EXME 12 / 19.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-19
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Today, after years in the making, the European Commission has adopted its proposal to revise the Tobacco Products Directive. The proposed legislation consists of new and strengthened rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented, and sold. More specifically, it bans the use of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) and smokeless tobacco products with characterising flavours and makes the use of large pictorial health warnings mandatory on cigarettes and RYO. It regulates cross border internet sale and foresees technical features to combat illicit trade. Moreover, measures are proposed for products that were not specifically regulated so far such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking. Chewing and nasal tobacco will be subject to specific labelling and ingredient regulations. The existing ban for oral tobacco (snus) shall be maintained.
The European Commission has just made payments to France, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain and Sweden from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF). The total amount of €25.3 million will help 4722 workers in those countries back into employment, following their dismissals in a wide variety of sectors including aluminium, broadband services, metal products, construction, car manufacture and the pharmaceutical industry.
The European Commission has adopted revised guidelines for the application of EU state aid rules to the broadband sector. These guidelines will help Member States achieve the objectives of the EU Digital Agenda. Taking into account the extensive submissions from all stakeholders, they contain in particular a reinforcement of open access obligations and improved transparency rules. They also follow the principles of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative, which aims at facilitating well-designed aid targeted at market failures in order to achieve growth-enhancing priorities, while simplifying the rules to allow for faster decisions.
The European Commission has found that the former Italian system of municipal real estate tax exemptions granted to non-commercial entities for specific purposes (ICI) until 2011 was incompatible with EU state aid rules. After the Commission opened an in-depth investigation in October 2010 (see IP/10/1319), Italy amended the system and has now adopted a new municipal real estate tax law (IMU), which does not involve state aid since exemptions will only apply to premises where non-economic activities are carried out. The Commission has therefore closed its investigation.
The European Commission has concluded that a €1.2 billion capital injection planned by the public owners of the new Berlin Brandenburg (BER) airport in order to finalise its construction is in line with EU rules on state aid. Since the intervention would be made on terms that a private investor operating under normal market conditions would accept, it does not involve any state aid as defined by EU rules.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules aid totalling €100 million granted by Italy for an infrastructure investment project of €145,33 million at the Port of Augusta, in Sicily. The investment project will allow the Port of Augusta to upgrade existing infrastructure for the cargo handling and to host container traffic.
The European Commission has concluded that provisions of Hungary's and the Czech Republic's plans for the modernisation of their electricity sector, which involve the allocation of carbon emission trading allowances free of charge, are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the funds thus granted, amounting to €1.878 million for the Czech Republic and €56 million for Hungary, will be used to modernise production infrastructure, diversify the energy mix or construct new installations. This will contribute to liberalising energy markets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the security of supply, in line with EU objectives.
The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a Greek and a Bulgarian scheme aimed at supporting urban regeneration projects through the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA) initiative. The Commission found the schemes to be in line with EU state aid rules that allow supporting the development of certain economic areas, in particular because they address market failures affecting urban regeneration projects without unduly distorting competition in the EU Single Market.
The European Commission has concluded that around €360 million of state aid granted between 2002 and 2010 by SEA, the state-owned operator of the Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports, to its subsidiary SEA Handling, ground handling operator at the airports, is incompatible with EU state aid rules. The Commission's investigation found that the capital injections carried out by SEA Handling's state-owned shareholders procured an undue economic advantage to SEA Handling that its competitors, who have to operate without state subsidies, did not have. SEA Handling now needs to pay back the undue advantage with interest.
The European Commission has found a €152 million German scheme to support the reduction of noise generated by rail freight traffic to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure will reimburse up to 50% of the cost of equipping existing freight wagons used in Germany with less noisy composite brake blocks. This will allow reducing noise emissions to the standard foreseen for new wagons. The Commission found that the aid supports the coordination of transport in line with Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The European Commission authorised today an Italian state aid scheme of €2.66 billion to support the recovery of the Italian agricultural sector from the damage caused by the earthquakes of 20 and 29 May 2012, which hit the Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto regions. The scheme provides aid for over 1,000 agricultural enterprises active in the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products. The Commission concluded that it is compatible with the EU legislation on state aid for the agriculture and forestry sector.
The European Commission proposed today new rules for the better protection of air passengers, aiming to achieve a decreased number of aircraft accidents and fatalities through a better use of data on occurrences. An occurrence is any type of event significant in the context of aviation safety which might or might not have resulted in an actual accident but which merits being collected and analysed. In addition, the new rules would promote a more efficient exchange of information between Member States. This legislative proposal is the core element of the future European Aviation Safety System which aims to shift Europe towards a proactive and evidence based safety system, i.e. a system that attempts to foresee and prevent accidents based on the collection and analysis of data, rather than simply reacting after accidents.
The European Commission has acted to solidly underpin the new rules for Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) by today adopting a Delegated Regulation supplementing the Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFMD)(see MEMO/10/572). The AIFMD is part of the Union's response to the financial crisis, and aims to create a comprehensive and effective regulatory and supervisory environment for alternative investment fund managers in Europe. The Delegated Regulation is a precondition for the application of the AIFMD in EU countries and was adopted to supplement certain elements of the AIFMD.
The European Commission has today adopted nine regulatory and implementing technical standards to complement the obligations defined under the Regulation on OTC derivatives, central counterparties (CCPs) and trade repositories (the so-called European Markets Infrastructure Regulation - EMIR) which was adopted on 4 July and entered into force on 16 August 2012 (see MEMO/12/232). They were developed by the European Supervisory Authorities and have been endorsed by the European Commission without modification. The adoption of these technical standards finalises requirements for the mandatory clearing and reporting of transactions, in line with the EU's G20 commitment made in Pittsburgh in September 2009.
On 19th December, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič inaugurate "Shapes of Light", a 12-month long lighting installation that relies on advanced LED technology , which will be displayed in the entrance hall of the Commission's headquarters in Brussels. LED lighting is energy-efficient and versatile. The installation shows the potential of LEDs in functional and decorative lighting and is part of the Commission's efforts to promote the wider deployment of innovative LED-based lighting in Europe. LEDs substantially improve the quality of lighting and open up new possibilities for lighting design innovation. Faster deployment in public and private spaces will help reduce energy consumption from lighting in Europe by 20% by 2020, one of the targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581 , MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
The European Commission has today formally recognised the adequacy of personal data protection in New Zealand, opening the way for increased trade with the European Union. The decision by the Commission recognises that New Zealand’s data protection standards are compatible with those of the EU and that they ensure adequate protection of EU citizens' personal data. The aim is to facilitate the free flow of personal data across borders so that businesses handling data can rely on legal certainty in data protection rules, while maintaining a high standard of protection for Europeans’ personal data – a fundamental right for citizens in the EU.
In further response to the transformation of the countries of the Southern Mediterranean, the High Representative and the European Commission issued today a Joint Communication setting out proposals to support the five countries of the Maghreb in their efforts towards closer cooperation and deeper regional integration.
The European Union will support a project to build a desalination plant which will use renewable energy to provide water to 200,000 inhabitants, one-fourth of the country's population, in some of Djibouti's poorest areas. The announcement was made today by Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, and Djiboutian Prime Minister, Mr Dileita Mohamed Dileita, during his visit to Brussels.
Following a sharp fall in 2009, EU27 international trade in goods with Russia recovered in 2010 and 2011. EU27 exports to Russia fell from 105 billion euro in 2008 to 66 bn in 2009, then rose to 86 bn in 2010 and 108 bn in 2011. Imports decreased from 178 bn in 2008 to 118 bn in 2009, then increased to 161 bn in 2010 and 199 bn in 2011. As a result, the EU27 trade deficit with Russia rose from 52 bn in 2009 to 75 bn in 2010 and 91 bn in 2011. The first nine months of 2012 showed continued growth in EU27 trade with Russia. Exports rose by 15%, from 79 bn in the first nine months of 2011 to 91 bn in the same period of 2012, while imports increased by 5%, from 149 bn to 157 bn. As a result of this faster growth in exports, the EU27 trade deficit with Russia decreased from 70 bn in the first nine months of 2011 to 65 bn in the same period of 2012. In the first nine months of 2012, Russia was the EU27's third most important trading partner after the USA and China, accounting for 7% of EU27 exports and 12% of EU27 imports. On the occasion of the 30th European Union - Russia summit, which will take place on 20 December in Brussels, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues the latest data on trade and investments between Russia and the EU.
In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production fell by 1.6% in the euro area (EA17), while it rose by 1.6% in the EU27 in October 2012, compared with the previous month, according to first estimates released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In September 20123, production decreased by 1.3% and 1.6% respectively. Compared with October 2011, production in October 2012 dropped by 4.1% in the euro area and by 4.4% in the EU27.
Commission clears acquisition of retail chain of German tegut…-group by Swiss Migros
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition by Genossenschaft Migros Zürich ("Migros") of control of the retail chain business of the tegut…-group. Migros is part of the Migros-group which is mainly active in the retail of food, "near food" and non-food articles in Switzerland. It is also active in production of food and "near food" articles, wholesale, gastronomy, media, tourism and financial services. The retail chain business of the tegut…-group operates 290 retail shops in 5 Federal States in mid-Germany. Besides that, the tegut…-group is active in the production of meat and bakery products, in agriculture, gastronomy as well as in real estate and energy management. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Dutch agricultural trader Cefetra by German rival BayWa
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Dutch agricultural trading company Cefetra by the German trading and services group BayWa. The Commission's investigation examined the impact of the proposed transaction on the market for the marketing of oilseed meal where both companies are active. Oilseed meal is produced through the crushing of oilseeds and is used primarily as an animal feed ingredient. The Commission's investigation showed that a number of oilseed meal marketers are active in Europe and that customers would continue to have sufficient alternative suppliers. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.6740
The Commission has today adopted a roadmap that will help to deliver improved efficiency and accountability, greater coherence and transparency, and more balanced governance to the EU's decentralised agencies. The document puts flesh on the bones of the 'Common Approach' – the first ever political agreement on EU agencies, reached by the Commission, Council and European Parliament in July 2012 after three years of analysis and negotiations.
The European Commission has today appointed seven experts to conduct the search for the next president of the European Research Council (ERC), the European Union's frontier science funding agency. The committee will be led by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and a former British science minister. The committee will make recommendations to the European Commission in time for the next ERC president to take up duties on Jan. 1, 2014, as successor to the current president Helga Nowotny.
Jacqueline Minor has been appointed as Head of Representation in the United Kingdom. She will take office on 16 February 2013. Having worked as Director for Consumer Affairs in DG Health and Consumers for the last five years, Mrs Minor is an expert in all EU policies with a direct impact on consumers in the Union, including related policy areas like transport, energy and the digital market. Over the last two years, Mrs Minor has also been responsible for European rules governing cosmetic and medical devices. For much of her career she has worked on aspects of Single Market policy, with posts ranging from the regulated professions to intellectual property rights and culminating in responsibility for overall policy coordination and communication.
New Director appointed for aerospace, maritime, security and defence industries
The College has decided to appoint Mr Philippe BRUNET as Director for “Aerospace, maritime, security and defence industries” in the Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General. Mr Brunet, a French national, is currently the Head of Commissioner Vassiliou's Cabinet. He was formerly Head of Cabinet for Commissioner Kyprianou. Mr Brunet started working for the European Commission in 1988, and has spent much of his career working in the former Directorate General III (Industry). The decision will take effect on 16 January 2013.
The EU has earmarked EUR 21.3 million to support Montenegro on its way towards the EU accession. The funds will focus on key reform areas, including strengthening of the justice system and public administration, better protection of the environment, and rural development. They will also further help align Montenegrin laws to EU standards in such important areas as food safety, veterinary and phyto-sanitary standards, competition and free movement of services.
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