EXME 12 / 20.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-20
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission has concluded that the restructuring plans of four Spanish banks, Liberbank, Caja3, Banco Mare Nostrum (BMN) and Banco CEISS, are in line with EU state aid rules. The in-depth restructuring undergone by the four banks will allow them to become viable in the long-term without continued state support. Moreover, the banks and their stakeholders adequately contribute to the costs of restructuring. Finally, the plans foresee sufficient safeguards to limit the distortions of competition induced by the state support. The restructuring plans were submitted to the Commission for approval as foreseen by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed between Spain and the Eurogroup in July 2012. Today's decisions will allow the banks to receive aid from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in the context of the financial assistance programme to recapitalise the Spanish banking sector.
The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding the commitments offered by Thomson Reuters to create a new licence ("ERL") allowing customers, for a monthly fee, to use Reuters Instrument Codes (RICs) for data sourced from Thomson Reuters' competitors. RICs are codes that identify securities, used by financial institutions to retrieve data from Thomson Reuters' real-time datafeeds. The Commission had concerns that Thomson Reuters' could be abusing its dominant position in the market for consolidated real-time datafeeds through its licensing practices, in breach of EU antitrust rules. To remedy these concerns, Thomson Reuters offered commitments. After two market tests and substantial improvements to the initial offer, the Commission has concluded that the final commitments remedy its competition concerns.
The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding the commitments offered by Rio Tinto Alcan to address concerns raised by the Commission about competition on markets for aluminium smelting equipment. The Commission was concerned that the company may have infringed EU antitrust rules by contractually tying the licensing of its leading Aluminium Pechiney ("AP") smelting technology to the purchase of handling equipment (namely, pot tending assemblies or "PTAs") from its subsidiary Electrification Charpente Levage ("ECL"). PTAs are specialty cranes used in aluminium reduction plants (smelters) where primary aluminium is produced. Rio Tinto Alcan committed to modify its future technology transfer agreements so as to enable licensees of its AP technology to purchase PTAs from any recommended supplier.
Under new rules which enter force tomorrow, insurers in Europe will have to charge the same prices to women and men for the same insurance products without distinction on the grounds of sex. This means that insurance prices could rise or fall in the short term for certain categories of customers while they are likely to balance out over time. The change comes after the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that different premiums for men and women purely on the grounds of sex were incompatible with the principle of unisex pricing included in EU gender equality legislation, and with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Today the Commission adopted pan-EU rules on a minimum list of elements to be included in a medical prescription taken by a patient travelling from one EU country to another. The provisions for a common way to identify the patient, the prescriber and the prescribed product, are to be put into national law by the Member States by 25 October 2013. Coordination of medical prescriptions for both medicinal products (pharmaceuticals) and medical devices will improve the authentication of cross-border prescriptions and translate into an estimated extra 200 000 prescriptions dispensed every year, benefiting patients and health authorities by avoiding delays, interruptions in treatment and extra costs.
The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the future development of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas in Europe. All interested individuals, organisations and public authorities are welcome to share their views on the possible opportunities and challenges that may arise from the development of such projects and on the best ways to address the challenges identified so far. The consultation is open until 20 March 2013.
A new European Commission report has found most European film heritage institutions have not yet adapted to the digital revolution and are not yet able to preserve film digitally. Some of our current films are being lost to future generations forever, just like those of the silent era, where only 10% survived. At the same time films of the early digital era – because of formatting and interoperability issues – also risk being lost forever. New technologies open the door for people to enjoy one million hours of European film, currently locked away in cans in fire-proof archives. Yet only 1.5% of European film heritage is commercially or freely accessible to the public.
The European Commission has approved €25 million package to support transition in Libya. It consists of three programmes focusing on sectors which are important for stability and for delivering on expectations of the people (Education, Health Care, Security and Rule of Law).
The European Commission has today adopted the second special measure for Syrian refugees, to step up its response to the needs of increasing numbers of displaced Syrians who fled to Lebanon and Jordan. To complement the humanitarian assistance already provided, the special measure worth almost €21 million will help respond to the medium and long term needs of refugees and their host communities in the areas in Lebanon and Jordan most affected by the influx of refugees.
According to the latest survey results, a large majority of Europeans (85%) think that EU Member States will have to work more closely together to tackle the crisis. The autumn 2012 Eurobarometer, the bi-annual opinion poll organised by the European Commission published today shows that, overall, 41% (+1 percentage point compared to the spring 2012 survey) of Europeans believe that the EU is heading in the right direction to emerge from the crisis and face new global challenges (See Annex).
Increasing demand for more skilled professionals despite recession, strong gender divide for older workers
The European Commission has published two reports to analyse skills needs in Europe: the European Vacancy Monitor and the European Job Mobility Bulletin . The latest Vacancy Monitor shows that although most of the main occupations experienced a decline in recruitment in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the Q1 2011 (crafts and related trades -12 %, operators and assemblers -7 %, elementary occupations -13 %), two high-skilled groups of occupations continued to grow: professionals (+5 %) and technicians and associate professionals (+ 2%) which are employed in a broad range of sectors such as business, finance and health. The December issue of the European Job Mobility Bulletin, analysing the vacancies published on the EURES portal , shows that good job opportunities are available for finance and sales associate professionals (87 000 vacancies), shop salespersons and demonstrators (66 700 vacancies), housekeeping and restaurant services workers (40 500 vacancies), personal care and related workers (40 300 vacancies) and modern health associate professionals except nursing (39 000 vacancies). In order to better assess what skills are the most needed, which can help policy-makers in the design of education curricula but also young people in choosing their education and jobseekers in making better informed career choices, the Commission recently introduced the EU Skills Panorama (see IP/12/1239). Only 6 % of all job-finders were aged 55-64, indicating lower chances for the older unemployed to find a job. Jobs found by older workers tend to be more concentrated in elementary and medium-skilled occupations. A strong gender divide persists: older men are mainly recruited for (low-skilled) manual jobs in construction, transport, agriculture and manufacturing, while older women find jobs in services as cleaners, helpers, shop salespersons, child care workers, but also as high-skilled nursing and midwifery associate professionals.
The proportion of low-wage earners among employees amounted to 17.0% in 2010 in the EU27. This proportion varied significantly between Member States, with the highest percentages observed in Latvia (27.8%), Lithuania (27.2%), Romania (25.6%), Poland (24.2%) and Estonia (23.8%), and the lowest in Sweden (2.5%), Finland (5.9%), France (6.1%), Belgium (6.4%) and Denmark (7.7%). Low-wage earners are defined as those employees earning two thirds or less of the national median gross hourly earnings. Hence, the thresholds that determine low-wage earners are relative and specific to each Member State.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of KM Group by KM Holdings
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Krauss Maffei AG of Germany, MPM III LLC and MPM Equity LLC, both of the United States (together, the ''KM Group'') by KM Germany Holdings GmbH, ultimately controlled by Onex Corporation of Canada. The KM Group is a provider of technology and services in the sector for plastics and rubber processing machinery sector, including injection moulding, extrusion and reaction processing machines. Onex is a private equity investor which controls directly or indirectly a number of companies including Davis Standard, a company selling plastics and rubber processing machines and in particular converting systems and extrusion systems. The Commission's investigation confirmed that the merged entity will continue to face a number of strong competitors and that customers will still have sufficient alternative suppliers in all markets concerned. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.6754 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition by Goldman Sachs and KKR over hotel operator QMH
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control by US investment firms Goldman Sachs and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) of the UK hotel operator QMH. QMH owns and operates 18 upscale and upper midscale chain hotels in the UK, 21 chain hotels in Germany and 19 chain hotels in the Netherlands. Goldman Sachs and KKR are both active in the areas of corporate finance, private equity and asset management. Through its portfolio of controlled companies, Goldman Sachs has some limited activities in the hotel sector. The Commission's investigation confirmed that the merged entity will continue to face several strong competitors in the hotel sector and that customers will still have broad choice of suppliers. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.6738 .
Commission temporarily approves rescue aid for Slovenian bank Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor
The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU State aid rules, a €100 million recapitalisation of Slovenia's second largest bank Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor d.d. ("NKBM"), in the form of a hybrid capital instrument, for reasons of financial stability. The measure will enable the bank to comply with recommendations from the European Banking Authority (EBA) on solvency levels. The approval is conditional upon the submission of a restructuring plan within three months from today's decision. More information is available on the competition website, in the Commission's State Aid Register on the competition website under the case number SA.35709 .
Commission opens public consultation on state aid rules for agriculture and forestry
A public consultation on the state aid rules applicable in the agricultural and forestry sector has been opened by the European Commission today, with stakeholders invited to provide their comments in the next 3 months. The consultation takes place in the context of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (IP/12/458) initiative. The results from this public consultation will therefore feed into the review of the current legislation on state aid for agriculture and forestry, where the Commission is hoping to focus its controls on state aid cases that could give rise to the most significant distortions of competition in the Internal Market and to reach faster decisions. The review will also enable the current regime to be aligned with the new rules that will be applicable to agriculture and rural development under the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, as the legal basis for state aid in the agricultural sector expires on 31 December 2013. The deadline for submissions in this public consultation is 20 March 2013. Details of the questionnaire & how to respond are available at http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/stateaid/policy/consultation/index_en.htm .
Transport: Cooperation for more competitive rail freight in Europe
Today, Ministers in charge of Transport from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, in the presence of Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, signed an agreement on the allocation of capacity for international freight trains on two international rail freight corridors. The two corridors will link Rotterdam and Antwerp to, respectively, Genoa and Lyon/Basel. "The cooperation agreement signed today will benefit those railway undertakings which will use the corridors, as well as society at large, as it contributes to transporting more goods by rail rather than road. It is a good example of cooperation between Member States and rail infrastructure managers, which is one of the Commission's key objectives.", said Vice-President Kallas. The signing of today’s Decision brings together ministers of six Member States along both corridors and Switzerland. It is an important step in cooperation among infrastructure managers and Member States in the field of capacity allocation, traffic management and infrastructure development to provide sufficient capacity and priority to freight. Six of the planned nine rail freight corridors will be established by November 2013, the remaining three by November 2015.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the US titanium producer Timet by the US component manufacturer Precision Castparts Corporation (PCC). Timet produces titanium parts that PCC uses for manufacturing components. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the merged entity would be unable to raise prices for Timet’s inputs because of the existence of long term supply agreements (LTAs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bargaining power.
The European Union and the Russian Federation will hold their 30th bilateral summit on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 December 2012 in Brussels. The EU will be represented at the summit by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, along with European Commissioners Günther Oettinger (Energy) and Karel De Gucht (Trade), will also take part. Russia will be represented by President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Energy Alexander Novak and Minister for the Economy Andrei Belousov.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirko Šarovic, today signed a deal on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This agreement is a key step for Bosnia and Herzegovina's path to becoming a Member of the international trade body. Accession to the WTO is expected to make a lasting contribution to the process of economic reform and sustainable development in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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Joint statement by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, on the election of Ms Park Geun-hye as President of the Republic of Korea - rediffusion