EXME 10 / 21.12
Midday Express of 2010-12-21
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
I. Résultats de la Commission du 21 décembre 2010 – Outcome of Commission meeting of 21 December 2010
As part of its review of the EU working time Directive , the European Commission has today launched the mandatory second stage of consultation with workers' and employers' representatives at EU level. It also presented a detailed Report on the legal implementation of the Working Time Directive in Member States. The new consultation asks for social partners' views on options to review EU working time rules. It also presents the main results of the first-stage consultation of the social partners (IP 10/345) and provides an overview of the latest evidence on working time trends and patterns, as well as the social and economic impact of the current rules in Member States
The Commission has today appointed Rytis Martikonis, until very recently Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the EU, and Nordmunds Popens, Permanent Representative of Latvia to the EU, as Deputy Director General in DG MARKT and Deputy Director General in DG REGIO respectively. These two appointments are the result of publications of high level posts made by the Commission earlier this year with a view to complete successfully the recruitment of EU-10 nationals. On 31 December this year, the transitional period which allows recruitments based on nationality will come to an end. These two recruitments, together with that last week of Martin Seychell to DG SANCO, allow the Commission to have one national each from Latvia, Lithuania, and Malta at Director General or Deputy Director General level. These were the last of the EU-10 Member States which did not have any of their nationals at DG or DDG level.
II. Other news
3 January 2011 is the deadline for manufacturers and importers to notify the classification and labelling of the chemicals they place on the market to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Classification is essential to establish whether a chemical can damage health and the environment, and will determine the information on the labels of products used by workers and consumers. The notification to ECHA will ensure public access to the classification of all hazardous substances placed on the market whatever their quantities. If substances have already been registered under REACH by the first deadline of 30 November 2010 (see IP/10/1632), no action is required unless the registered classification information needs to be updated.
The European Commission has set up a Task Force to explore options for the future of the European Research Council (ERC). The Task Force is chaired by the Director General of DG Research, Robert-Jan Smits. This follows nearly four years of successful work by the ERC since it was established by the Commission in 2007.
The European Commission today presented draft legislation to strengthen rules on the control of major accident hazards involving chemicals. The revision of the so-called Seveso II Directive will align the legislation to changes in EU chemicals law and will clarify and update other provisions. This includes introducing stricter inspection standards and improving the level and quality of information available to the public in the event of an accident. The new Directive should apply from 1 June 2015.
"The European carbon market is a relatively young market which has grown rapidly during its first six years of operation, both in size and sophistication. With a climate crisis and an economic crisis, the world more than ever before needs cost-effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore important that the market can continue to expand and safely be relied upon to give an undistorted carbon price signal to investors and decision-makers in boardrooms across the EU.
Over the last years, the market has reached a size which makes it a potential target of fraudulent practices. Therefore, as the market matures and grows further, it is critical that it continues to be subject to appropriate and effective regulatory oversight."
Turku (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia) are to be the European Capitals of Culture in 2011. The programme will officially begin on 1 January in Tallinn and 15 January in Turku, and many events will take place throughout the year.
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Italian temporary scheme to grant subsidised state guarantees
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules a prolongation until 31 December 2011 of a temporary Italian scheme to grant subsidised guarantees for investment and capital working loans. The extended scheme does not apply to companies in difficulties and excludes investment loans for large companies from the benefit of the subsidised guarantee premium. The Commission therefore found the prolongation of the scheme, initially approved on 28 May 2009 (see IP/09/852), to be in line with the stricter conditions of its Temporary Framework for businesses' access to finance during the crisis adopted in December 2010 to stimulate a gradual return to market conditions (see IP/10/1636).
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of German temporary scheme to grant subsidised state guarantees
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules the prolongation until 31 December 2011 of a temporary German scheme to grant subsidised guarantees for investment and capital working loans. The extended scheme does not apply to companies in difficulties and excludes investment loans for large companies from the benefit of the subsidised guarantee premium. The Commission therefore found the prolongation of the scheme, initially approved on 27 February 2009 (see IP/09/331), to be in line with the stricter conditions of its Temporary Framework for businesses' access to finance during the crisis adopted in December 2010 to stimulate a gradual return to market conditions (see IP/10/1636).
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of German temporary scheme for granting loans with subsidised interest rate
The European Commission authorised under EU state aid rules a twelve-month extension until 31 December 2011 of a temporary German scheme for granting aid in the form of loans with subsidised interest rates. The reduced interest rates may be applied for interest payments until 31 December 2013 at the latest. The extended scheme does not apply to companies in difficulties and excludes investment loans for large companies from the benefit of the subsidised interest rates. The Commission therefore found the extension of the scheme, initially approved on 19 February 2009 (see IP/09/296), to be in line with the stricter conditions of its Temporary Framework for businesses' access to finance during the crisis, adopted in December 2010, to stimulate a gradual return to market conditions (see IP/10/1636).
Efficient controls' system ensures safety of imported products, Commission report concludes
Products imported into the European Union from third countries are safe thanks to a well-functioning controls' system, a European Commission report concludes. The report to the European Parliament and the Council on the effectiveness and consistency of sanitary and phytosanitary controls on imports of food, feed, animals and plants demonstrates that, despite an ever-changing global environment and an ever-increasing demand for certain food products on the part of both consumers and businesses, the EU has an effective system in place that ensures consistent import controls across the 27 Member States. The report, however, also acknowledges that the system is based on individual approaches to specific food and feed sectors. This can occasionally pose difficulties to Member-State authorities and businesses operating within the confines of these controls. The wide range of legislation in place and the complexity of the controls can sometimes contribute to a lack of coherence, particularly when it comes to implementation. The report, which was published today, concludes that a more holistic approach would serve to strengthen the efficiency of the EU's imports control regime. The Commission is currently reviewing and consolidating its imports provisions for food, feed and animals and plants to achieve a more integrated approach. It aims to present its proposals to the Parliament and Council during the course of 2012. A more holistic approach will serve to reinforce the risk-based nature of the EU's import regime, ensure the optimal allocation of resources and promote the EU regulatory model further. Today's document comes in reply to an invitation by the Council to submit a report on the issue by the end of 2010.
The EU supports economic adaptation in St. Kitts and Nevis and in Trinidad and Tobago
Today, the European Commission has committed EUR 13.6 million to St. Kitts and Nevis and EUR 16.551 to Trinidad and Tobago under the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries in order to assist with the adaptation process as a result of the closure of the sugar industry. In St Kitts ad Nevis, the assistance will promote the economic diversification of sugar dependent areas as the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis made the decision to discontinue sugar production in 2005. The funding will support the Government's growth and poverty reduction objectives as stated in its National Adaptation Strategy (NAS). The specific objectives include contribution to the country's sustainable economic growth, civil service reform, private sector development and good governance through improvement of Public Finance Management (PFM) systems and macroeconomic management. The majority of the funding will be transferred to the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis via direct general budget support and covers the period 2011-2012. In Trinidad and Tobago, the sugar industry gave employment to about 20.000 people and occupied vast parts of Central and South Trinidad. With the programme adopted today, the EU assists in restructuring the sector while minimizing the socio-economic impact from the closure of the industry, by promoting economic diversification of sugar dependent areas and addressing broader impacts related to social, environmental, community and area-based issues The funds are used to assist the Government in its efforts to restructure the formerly state owned sugar industry, while mitigating social impact, facilitating agricultural production and maintaining environmental stability and the former sugar lands. The assistance will also be provided directly to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through a budget support mechanism. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/
The European Union helps to increase competitiveness in the Dominican Republic
Today, the European Commission granted € 22.9 million to help the Dominican Republic to achieve a favourable environment for competitiveness and innovation, to boost the creation of decent jobs and to improve the production structure so that it can be integrated successfully into the global market. These resources will be used to create an institutional and legal framework that incorporates the best of international practice. They will also be used to strengthen and improve the management of air, land and sea transport facilities. Innovation will be promoted through support for research and technological improvement, productivity will be enhanced through support to small and medium businesses and help will be given to build the environmental and financial sustainability of agricultural production. A range of tools will be used including training, technical assistance, direct financial support and the integration of chains and sectors of production so as to achieve synergies and economies of scale. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: : http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/
The European Union contributes to strengthening the competitiveness of Uganda's agricultural and agro-processing sectors
The European Commission has approved a EUR 2 million project on trade-related Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary and Quality Management Systems under the Uganda's Annual Action Programme (AAP) which is financed by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). The AAP includes also a EUR 2 million project in support to the National Authorising Officer in charge of implementation of EU aid (€2 million). Trade opportunities are frequently hampered by legislative and industry-specific requirements related to food safety, quality, and plant and animal health. In order to overcome these "Non Trade Barriers" and to strengthen the competitiveness of Uganda's agricultural and agro-processing sectors, the Government of Uganda created an agribusiness initiative which is being co-financed by a number of development partners including Sweden, Danida and Belgium for a total budget of EUR 30 million..With today's adoption of the "Trade related Sanitary, Phyto-sanitary and Quality Management Systems support programme", the EU is joining the initiative. The EU contribution will complement its ongoing support being delivered to the Ministry of Trade (EUR 5 million) focusing on improving the policy and regulatory environment. Both programs assist Uganda in improving exports' access to the EU in preparation to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Eastern Africa, which is scheduled to be signed by the end of this year. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: : http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/
The EU supports the Civil Society in Samoa
Today the European Union has granted €3 000 000 for the support of civil society in Samoa. The Government of Samoa and NGO's together with the EU, and in coordination with Australia and New Zealand, have developed the "Civil Society Support Programme". This joint programme takes a holistic approach based on small grants, capacity building and strengthening the voice of civil society organizations in the development process. It is expected that the programme will contribute to empower civil society to improve social and economic situation of communities. The present programme builds on the past support of the EU to civil society in Samoa, and in particular, on the Micro Project Programme. Implemented since 1995, the Micro Project Programme has made a major contribution to developing local infrastructure including schools, water supplies, community centres and health facilities in villages throughout Samoa. It has also supported a wide variety of income generation initiatives and has targeted projects which help those less well off in society. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/
45 agricultural acts to be withdrawn from EU legislation
As part of the Commission's drive to reduce the regulatory burden and red-tape and its policy to clean up Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) rules, the Commission has identified 45 Council Regulations and Decisions related to the CAP which no longer have any practical effects but are formally still in force. They have become obsolete because of their temporary character or because their content has been taken up by more recent acts. To illustrate, several of these acts are linked to agreements with countries that are now Member States and have become obsolete following their accession. Other acts provided for temporary measures to address specific issues in certain sectors. Therefore, in the interest of better regulation and legal certainty, the Commission proposes that the Council and the European Parliament repeal these 45 legal acts. Once the legislator has repealed these acts, the removal of related obsolete Commission acts could follow as a second step. The proposed withdrawal of laws follows a recent Commission Communication which declared more than 360 Commission acts obsolete.
Commission clears acquisition of joint control by Tranquilidade and Banco Pastor over Pastor Vida and acquisition of sole control by Espirito Santo Gestion over Gespastor
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control by Companhia de Seguros Tranquilidade S.A. ("Tranquilidade"), the Portuguese insurance and pension arm of the Espírito Santo Financial Group and Banco Pastor S.A. ("Banco Pastor), a group of companies that engages in banking operations and insurance distribution in Spain of Pastor Vida, S.A. de Seguros y Reaseguros ("Pastor Vida") currently part of the Banco Pastor group and active in life insurance and pension plans in Spain. The European Commission has also granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control by Espirito Santo Gestion, S.A.U., S.G.I.I.C. (“ESG”) active in the Spanish financial sector market, managing investment funds and belonging to the Espírito Santo Financial Group as well, over Gespastor S.G.I.I.C, S.A. (“Gespastor”, Spain), active in the financial sector managing investment funds in Spain hitherto belonging to the Banco Pastor Group. This Commission decision covers two simultaneous transactions, notified together on the basis of the second paragraph of Article 5(2) of the Merger Regulation (two or more transactions within a two year period between the same persons or undertakings). The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition by Banco Santander of Bank Zachodni WBK
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Banco Santander S.A. (“Santander”) of Spain of the whole of Bank Zachodni WBK S.A. and BZWBK Asset Management, of Poland. Both Santander and Bank Zachodni are active in the provision of various banking and insurance products in Poland. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
After 6 months of continuous improvement, the DG ECFIN flash estimate of the consumer confidence indicator for the euro area signals a fall in December 2010 (down to -11.0 after -9.4 in November).
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