travail de demain. Des compétences nouvelles pour des emplois nouveaux propose une série d'actions visant à faire coïncider les compétences et les offres d'emploi, à organiser l'évaluation des compétences sur une base permanente, à mettre en commun les efforts des États membres et des autres organisations internationales et à développer l'information sur les besoins futurs.

The European Commission today moved to help people made redundant as a result of the economic crisis by improving the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF). The proposal to revise the EGF aims to bring its operations closer into line with its objective of solidarity towards workers who have lost their jobs – in particular in these times of economic crisis. The new proposals will make the EGF a more effective crisis response instrument, helping more people to find their way back into the labour market.

The European Commission today presented its strategic vision for co-operation between EU Member States on the reform of their education and training systems. Common challenges, such as skills deficits, ageing societies and foreign competition need joint responses, and some goals will be easier to achieve if countries learn from each other. The Commission identifies both immediate priorities for 2009-10 and long-term challenges, and suggests improved tools to meet them. These include new education and training benchmarks for monitoring progress across Europe.

The European Commission has adopted a package to help implement the European Economic Recovery Plan (see IP/08/1771) and reinforce the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Strategy. The adoption of country chapters assessing Member States' progress in implementing the Lisbon Strategy will take place in the New Year.

L'Union européenne ne parviendra pas à atteindre son objectif visant à mettre un terme à la diminution de la biodiversité à l'horizon 2010 à moins de consentir des efforts supplémentaires importants au cours des deux prochaines années. Telle est la principale conclusion de la première évaluation globale des progrès réalisés dans la mise en œuvre du plan d'action en faveur de la diversité biologique qui vise à enrayer la diminution de la biodiversité dans l'UE. En dépit de résultats encourageants, notamment grâce à une nouvelle extension du réseau Natura 2000 de zones protégées et à d'importants investissements en faveur de la protection de la biodiversité, l'intégration de la problématique de la biodiversité et des écosystèmes dans d'autres politiques sectorielles demeure un véritable défi. La nouvelle communication de la Commission définit des priorités d'action pour l'avenir.

The European Commission today reinforced its commitment to keeping Europe's markets open and to increasing efforts to improve openness further afield. This Communication identifies the main non tariff barriers faced by European exporters and sets out a plan to tackle them, including through deepening regulatory co-operation with key countries and regions.

Le jury chargé d’évaluer les villes candidates au titre de “Capitale européenne de la culture 2014” réuni aujourd'hui à Riga recommande que Cesis, Liepaja et Riga soient présélectionnées pour le titre 2014. La Lettonie devrait entériner cette recommandation dans les semaines qui viennent. Les villes présélectionnées devront approfondir et compléter leurs candidatures d’ici l’été 2009.

  • Autre matériel diffusé

• Memo on New Skills for New Jobs: Anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs

• Memo on Revision of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)

• Memo on Restructuring in Europe 2008: Anticipating employment change

• Memo on Employment and Social Affairs Council, 17 December 2008, Brussels

• Memo on State aid: Commission adopts temporary framework for Member States to tackle effects of credit squeeze on real economy – frequently asked questions (see also IP/08/1993)

• Memo on Malta: Operational Programme "European Fisheries Fund 2007-2013"

• Memo on Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of December 2008

• Speech by Commissioner Kroes 'State aid for financing the real economy, merger approvals and Slovak Post', Brussels

A disposition au secrétariat de Jonathan Todd (BERL 03/315):

Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration :

Bonnier/Schibsted/Retriever Sverige