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Daily News – 20.06.2014

EXME 14 / 20.06


20 / 06 / 14

Meeting between President Barroso and Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia

President Barroso will meet Prime Minister of Tunisia Mehdi Jomaa today. On the agenda of their meeting will be the EU-Tunisia Action Plan for a privileged partnership, the next steps and political developments for Tunisia, following the adoption of the new Constitution, as well as the next steps of the election process.

(for further information: A. Ulzurrun - Tel. +32 229 54867 - Mobile +32 498 95 4867, R. Patrício Gomes – Tel. +32 229 74814 – Mobile +32 460 75 5417, M. Kocijancic – Tel. +32 229 86570 – Mobile +32 498 98 4425)

President Barroso to open Europe's largest science event in Copenhagen

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will on Sunday launch EuroScience Open Forum 2014 (ESOF 2014), Europe's leading biennial science conference, being held this year in Copenhagen. In his speech, President Barroso will call on Europe to remain a world leader in science and use it as a source of jobs and growth. To achieve that, he will call for better and more investment in research and innovation, and a better link with the marketplace. EU-funded research will be on display at the conference, including NanoMaster that develops the material for tomorrow's 3D printers, HYPERMEMBRANE that consists on a system of a Physical and Digital elements that will allow a shape adaptable construction system and COELUX which recreates the physical and optical effects of natural light indoors by simulating the diffusion and transmission of sunlight through the atmosphere'. Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will give a keynote speech to delegates on June 24. Other prominent speakers during the week will include Robert-Jan Smits, European Commission Director-General for Research and Innovation, European Research Council President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon and Chief Scientific Advisor to President Barroso, Anne Glover. Commission experts including scientists from the Joint Research Centre will take part in some 50 events. Some 40 ERC grantees and about 50 Marie-Skłodowska-Curie grantees are expected to participate. President Barroso will also have a working lunch with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to exchange views ahead of the June European Council.

For more details of EC participation at ESOF 2014 see: MEMO/14/435

Adoption of Parternships agreements: President Barroso in Estonia to meet the Baltic Prime Ministers on 21 of June

Other news

Public health: Formal Signing of Joint Purchase Agreement of Medical Countermeasures

Today, European Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, Paola Testori Coggi, Director-General of DG Health and Consumers and the Health Ministers of most EU Member States signed a Joint Procurement Agreement which sets out the modalities under which EU countries can procure jointly pandemic vaccines and other medical countermeasures. The development of the joint procurement mechanism is a key achievement to better protect citizens from serious cross border threats to health. Joint procurement enables Member States to ensure that pandemic vaccines and medicines are available in sufficient quantities and at a correct price should a cross border health threat emerge. The mechanism will benefit all EU countries, in particular the ones which encountered difficulties in purchasing vaccines developed for the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The Commission had already adopted the Agreement through a Commission Decision of 10 April. For more information on the Joint Procurement Agreement . Audiovisual material on EBS website (as of 14:00)

Food Safety: Latest Report on controls of fruit and vegetable imports shows system is protecting European consumers

A report published today by the Commission confirms that the system of controls at EU borders on fruit and vegetable imports from non-EU countries is protecting consumers from potential food safety risks. In addition to the 'routine' controls carried out on these imports, some commodities are subject to an increased level of controls due to the risk associated with them. Today's report presents the results of controls carried out by EU countries in 2013. Over 100 000 consignments subject to reinforced controls reached EU borders in 2013. Of those, 11 808 were sampled for laboratory analysis (+11% if compared to 2012) and 483 i.e. 4.1% were found to be non-compliant with EU legislation (as opposed to 7.1% in 2012) and therefore prevented from entering the EU market. Some products achieved satisfactory levels of compliance and were therefore removed from the list of imports targeted for controls. The report is published in the framework of Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 on an increased level of official controls on certain imports of food and feed of non-animal origin, which contains the list (reviewed on a quarterly basis) of imports subject to increased border controls.

See also:

Commission adopts ‘Partnership Agreements’ with Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia for EU Structural and Investment Funds, 2014-20

The European Commission has adopted the "Partnership Agreements" with Cyprus ( IP/14/687), the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) ( IP/14/701) and Slovakia ( IP/14/697) today setting down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds to benefit the countries' regions and people by creating good jobs and promoting growth in the real economy. Today’s agreements pave the way for investing: in Cyprus: €735.6 million in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 and €132.2 million for rural development and €40 million from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)); in Latvia: €4.51 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020, €1.07 billion for rural development and almost €140 million to support the development of the fisheries and maritime sector; in Lithuania: €6.82 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020, €1.61 billion for rural development and €63 million to provide funding for the development of the maritime sector and implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy; in Estonia: €3.59 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020, €726 million for rural development and €101 million for the fisheries and maritime sector; in Slovakia: €14 billion current prices in total Cohesion Policy funding, €1.5 billion for rural development and  €15.8 million from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Restoring confidence in medical devices: Action Plan after the PIP scandal tightens control in Europe

The European Commission presented today the progress made in strengthening consumer safety through the implementation of the Joint Plan for Immediate Actions under current medical devices legislation. It was tabled following the outbreak of the scandal with the defective breast implants by French company PIP. The main conclusion of consumer policy commissioner Neven Mimica is that thanks to the close cooperation between Member States and the European Commission, existing rules on medical devices are being better enforced. A particular success is the tightening of the control which notified bodies exercise over the industry. Further improvements however require strengthening of the legal framework. Commissioner Mimica calls on Member States to reach a political agreement before the end of this year in order to allow for rapid adoption of this vital dossier.

See also: IP/14/699 and PIP Action Plan and Staff Working Document on the Implementation of the plan

Eurostat - Foreign Direct Investment

USA, with 313 billion euro, by far the largest investor in the EU28 in 2013 - Brazil second with 21 billion euro. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the EU28 to the rest of the world reached 341 billion euro in 2013, while investment from the rest of the world into the EU28 was 327 bn. Investment from the euro area (EA18) to the rest of the world amounted to 324 bn, while investment from the rest of the world into the euro area was 299 bn. In 2013, the main destination of EU28 investments was by far the USA (159 billion euro), followed by the Offshore financial centres (40 bn euro), Brazil (36 bn), Switzerland (24 bn), Hong Kong (10 bn) and China (8 bn). Disinvestment was recorded with Russia (-11 bn) and Canada (-2 bn).The main investor into the EU28 was also by far the USA (313 bn), followed by Brazil (21 bn), Switzerland (18 bn), Japan (10 bn), Hong Kong and Russia (both 8 bn). Disinvestment was registered with the Offshore financial centres (-41 bn).These figures, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, come from the first FDI results for 2013.

Social entrepreneurship: new standard to measure social impact

A new standard to allow social enterprises of all sizes to better measure and demonstrate their social impact and so help them in their discussions with partners, investors, and public sector funders has been published by the European Commission. The standard, featured in a report on social impact measurement , will help European social enterprises to benefit from funding via the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF) and the new Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI). The report has been endorsed by an expert group on social entrepreneurship (GECES) set up by the Commission.

State aid: Commission approves revised restructuring plan for NCG following sale to Banesco Group

The European Commission has concluded that the sale of the Spanish bank NCG Banco to Banesco Group and proposed amendments to its restructuring plan were in line with EU state aid rules. The sale will facilitate an orderly resolution of the bank, without resulting in additional state aid to NCG or the buyer. The proposed amendments do not endanger the restoration of NCG's long-term viability nor do they increase the risk of competition distortions in the Single Market.

Europe's future security challenges

Today the European Commission has released a report assessing the progress made under each key area of the EU Internal Security Strategy (ISS) since 2010 and identifies possible ways to step up the EU's response to common threats such as organised crime, trafficking in human beings, terrorism, cybercrime and corruption. The growing trend of Europeans fighting abroad in groups affiliated with terrorism, the diversification of international organised crime, and the increased risk of large-scale cyber-attacks. These are some of the greatest challenges ahead for the EU in the security field , as identified in the report today. The report also points out that more partnerships must be formed with civil society, industry and the research community, in order to achieve results in the fields of cybercrime and violent extremism. "Important efforts to strengthen our security have been made in the past few years. But as this report shows, security threats keep evolving and changing. Therefore, we need to work harder. This report indicates what actions need to be taken in the coming years", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over CST by Carlyle and PAI

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition of joint control over Customs Sensors and Technologies business unit ("CST"), currently a division of Schneider Electric SA (France) by the Carlyle Group of USA and PAI partners S.A.S. of France. Carlyle is an alternative asset manager which sponsors funds that invest globally in a range of industries. PAI manages and advises dedicated private equity funds that invest in five core sectors (business services, food and consumer goods, general industrials, healthcare and retail distribution). CST manufactures and sells electrical and electronic components, in particular sensors, switches, automation and control equipment and fractional horsepower DC motors used in a wide range of applications such as medical equipment, railways, aeronautics, pumps and valves The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction does not raise competition concerns, because there are no horizontal overlaps between the business activities of PAI and Carlyle on the one hand, and CST on the other hand. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7257

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over American Express' global business travel unit by American Express and Qatar Holding

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over GBT III B.V. by American Express Company of the US and Qatar Holding of Qatar. GBT III is currently solely controlled by American Express. American Express is a global services company, mainly active in credit card products and travel-related services worldwide. Qatar Holding is a global investment holding company founded by the Qatar Investment Authority. GBT III will become the holding company of American Express' global business travel unit. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because there are no overlaps between the parties' activities in the business travel agency services market. Moreover, American Express, Qatar Holding, and GBT III have no incentive to shut out competitors or customers because of their limited presence in their respective businesses. 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.7238 .

TCEP and similar flame retardants strictly limited in toys

In its continuous strive to improve the safety of toys the European Commission has decided today to drastically reduce the maximum limit value for the flame retardant TCEP (Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate) to 5 mg/kg in toys for children up to the age of 3 years and in any toys intended to be placed in the mouth. The use of TCEP in the EU has already declined, but it might still be present in toys, including imports. The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), which provides independent scientific opinions to the European Commission, considered TCEP to pose a risk to children, including the risk of cancer. SCHER therefore recommended TCEP in toys be limited to the lowest concentration that a sensitive laboratory test can identify. SCHER further recommended that also the alternatives of TCEP, namely TDCP and TCPP, be limited in toys in the same way. The directive adopted today by the Commission therefore restricts TCEP, TDCP and TCPP in toys to this very low concentration. Abbreviations: TCEP: Tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate, CAS No 115-96-8, TDCP: Tris[2-chloro-1-(chloromethyl)ethyl] phosphate, CAS No 13674-87-8, TCPP: Tris(2-chloro-1-methylethyl) phosphate (), CAS No 13674-84-5.

More information .

Vassiliou to address youth employability with Southern Mediterranean countries

On 23 June, Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will open the second dialogue with Southern Mediterranean countries on higher education. The meeting will focus on policies and programmes in the EU and the Southern Mediterranean region to improve the employability of young graduates. Discussions will in particular tackle the development of entrepreneurial skills in education and improving links between education institutions and employers. “Despite very different demographic situations, European and Southern Mediterranean countries have a common challenge: youth unemployment. This dialogue offers a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and practices between the two shores of the Mediterranean,” said Commissioner Vassiliou. This event will gather around 90 representatives from the nine Southern Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia), EU Member States, EU institutions and agencies, and organisations representing universities, students and business.

To find out more: Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

European Commission halts further German attempt to set mobile termination rates which are not in line with EU telecom rules

The European Commission has opened a Phase II Article 7a over the German telecoms regulator pricing of mobile termination rates (MTRs) in a way which does not follow EU telecoms rules. Termination rates are the rates telecoms networks charge each other to deliver calls between networks, and each operator has market power over access to customers on its own network. These costs are ultimately included in call prices paid by consumers and business. The Commission now has three months to discuss the case with BNetzA, in close cooperation with the body of European regulators (BEREC), to make it compliant with EU law. The Commission may, at the end of the extended investigation period, either lift its reservations or demand that BNetzA withdraws the proposed measure.

World Refugee Day: time for solidarity

Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva (International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response), Andris Piebalgs (Development) and Cecilia Malmström (Home Affairs) have published a joint statement on the increasing number of refugees and displaced people around the world. "Every four seconds somewhere in the world a person is forced to flee her or his home due to conflict or natural disaster. On the 20th June each year we take the opportunity to highlight the plight of these people", they said. The EU works to help the many millions of people affected, both outside and inside its frontiers. A MEMO has also been published about the European Commission's work on this.


Commissioners' weekly activities

Top news

Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead

What Commissioners said

Joint statement by European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik on the joint declaration of ACP-EU countries on the development agenda beyond 2015

"Today the Joint Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) and EU countries agreed on a joint declaration for a global development agenda for the time after 2015, once the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reach their target date. We are extremely pleased by this declaration, which brings together 79 ACP countries and the 28 EU member states. It shows that vision and position for the post-2015 agenda are converging and that we can make good use of our partnership in tackling global issues.

Today’s declaration is a starting point for further dialogue and hopefully an intensified partnership as we work on the post-2015 agenda over the coming months and up until September 2015. Together, we can make a real difference and contribute to building consensus towards ambitious Sustainable Development Goals setting a new agenda for both poverty eradication and sustainable development".

Full statement: STMT/14/202

Speech by Vice-President Olli Rehn at the meeting of the Eurogroup

Concerning fiscal policy, public finances in Europe are now being repaired. I trust that the Council will tomorrow close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for a further six countries, bringing the total down to 11, from 24 in 2011. In other words, at the height of the crisis, we had 24 Member States out of 27 in the Excessive Deficit Procedure. As of tomorrow, I trust we will have 11 out of 28 Member States. The reformed Stability and Growth Pact, in other words, is working and delivering. What is most important today is the composition of the ongoing fiscal adjustment. There is no way around the need to reduce debt levels, but it matters how we reduce them. We need to focus on rationalising current expenditure while safeguarding growth-enhancing investment. I believe this is entirely possible within the current framework. My second point concerns structural reforms. I fully agree with the IMF's call to make the most of the current benign market environment in order to step up the tempo of reforms for growth and job creation. It is time to further shift the focus of policy from macro to micro: removing bottlenecks to competition in services, reducing the tax burden on labour, and seriously embracing better regulation, negotiating further free trade agreements. I would also like to say I am very pleased that the Eurogroup has given its support for Lithuania to join the euro area as of 1 January 2015. Lithuania’s readiness to adopt the euro reflects its long-standing pursuit of prudent fiscal policies and serious economic reforms, which have led to a striking increase in Lithuanians' prosperity over the past two decades. Moreover, Lithuania's firm commitment to joining the euro also shows that the Eurozone remains an attractive community to be a part of.