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Daily News – 20.02.2014

EXME 14 / 20.02


20 / 02 / 14

State aid: Commission adopts new guidelines for state aid to airports and airlines

The European Commission adopted today new guidelines on how Member States can support airports and airlines in line with EU state aid rules. The guidelines are aimed at ensuring good connections between regions and the mobility of European citizens, while minimising distortions of competition in the Single Market. They are part of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) strategy, which aims at fostering growth in the Single Market by encouraging more effective aid measures and focusing the Commission’s scrutiny on cases with the biggest impact on competition (see IP/12/458). See also MEMO/14/121 .

President Barroso received Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka

Following a meeting today with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "I believe Prime Minister Sobotka's taking up office marks a new start. He and his government are pushing the reset button on many fronts, and of course in relation to the European Union. The Czech Republic is taking back its role as an active and constructive member of our European family."

During the meeting, the upcoming European Council in March was being discussed which the President called "an important step in co-ordinating our economic policies", as well as the situation in Ukraine, on which the President said: "As you know, the situation is very difficult and remains extremely volatile. The immediate and urgent priority is to avoid further bloodshed and save human lives. This is also the message I conveyed yesterday to President Yanukovych. The authorities have a special responsibility in ensuring it and demonstrators also need to keep the peaceful nature of the protests. An immediate end to the violence and a meaningful dialogue, responding to democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine is the only way to solve the political and institutional crisis. As you know, the European Union has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate dialogue and de-escalate the situation. We have also reiterated our offer of political association and economic integration. But what we have to do now, the most immediate thing is to put an end to violence, violence to stop as soon as possible. We cannot forget the images of the last days and the tragic deaths and injuries of so many people. This is why the Foreign Affairs Council will meet today to discuss the adoption of targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force. We will continue engaged and committed to a political, democratic and peaceful solution of the situation in Ukraine together with our international partners.

And I am happy to see that there is now a broad consensus among our Member States in the way to deal with this issue. Just yesterday, because you were meeting an important delegation of business leaders, I spoke about these matters with President Hollande of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany and, in fact, I have understood how deep is also their commitment to find a peaceful solution and today in the meeting with Prime Minister Sobotka, I have seen the same concerns and determination."

Watch the President's speech and a joint press point on EBS .

Infringements decisions: Commission acts for full and proper implementation of European legislation

The Commission has decided today to refer to the EU Court of Justice Cyprus (1 case), Denmark (1 case), Estonia (1 case), Ireland (1 case), Italy (1 case), and Luxembourg (2 cases).

The Commission will also send18 reasoned opinions to 13 countries: AT, BE, CY, CZ, ES, EL, IT, LU, PT, CZ, RO, SK, SI. With a total of 121 decisions, the Commission aims at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

A summary of the main decisions can be found in the MEMO/14/116 .

On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12 .

Other news

Energy: Commission launches negotiations with Georgia to join the Energy Community

The European Commission and Georgia have officially launched negotiations for Georgia's accession to the Energy Community. Today’s negotiations in Tbilisi were held in the presence of EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Vice-Prime Minister as well as Minister of Energy Kakha Kaladze. EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “Today's negotiations mark Georgia's path towards regional integration and enhanced energy cooperation with the EU. Joining the Energy Community will attract investments into Georgia and bring Georgian citizens and businesses closer to the other members of the Energy Community and the European Union.” By becoming Member of the Energy Community and implementing EU energy legislation Georgia will have closer ties with EU's single energy market. In the medium term, the Energy Community aims at creating an integrated energy market across the region which allows for cross-border trade, guarantees energy supply and takes into consideration climate and social aspects.

7th EU-Brazil Summit

The EU-Brazil Summit will take place in Brussels on 24 February 2014. European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy will represent the EU, while Brazil will be represented by President Rousseff. The Summit will be an occasion to take stock on progress in the bilateral relationship, which has grown stronger since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in 2007. Leaders will discuss economic issues, including progress in the ongoing negotiations of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement. They also discuss global challenges (international cyber policy and internet governance, climate change, energy etc.) as well as the cooperation on sectorial policies. The Presidents will also exchange views on regional issues in Latin America as well as on international security and peace questions.

A press conference will take place after the Summit and be transmitted on EbS .

On the occasion of the Summit the statistical office of the European Union, Eurostat, issues data on trade and investments between EU and Brazil reporting a surplus of 5.5 bn euro in EU28 trade in goods with Brazil in the first nine months of 2013. In details, the first nine months of 2013 confirm the most recent trend, with EU28 exports to Brazil continuing to increase, from 29.6 bn euro in the first nine months of 2012 to 30.4 bn in the same period of 2013, while imports continued to fall, from 28.8 bn to 24.9 bn over the same period.

For further information see EU-Brazil fact sheet .

New tourism quality principles – Good for tourists, good for small enterprises

The European Commission proposed today a set of voluntary European Tourism Quality Principles to ensure that tourists travelling to other Member States or visiting our continent from third countries will get value for their money. These principles cover four main areas: staff training under the supervision of a quality coordinator, consumer satisfaction to ensure that tourist can rely on handling of their complaints, cleanliness and maintenance, and correctness and reliability of information in at least the most relevant foreign language. Such access to reliable and up-to-date information on the quality of tourism services enables tourists to differentiate among competing products, to make an informed choice and to overcome linguistic difficulties. Small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) will find it easier to emphasize that they are providing a high quality service by sticking to the principles. The proposal will therefore help SMEs which make up over 90% of the EU tourism sector.

Commission presents new European strategy to promote coastal and maritime tourism

The European Commission today presented a new strategy to support coastal and maritime tourism in Europe. Recognising the sector's potential for sustainable growth and job creation, the strategy outlines 14 EU actions to help coastal regions and businesses tackle the challenges they face and strengthen the sector's position as a key driver of Europe's blue economy. These concrete actions are accompanied by a break-down of the tasks that Member States, Regions and industry stakeholders can undertake to complement the EU actions. The proposed actions include facilitating closer cooperation and dialogue across Europe between all coastal tourism stakeholders, public-private partnerships, promoting skills and innovation, promoting ecotourism, and creating an online guide to funding opportunities to help drive investment. Member States, regional authorities and the industry will be central to the design and implementation of the actions. See also MEMO/14/120

European Public Prosecutor's Office: Commission proposal gains momentum

Following yesterday's support by France and Germany for a swift agreement on a European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) has today backed the Commission’s proposal to establish such an Office ( IP/13/709). The endorsement by the LIBE Committee - by 34 votes for, 7 against and 1 abstention – follows a positive vote in the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) on the proposal earlier this week (by 21 for, 4 against, 1 abstention), and in the Legal Affairs Committee last week ( MEMO/14/102). The Committee report will now pass to the European Parliament’s plenary session for a vote by all Members of the Parliament. After that, it will pass to Ministers from the Member States in the Council. The Parliament’s recommendations will have to be taken into account by the Council during its negotiations.

Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Šemeta welcome agreement to protect euro from counterfeiting

The European Commission has welcomed the political agreement reached last night on the proposal to better protect the euro from counterfeiting through EU-wide criminal law measures. The agreement follows two so-called trilogue meetings between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers which was endorsed by Member States last night ( MEMO/14/119). It was rubber-stamped today by a vote in the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs commitee (LIBE) (by 37 votes in favour, 2 against and 0 abstentions).This breakthrough shows that Europe is willing to take all measures necessary to fight counterfeiting of the euro. Member States will have to make sure that such behaviour is punishable with effective and deterrent sanctions everywhere in Europe.

Health and Safety: Commission welcomes definitive adoption by Council of measures to protect workers against exposure to hazardous chemicals

The European Commission has welcomed the definitive adoption today by the EU's Council of Ministers of measures to better protect workers from risks linked to exposure to chemicals at the workplace. The new Directive amends five existing EU health and safety Directives on protection of workers from exposure to harmful chemicals to align them with the latest rules on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals ( Regulation (EC) 1272/2008). Member States now have until 1 June 2015 to implement the new Directive in their national legislation.

State aid: Commission finds that public interventions at Berlin Schönefeld Airport did not involve state aid

The European Commission has concluded that various measures taken by the publicly-owned Berlin Schönefeld Airport manager FBS did not confer any undue economic advantage to the airport or to the airlines operating at the airport, and were therefore in line with EU state aid rules. The financial incentives foreseen were well-targeted and allowed sustainable growth of the airport while paving the way for its replacement by the new Berlin Brandenburg airport, to be built at the same location.

State aid: Commission approves agreements between Aarhus airport and Ryanair

The European Commission has found that agreements giving discounts on airport charges and marketing incentives concluded between Aarhus airport and Ryanair in 1999 did not involve any state aid. Indeed, these arrangements were expected to increase the operating profits of the airport. In providing these incentives, the airport therefore behaved as any market economy operator would.

State aid: Commission approves investment aid for Marseille Provence airport and airport charges

The European Commission has decided that €12.3 million investment aid granted by different regional bodies to the Marseille Provence airport is in line with EU state aid rules, because it favoured the development of air traffic. The Commission has also found that discounts on airport charges payable by the airlines using the airport and a marketing contract with Ryanair involved no state aid, as they were expected to increase the operating profits of the airport. Therefore, in providing the discounts, the airport behaved as any market economy investor would.

State aid: Commission approves investment aid for Czech Ostrava airport

The European Commission has found that a grant of CZK 68 million (€2.5 million) for the construction of ground lighting and illuminated signs at check points at the Czech airport of Ostrava is in line with EU state aid rules. The investment will enable Ostrava airport to attract regular traffic, in particular long-haul cargo traffic, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

State aid: Commission approves 2014-2020 regional aid map for Poland

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Poland's map for granting regional development aid between 2014 and 2020. The decision is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and promote greater cohesion in the Single Market.

What Commissioners said

Commissaire Barnier: De la réponse à la crise à la définition d’une nouvelle ambition pour l’Europe

A la 12ème « Annual European Financial Services Conference » organisé par Forum Europe à Bruxelles ce matin, Monsieur Barnier a dit: "Nous avons préservé l’essentiel – notre système financier, le marché intérieur et l’euro – mais nous l’avons fait le dos au mur, en étant contraints de réagir face aux crises successives, sans toujours pouvoir proposer une vision d’ensemble à même de remobiliser les citoyens autour du projet européen. Aujourd’hui, alors que le gros de la crise financière et sans doute économique est derrière nous, mais que la crise sociale et politique est toujours là, le temps est venu de définir cette nouvelle vision pour l’Europe, en allant plus loin dans l’intégration de la zone euro, en renouvelant le règlement de propriété du marché intérieur, en investissant ensemble dans notre avenir, en nous donnant aussi les moyens d’être un acteur qui compte sur la scène internationale. Tout cela nécessitera une Europe moins bureaucratique et plus politique. Une Europe aussi où les citoyens, les territoires et les Parlements nationaux ont davantage de moyens de faire entendre leur voix et de peser sur les décisions communes."