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Daily News – 18.09.2015

European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 18 / 09 / 2015

Brussels, 18 September 2015

EU increases humanitarian aid to South Sudan by €15 million

Today the European Commission has announced €15 million in new humanitarian aid to help people affected by the crisis in South Sudan. The new package brings the total EU humanitarian aid for South Sudan and the affected neighbouring countries by the crisis to nearly €300 million so far this year. "The EU stands with the people of South Sudan, who continue to suffer from a dire humanitarian situation. Despite serious restrictions on humanitarian access, the EU has been relentlessly assisting those in need. It is essential that humanitarian workers have full access to reach all areas to deliver lifesaving aid to South Sudanese people," said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides. A press release is available here. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)


Investment Plan for Europe: New financing agreements worth €420 million to support SMEs in Portugal

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and three Portuguese banks today signed guarantee agreements to increase lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Portugal. These transactions have the backing of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) which is at the heart of the Commission's €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe. The InnovFin agreements signed today, which receive financial backing from the Horizon 2020 programme, will make it possible for Banco Internacional do Funchal (Banif), Banco Comercial Português (Millennium bcp) and Novo Banco to offer innovative companies in Portugal additional financing totalling €420 million over 2 years at favourable conditions. Welcoming the new agreements, Commissioner Carlos Moedas, responsible for Research, Science and Innovation said: “I am honoured to welcome this deal backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments and Horizon 2020. This is an important EU contribution to the benefit of innovative companies in Portugal that will have access to €420 million in new loans over the next two years. Portugal has a fantastic innovation potential and this deal will help more companies invest in innovative ideas and business projects. In doing so, we are investing in the economic growth of Portugal and the EU." (For more information, see our joint press release and contact Lucía Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182 and Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278)


Commissioner Avramopoulos' visits to Hungary and Germany to discuss refugee crisis management

On Thursday 17 September, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos visited Budapest, Hungary and Rosenheim, Germany to learn about the current situation on the ground and to discuss the Commission's proposals with Ministers ahead of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Tuesday. In Rosenheim, Commissioner Avramopoulos told the German press and Ministers: "You are an example of the openness and solidarity - the values - which our European Union is founded upon. The times are testing our Union. And it is up to us, collectively, to show our resilience. What we need is lasting solutions." In Hungary, Commissioner Avramopoulos said: "These are very difficult times for your country, for the national authorities, for local governments and for the Hungarian people. But you are not alone. Hungary is not alone. These are also difficult times for your neighbours too. From Greece, to Croatia, to Austria - today's challenges are shared across Europe. Passing on the refugee problem from one country to another is not a solution." The Commissioner's speaking points from his press conferences in Rosenheim and Budapest are available online. The Commission's proposals will be discussed at the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council called by the Luxembourg Council Presidency for 22 September. After the adoption of the European Parliament's Opinion, this is the first opportunity for the Council to take a decision on the proposed emergency relocation of 120,000 refugees. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Milica Petrovic – Tel.: +32 229 63020; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


EU's support for Western Balkans, Turkey and neighbourhood in addressing the challenges of the refugee crisis

The EU is stepping up its support for Western Balkans, Turkey and neighbourhood in addressing the challenges of the refugee crisis, announced Commissioner Hahn during his press conference yesterday: "There are 20 million refugees and internally displaced people in our neighbourhood alone. Our key objective is to help stabilise and to keep the hope of refugees to return to their homes alive. Money is crucial but it won't do the trick alone. We need to use all our policy tools to address the root causes. We must clearly distinguish between countries, and not throw them into one pot. The Commission is stepping up to the plate in all these countries. Money is unfortunately an issue, that's why I am massively re-orienting funds. I also want our Member States to chip in more. The decisive element is to work with our neighbours as reflected in the Commission's overall Agenda for Migration and our concrete proposals of the last weeks. We have to be careful that there is no new iron curtain coming down in parts of Europe." (For more information: Maja Kocijancic - Tel.: +32 229 86570; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 66430)


EUROSTAT: Over 210 000 first time asylum seekers in the EU in the second quarter of 2015

During the second quarter of 2015 (from April to June 2015), 213 200 first time asylum seekers applied for protection in the European Union (EU), up by 15% compared with the first quarter of 2015 and by 85% compared with the second quarter of 2014. In particular, the number of Syrians and Afghans rose considerably to reach almost 44 000 and 27 000 respectively. They represent the two main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU over the second quarter 2015, accounting for a third of all first time applicants. Kosovars, who were the top citizenship of first time asylum applicants in the first three months of 2015, have seen their number drop from almost 50 000 during the first quarter 2015 to just over 10 000 in the second quarter 2015. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Milica Petrovic – Tel.: +32 229 63020


EU and Iceland strike deal to protect Geographical Indications and enhance trade for agricultural and food products

The European Commission and Iceland initialled this Thursday two agreements on the further liberalisation of trade in agricultural products and foodstuffs and one on the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs). These agreements represent a substantial step towards market integration between the EU and Iceland as trade will be duty-free for more than 95% of processed agricultural products and many basic agricultural products. Currently 66.4% of EU agricultural products enter Iceland duty-free. With the new agreement, Iceland will increase the duty-free access to 91.3% of EU basic agricultural products in terms of trade value. With the agreement on GIs, the full list of 1150 agricultural products and foodstuffs protected in the EU will enjoy the same level of protection in Iceland. It expresses the willingness on both sides to promote and develop trade in quality products, benefiting farmers and industries in both Iceland and the EU. "Our agreement in the field of geographical indications is part of our mutual commitment for a quality agriculture that preserves local products", said the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan. Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, added that "removing trade barriers between the EU and Iceland is a bold step forward; it means business opportunities for our food manufacturers and more choice and competitive price for consumers, both in Iceland and in the EU". For more information, see here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182


17 films supported by the EU up to €1.2 million to be shown at the Sebastian Film Festival

17 EU-funded films are taking part in the 63rd San Sebastian International Film Festival which starts today and runs until 26 September. The European Union has invested more than €1.2 million through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme to support the development and distribution of these films. Six EU-funded films are competing for the prestigious Golden Shell as part of the official selection: 21 nuits avec Pattie,  El Rey de la Habana, Eva no duermeHigh-rise, Les chevaliers blancsandSunset Song. Each year, MEDIA supports around 2,000 European film and television projects, including series and other audio-visual works, which are distributed in cinemas, on television and through video-on-demand. Overall, the Commission will invest more than €100 million in the European cinema and audio-visual industries during 2015. Funding productions supports the exports of films and audio-visual works, their ability to compete on the global stage, and ultimately the creation of jobs in Europe. As part of its Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission aims to strengthen the European cultural and creative sector further. This will include new initiatives to fight piracy, to facilitate access to legal online content across the continent and to ensure the promotion of European works. San Sebastian will also host the fifth event of the European Film Forum, in a workshop which will explore the current and future role played by cinema audiences. More details can be found here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532).


State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Danish bank support schemes

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation until 31 December 2015 of several Danish measures aimed at stabilising banks. These include a compensation scheme and two measures to facilitate the sale of ailing banks open to financial institutions in Denmark in difficulties, within the framework of the EU Directive for Bank Resolution and Restructuring as implemented in Danish law. The Commission also approved the prolongation of a winding-up scheme for Danish branches of financial institutions established in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The Commission concluded that all the measures were compatible with EU rules on state aid to banks during the crisis because they are targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission had initially approved the winding-up scheme in September 2010. In August 2011 the Commission also approved the introduction of a compensation scheme, and in December 2011, introducing two further measures to support the sale of ailing banks. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.42405. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren - +32 229 94889)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over WMF by KKR and FIBA

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over WMF Group GmbH ("WMF") of Germany by KKR & Co. L.P. ("KKR") of the US and FIBA Beteiligungs- und Anlage GmbH ("FIBA") of Austria. KKR, a private equity company, currently holds sole control over WMF. KKR's portfolio companies include the vending machine business Selecta. FIBA's main activity is a holding in the Austrian water technology company BWT AG. It has currently a non-controlling minority stake in WMF. WMF produces and distributes table- and kitchenware and small electrical appliances for households as well as table- and kitchenware and fully automated coffee machines for professional use. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the companies' activities do not overlap. Moreover, the relationships arising from BWT's water filter cartridge business on the one hand and WMF and Selecta on the other are limited. In particular, other water filter cartridge producers will continue to have a sufficient customer base 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.7671. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Stemcor by Apollo in steel sector

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Stemcor Limited and Stemcor Holding 2 Limited (together Stemcor) and their subsidiaries of the United Kingdom by the Apollo Group of the US. The Apollo Group is a private equity company that invests in companies involved in various businesses throughout the world; Stemcor trades and distributes steel and steel-making raw materials globally. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the companies' activities do not overlap. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7741. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Mergers: Commission approves NXP’s acquisition of Freescale, subject to conditions

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Freescale (of Bermuda) by NXP (of the Netherlands). Both companies manufacture semiconductors at the global level. The approval is conditional upon NXP divesting its radio frequency power business to address the Commission's concerns that the takeover could otherwise have led to higher prices and less competition in this specific market. More information will be available on the competitionwebsite, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.7585. A full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and NL. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


EUROSTAT: EU28 current account surplus €12.0 billion

The EU28 seasonally adjusted external current account recorded a surplus of €12.0 billion in July 2015, compared with a surplus of €14.6 billion in June 2015 and a surplus of €4.6 billion in July 2014, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In July 2015, compared with June 2015, based on seasonally adjusted data, the surplus of the goods account decreased, as did the surplus of the services account. The deficit of the primary income account fell, while the deficit of the secondary income account remained nearly stable. The 12-month cumulated current account for the period ending in July 2015 recorded a surplus of €138.4 billion, compared with €84.7 billion for the 12 months to July 2014. The surplus of the goods account grew, as did the surplus of the services account. The deficit of the primary income account grew, while the deficit of the secondary income account fell slightly. These data are subject to revision. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information:Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)




Investment Plan for Europe: the roadshow arrives in Lithuania

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, responsible for Health and Food Safety, are in Vilnius on Friday as part of theroadshow to promote the Investment Plan for Europe. Vice-President Katainen will meet President Dalia Grybauskaitė, and together with Commissioner Andriukaitis he will meet Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, and members of the national Parliament. They will also meet with business leaders and local start-ups. Vice-President Katainen said: "I'm looking forward to hearing more about potential Lithuanian projects that could receive EU financing, as well as innovative SMEs that need our help." Commissioner Andriukaitis said: "The Investment Plan offers a great opportunity for countries like Lithuania. For my part, I would like to encourage health professionals, universities and researchers to come forward – your ideas and projects are very much needed for the future." (For more information: contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhan Bright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


Vice-President Šefčovič takes Energy Union Tour to Austria

On Monday 21 September, the Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič will travel to Vienna, making Austria the 14th country of the Energy Union Tour. As in the previous Member States he visited, Vice-President Šefčovič will convey the benefits of the Energy Union in the national context – to the industry, consumers, and the environment. During the visit, the Vice-President together with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, will meet with the Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner as well as with industry representatives. Vice-President Šefčovič will also meet Chancellor Werner Faymann and representatives of the parliamentary groups of the Austrian Parliament. Follow the Energy Union Tour on the Vice President's blog, as well as on his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Find more information on the Commission’s website of the Energy Union. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Justice for growth: Commission launches public consultation on resolving disputes out of court

The European Commission is launching a public consultation today on the application of the Directive on mediation in civil and commercial matters. This alternative dispute resolution mechanism facilitates the quick and cost-effective resolution of disputes. At European level, the average number of days in mediation is 43 days whereas the average number of days in court proceedings is 566 days. Commissioner Jourová said: "A well-functioning justice system is a fundamental pillar for every democracy. Mediation can play an important accompanying role by speeding up the resolution of disputes in civil and commercial matters. Thereby alternative dispute resolution contributes to an investment-friendly environment." The public consultation will collect views from all interested individuals, mediators, legal practitioners, academics, organisations, courts, national authorities and Member States. It will feed into the preparation of the Commission’s report on the application of the Directive foreseen in 2016. The questionnaire is available until 7 December in all 24 official EU languages. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Melanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


Commissioner Malmström participating in Citizen Dialogue in Warsaw

Today, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will be in Warsaw to participate in a Citizen’s Dialogue at Warsaw University, to discuss with Polish citizens the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Commissioner will meet with the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Janusz Piechociński, representatives of the Polish Lower (Sejm) and Upper (Senat) Chamber, as well as Polish Members of the European Parliament. Finally, Commissioner Malmström will discuss TTIP with various Polish stakeholders including representatives of trade unions and business groups. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56 185; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)



Commissioners' weekly activities